I recently did a mini-review of Talisman & Relic, two board games from Fantasy Flight that are based in the GW IP. Again, I use the term loosely because it’s not a detailed review per se, just what I thought of the games.
Well, for Christmas, Brandon got a copy of Conquest, which isn’t so much a board game, but a “living card game,” again by Fantasy Flight and set in the 40k universe. The difference between an LCG and a board game is simple in that you don’t have a set board, and the vast majority of the game is based around cards. It’s different from a collectable card game (CCG), such as Magic: the Gathering, in that you can just buy one box and have every card. In contrast, CCG’s generally require you to buy randomized packs of cards with which to build your collection. To get continued revenue, LCG’s, like Conquest, generally produce regular expansions that encourage you to buy more. To my knowledge, this hasn’t happened yet for Conquest, but then again, it’s only been out for a couple of months, so I’m sure that it will soon enough… (EDIT: apparently I’m mistaken, as they have three expansions out already)
Anywho, the game plays out by dealing out seven battleground worlds to fight over. Initially, only four of them are eligible, but a new one is flipped over each turn. The game is won by conquering enough worlds with match resource values.
Each player earns a number of credits each turn, which are the primary resource by which cards are brought into play. You also have a fixed amount of draws per turn but, as you probably predicted, there are ways to affect that number as well.
Initially, we started with the two suggested decks: Ultramarines vs. Orks (though I guess, technically it was Space Marines, my deck was lead by Sicarius, so it was pretty obvious that it was Ultramar-themed. I believe it did have representatives from both the Crimson Fists & Blood Angels chapters inside it though). I let Brandon choose the decks, and he opted with the Orks, presumably because he plays them in 40k, and I play Bloo?
The game very quickly overwhelmed me with complexity and options. First, there are the obvious problems of having a limited number of cards and resources to cast them. That much was easy to wrap my head around. Some of the options included:
- Understanding how fights happen and where. By default, fights happen on the first planet, and every other planet with a warlord. So, just because you have troops at a planet, doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily fight.
- Each planet also has a specific fight effect that happens when you win a combat there, which can drastically affect the rest of the board state. Some examples include: removing a unit from the board completely, healing a unit completely, etc.
- Understanding when you can capture a planet. This is apparently only true of the first planet every turn–which is pretty basic, but it took me a little while to grasp that.
- Figuring out the command phase of the game. Regardless of whether there is combat at a given planet, each in turn will undergo a command struggle–which happen before combat. These struggles can result in additional credits and or cards. These additional resources can help out tremendously in a fight.
None of these seem particularly complicated on their own, but the way they intertwined was fairly brilliant, and a little overwhelming at first. After two games, I don’t think I’ve mastered it by any means, but I have enough of a grasp on it to say that I think I get it.
The game also has a fair bit of replay ability. The base game comes with seven (7) decks to start with, and each one seems to have different underlying themes/mechanics. For instance, the Tau seemed to deal more with equipment, the orks with brute force, and the Marines with the command phase. Plus, the decks all have the same backs, so it gives you the ability to mix and match–so you could make a “chaos renegade” deck by combining parts from the IG and Daemon decks.
Of course, they’re also releasing lots of expansion content as well. Personally, I haven’t played any of them, but it’d be easy to see how they could expand upon the premise. In addition to making new faction decks, they can do some simple additions to make drastic changes to the game. For example, the game has the mechanic to allow each race to start with different amounts of life and resources, but very few races make any use of this. So, adding new warlords for each race with different starting totals (and special abilities) could make a big improvement. Also, there are a very limited number of battlefields available (10, I believe) with the base game, so expanding upon that would go a long way to making the game seem more dynamic.
Overall, I think it was a pretty great game. It holds true to the theme well, and there doesn’t seem to be one clear strategy to win (although I did win both games by focusing on the command phase for additional card draw). I’d happily play it again.
Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games