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Conan» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Crush your enemies and hear the lamentations of their women! rss

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David E
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I read most of Robert E. Howard's stories when I was a kid, and also collected the Marvel comic books. Saw the original Schwarzenegger movie in theaters.



Arnie was pretty buff back in the day, wasn't he?

Kickstarter Woes - Woe, Woe, Woe!

Conan was actually the first boardgame I backed on Kickstarter.

So while I am not a Conan super-fan, I was fan enough to buy into the hype and back the King pledge. I didn't buy all the expansions, or even all the KS exclusives, though I did pick up a couple of them (the "Vanyr Valkyrie" who is totally Red Sonja they just didn't have a license to use that name and the Earth Demon).

Then I sat back and watched as Monolith missed deadline after deadline and backers just got more and more pissed off. Meanwhile, Kickstarter has become, uh... something of an addiction for me, and I have gone on to back over 200 projects since. Most of which delivered long before I ever received my Conan pledge.

I knew people who were claiming it would never deliver. Monolith had taken all the money and retired to France. Whatever. I've already come to accept that Kickstarter projects are late - sometimes very late. As long as you get it eventually, just play other games in the meantime.

So, finally, over a year late, I got a great big package left on my porch.



Filled with Conan goodness.



There were so many stretch goals in this project that they had to create a second box just for those.

The boxes themselves are pretty packed. Getting everything back inside proved to be a bit of a chore, but I managed by replacing a few of the plastic inserts for the cards with baggies.



Thanks to Cthulhu Wars, I have already started painting minis for the first time in years, but Conan came with a few armies of miniatures, so these will take a while.



All right, but how does it play?

Before I got my own pledge, I was seeing another round of griping on the forums - this time about... well, everything really, but mostly about minis and rulebooks. The minis weren't good enough! Some were of a different material! The rulebooks are terrible! The scenarios are imbalanced! Some of the figures don't have a scenario to use them with!

cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry cry

Jeebus, there was almost as much whining as from High Frontier (3rd edition) backers. whistle

Well, having finally received my game, I got a couple of friends to sit down and try it out.

We've only played one game so far - the starting scenarios, "In the hands of the Picts."

Since we have only three players, I played the Overlord, and my friends played three characters between them - Conan, Hadrathus (the magic user) and Savage Belit.

We played with Savage Belit, rather than either the recommended starting third character, Shevatas, or the base Belit, because my SO insisted on including one female character, and she didn't like the basic Belit or Red Sonjathe Vanyr Valkyrie. whistle





The scenario is basically the three heroes attacking a Pict village, in which there are eight huts. One of them contains a princess they have to rescue (for purposes of the game, she is just a heavily Encumbering object to be slung over someone's shoulder). They also need to kill the Pict's shaman and take his head. Other than that, the goal is to get those two items with at least one surviving hero out of the village by turn 8.

I will not describe the rules in detail, since that is covered heavily elsewhere. You basically have an action point system, where the heroes manage their available "gems" to determine when they can move, attack, or take other actions, and how many bonus dice they want to give themselves, while holding some in reserve to defend themselves. The Overlord uses his gems to activate minions. He can activate two per turn, with some being cheaper to activate, but once a minion is activated, it goes to the end of the line (or "river"), and the rest then become cheaper to activate on the next turn, while minions that were recently are much more expensive to reactivate immediately.

This gives both sides a number of tactical decisions. A hero can run all the way across the board, or make a massive attack, or do other heroic feats, but at a cost of most of his or her gems. The Overlord can keep minions that are cheap to activate in waiting for the right moment, while paying more gems to activate more expensive ones, or just keep cycling through the cheapest minions in turn. (The Overlord also can spend gems to give his minions bonuses to move, to defend them, to reroll dice, and to "respawn" minions that have been slain.)

It was fun to play out the scenario once we figured out the rules. I found the heroes to be rather overwhelmingly powerful, at least in the first scenario. As Overlord, I might have made some suboptimal decisions, but I tried to harass them as effectively as I could. Conan can cleave through an entire pack of hyenas or Pict warriors with one blow, and he managed to run into the snake hut and take out the giant snake before I ever activated it. Hadrathus's Teleportation spell allowed him to make a quick getaway once they found the Princess, and Belit's ability to evade enemies meant that I could not block her escape even with half a dozen Picts and hyenas. I thought I might at least finish off Conan, who was the last one left in the village, but he too escaped with only moderate wounds.

Presumably the later scenarios are more difficult. As well, I could probably make it harder on the heroes a second time around, now that I kind of know what I'm doing as Overlord.

Conan the boardgame is meant to simulate the heroic pulp adventure of Conan characters. It is, like so many of these games, basically a way of playing RPGs, with heavily scripted scenarios and no GM. It works well in that regard - the players were constantly making decisions and tactical choices, the Overlord trying to decide how best to hinder them, so it still had the flavor of a one-vs-many D&D-style adventure against an adversarial DM.

Those minis

They are fine. You get a ton of them. The plastic inserts to hold them aren't great (I hear them clattering inside their box every time I try to pack them back in), and a better solution will be required once I paint them. But they all seem to be of pretty good quality, and I don't think the difference in materials and colors will matter once they are painted. Are some less detailed and exceptional than they could have been? Maybe. But they are definitely game-quality minis that will look much more awesome with just a basic basecoat and wash.

Those rulebooks

Much has been said about the poor quality of the rulebooks. There are two - the player's book, and the Overlords book (most of which consists of scenarios).

