Grand Dames of Small World is a mini-expansion to Small World, adding three new races and two new special powers. “Mini” is an accurate term, as this expansion is essentially a few punchboards with the tokens wrapped in a sheet of paper, coming in at about 1/4 inch thick. It was hard to see on the shelf of the board game store, it’s so tiny. Fortunately, it comes at a low price of $10, and if you look around, you can find it discounted even further. Is it worth the price?
While the base game only includes one “female” race (though one might assume that most of the races, if not all, contain both males and females in their population… then again, perhaps this is why they go into decline so quickly), Grand Dames adds three new female races. Their abilities are interesting and fun, and these are definitely a worthy addition to the game. Gypsies gain points for abandoning regions at the start of their turn (but cannot retake those same regions during that turn). Priestesses pile up into one strongly defended region when they go into decline, scoring points for each token in that region instead of how many regions they control (though this makes them particularly vulnerable to, say, dragons), and White Ladies, when in decline, are immune to conquests and racial and special powers.
These abilities are unique and fun to play (though claiming the White Ladies paints a big target on your back—no one wants anyone else to have an invulnerable in-decline race). While races that grant a bonus when controlling certain regions or a better attack under certain conditions are useful and a basic need of the game, it’s nice to get a little more variety in what you can do. These new races definitely offer that.
The special powers are also unique, although they don’t excite me as much. “Historian” grants you points for races that are in decline or go into decline (including yourself), and “Peace-loving” grants you points when you do not attack an active race (in-decline races are fair game though). They’re new and unique, but the meat here really is in the races.
Grand Dames also includes an extra empty race banner and special power token, so if you like making up your own stuff, you have another chance to do it here.
Grand Dames doesn’t change the gameplay of Small World dramatically, but it adds more variety to the mix, which is always welcome. I enjoy what it brings, and it’s definitely worth the low cost.