Small World App Review: Top iPad Board Game Experience

For enthusiasts of European-style board games, the iPad release of Small World at $4.99 offers a delightful digital adaptation. Although not without its flaws, this app is a must-try for fans.

Apple has been highlighting this game in the App Store, featuring a colorful cast of characters on its display page. For those unfamiliar with the original board game, the app might seem puzzling at first. Beneath its charming fantasy-themed graphics, Small World is a sophisticated area control game that eschews luck in favor of strategic depth. Players control various tribes, each equipped with unique powers, to dominate the map and accumulate points. The game challenges players to balance expansion with consolidation, offering a strategic complexity akin to Risk but without the randomness.

Discover more about the expansive potential of Small World below.


The Game

Aficionados of board games might recognize the mechanics of Small World from the 1999 game Vinci. This earlier game was reimagined with a fantasy theme in 2009 by Days of Wonder, who also developed the iPad version. The essence of the game lies in the dynamic combinations of tribes and their powers, which players must master over several rounds. Strategic deployment is crucial, as each tribe starts with a limited number of tokens for conquering regions. The game’s challenge is to expand effectively and know when to decline your tribe to refresh your resources. The rules are intricate, but resources like valuableinsights and the full rules available online can help. The app is currently priced at $5, which is a steal for the value it provides.

The App

The initial release of the Small World app on the iPad was met with criticism due to its lack of a tutorial and incomplete feature set.

However, subsequent updates have addressed these issues effectively. The latest version, 0.92, includes all tribes and powers from the original game, except for the Diplomat tribe. The gameplay is enhanced by the digital format, which allows for quicker setup and play compared to the physical board game. The app replicates the two-player map from the board game, with stunning graphics that bring the game to life. Despite these improvements, the app currently supports only two players and lacks AI opponents, which limits its appeal. Promises of future updates suggest more enhancements are on the way, including potential AI gameplay and expanded player options.

Despite its limitations, Small World remains a compelling game on the iPad, offering a near-perfect translation of the board game experience. Hidden scores add an element of suspense, although the app could benefit from preventing inadvertent score reveals.

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Ronald is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Apple. With a keen eye for detail, Ronald covers the latest news and updates on products like the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers stay informed about the ever-evolving world of Apple technology. When he’s not writing, Ronald enjoys exploring new apps and discovering innovative ways to use his Apple devices.