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Conan

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Authors:
Frédéric Henry, Antoine Bauza, Pascal Bernard, Bruno Cathala, Croc, Ludovic Maublanc, Laurent Pouchain

Publisher:
Riot Games
2016

No. of Players:
2-5

Awards:
G@mebox Star
Star

EVALUATION

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Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

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I first came in contact with Conan during our daily reports from SPIEL 2014. At that time, Conan was still a prototype, but in the years to follow, I regularly showed you new impressions and photos of the miniatures from the SPIEL. Then last year a huge box from the Kickstarter campaign finally arrived, and this spring the three expansions followed. As a result,I am finally in a position to tell you how the game really feels like.

But before we begin, I would still like to go a farer field. A few words have to be said about the Kickstarter campaign. Although there were a lot of well-known designers in the team, it was MONOLITH's first game to be released, and in my opinion they really did a great job. Some people are complaining about the long time between the start of the campaign and shipment. Also, there were some minor problems during the production process and the first version of the rules. But the whole time the backers were perfectly kept up by the Monolith team. 215 updates up to know! That's record-breaking. Although they failed their initial time-line, they were doing the best they could. And I think that's exactly what Kickstarter was made for. It is not a preorder platform, but you are investing in a idea, that must be developed to a game. And throwbacks can and will happen in this stadium. But if you are kept informed, you can forgive the one or other miscalculation. In the end, all the waiting was worth it: Conan has become a great miniature game with a unique game mechanics.

For all of you who do not know anything about the game, let me explain that Conan is an asymmetric scenario-based miniature game. One player takes the role of an “Overlord” and controls the evil horde. So he plays several different characters at the same time. All other players have only a single hero with unique skills. Of course the heroes are much stronger, and have all their special skills. As a result they can perform mighty actions and attacks. But on the other hand the Overlord has much more units and can attack the heroes from several sides.

You must now that Conan is a game of fights, thefts and rescues. Like in the stories of Robert Ervin Howard, the plots of the scenarios are quite simple. XY has kidnapped some daughter of a king, and Conan and his friend must free her again. Of course, she is held in a village of skeletons and is guarded by an evil warlock. Or Conan is kept imprison in a castle and must break through to rescue some friendly tribes. But what do you expect: This is Conan, and if you want true literature, you better read Tolstoi.

So, each scenario has its own, unique set-up. Conan comes with lots of different huge boards, so it is not only the enemies that change, the whole setting changes from scenario to scenario. Once you are in a village, another time on a boat and a third time in a castle. All this contributes to the great atmosphere in each scenario.

Conan uses a unique action system. Each hero gets his own hero sheet with different actions the hero can use, unique skills and a huge zone for placing energy gems. Those energy gems are the players' action points, but only as long as they are in the reserve zone. In a turn, a player can use these gems to assign them to an action space for performing the corresponding action. The number of gems normally determines how many dice a player can use to perform the action. For example, if a player uses two gems for his melee attack, he throws two dice. The same applies for ranged attacks and guarding. Other actions are more complex, but basically the more gems you spent, the better the result.

All used gems are placed in a fatigue zone on the hero sheet at the beginning of the next round. From this zone only a limited number of gems is returned to the reserve zone in a turn, the exact number depends on whether the player chooses an aggressive stance or a cautious stance that only allows him to perform defending actions in this turn.

Most interesting, the players can interact in this phase to their wishes. They freely can coordinate their actions, so that one player could throw a weapon or something else to another player first. Then the second player could take the weapon and attack an enemy and after that, when the way is free to move, the first player could run to the next tipi to move in. This freedom is a little bit unfamiliar for most players, but after a while it feels perfectly right. In reality you wouldn't do it different. And after you have become familiar with it, you automatically do things right. This easy concept runs like a common thread through Conan. So, for example, a room on the board is occupied, when there is no room any more on the board for the miniature that wants to enter. This is very intuitive and makes the game easy to play. After reading the rules you still have a lot of question, but you will find that most situations can be solved by the players themselves.

To determine the hits and fails, both in the fights and the trials (for example to open a chest), you have to roll various dice. The action space tells you which type of die your character has to use. For example, Conan uses a red die to attack that has much more hits on it than the yellow die of Hadrathus (well, he is just Conan). All actions can be influenced by equipment like weapons, armours and spells. And this new equipment can be found in various places on the game board. So it is always a good advice to take the time to open a chest

If a hero suffers damage, energy gems are moved to the wound zone and must be healed, before they can be used for the actions again. So let us have a closer look at the enemies that are controlled by the Overlord player now. The Overlord player uses a tablet, called the Book of Skelos to control his units. The available units are placed in the lower part of this tablet, in the so called river. To activate one type of the units, the Overlord player has to move a number of energy gems from his reserve zone to the fatigue reserve zone. The number of gems depends on the position of the unit tile on the river. It is cheapest to activate the leftmost tiles, but whenever a tile had been activated by the player, the unit tile is moved rightmost on the river again. That makes it extremely expensive to activate the same type of unit in succession.

The activation enables the player to move and attack all units that belong to the tile on the board up to their limitations. In contrast to the heroes it is not necessary to spend the gems on the actions itself, it is enough just to activate the unit tile. This makes the movement of the evil guys much easier, but on the other hand the Overlord must control a huge horde.

The different ways to play the good and the bad guys, but also the very individual skills and abilities of the heroes, makes Conan extremely asymmetric. On the other hand, these different ways to play are very attractive to most players. In my personal view, Conan is a very fantastic and awesome miniature game. Some scenarios are pure hack and slay games, other are more puzzle games because you have to do something in a given time. Sometimes the board is crowded like hell, sometimes there are only two enemies on the board after set-up. So the game is rich in variety, offers enormous playing opportunities and is intuitive to play. What else do you want? Definetly worth one of our G@mebox Stars!


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