To begin, each Small World player must select a Race and a Special Power combination. 6 randomly-drawn combinations are placed in a column next to the board map. A player can choose any combo he wants and while the one at the top is free, each successive combo as you move down the column costs 1 additional Victory Coin. So if you want that powerful Flying Sorcerers combination in the 3rd position, it will cost you 2 coins, with a coin placed on each of the combos above it.
Once a combo is selected, those below are moved up the column and a new one revealed. Following players who select a combo with Victory coins gets to keep them!
Small World accommodates 2 to 5 players and plays out on 4 different maps of its territories - one for each of the four possible player combinations. Each map includes a game turn track that varies between 8 and 10 turns.
On the first turn, and whenever a new race is deployed on the map for the first time, it must start its conquest on one the Border Regions. These include regions adjacent to the edge of the board, or one whose shore is on a Sea adjacent to the edge. Halflings have a special power to enter the map through any Region, not just borders.
Once on the map, the Race can conquer any Regions adjacent to other lands it occupies, as long as it has sufficient tokens to continue.
When conquering a Region, a player must have 2 Race tokens; plus 1 additional Race token for each Encampment, Fortress, Mountain, or Troll's Lair marker; plus 1 additional Race token for each Lost Tribe or other player's Race token already present in the Region. Often Race and Special Power benefits will enable you to conquer Regions with fewer tokens.
Tokens from a defeated Race are returned to their player and can be redeployed, but one of the defeated tokens must be discarded.
Once a player's conquests for the turn have ended, he may freely redeploy the Race tokens he has on the board, moving them from one Region to any other Region occupied by his race (not necessarily just an adjacent or contiguous region), provided that at least one Race token remains in each Region under his control.
With his turn complete, the player receives 1 coin from the Victory stash for each Region his Race tokens, both Active and In Decline, occupy on the map. The player may also collect additional Victory coins if any of his Race and/or Special Power benefits include them.