Review: Conquest Tactics
Collectible card games often have boxed starter sets when they launch. These contain basic cards, rules, and often, a preconstructed deck or two.
Conquest Tactics, from Zeitgeyser offers us something more. A board-game-sized box holds a game board, on quality stock, for play, a series of multicolored counters for use with the board and with the cards, and three preconstructed decks, each with a different theme. The “Fire Continent” starter set offers so much more than your typical card game, in terms of quantity and quality of the starter set. It acts as a stand-alone game with no chase cards, as well, much like Nature of the Beast‘s starter sets, so it doesn’t carry the stigma of being filled with “less than stellar” card selection.
The concept of Conquest Tactics is to use your cards — spells, skills, troops, equipment, and more — to fight an opposing army and score three victories. Victories vary with the deck you build, since they are determined by the Victory Cards with which you build it. Example victory conditions include defeating 20 points worth of troops, destroying an enemy base, or advancing one of your troops from lowly Level One to elite Level Four. Each victory not only gets you a step closer to the end game, but earns you a powerful Trophy card to use in future battles. It’s an attempt to bridge the gap between miniatures and cards, and it’s as close as I’ve seen to success.
The gameplay is complicated. Each turn has seven parts, with players taking turns based on how many Tactical Points they have, which changes each turn and with each play. The turn sequence can be broken down using the acronym TRIUMPH:
- Tactical Points
- Up the Field
If it seems like there are a lot of phases, it’s because there are. However, the core of the gameplay revolves around your Tactical Points. Tactical Points are the currency of this game and you use them for almost everything. You begin play with five and the number you recieve each turn increases by two (seven in the second turn, nine in the third, etc.).
The player with the most Tactical Points at a given moment has the initiative. This means it’s possible for one player to put a strong Troop card on the table (spending considerable Tactical Points), followed by the opponent attacking with four or five troops at a time, depending on the difference that player has left to spend. I feared this would play poorly. On the contrary, point budgeting requires a lot of tactical decision making, and moving your troops around the board properly while making sure you’ll be able to counterattack effectively is a huge part of the game.
Because the tactical options are so exacting, with cards all over the board, to the side of the board, and in hands, offering so many rules at once, this isn’t a game I recommend to break out with the kids on family night (unless everyone involved is feeling particularly cerebral). Conquest Tactics is best experienced between two players who love tactical planning and intricate thought about moves and plays, for the hour or so a complete game will take.
Casting spells in CT is particularly cool. Spells and skills work the same way, and when you play one, it goes off to the side of the board in your Knowledge Pool. Any character capable of using a spell or skill that the army knows can do so. Collective knowledge for all! What a wonderful world. Filled with malice and fire.
Beyond the gameplay, the world of the game is developing even as the expansions are. For now, we are introduced to the Fire Continent of Yen Sen, where magic-wielding humans have been oppressed by the gladiatorial kaborha (rhino people! Yay!) for years. As our story begins, however, a mysterious force of darkness called The Malice — quick, magical, and nearly endless — are invading from a snarling space-maw called The Source. The starter decks that come with the “Fire Continent” set each represent one of these factions. Future sets promise to expand upon the story, so we can see if the humans and kaborha can come together to fight The Malice, and attempt to get some semblance of order back into their world.
+ Depth of story. It’s going to be an adventure to follow the world of Yen Sen and see what happens to The Malice. The flavor text is cute, and there’s lots of it about, but the overarching story team deserves any accolades we can give them.
+ Diversity in the product. Mixing and matching the cards between decks looks like a ton of fun, engineering the best path to victory conditions and useful weapons and items. Playing the game at your buddy’s house won’t be the same as playing it at yours.
+ Product quality. Your board, the beads and tokens, and the cards themselves will hold up for as long as you need them to, with the proper care. The cards are attractively illustrated with tons of unique images. This game has the potential to be collectible and customizable with the original starter sets for a long, long time.
– Learning Curve. The quick-start rules are worded such that the designers seemed to understand what I mean — they say they are useful for “veteran card game players”. Folks who aren’t used to so many rules in the book and on the individual cards are going to find it daunting. It’s hard enough to figure out when and where to attack when you’re just trying to remember how your home base interacts with the cards in your hand and how your troops’ five sets of numbers interact with each other.
– Factions are kind of set in stone — for now. Though, one of the extra promo cards that comes with the starter set is a neutral base. It’s relatively weak, and doesn’t offer an extra power, but it does let you team humans and kaborha and The Malice in any combination you like.
Conquest Tactics is a game with a great start and a ton of promise. Though it’s not exactly a light diversion, any serious strategy gamer needs to play this. You can think of it as Warhammer Light — or as Star Wars CCG Heavy — but mostly, think of it as a real achievement from the folks at Zeitgeyser, and a promise of things to come. Conquest Tactics can be found at your friendly local game store at the suggested retail price of $39.99.