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Reviews - Small World: Be Not Afraid
by Lee Valentine

Be Not Afraid boxSmall World: Be Not Afraid... A Mini-Expansion
Published by Days of Wonder
Designed by Philippe Keyaerts
Contents: 5 new Race banners and tokens, 5 new Special Power badges, 1 blank Race Banner, 1 blank Special Power Badge, 1 full-color reference sheet, and a plastic storage tray to store all expansions released to date.

Days of Wonder continues to provide great support for their award-winning wargame Small World (hereinafter "SW"). This time around designer Philippe Keyaerts is back with a mini-expansion called Be Not Afraid... (hereinafter "BNA"). BNA has almost as many Races and Special Power badges as Cursed! and Grande Dames of Small World combined for the same price as both of those mini-expansions put together, but this product also includes a special tray to hold all the SW expansions released to date.

Playability is one place where SW shines, and BNA does not disappoint here either. Five new Races and five new Special Powers add to the diversity of the play environment. The new Races provided are Barbarians, Homunculi, Leprechauns, Pixies, and Pygmies.

Barbarians come with lots of tokens, but they can't reinforce. This tends to leave you spread a bit thin on your own turn, but this disadvantage really hurts you during other players' turns. When they attack you, your displaced Barbarians don't resettle other parts of the board you control; they stay off the board, in your hand, until the start of your next turn.

Homunculi are a race without an ongoing Racial power, and just an average number of starting tokens. This makes it a Race that's likely to get passed over. When you pass it over, though, you add not only a Victory coin but an extra Homunculus token. Eventually, they just become too tempting to pass up due to a combination of their sheer numbers and the coins on them.

Leprechauns come with a large stash of "Pot of Gold" tokens. You can put them on any or all of your controlled regions. If you still control those regions on your next turn then you collect those Pots of Gold, which are worth one Victory coin each. The problem is that people who conquer your regions before your next turn get those Pots of Gold instead. Maybe some game groups will enjoy this race. I would, but for the rule that allows you to take all your troops into your hand and re-enter the board on any edge. In general, if a Leprechaun player puts down more than one of these Pots of Gold per turn he's going to get victimized by all the other players on the board like vultures picking at a carcass. The re-entering the board rule can assure this occurs virtually wherever you currently are. This race wasn't for me, but maybe you will like them.

Pixies come with even more tokens than Barbarians, but you can only leave a single Pixie token in each region at the end of your turn. You keep all the others off the board, in your hand. They are vicious at attacking due to their numbers, but they get wiped out just as quickly in counter-attacks.

Pygmies are like a variant on Elves. Each time Pygmies lose a token, there's a chance that they get back some of their tokens, infrequently even ending up with more than they started with. On average, though, the Pygmies don't tend to lose tokens when opponents invade their regions, making them much like Elves. Unless you like a bit of chaos, this Race doesn't add appreciably to the game in my opinion, because you could just play Elves instead for much the same effect.

BNA has five new Special Power badges: Barricade, Catapult, Corrupt, Imperial, and Mercenary. Barricade awards you Victory coins for controlling four or fewer regions at the end of your turn. Imperial, in contrast, gives you bonus coins for controlling four or more regions at the end of the turn. Catapult allows you to fire over adjacent regions, to attack non-adjacent regions. Mercenary allows you to pay Victory coins to reduce the number of troops you need each time you attack.

The new Special Power "Corrupt" forces your opponents to pay you one Victory coin for each region of yours that they invade. Combined with Elves or Pygmies (neither of which typically lose troops when attacked), Corrupt is particularly backbreaking. If you control this combination, you have very little incentive to go into Decline. Unless someone has no Victory coins to lose to you or all the players work together to chase you off the map, there is a strong disincentive for them to attack Corrupt Elves/Pygmies – the attacker loses money and the Corrupt player makes money while losing no tokens. It is a Race/Power combination that can trivially be kept all game even if you make relatively few tough decisions. But for the fact that some other game combinations can generate an occasional extra Victory coin per turn more than these Corrupt combinations typically do, I would have said that this was an absolute game breaker, even in a five-player game. In two-player play the combo is even worse, and it can disrupt normal game play sufficiently to be a turn off to the other player. This can potentially result in playing a wargame where neither player attacks very often, which is really boring. Corrupt is potentially more balanced outside of this combo, and is probably a viable power to add to your game in most cases.

