Small World is in my opinion, the best area control game, a genre which Risk dominated for decades.
Unlike many other Area Control games, points are scored each turn and long term control of areas isn’t mandatory to win: you simply try to make as many points as you can each turn, and hope for the best because, in all honesty: the Board is way too small.
In fast, to ensure the board really is too small regardless of the number of players, the game comes with 2 dual sided boards, one of which has the 2 and 3 player versions, and the other have bigger (but still too small) 4 and 5 player boards.
The game is deceptively simple: to attack an empty area, you need 2 tokens. For every obstacle on that area (enemy tokens, mountains, fortress, etc..), you need 1 additional unit. The re-enforcement dice is only used on your last attack if you do not have enough tokens and if you try to get 1, 2 or 3 additional tokens (the dice also has 3 blank faces).
Each area you control nets you 1 coin. When you conquer an area, you kill the first defending unit, the others retreat and can be re-deployed by the defender at the end of your turn. You can reassign your units as you please once your attacks are completed.
However, each player picks a ability-race combination which grants you a certain number of units and 2 powers which extend the rules.
For example, Wizards make an extra point on magic places and Dwarves on mines. Amazons have an extra 4 units for attacking, but they have to be removed at the end of the game. Hobbits do not need to start from the side of the board, and their first 2 areas are immune to conquest.
As for abilities, they are just as varied, such as Wealthy which gives you bonus 7 coins at the end of your first turn with that ability or Bivouacking, which gives you special tokens to place on your areas to boost defense by one.
When you start your first turn, you pick one of the 5 race-ability combinations and then can immediately attack with it. At the start of each of the following turns, you will need to decide if you continue with your choice, or if it goes into decline. If it does, you flip the tokens over, leave only 1 token per area, and your turn is then over. You still score point, but usually get no race or ability powers (and yet some, like the Dwarves, keep their powers in decline).
On the next turn, you will pick a new race to attack. You will then score your active race and your in decline race every turn. You usually go in decline twice in a game, but can only keep your most recent in decline race.
The game lasts for 10 rounds for 2 and 3 players, 9 for 4 players and 8 for 5 players and runs for about 30-60 minutes, depending on the speed of action of the players.