Welcome back friends! I have another board game for you, and, like last week’s, this one’s also based on a Disney property. Unlike last week’s however, this isn’t Marvel, nor is it a strategy game. No, we’ll be looking at…it’s a small world.
Disney actually has a fair number of board games these days based on their rides. But we couldn’t be talking about the one based on The Jungle Cruise. Oh no. No, we’ve got one of Disney’s most infamous rides.
So, let’s dive into this, shall we?
How We Got Here
Before we dive into the game itself, let’s give a brief summary of the history of it’s a small world. Nothing too long, cause eventually I’ll review the ride itself, but a brief overview since the source material isn’t the most ubiquitous or accessible thing out there.
Created by Walt Disney in the 1960s for the New York World’s Fair, it’s a small world is a boat ride ‘around the world’ that features music by the legendary Sherman Brothers and art design by the equally legendary Mary Blair.
Conceived as a prayer for peace during the Cold War, guests take a boat through various scenes, each dedicated to a different continent/region. Each scene is populated with animatronics of the children from said region, singing the song above, and it ends in a room with all of them together, singing in unity and harmony.
The song this ride shares its name with is…infamous, to say the least, but in its defense it is meant to be sung from the perspective of a child, and was written in response to the fears and tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Plus, the song is not related to the game in any way. Speaking of which!
How To Sail
First and foremost, it’s a small world is a family game. If you look at the bottom right corner of the above picture, you’ll notice that it says ‘Ages 4+’ and that a session should only last 20 minutes. On top of that, not only does the instruction booklet offer ways to shorten (or lengthen, albeit slightly) the game, it also suggests ‘a gentle game’, in which everyone playing works together to score a certain number of points before the game finishes.
Players will divide themselves into two teams (sorry if you only have an odd numbered amount of players I guess) taking a boat and a card holder. Each team draws four cards (though if you draw the card to advance the clock tower you shuffle that back in and draw again).
The board is divided into four quadrants, with four scenes on picture boards in each quadrant. Every turn you move your team’s boat one space, following the arrows. At twenty-two spaces, this can result in a rather…slow experience. This does replicate the slow and gentle movement of it’s a small world the ride though, so this is understandable.
In addition to the aforementioned clock tower cards, there are two other types of cards in this game. Some cards flip the scene, requiring you to rotate the same number of picture boards as are on the card, though you can sit on these as long as you want. You’ll want to employ some strategy here, actually, because the bread and butter of the game are the picture cards. These are how you earn points in the game.
Every picture board has a number of pictures on it, mostly of children and animals drawn to mimic the art style of the ride. Your goal is to match the cards you have to the pictures visible in the quadrant you’re in. This is where the scene flipping cards come into play, allowing you to get pictures matched faster.
There is no high score unless you’re doing the ‘gentle play’ style, with players instead going round and round until the clock tower has advanced to five, six, or seven depending on their preference.
…it’s a small world is a family game. It’s an I Spy book turned into a board game. Which is fine, of course. You need games for kids who are too old for Candy Land but not quite ready for Clue. For that, this is a perfectly acceptable game. The art is appropriately cutesy, the construction of the various pieces is solid, all in all, it’s a well crafted game…for kids and parents.
Of course, this is a licensed game, so how well does it represent its license? That…is a trickier question to answer. The themes of the ride, a message for global unity and understanding, are completely absent. You’d need a board game version of the classic Carmen Sandiego games to get that across. However, the experience of it’s a small world, of a slow boat ride looking at pretty art? That is actually captured quite well here. So a mixed bag, where it’s not a soulless cash grab, but it also only captures half the ride.
Ultimately this is not a game for adults. I cannot recommend this for friendly game night. Maybe if you’re a die hard fan of the ride, I could see this working as a collector’s/display piece. However, if you have kids, or even just babysit a lot, there’s worse games to play with them.
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You can grab a copy of it’s a small world from Amazon or, if you’re so inclined, the gift shops at Disney theme parks. The standard edition will run you about $25 with the fancy embossed, metal tin box edition will set you back $30 (depending on sales and such of course).
Images and review copy courtesy of Disney and Funko Games
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