When Small World Underground was announced, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to buy it. It's not because don't like Small World, but because I don't need anything else for the game. I have the three expansions which add more races and special powers and the box is full. I figured I would play it any time since I really like Small World.
Mike bought it and wanted to play it, so we gave it a try.
I started with Vampire Iron Dwarves. I didn't use the Vampire ability much, but the Iron Dwarves were powerful. I immediately grabbed the Mine areas to begin collecting the hammers and one of them was a monster space and it ended up being the spot that made all areas of the same type adjacent. I jumped all over the board and then grabbed a couple more monster spaces and ended up with one which gave me +2 VPs a turn for occupying it and another that let the player occupying the space use a special power badge that was drawn at random. The badge gave bonus VPs for each of the mountain areas, so I grabbed some of those and was racking up the points early on. (The +2 VP space was also on a mountain space.)
It looked like I had won the game after three turns.
A couple of turns later, Mike grabbed the Shadow Mimes and the Royal (?) ability that made one of his spaces unconquerable. He then grabbed the special spaces which gave him +1 for mountains and +2 per turn. He determined that it was better to keep the spots than go in decline, so he spent several turns just holding on to those spaces and protected them and racked up a lot of points himself.
In hindsight, Hilary or I might have been able to trim a few points from him if we came onto the board differently with our later races, but taking the mountain spaces which were giving him the bonus points was more difficult because of the extra defense from the mountains. I doubt it wouldn't have made enough of a difference, because he ended up winning by more than 20 points.
My initial reaction to Small World Underground is that it is Small World with more chaos and a greater potential swing in points due to combinations of powers, races, and the random appearance of the special spaces. I'm glad I didn't buy it because I much prefer the original. The apparent swings because of random occurrences take away some of the need to play the better game to win.
I'll be ignoring any more Small World expansions, add-ons, and games because I am quite happy with the variety that I have with the original game, Cursed!, Grand Dames, and Be Not Afraid... I'll play Small World Underground if others want to, but I would much prefer to play the original with any or all of the expansions I have. (No, I do not have Tales and Legends because it looked to me as if it would just add more chaos to the game, which I don't think it needs.)