Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Small world too big for two players?

My sister came to visit me today, so what's the best thing you can do with vague things called "sisters"?

Board games, of course!

At first I was hesitant to try Smallworld with only two players, as I felt the game mechanics wouldn't fit too well for only two. I thought you would be able to calculate things too well, and some special powers and races could actually be too powerful and difficult to harm.

But then I thought the Tales & Legends expansion could be the answer, bringing a lot more chaos into the board. So we played actually two games with only two players, using the Tales & Legends card set with only "current event" showing up.

First game started with Diplomatic Dwarves and Mercenary Wizards duking it out.

Mercenary wizards, being second player, killed as many dwarves as possible on their first turn before dwarves' diplomacy started having effect.

Round 2 card: Decline & Fall. All races go into decline.

So, that's what dwarves and wizards did.

Round 3 card: Wheel of Misfortune.

Well, this card didn't actually have any effect at all, as earlier card had forced us to go in decline. Dwarves continued with Wealthy Amazons, who beat up as much in decline wizards as possible.

Wizards chose Seafaring Kobolds, which were pretty nasty for amazons. They erased whatever was left from the dwarves.

Round 4 card: Plague.

Plague took heavier toll on Kobolds, but both active races were spread thin this turn.

Round 5 card: Puffs of Smoke.

As it happened, both players thought it was best to go in decline with their current race. Kobolds still had one decline wizard token on board but it was on top of a mountain that could erupt because of the card drawn. Both races left a good number of decline tokens and kobolds had conquered one lake and one ocean square.

Round 6 card: Drakkars from afar.

Both races in decline at the start of turn, so this card had no effect at all.

Amazons turned into another aggressive race combo: Mounted barbarians. They took a heavy toll on kobolds, though obviously they couldn't invade to water spaces.

Kobolds chose Imperial Homunculi that had been skipped 3 times, meaning 11 race tokens. They started far away from barbarians, deep in amazon territyory, so they had plenty of time to make their imperium...

Round 7 card: Forbidden forest.

Not being able to conquer forests actually had a little effect, as it blocked the bloodthirsty homunculi from getting too many barbarians into their teeth.

First time seeing barbarians in action the barbarians weakness became apparent. If you don't have a keen eye when you ready your troops to war, you will forever defend that particular area with only one race token.

Round 8 card: Magic is in the air.

Barbarians had a huge empire by now so they went in decline. Homunculi, however, continued their imperial schemes and started scoring like crazy. Seventeen points in one round!

Round 9 card: Art of combos.

Special power for auction was Barricade (if you control 4 or less regions you get 3 extra points).

Well, for homunculi it was really no other interest, except for not giving it to the barbarian player, who had yet to choose a new race. Barbarians offered 2, homunculi 3.

New race for barbarians was destined to be Ransacking Gypsies, who conquered 3 regions from homunculi, causing them to go in decline.

Round 10 card: War is sexy.

Every region conquered would bring 1 more point. So it was kind of a cool ending card.

Homunculi player, as this was the last round, chose Fortified Whie Ladies as a new race. The combo had a whopping 5 race tokens, so it had gained quite a few victory coins when people had skipped over it.

Well then, the final scoreboard:

Mercenary Wizards/Seafaring Kobolds/Imperial Homunculi/Fortified White Ladies: 71
Diplomatic Dwarves/Wealthy Amazons/Mounted Barbarians/Ransacking Gypsies: 68

So... A three point difference. Could almost say that neither player dominated the other. Could it actually be that Smallworld was playable with only two players, despite my prejudice?

Well, another game to find it out!

Game 2:

This time it was Pillaging Giants versus Hordes of Ratmen.

Pretty strong combos, both of them and both had a good start.

Round 2 card: Tremor.

So, all conquests were one race token steeper in price. Harsh for both, but more to the giants, because there were such a huge number of rats around. Giants conquered one region, rats two. So not exactly awesome progress there...

Round 3 card: Philter of Forgetfulness.

This rounds card caused giants to lose the optimum time to go in decline, as the effect was bad. In decline races wouldn't give any victory points. So both races were forced to strain their empires a round longer.

Round 4 card: Great Ride.

Great Ride didn't actually have any effect, as both giants and ratmen had next to no army to ride with... both races went in decline.

Round 5 card: Flooded.

Giants got a horrible race combo in regards to the massive, decline ratmen empire. Mounted Goblins. So, they stroke straight into heart of ratmens most populated area, conquering 4 regions with only one race tokens per region. All in all, seven ratmen and one lost tribe tokens were removed from board by the goblins.

Ratmen didn't do any worse, as they were exchanged for Bivouacking Kobolds, who in turn punished the goblins for their wicked deeds.

Round 6 card: Tough love.

Tough love was auctioned to kobolds for 3 victory coins. However, all it gained for them were the maximum number of regions they could conquer any more.

Mounted goblins were busy with the declined ratmen.

Round 7 card: Famine.

Famine caused all the races to go in decline, as it affected only active races, though rather harshly.

Round 8 card: Going down!

Underground trolls started popping up all over, continuing the story of mounted goblins. Mostly they just tried to dispatch as many kobolds as possible.

Then there was a nice row of 3 unconquered regions for Merchant Elves and they managed to conquer one more with remaining 2 race tokens and reinforcement die.

The current card saw some effect, one kobold token managed to conquer one goblin region.

Round 9 card: A gift from the sky.

Card really didn't affect game much when it came this late. Both could keep their extra point area for the rest of the game.

However, at this point the elves started to be a real annoying pests, setting up their market stalls everywhere. They had 6 regions under them, which meant 12 victory points.

Round 10 card: Small time coup.

And last rounds card had absolutely NO effect, as neither player really wanted to auction off for the first player's position in the last round...

Trolls trolled and elves were pansies. Round 10 was almost similar to round 9. It was time to count the points.


Hordes of Ratmen/Bivouacking Kobolds/Merchant Elves: 98
Pillaging Giants/Mounted Goblins/Underworld Trolls: 90

So... all in all, these two 2-player games were quite entertaining after all. Random card draw with only current event shown worked pretty fine, bringing some uncertainty and chaos to the game. And at least in both of these games the point difference wasn't too big.

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