Monday, 18 September 2017

Review of Conan (The Board Game by Monolith)

Quite a while ago, Asmodee sent Must Contain Minis a retail copy of Conan for review purposes. I would like to start off this article by thanking them for sending this product. It is excellent.

Review of Conan the Board Game by Monolith Games - Retail copy by Asmodee
Review of Conan by Monolith
This review will be short as it is not my first post about Conan. My initial thoughts of the game and pictures of the components are featured in my unboxing article. We also have Battle Reports for the first two scenarios in the game (In the Clutches of the Picts and Hunting the Tigress). The miniatures in the game paint up well and we have some showcase articles showing the work of myself (Jacob) and of Ullr's Table. I will admit that Ullr's Table paints much better than I. That said, Conan is a great game that my friends and I have decided to paint. I will post more showcases as we complete the work.

Regular readers may also recognize some of the miniatures from the unboxing article in my Frostgrave Battle Reports. The models are nice enough that I figured that I might as well make them pull double duty.

Mechanics wise, Conan is very smooth. The whole game centers around the use and distribution of energy crystals (gems). In many ways, it is a resource management game as the gems determine what you can do and how many actions you can take.

Below is a shot of the character cards in the base game. The six big icons adjacent to the character pictures determine what die the character rolls naturally (without upgrades) and how many gems a character can put into an action. When the gems reach the red number (on the left of the icon), you can't put any more gems into that action for the turn.

Players are allowed to move around the table on their turn and take their actions as they wish. This means that Conan can move up two spaces, have Shevatas throw some knives at an enemy in the way, and then Conan can go again and move and attack another opponent. The players decide how they want to act and the entire group gets to keep going until they spend all of the gems that they wish for the turn. This is very nice as it keeps all of the players engaged in what the others are doing. Perhaps they want to check a chest but first want to wait for one of the other players to clear the way. They can do that. There is a lot of flexibility to a turn in this game.

Conan Character Cards - Retail box
Character Cards from the Retail copy of Conan.
Conan energy management
This card is from the Kickstarter copy of the game (not the retail box). All 11 of the energy crystals (gems) start in the green box. Then, depending on the scenario, a certain amount goes into the red to represent fatigue before the mission starts.

The red gem marks how many gems I get to move back at the start of the turn. The amount changes depending on whether I choose to be active (can move and attack) or defensive (can only defend). You get more gems back if you defend.

When you take damage, you move gems over to the dark box. Those gems do not regenerate and when all of your gems are there, your character is dead. 

Conan energy management
In the picture above, I used a gem to move extra spaces and five crystals for one powerful attack. When I place the gems in the attack box (icon), I can choose to either do one attack with each crystal or to take an extra die per gem on a single attack.

Above, those five gems could have represented five attacks (each with one yellow die and one re-roll-able red die). Instead, I used it as one power attack (with one yellow die and five re-roll-able red dice).

You can also spend a gem to re-roll a die. It means you can pay energy to get the outcome that you want, but it might not be advantageous considering that in active mode - Pallantides regenerates just two gems a turn. 
This movement of gems to make your character act is an excellent mechanic. Don't like a roll, you can even spend a gem for a re-roll. If you do this too many times, you won't have the energy you want for the next turn.

At the start of the turn, you have to decide whether to go active or defensive. Defensive gives you more energy back, but it limits your actions. For Pallantides to completely restore his energy, it would take just over two turns on defensive or just over five turns on aggressive. This means that management of your gems is critical in turn limited games.

Likewise, the Overlord also works with gems as energy and spends his turn spending that energy. Like the players, at the start of each turn, a certain amount of energy regenerates. If he (or she) spends too much at once, then they will be unable to regain all of their energy on the next turn. In the image below, the Overlord's energy tray is on the left.

Conan the Board Game Review by Monolith - Retail copy
Above we have a picture of the Conan Board Game in play. On the left is the Overlord's tray while around the table is each player's character card. The management of energy gems is essential to both the players and the overlord in this game.
Using gems, the Overlord can choose which enemy groups to activate, can modify rolls, defend and move enemies further. He can also sometimes spawn more enemies. The overlord does not get as many action options as the players, but the Overlord has many more minis to run.

Overall, this is a fantastic game. It has beautiful miniatures, great mechanics and enjoyable scenarios. For anyone interested in a game like this, I highly recommend it.

That said, I have a criticism that has to be voiced. The fact that Monolith / Asmodee decided to print a half-naked woman on the cover of the heroes' book means that I am severely limited in where I can take this game out to play. Where I live, people may take offence if I leave the book laying out on a table at a public venue. This is too bad as I tend to enjoy playing games at conventions, stores and community centres.

Monolith has fixed this issue with their printing of the second version of the rulebook. That rulebook is available online for free from Monolith's website. Thank you for that Monolith!!! Unfortunately, the second version of the rules is not currently in the standard retail box. I wish that I had a physical copy of the new rules to go with my retail copy of the game.

Other than the above complaint, I am really happy with Conan by Monolith. Thanks goes out again to Asmodee for sending me this fantastic product.

Until next time, Happy Gaming Everyone!!!


Quick access to Conan Board Game Articles...
Discloser: Asmodee provided Must Contain Minis with a Review Copy of Conan the Board Game by Monolith.

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