[Tuesday Night Board Games] Small World Underground

We got a sneak preview of Small World Underground at Tuesday night board games at Quarterstaff Games.

Underground is a stand alone sequel to the original Small World and it plays very similarly. The action goes deep, as a horde of races invade an enormous underground subterranean, a living space perhaps even more prone to overcrowding than the surface world. Most of the rules are the same, so if you’re a Small World lover or hater, I don’t think trying this version would swing your opinion very far. There are some new or altered elements to make the game play a little differently, though. Relics and places of power, for instance, are randomly drawn from a supply as players conquer regions occupied by monsters, which take the mechanical place of Small World‘s lost tribes. So there’s a new dynamic, as players jockey for control of artifacts that help them conquer regions or gain coins.

Underground continues the whimsical, sometimes dark fantasy theme of the first game. The races include lizardmen, fire elementals and some very fetching krakens. The art style is consistent with previous products, although Underground‘s race and power banners and badges are colored to be distinct from others published so far.

Between the two sets, I think I like Underground a bit more and not just for the novelty factor. It seems to have benefited from designer Kayearts’ experience in creating the original game and expansions. The new races are less concerned about controlling regions with particular icons for extra coins, which was an element of the first game I found less than stimulating. You have to think a little harder about how to make Underground‘s races and powers work together.

In short, Small World Underground is as fun as, if not more so, than its older sibling Small World. Some people might find it to be a simple reskinning and thus not worth their cash, but it also works as a partial expansion, bringing in races that work with the overworld board — or bringing surface dwellers down into the cavern — as well as the relics and places of power. Give it a try if you can. If you already know you like Small World and have been been considering buying a copy of your own, Underground will serve you just fine.

Digging Deep

Status

As promised, Small World Underground is now in my hot little hands for the prerelease demo fiesta next Tuesday at Quarterstaff Games.

I don’t know how much I ought to say, but merely by pawing through the box, I notice a number of differences from the original Small World. Small differences, but present. They even altered the token tray, seemingly for the best.

Let the token punching commence!

Small World Underground Preview in Burlington

Days of Wonder posted a list of game stores participating in a nationwide preview of Small World Underground. Among them, nearest to me in terms of geography is none other than good old Quarterstaff Games in Burlington. And I get to help by running the preview — which probably consists mostly of learning the rule differences between Underground and its sunnier sibling.

When the game was first announced, I noticed with interest that it “can be combined” with the original set, but that’s not necessarily the same as mixing all the pieces together for a mega mash-up game. Surely someone will concoct an “Invasion from Below” mechanic to allow the two boards to interact, if it doesn’t already exist.

It’s not often you see board games getting this kind of preview buzz. Magic: The Gathering does it all the time. Even some miniatures games, I think. But previewing board games seems to be limited mostly to big shows like Gen Con and Essen. Consequently, I’m psyched that not only is Days of Wonder doing a wide preview like this, but it’s happening right here in Burlington. And I get to help. Nifty.

[Green Mountain Game Days] Fall-loha 2010 Coming This Saturday

Fall-loha 2010, the Green Mountain Gamers‘ second ever game day, has slipped up on us. After a strong start in July with their first Game ‘n Grill, the next stop on the Green Mountain Gamers’ tour of Vermont is the Grange hall in Lyndonville this Saturday, September 18th, from 10:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night. And if the June game day was any indication, we’ll play games until it’s time to put the lights out.

I’m looking forward to Fall-loha for a lot of reasons: getting out into Vermont for a couple days — we’re making it a weekend trip, rather than deal with early morning and late night schlepping — and not having to do a whole lot but play games. At the Game ‘n Grill, I think we over scheduled things a bit: teaching games, set times for role-playing adventures and all that. This time, there’s a scheduled Small World tournament, a Flames of War setup and I think that’s about it for really scheduled stuff. Everything is people bringing something they’d like to play.

Over on the Green Mountain Gamers website, there’s a thread going of what people want to play. Highlights for me include the story game Fiasco — yes, I’m dipping my toe into scary, commie story games — the new dungeon crawl Castle Ravenloft and a cooperative game in the vein of Pandemic called Defenders of the Realm. From those three alone, I think I can fill my day very nicely, with time for kibbutzing and checking out the dining side of Lyndonville.

I hope to meet some new folks this weekend. And of course I’ll have a game day report with pictures when it’s all said and done.

[Tuesday Night Board Games] The Dominion of Space Alert in a Small World

Alex (right) points out an element of the Small World map.

This week, board games at Quarterstaff were entertaining, albeit non-momentous. Some newcomers came by. I helped teach them Small World, which I somehow contrived to win. I eked it out by one point. If I hadn’t taken the Spirit Elves and thus gotten one extra point a couple turns because of one little hold-out in decline that the Hill Giants and Something-something Skeletons ignored, I would have come in third. The top three scorers were right on top of each other, like 88, 89 and 90, something close like that.

After that, we ran through a couple tutorial sessions of Space Alert. One day I will play this game in normal mode, with all the elements and threat decks and such. It’s just that every time I play, we’ve got a new player. Space Alert just isn’t a game it seems fair to throw a newcomer into full bore, so we run through a couple tutorial missions and by then, everyone’s ready to move on to a different game. I still haven’t played with internal threats and the security droids, for crying out loud — nor actually read the rulebook that far, so shame on me for being unprepared to push the level of play upward.

Then came two rounds of Dominion. With two new players, one of whom had a single play under her belt and the other had never heard of the game before, I took a different tactic than I normally do. In addition to explaining cards, verbally narrating my turns to show how things work and making some suggestions on what might be useful choices for the other two players to make, I also played as well as I could. In the past, I’ve taken a more easy-going approach in teaching a game, sometimes not making optimal choices so as not to outpace someone who’s just learning the game.

This time, I played exactly as I would have in a game with experienced players. My rationale was to show by example, explaining why I did what I did, in addition to the usual elements I put into teaching a game. The results were lopsided, but I think it worked out well for the players.

The first game I ran away with by some silly number of victory points. The second game they walloped me hard in return. I think my score was somewhere in the teens and they were both in the high twenties. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get my buying power together in one hand that game. I choose to think that means I’m a damn fine teacher of the game, at least when it comes to that introductory setup.