About BoardGameGuru

BoardGameGuru is a UK based online retailer, specialising in board games.

To use the shop, please follow the link below:


To read the full articles below, please follow the link to their own pages.

First Impressions : Age of Conan

I am finding it very difficult to write any thing more than Conan rocks!

Well guessing that does not help prospective buyers much I’ll attempt to pen a few thoughts. I am writing this review after several plays and because a few gamers have requested more info.

It’s a strategy game for 2 - 4 players set in Hyboria - a post Atlantis world imagined by Robert E. Howard. Players are one of the four Kingdom’s whose principal aim is to conquer Hyborian provinces by military or diplomatic means. Military gets you Victory points and ‘intrigue’ or diplomatic conquests gets you income necessary to recruit armies, purchase cards from your Kingdom deck , pay those mercenary heroes to help you out in battle.

The game is split into three ages at the end of an age you get income and VPs for achieving various goals set by a random card draw at the beginning of an age. you also get , new units and can spend money on units, upgrading forts or cards.

Each age lasts as long as it takes Conan to complete four adventures. The adventures length is marked by a row of adventure tokens in three categories. Players bid for control of Conan at the beginning of each of the four adventures(using a set of identical bidding tokens and a strategy card) and on the Conan players turn he can move Conan if he moves him closer to his objective (a province on the map) then he takes an adventure token from the row, if he does not move Conan closer to his destination the adventure token is discarded. Why would he not want to take the token? Because Conan is a bad ass barbarian who can influence the course of battles or cast raid tokens into provinces which cause opponents to lose victory points. Thematically this feels correct, Conan is an anarchic figure who changes the course of history but in game terms timing control of him is crucial. If an adventure comes up which sets Conan beserking at the heart of your empire it can be a terrifying prospect there is , however, a method of speeding his adventure up which can negate his mal influence.

Which gets me on to action selection actions are selected from a pool of seven ‘fate’ dice that players in turn select, take their action then remove the dice from the pool. The dice are re rolled when all seven have been used. The actions are Conan + Court (the Conan player can move conan and put a raid token in province however if a non Conan player selects this they can take an adventure token from the track thus hastening the end of the current adventure. The other actions available are military move armies, do o some fighting or recruit a couple armies, Intrigue lets you move, recruit emissaries who gain you territory and income by diplomatic means. The choice of fate dice can difficult you desperately want to conquer a province t if you leave the last intrigue to the next player he may move make cause one of your hard earned alliances to crumble. The court action allows you to draw cards from an individual Kingdom deck (Heroes, events, things that help) or the common strategy deck which you can play to give a bonus in combats or intrigues.

For combat you roll a dice for every unit you have in a province, you can play a strategy card which might increase the chance of a hit, you add an additional dice if Conan is in the province and you control him and you may use heroes to help you (Kingdom cards that you pay for). Defender does the same, if it's a neutral province it only gets a bonus if Conan is helping the defenders. If you have any sorcery tokens (mainly gained by sacking adventure tokens) you can reroll your dice. To conquer a province you have to win a battle in a series of different terrains with one battle per turn unless you go on a forced march and sack one your units thus making you weaker for the next round of battles. Intrigues are dice rolls but the number of dice is affected by adjacent friendly provinces and emissaries.

How do you win? You get points for military conquest, there are also objectives set at the beginning of each age which is achieved give VPS, and at the end of the game there is a bonus for majority in each adventure token category (which you have probably been sacking to get you gold or sorcery), a bonus for the most money, most killed tokens and cities. You can also try and Crown Conan king of your Kingdom (by claiming a majority in one type of adventure token) which grants you a monopoly on scoring majorities in adventure chits. Oh if you try and Crown him and fail you lose. Instantly.

I have mentioned Kingdom cards they are very slightly different for each kingdom and they come in three types. The first is ‘on-the-table’ these are heroes or armies that you can spend gold onto place on the table and use to help combats, once used they can be refreshed by paying their cost in gold. They are automatically refreshed at the end of an age and by the end of the game you will have amassed a rather potent mix of combat bonuses. The others are ‘instants’ think magic. And the elast are events which you can only play when taking a court action. The Kingdom cards are crucial to speeding up yours campaigns in the middle / end game. There are also artefact cards which give you a strong bonus for an age at the beginning they are dealt randomly , between ages they are bid for by players revealing adventure tokens associated with the artefact (and there by showing other players the strength for the end game bonus). There is a catch up method in that the last player gets a small advantage when bidding for Conan in the following age

My own personal view of this vis a vis War of the Ring is that Conan wins on speed of game (3 hours approx with little down time) and clarity of rules. It might lack in the thematic richness and fidelity of WOTR but I can forgive it for being such an excellent, tight and playable game.

Why do I like it so much? Constant tension as you watch Conan wreak havoc when you don’t control him and trying and take control of him at just the right time. The action selection is great as well - as you really have to balance furthering your own goals versus frustrating other players. It looks a million dollars. There never seems enough time to do what you want to, there are some very difficult choices between going for victory points or infrastructure or using adventure tokens instantly to get you much needed resources rather than saving them for the end game. I also like the fact that player combat builds slowly and becomes crucial for deciding the marginal VPs at the end game.

No comments:

Post a Comment