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Find out about Small World

How to Play Small World Board Game Rules

Check out our easy to read review of the Small World Board Game Board Game rules. We cover the objective and gameplay to make it easy and quick for you to get your game started. 

Players: 2 to 5 | Game duration from: 40 mins | Game Complexity: LOW How to play Small World rules in simple steps | Play Small World Online Link 1

What is the goal?

There is not enough space in Small World. There too many races living off the land. 

In Small World, you will: 

  • pick a fantasy Race and Special Power combination,
  • use Race’s unique traits and skills to place troops in various regions and conquer adjacent lands
  • occupy Regions and earn Victory Coins

Eventually, your race will become increasingly over-extended (like those you have already crushed!) and you will need to abandon your race and look for another

Your victory will depend on you knowing when to push your race into decline and look for a new one to conquer the land of Small World!

Game setup

  1. Pick and place in center, the Small World map that matches your number of players (shown by the symbol next to the Game Turn track). 
    Place the Game Turn marker on the first spot on the Game Turn track.
    The game ends at the end of the turn where the marker reaches the last track position (8th, 9th or 10th turn, depending on the map played).
  2. Pull the removable storage tray with all of its Race tokens out of the box and place it next to the map
  3. Shuffle all the Race banners; draw five at random and lay them face up (i.e. colored side visible) in a single column. Place the remaining banners face up, in a single stack, at the bottom of the column
  4. Shuffle Special Power Badges and place one to the left of each Race banner, its round edge fitting into the banner’s round opening. Stack the rest of the badges in a pile to the left of the Race banners stack
  5. You should now have a total of 6 Race banner and Special Power badge combos visible face-up on the table, including the one on top of the stacks
  6. Place a Lost Tribe token on each Region of the map featuring a Lost Tribe symbol.
  7. Put a Mountain token on each Region of the map featuring a Mountain º
  8. Give each player five “1” Victory coins. Place all remaining coins, including all “3”s, “5”s and “10”s, in a Victory stash next to the board, within easy reach of all players. These coins will serve as your currency during the game, and help determine the winner at the end.
Small World Board Game Rules - setup


  • Decide on who starts and takes the first turn
  • The game moves clockwise to the next player and  a new turn begins once everyone has had a turn
  • The First Player moves the Game Turn marker forward one spot on the Game Turn Track, and proceeds with his next turn, followed by the others.
  • When the Game Turn marker reaches the end on the Track, one final turn is played by all and the game ends.
  • The player who has collected the most Victory coins is the winner.

First turn of the game

During the First Turn of the game, each player:

  1. Picks a Race and Special Power combo
  2. Conquers some Regions
  3. Scores some Victory coins

1. Picking a Race and Special Power Combo


  • You (players) select one Race and Special Power combo, from the six that are visible on the table
  • The cost of each combo is determined by its position in the column. The first combo (at the top of the column) is free.
  • As you move down the column, each combo costs one additional Victory coin. Picking 2nd combo of the column costs 1, 3rd costs 2 and so on.
  • You pay the cost by dropping your Victory coins on each of the combos situated above the combo you wish to pick.
  • If the combo you select contains some Victory coins (dropped by players who previously passed up this combo), you gain these coins;
  • you must still drop one of your own Victory coins on each of the combos located above the one you selected
Small World Board Game Rules - pick a race

Race tokens
  • place the combo selection face up in front of you, 
  • you pick the number of matching Race tokens equal to the sum of the values indicated on the Race banner and its associated Special Power badge.
  • Unless stated otherwise (for example, Skeletons or Sorcerers), these are the only Race tokens you will be able to deploy for this race during the course of the game.
  • If a Special Power (or Race power) lets you take additional Race tokens from the storage tray during the course of the game, you are still limited by the total number of tokens physically available. So a player with 18 Sorcerer tokens on the board won’t be able to use his Sorcerer power again until some of his tokens become available.
Small World Race Tokens

Replenish combos
  • you replenish the column of combos available to others;
  • this is done by sliding existing combos (and the Victory coins sitting on them, if any) up one position in the column, to fill the void, and revealing a new combo from the top of the stack, if appropriate.
  • there should always be 6 combos visible to all players, on the table (within the limit of Race banners and Special Power badges available in the pile, once reshuffled if need be, of course).
Replenishing combos in Small World

2. Conquering regions

  • Your Race tokens are used to conquer Regions of the map
  • Victory coins are earned when Regions are conquered
First Conquest
  • When you deploy a Race on the map for the first time, you must
    enter it by conquering one of its border Regions:
    • (i.e. a Region adjacent to the edge of the board or
    • one whose shore is on a Sea adjacent to the edge of the board, even if the Sea is occupied by a Seafaring Race).
Conquering a Region

To conquer a Region, you must have available to deploy:

  • 2 Race tokens + 1 additional Race token for each Encampment,
    Fortress, Mountain, or Troll’s Lair marker,+ 1 additional Race token
    for each Lost Tribe or other player’s Race token already present in
    the Region.
  • Seas and Lakes cannot usually be conquered
Small World - first conquest

Upon conquering a Region, you must:

  • deploy the Race tokens you used to conquer this Region inside its borders on the map
  • These tokens must remain in this Region until you reorganize your troops at the end of this turn
  • Regardless of a Race and/or Special Power benefit, you must always have at least one Race token available to initiate a new Conquest
Enemy Loss and Withdrawals
If Race tokens of another player were in the Region before its conquest, that player must immediately take all of these Race tokens back in hand and: 
  • Permanently discard one Race token back into the Storage tray;
  • Keep the other Race tokens in hand, and redeploy them in any other Region(s) still occupied by his race (if any) as the final action of the current player’s turn.

