Small World Best Race and Power Combinations – Part 2

Small World

Continuing my Small World best race and power combinations, this week I’m analyzing and discussing the results from last week’s post found here.  While the numbers from last week were all well and good, they only considered offensive abilities, and did not look at abilities that provided non-numerical benefits.  Here’s where we are going to go into what powers combo well with which races, and also consider what the numbers from last week actually mean if we’re trying to get more gold than the other guy.

Now, remember that the prior analysis was done assuming that each region could be conquered with three race tokens base (it either had one defending race token or a mountain).  Which race / power combination is “best” will shift based on the board position, other race / power combinations already in play and how much gold you get from picking a specific race/power combination.  To ease reading, recommended abilities will be bolded.

Amazons

These warrior ladies are one of the most aggressive, sporting an above average six base race tokens.  Combined with their racial ability, they can put down more race tokens than any other race during their conquests bar Skeletons (whom can only beat Amazons after performing multiple conquests themselves).  Far and away their best offensive power is Pillaging, but make sure that there are plenty of occupied, connected regions to conquer.  Flying deserves a special mention, for while they do not gain anything special from any particular region, it does allow them to pick the weakest territories on the board every turn.

Many of the defensive powers just don’t meld well with the Amazons, as most defensive powers are limited to a few regions, and the Amazons tend to conquer large swathes at once.  The utility powers like Seafaring, Spirit, Stout and Wealthy don’t really work well with the Amazons either.  Those powers pair well with short endurance races (i.e. races that only want to conquest for one turn before going into decline), which the Amazons are not.

Dwarves

Often maligned as one of the weakest races, and for good reason.  A mediocre racial ability combined with three race tokens is only partially remedied by the fact that their racial ability works while in decline.  Offensively, look to Commando, Pillaging and Underworld to take the easiest mines, and hope no one takes them back from you while you are in decline.

Defensively, dwarves just don’t have the tokens to really hold anything.  As far the utility powers go, Spirit and Stout dwarves aren’t awful choices.  But, in general, you run into an issue where players recognize that in-decline dwarves are both a valuable and easy target.  In short (no pun intended) dwarves are generally a skip.  However, they are probably the race that benefits the most from Dragon Master.

Elves

Strangely a race with quite the endurance, Elves begin with six race tokens and almost always keep them.  This means they can be as aggressive as they wish without having to worry about the consequences, and in fact they should be.  Pillaging is a great power for you here because it benefits greatly from the fights you should be picking as you will almost always come out on top.  After that, just about any offensive power shakes out to be as effective for you, so pick based on board position.

Skip all defensive powers.  You’re near-guaranteed to survive anyways and a good offensive power will let you get the important regions back anyways.  Elves should pretty much avoid all utility powers like Spirit, Stout and Wealthy as they expect to be around for a long while.

Ghouls

One of the more interesting races on paper, in my opinion, but in practice their ability tends to not make much of a difference.  Generally speaking, the best times to go into decline are when you can’t conquer any new territories because you have one token left in every territory, making the ability moot.  The next logical step is to go into decline a turn early, but that can often be difficult or not valuable enough without the benefit of a power, not to mention possible to mispredict.

Defensive powers are rarely worth it for Ghouls between their five base race tokens and no actual coin-influencing ability.  None of the utility powers patch up their glaring weaknesses either, so mostly Ghouls are a pass.

Giants

Personally one of my favorites, as their racial ability rewards aggressive play paired with astute planning.  They benefit strongly from Pillaging, but Berserk and Commando are nearly as strong.  My flavor of choice is actually Flying however, as it provides a huge suite of tactical options combined with a terrifying mental picture (How many giants would really wear more than a loincloth, after all?).

Defensive powers are actually a deceptively strong choice for Giants as well.  Their power encourages them to take mountains, an already tough challenge for other races.  Combining with a defensive power can make it easy to secure regions turn after turn.  Many of the utility powers also work well with them for this reason.

Halflings

A strange little race with six tokens and a mediocre defensive ability, often outclassed by Diplomat.  They perform best offensively by nabbing Pillaging (seeing a pattern yet?) and cutting into another race’s flank with their first two conquests, and, if chosen correctly, effectively providing an impenetrable barrier.

Generally a more viable strategy is pairing them with a defensive power (Diplomat, Fortified, etc) and hunkering down in their own section of the map.  Typically other players will leave you alone, allowing you to collect a reliable, if modest, income every turn.  Sometimes players will continue to ignore you out of habit or convenience afterwards, making some of the utility powers interesting choices, especially Spirit.