The rules are a bit vague/incomplete in places, but they are not as bad as some people have said. We found the rules fairly easy to understand, and we had the game up and running pretty quickly. It is not a complicated game.

That said, organization definitely could have been better. The actions available to heroes are not described in the order they appear on the character cards. Some important rules are found in easy-to-miss sidebars. There is no index. And during the course of the game, we did indeed find many situations where we had to make impromptu "house rulings" to cover situations that were unclear or not specified in the books. (What defines a "two-handed" weapon? Are Explosive Orbs one-shot weapons? Can the Overlord add more dice to the Guard benefit after a hero rolls his attack? What good is Jump? Why does the Pict Shaman have magic ability but not spells? Where exactly are the "flaps" on the huts? Do bushes block line of sight? Does Ambidextrous apply to defending as well as attacks?) We figured most of it out as we went, but I'm sure we missed some rules and misplayed a few things. This too had the feeling of an old-school RPG that could be prone to interminable rules-lawyering because so much is left to the players to figure out.

However, as I said, the rules aren't terrible and you can certainly play the game easily enough with the rules as written.

Overall, Conan gets a thumbs up from me. I think the wait was worth it - there are a ton of minis to paint and scenarios to play through. Yes, it was very, very late. Yes, some things could have been more polished when they arrived. But this game delivers an authentic Conan experience. It will hit my table again, by Crom!
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Birdie
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First of all...WOW at backing over 200 KS's...that wasn't a typo?

I haven't received my copy yet, but I'll probably be playing overlord first to get my friends acquainted...but...how is it playing the characters, and CONAN himself?!
 
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anthony dybacz
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Great write-up and it went similar to my first game (I thought the scenario was a cake walk for the heroes).
Just like I did, I noticed that mistakes were made (that, like me, you will still not be aware of after your first game).

For example, Hadrathus cannot cast spells if he carries the princess (he is too encumbered). Note: Shevatas also loses his evade skill if he carries her(I know you used Belit, but I think she loses it too).

It will take a few games to learn the rules, of course.

Incidently, we find the first scenario to be the hardest; when we played properly the OL has a 100% success rate (5 games).

They came closest to victory last game with Conan attempting a long throw of Sag's head for Hadrathus to teleport it out, but he threw short; epic attempt though!
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David E
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Birdiebone wrote:
First of all...WOW at backing over 200 KS's...that wasn't a typo?


Sadly, no, not a typo.

Quote:
I haven't received my copy yet, but I'll probably be playing overlord first to get my friends acquainted...but...how is it playing the characters, and CONAN himself?!


The players had fun. The heroes are heroic, and we were all aghast at Conan's cleaving ability - against mooks, if he spends enough gems and gets good rolls he can kill a dozen bad guys with one attack. But the other characters are more than sidekicks - they each have skills and abilities that make them just as fun to play.
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Ken Staples
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Sums up my sentiments for the most part as well.

We have one play in so far, same scenario. Loved it! Although we made several house rulings as well. Some turned out to be correct, some not so much.

Some of the things we played incorrectly:

- movement - we misread spending gems on movement points. We let everybody move their move value when spending gems. That's not correct. Movement value is for free movement, each gem after that is one movement point.

- Overlord starting gems. I read it as the OL gets 11 gems (4 player game) with 4 of them starting in fatigue. Turns out it was 11 gems with another 4 in the fatigue zone. It was tough as the OL the way we (mis)played it, but I did win.

There were a couple of other things but those two stuck out.

The heroes started off strong and I thought I was going to lose the whole time. In the end though I was able to use my event for reinforcements at just the right time & place to shut down the heroes at the last minute.

Looking forward to playing this more. Thanks for the write-up!
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Ze Masqued Cucumber
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Protze et Chniaque !
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C'est le Gomazio à crête mordorée, dont le cri annonce le soir...
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AmadanNaBriona wrote:
Yes, it was very, very late.

Reading this, I suppose you didn't pledge the first Cthulhu Wars KS .
 
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seb seb2
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how can you start your post with Sprague de Camp crap? gulp
 
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David E
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Belsamoreth wrote:
how can you start your post with Sprague de Camp crap? gulp


It was only edited by him - the stories are actually Howard's.
 
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seb seb2
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AmadanNaBriona wrote:
Belsamoreth wrote:
how can you start your post with Sprague de Camp crap? gulp


It was only edited by him - the stories are actually Howard's.


still crap.
Louinet is the real deal.cool
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Frank BLACKFIRE
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AmadanNaBriona wrote:
Belsamoreth wrote:
how can you start your post with Sprague de Camp crap? gulp


It was only edited by him - the stories are actually Howard's.

For you Americans (or everybody reading books written in english), the real deal is in the three Conan books edited by Del Rey.
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Mad Halfling
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I think the (English) rulebooks are pretty terrible - probably made worse by the fact that sometimes they don't appear to be as bad as they are. If you play the game just according to them, then you will play stuff wrongly, and have confusing or vague situations arise - to use them you really need to have followed the playthrough vids and spent a good time on these forums. For example, the armour rules seem to imply a separate pool for the Guard dice an armour dice, plus there's stuff actually missing from the scenarios in the English version. The card for the Halo spell makes it virtually useless until you know how to read it.

Saying all this, the game is absolutely superb - it really feels like "Conan in a box", it's just a shame that it's been a bit tarnished by the bad rulebook and translation - given the rich source material, it doesn't even have an introductory flavour text passage at the start??? Hopefully this will be sorted out by Paul and Barry.
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