Components & Packaging
Miguel Coimbra provides some fantastic art for this set. All of the components are the same sturdy, full-color, fantastic-looking quality that I have come to expect and love from SW and its expansions.

The packaging could have rated a solid "A" with a few minor changes. There is a new black plastic tray to hold all of the expansion pieces. It has a clear plastic lid that snaps on top lightly to hold everything in place. The lid isn't 100% secure if the tray gets inverted, so you really need something to hold the lid on or you'll give this tray a grade of "F" in a heartbeat. The product comes wrapped in a cardboard sleeve, big enough to hold the tray plus the punchboards of chits for the Races and Special Powers. If you thoughtlessly throw these punchboards away then the sleeve will be too large for the tray alone. I was alert enough to keep the punchboards, tape them together, and bundle them with the tray inside the sleeve. This problem could have been avoided entirely had the punchboards been shrink-wrapped outside of the sleeve, with a thin ad slick and UPC code slid behind them to form the "back" of the product. As it is, if you keep the used punchboards, it's totally functional.

I have a couple of other minor gripes about the tray which I won't bother mentioning because it features one significant structural improvement over the original token storage tray in the base game. The tray in the core SW game tends to store tokens so tightly that if they fall flat (instead of remaining upright, on their edges) you need long fingernails or a toothpick to pry the tokens out of the box for use in the game. In BNA the insert's token storage area has thumb holes up front and a slightly curved bottom, allowing you to easily get your fingers on tokens, which can never fall flush with the bottom of the tray.

The packaging could have been thought out a bit better, but my complaints are really minor. By comparison, I have seen games require you to use hundreds of tokens and offer you a single plastic bag to store them all. BNA is not one of those products.

The rules sheet is full-color and double-sided. Most of the power descriptions are clear, but one power, "Catapult", was vaguely worded and I had to look it up online. I suspected a translation error and looked at the French rules – which, translation aside, are actually different than the English rules, so that didn't get me very far. Other than that, the rules sheet is attractive and clear. My biggest complaint about the rules sheet is that SW is a five-player game (six-players with a new bonus expansion) and yet, as with the mini-expansions before it, there is just one copy of the powers reference sheet. Days of Wonder should have included extra copies of this sheet. Thankfully a PDF is available online for printing.

One special note about this expansion is the Catapult power requires a special token that was left out of BNA accidentally. Days of Wonder has since printed this on a separate punchboard (that does not come inside the package) along with "Leader" tokens for each of the new BNA races (for use with the Leaders of Small World expansion). Unless you order from Days of Wonder, however, either you have to be mindful enough to ask your retailer for this extra punchboard when you purchase BNA, or he has to be smart enough to provide it without your having asked for it.

Overall, Be Not Afraid... is a very solid expansion for the money. I felt that some of the innovations that Days of Wonder has made with their storage tray show that they are really listening to fans. If you own all the expansions to date, it would be worth getting this product just to have a proper storage solution for the expansions' tokens. However, the new Races and Special Powers were fun. Each one (other than Pygmies, perhaps) makes you think differently about how you are going to play the game than you would with other combos. At a price of $20.00, if you are a Small World fan, Be Not Afraid... is hard to pass up.

For Retailers
If SW products sell for you, then this is a no-brainer. You may want to use your Cursed! and Grande Dames of Small World sales as a guide for how many copies of BNA to order. The only down side is remembering the existence of the extra Catapult punchboard, which may frustrate some customers if they walk away without it.

Lee's Ratings:
Overall: B+
Playability: B+ (solid, with one troublesome power combination, and one race which is just a minor variant)
Packaging: A- (if you kept your used punchboards and the sleeve the product came in; much lower otherwise)
Components: B+ (great quality tokens, but too few reference sheets for use during actual play)
Rules Clarity: B+ (mostly clear, with one vague power)
Retailer Salability: A-



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