The Region(s) in which the remaining Race tokens, if any, redeploy do not have to be adjacent or contiguous to the Region(s) they fled from.

If all of a player’s Regions were attacked this turn, leaving him with some Race tokens in hand but none on the board, he may redeploy these as if he was doing a First Conquest, on his next turn.

When a Region defended by a single token is conquered, the defending token is discarded. This will usually be the case if the defending token is a Lost Tribe or when the defending token belongs to a Race In Decline 

A player may choose to conquer a Region occupied by his own In Decline token,,if he wishes to: He will lose that token, but might gain access to a Region that is more profitable for his new Active Race tokens to occupy. Mountains are immovable, and remain in place to provide defense for their new conqueror.

Following Conquests

The active player can repeat this process to conquer as many new Regions as he wishes during his turn, provided he has enough Race tokens left to accomplish these successive conquests.

Each of the newly conquered Regions must be adjacent to (i.e. sharing a border with) a Region already occupied by his active Race tokens, unless permitted otherwise by his Race and Special Power combo

Small World - Following Conquests

Final Conquest Attempt/Reinforcement
Die Roll

During the final conquest attempt of your turn, you may
find yourself with not enough Race tokens left to conquer another Region outright.

If you have at least one unused Race token, you may attempt one final conquest for your turn by selecting a Region that you would normally be 3 or less Race tokens short to conquer.

Once you select the region, roll the Reinforcement Die once. You must select this region before rolling the die.

This Region does not have to be the weakest one available for attack either, provided it could still be conquered with a lucky die roll.

If the sum of the die rolled, combined with the Race token(s) left in your possession, is high enough to conquer the Region, you may deploy your remaining Race token(s) there.

Otherwise, you deploy the remaining token(s) in one of the Regions you already occupied prior. Your conquests for the turn end immediately thereafter.

Small World - Reinforcement die

Troop Redeployment

Once your conquests for the turn have ended:

  • you freely redeploy your Race tokens on the board, moving
    them from one Region to any other Region occupied by your race
    (not necessarily just an adjacent or contiguous Region)
  • at least one Race token must remain in each Region under your
Small World 1

Scoring victory points

With the turn complete:

  • for each Region occupied by your Race tokens, receive 1 coin from the Victory stash
  • you may also collect additional Victory coins as a result of his Race and/or Special Power benefit.
Small World 2

As the game progresses, you will likely have some tokens from another race. These tokens are the remnants of an earlier race you chose to put In Decline previously.

The Regions these In Decline tokens occupy also each contribute 1 Victory coin; However, Race banner and Special Power benefits no longer contribute any bonus coins, unless explicitly stated otherwise by the Race or Special Power benefit.

Players keep their Victory coins stacked together, their value hidden from other players at all times; final scores are not revealed until the end of the game.

If necessary, a player may request change from the Victory stash for his coins at any time

Small World 3

Following Turns

In following turns, the first player moves the Game Turn marker up one spot on the track and the game continues clockwise.

During his turn, each player must now either:

  • Expand the reach of his race through new conquests
  • Put his race In Decline to select a new one.

The player then scores Victory coins again

Expanding through new Conquests

Ready your Troops

Leaving in place one Race token in each Region you occupy, you may take all your other Active Race tokens from the map back in hand and use them to conquer new Regions.


All rules relative to the conquest of a new Region must be respected, with the exception of the rule relative to the First Conquest – which only applies to new races entering on the map.

Abandoning a Region

Only those Race tokens that were taken back in hand may be used to conquer new Regions.

If you wish to free up some more Race tokens, you may opt to entirely empty up some – or all – Regions, leaving no Tokens there; but in this case, these now abandoned Regions will no longer be considered yours, nor bring you any Victory coins.

If you choose to abandon all the Regions you previously occupied, your next conquest must follow the same rules as the First Conquest

Entering In Decline

If you Active race is overextended and can no longer expand successfully or defend against others, you may put it In Decline by selecting a new Race and Special Power combo from those available on the table at the start of your next turn.

To do so, you flip your current Race banner upside down, to show the grayed-out In Decline side to all, and discard the Special Power badge that was associated with it. The Special Power badge is no longer in effect, unless dictated otherwise (e.g. Spirit Special Power).

You  will also:

  • flip a single Race token onto its In Decline side in each Region those tokens occupied
  • removes all other tokens of this Race from the map, placing them back into the storage tray.

You can only have a single race In Decline on the map at any given time. If you still have tokens from an earlier In Decline race left on the map, those are all immediately removed and placed back in the storage tray, before flipping the new tokens into Decline.

The Race banner of the now vanished race is placed at the bottom of the stack of Race banners, or in the lowest empty slot in the banner column, if any.

The same is also done when the last token of a race In Decline is wiped off the map as the result of their last Region being conquered.

Small World 4

You can make no conquests during the turn your race goes into decline; your turn ends immediately after scoring!

You gain 1 Victory coin for each Region your newly In Decline tokens occupy, but unless stated otherwise, you score no Victory coins from your now In Decline Race banner power or discarded Special Power benefits.

On your next turn, you will select a new Race and Special Power combo from among those now available. You follow the same rules used during the first turn of the game. The only difference, but it’s a sizeable one, is that you will now likely collect Victory coins from your new race as well as from left-over tokens of his now In Decline race, during the Scoring Victory coins phase of your turn.

In the unlikely event there are not enough Special Power badges left in the Special Powers stack to keep putting new Race and Special Power combos on the table, shuffle previously discarded Special Power badges into a new stack.

How do you win?

Once the Game Turn marker has reached its final spot on the Game Turn track and all players have had a chance to play a final turn, the Victory coins held by each player are revealed and tallied.

The player with the highest score wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the most Race tokens (Active + In Decline) still on the board is the winner.

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