Humans

Normally a race known for versatility or flexibility in most games, Humans have a disappointingly narrow focus in Small World and only five race tokens.  Farmland regions seem particularly poorly distributed compared to other bonus gold regions.  Besides the obvious Pillaging, all other offensive powers are about the same for Humans.  Mounted is nice, but it doesn’t make as big of a difference as you may think because of the distribution of farmland.  But really, you should probably just skip them entirely.  None of the defensive powers or utility powers can really help them.

Orcs

Another really strong aggressive race choice limited only by its five base race tokens.  The obvious choice is Pillaging, but both Mounted and Commando give it strong competition, followed closely by Berserk.  Flying can be a good option as well, but only if the board position is disadvantageous to a contiguous conquering spree.

I’d avoid the bonus coin powers, if only to prevent divergent interest between smashing enemies and taking valuable regions.  Due to their nature, Orcs aren’t long for this (Small) World, so Stout and Wealthy are other strong options.

Ratmen

The original swarm race, their extra two base race tokens don’t help much on their own, so they need to be paired with a power that cooperates nicely.  Pillaging leads the pack again, of course, and everything else offensive/gold-based is about equal.

Otherwise Ratmen are generally best as a “fire and forget” kind of race, where you bring them on to the board for a turn and go into decline immediately afterwards, hoping to nab a race with some longevity.

Skeletons

Another favorite race of mine, providing little power out of the gate, but having endurance rivaled only by the Elves and Sorcerers.  Pillaging Skeletons are a true nightmare, pairing their ability to grow ranks with extra coins in near perfect synergy.  Berserk and Commando show strong performances as well, but play a distinctly second fiddle to Pillaging for Skeletons.

Almost any defensive power works well with them as well, but Fortified is especially potent as it mixes well with your long-game strategy.  Avoid powers like Spirit, Stout and Wealthy.

Sorcerers

The last of my favorites, Sorcerers start with only five base race tokens but can quickly swell their ranks with the tokens of their enemies.  Pillaging is particularly potent, punishing enemies extra for spreading out thinly, but it can be very circumstantial.  One of my favorite offensive pairings is actually Dragon Master, however, as it punishes (and harshly) opponents that try to clump up, often a tactic used to restrict the effectiveness of the Sorcerer’s racial ability.

I don’t think the defensive or bonus coin powers pair well with the Sorcerers.  You should be flexible and mobile, neither of which fit well with those kinds of powers.  Also skip out on short endurance utility powers like Spirit, Stout and Wealthy.

Tritons

A usually underestimated race, but a large number of territories happen to qualify for their ability.  Most players don’t seem to notice just how many territories border either a sea or lake.  They have great potential with Berserk, Commando and Pillaging, but really any offensive ability or bonus gold ability is nice.

The “obvious” pairing with Seafaring isn’t as must-have it may seem, but it’s not awful either.  However, they don’t have a lot of endurance.  You could shore this up with a defensive power, but I think going with the short endurance powers ( Spirit, Stout and Wealthy ) are all better options.

Trolls

One of the toughest defensive races with five base tokens, Trolls are often overlooked because they cannot provide a large income like many other races.  However, they provide a very reliable income, and more importantly, this income persists while they are in decline.  I’d skip the offensive powers with them and instead look for Stout and Spirit.

 Wizards

There’s not much to say about them besides that they are basically Humans with another flavor, and just as much of a skip.

Conclusion

Now, a special mention has to go out to a few powers.  Seafaring is a power whose strength is generally inversely proportional to the turn number.  In simpler terms, it’s a powerful early game ability and nearly worthless at the end.  Diplomacy is great in small games, but near worthless in large games.

With all that being said, my top 5 picks would have to be the following, in no particular order:

  • Pillaging Amazons
  • Pillaging Orcs
  • Flying Giants
  • Dragon Master Sorcerers
  • Commando Tritons

What are some of your favorites?

2 thoughts on “Small World Best Race and Power Combinations – Part 2

  1. I like Flying Sorcerers, because it gives the racial power a bit more versatility (as if they needed that). That said, Underworld Giants are fun because there are a couple of Mountains on the edge of the board with caves in them.

    • Flying Sorcerers is definitely a good one!

      Giants I’m not as much of a fan of since there are so few of them, but if you can get mountains and no one else takes them they definitely provide value. That’s just a pretty big if.

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