Hither can Conan, not very quickly it must be said, he was a right moody bugger.
I played Conan the strategy game a long time back. I even had my own copy but it never really took with the group I gamed with. A contributor to this in fairness was not figuring out a number of rules at the time and the game dragging on and on. I wanted to like the game and it did tickle the back of my mind to play it again.
So fresh slate a number of years later and one of the guys buys the base game plus the expansion. It was destiny.
Conan the strategy game is a fairly complex affair. Preconceived notions of dudes on a map rules long reinforced have to be left at the door when you crank this baby up.
The first thing to note is this is not really all about Conan it’s about the conquests of the four nations in the land he inhabits. The big guy is in there for sure but in typical Conan fashion he really doesn’t give a damn about your problems he’s off doing his own thing. More precisely stomping around the map kicking ass and taking names (and women). Players bid for “control” of Conan and can nudge him in various directions with the promise of riches, glory and women. If he winds up assisting in a battle on your side he acts like a veritable wrecking ball, massively increasing your offense. Getting control of Conan also gives you influence chits of different types that can be used for scoring later in the game.
While Conan is off doing his thing you’re trying to gain influence on the map by sending out your emissaries and soldiers. These have the hard task of winning over and conquesting regions of various toughnesses. Every region is like Mordor , one does not simple walk in to it. Each of the 30 or so spots have to be fought for by attrition every time. It’s a slow process. The games tend to be as much a contest between the map and the player as between the players themselves. That’s ok, every conquest game doesn’t need to be Risk. Conquesting lands gives you victory points. Winning them over with emissaries gives you money at the end of the round which can be used to buy more units and cards.
There’s a stack of cards, some one off advantages, some stay on the table effects that have to be paid for to recharge. Cards are used to kick off region specific events if Conan is nearby, gain advantages in certain region types, aid in combat, influence Conan in the bidding phase. They’re multi functional. Each of the nations has a little bit of variety which will take several games to suss out. Nothing massive it must be noted they’re all still fairly generic. This is not Forbidden Stars.
One of the complaints of the base game was Conan only played a minor part. I’ll be honest I had no issue with that. The expansion adds a whole leveling up affair with Conan going from young Conan to the more powerful Conan the mercenary to the trouble browed King Conan. Spy’s which allow rerolls make an appearance. New Conan side adventure cards come in to play each round along with a stack of additional rules to an already rule heavy game.
The game doesn’t need an expansion. It adds a lot of extra rituals per turn that slows down the whole affair. There’s already enough superfluous actions and rules in the base game without heaping more on it. I like Tsuro. I don’t like Tsuro of the sea. The extra effort moving sea monsters doesn’t add enough to the game to make it worth the effort. I feel the same way about the Conan expansion.
Conan is not a bad game it’s just not a great game. It’s over engineered and the hard slog against the game itself makes it quite a solitaire affair. This is quite the sin for a conquest game. During a game you rarely feel threatened by other players. You know they’re so invested with their own treacle swims they don’t have the resources or inclination to attack you. Truth be told there’s no real advantage to attacking other players really. When a player has armies on your border you should be afraid it’s a convention universally accepted. Not so here.
And yet. There’s something about the game I like. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s beautifully presented. It’s nicely themed and I find myself cheering for the game which never quite hits the high notes. I’m going to have to play it again. This time without the expansion. A number of games in I still don’t fully know what I think about it. It’s different it’s complex it’s galling. It needs a touch of magic sauce to make it amazing and maybe that sauce is learning the game better.