I really like Smallworld. It's a quick paced, dynamic strategy board game that is lighthearted and whimsical but also requires serious planning and thought.
I recently had the occassion to play a game with Sam, Chris, and my wife. Sam got off to a hot start with a race that gave him one bonus coin for each territory he conquered. I plodded away round after round earning a fair amount each round. I took the strategy of hit and run - I had a burrowing race and a flying race that allowed me to move around the board in a non-linear fashion.
The downfall of the game is the endgame. Going first has big advantages in the endgame. Essentially, all things being equal, you want to kill the people going after you in the last round, not before. So, my wife being last, she didn't even get a last turn because we (I) killed all of her men before she got a chance to go! This secured my victory and allowed me to defend my crowd as Ruler of Smallworld!
As a side note, I REALLY like playing this game with my friend Sam. It drives him CRAZY how I play. Sam plays Smallworld more like Ticket to Ride - you do your thing, I'll do mine and let's not try to mess each other up unless we have to. Not me. Destroy, maim, kill, plunder, and crush are my methods of victory. Why take an empty space when I can just as easily kill you? Welcome to Decline, suckers! Haha!
I'm looking forward to playing the new Smallworld: Underground even if it doesn't look all that different from the existing edition.