Our country is inhabited by countless races. We do not know, what happened in the past, but today the world is simply really small. We are constantly dragging for territories. One time, we fight for control of the surface, other times war is waged underground. But no matter the place – we never give up. We are not violent races, we fight peacefully. But now it seems, that we could finally have peace of mind. Over the night, new flying islands appeared at our borders. Are they empty? Will they bring peace or just another line of battles?
Answer to this question is obvious. So at least this time, when it’s all about expansion for Small World game. There will be no peace. This was decided by the spiritual creator Philippe Keyaerts, who created with the help of T. Alex Davis a new expansion for Sky Islands. Same pair has also produced wonderful illustrations for the game. And their whole work was released in 2017 under the auspices of Days of Wonder. On the European market, however, game is present thanks to distribution of Esdevium Games.
Box with this new addition is neither small (it occupies the same landscape dimensions as the basic box) nor big (it is quite thin). But where it does not get your attention at first with dimensions, and feeling that your money were well spent, it uses illustration on the lid to draw you in. There we see the flying islands, hovering ship and bizarre races all around. Inside, there is a two-sided game board folded in half and a plastic box with lots of new races and their tiles. And still, large part of the box is filled with cardboard padding despite its smaller dimensions.
It’s been many months since we last wrote about Small World. But its a similar phenomenon to Ticket to Ride. And thanks to that, game gets new content from time to time for players to enjoy. Small World as such is incredibly well built for the ever-growing expansion line. Do you remember, how it is played? It does not matter, we will shortly repeat it for you.
Whole game is a fight for majority in many territories. The basis of everything is a race, that always consists of two pieces – nation tile and token with property (adjective, if you want). This will create (in the words of the new expansion) flying scarecrows, storm giants or ghosts riding on wings of the zeppelins. Everything is possible. Players buy nations for money, even during setup in the set order. They receive smaller square tokens of chosen race, which then will be sent to occupy individual territories on the map. They are used to conquer areas controlled by the opponent. To do this, player has to bring twice as much strength, as opposed to how many units are located here in name of their opponent. At the end of the round, however, these units can be rearranged.
Controlled territories will provide players with a victory point. The next round will see some units returned back to hand of players and gameplay continues with the next placement. It can be done to adjacent territories to those controlled by that race. However, each change in ownership of territory also means a loss for defeated player. Sooner or later, player has to replace his race for another (he has not enough tokens to do more conquering), but tokens of his previous race will remain on the map until they are completely eradicated by his rivals. Until then, they provide everything to its owner as usual. So the game continues across set number of rounds, when player with the highest number of victory points celebrates.
The whole basic mechanism does not change. But setup will indicate some changes, because players have to choose one side of the board (this is not dependent on the number of players, but one consists of two larger and the other of the three smaller islands) and place it as an additional area to the basic game board. However on the basic board its necessary to select a side, that is intended for one player less, than is the actual number of participants. That’s because there will be more space on the flying islands for players to conquer. In safety in the land, players then randomly identify two locations, that are connected to islands either by stairs to the sky or magical beans.
All races, however, begin their struggle for superiority on the ground. Flying islands are free at first. All islands are interconnected by cloud bridges, which guarantee, that even places in the air are adjacent to something. If one of the players manages to occupy the whole island with his own races, he receives one extra victory point.
And that’s it. The rest of the news is just all about the races and expansion tokens with skills. Number of them differs as does their strength. So even though there is many scarecrow tokens to use, the occupation of their regions brings attacker one more victory point. Storm giants also have two flash tokens to use in each round, allowing them to occupy mountain region with only one unit, regardless of the number of defenders.
The most popular in our games were the Draconians, because their members can turn into dragons! They can occupy areas in a way similar to giants. Race with the ability to use airships will allow you to spread anywhere on the map without need for adjacency. Other tokens will teach races to fly or grant them power to control cannons (such areas can not be conquered).
New races are a gift, that will be appreciated by each of the players of Small World. Some ideas are recycled from the basic game (not just dragons), but the newly acquired variability is great. The combination of race and ability is always different, determined by chance, and so your experience will vary every game. In this case, the length of the match remains similar and will usually not exceed one hour. This is because a larger number of players will fight for fewer number of turns.
There are many conflicts in the game. Map gets bigger and so you always have to choose a board for fewer players. This means a problem in the lowest number of three opponents, where the game is really free and game is least entertaining of all counts. You do not fight and hustle for control as much. But there is no chance to play in two at all! On the contrary, game comes with a chance to play in six players, which is again thanks to more space on the map. Your choice of races will definitely not limit you.
Airy islands look fantastic. Their interconnection with two types of tokens means, that completely different locations will be joined every time you play. The complete illustrations are absolutely fantastic and the game is beautifully colorful.
Small World: Sky Islands is a great expansion, that reloads the weapon of variability. This is also the best way to improve a game of this type – add more stuff. If you would like to see new rules, you would probably cut a thin branch of entertainment in this game. Fun in here stems from extremely simple rules. Small World: Sky Island is not a breakthrough or indispensable expansion, but it offers exactly what all Small World players are looking for.
Small World: Sky Islands is an excellent expansion, because it spoils nothing and adds enough! The only deficiency you will notice is when you are use to play Small World in two. This is not possible here, according to official rules. The box brings a new two-sided map, which means more space, but also more strategic options. You will use a smaller map, which will much about dragging for small islands. The game also invites sixth player and hosts new and exciting races to all participants. Small World: Sky Islands is an expansion, that lets you really take off.