I had just turned off the TV wondering what I was going to do next when my wife asks me, “Want to play Small World?” I excitedly said, “Of course!” So we set up the game and she says, “You start.”
I take Bivouacking Ghouls. The Bivouacking special power serves no purpose here, but ghouls are too good to pass up – especially when I don’t have to pay for them. She goes for Stout Giants knowing it will allow her a free decline, saving herself a turn. I go into decline on my second round and she continues to expand. An even start.
I then take Swamp Skeletons and am able to expand both my races. She plays the giants once more then puts them in-decline. She realizes my skeletons are spreading across the board like wild fire. I’ve taken all the Swamps so I’m getting lots of coins per turn. She takes Berserk Elves to wipe out my tokens, but the dice aren’t rolling her way. After a few unsuccessful turns, she switches to Commando Amazons. I take significant losses, but it’s too late to make a difference; the undead have ravaged the lands.
I start counting my points. She says, “You scored more than me every round*, do we need to count them?” We count anyway; I win 131 to 71. She says I’ve ruined her fun. No second match tonight.
My first game of Small World was two weeks ago with John and 3 other newbies. I instantly liked it. I’ve been borrowing the game from him for the last couple of weeks. Most of the games I’ve played since have been 2 player with my wife. Her hobbies and mine don’t mesh all that well, but we’re competive people and board games give us a pretty equal playing field.
A couple nights after my first game, I teach her how to play. Our first game is very close, I beat her by a mere 4 or 5 coins. We play again now that she has the hang of it. After scoring 20 coins in one turn she goes on to beat me by almost 30. I realize some flaws in my initial strategies. A few days later we play twice more. I beat her in both games, both are fairly close in score.
However, as I’ve been playing, I’ve been analyzing my plays, looking at how the different races/powers work in the start or end game. After these 2p and the notorious 3p match my strategies are sound. She has been playing more casually: she still maximizes her score each round, but sometimes at a cost on future turns. The result is the match above.**
What can I do? I really like playing this game***, but I can’t let her win – she and I both wouldn’t enjoy that. How do I handicap a game without it seeming like pity?
So far I’ve come up with a couple options:
1. Pick the special power/race combo that seems least strategic.
2. Pick the last combo (costs 5 coins) available each time regardless.
I can still analyze and strategize with what I’m given.
Any other suggestions? Have you found this in other games with your gaming partner(s)? What have you tried?