Gameplay: Conquest of Speros is an incredibly simple area control game using cards. On your turn you first discard a card and use that card's card effect, then either place a meeple, lay a card down in the playing area, or draw more cards. On each card are three or four spaces in which you can place your meeple. The player who first gains control of the card via a majority gets control of the card and moves it to their scoring area for later. Meeples played on a card stay there, unless later moved by a card effect. The game is over when the last meeple is placed.
Components: The meeples are pretty standard issue, but the cards are fairly thin with a plain finish. The black edges show wear very quickly, so if that bothers you, you'll need to sleeve them. My husband asked if I'd played the game before straight out of the box because a number the cards already had white wear on the edges.
The artwork is admittedly gorgeous and it's the best part of the game. It's what inspired me to kickstart the game.
Theme: I'm really not picky about theme, but this felt very, very thin. I never felt like I was fighting for control, exploring locations, or discovering artifacts. Overall, the theme was just weak.
My thoughts: First off, I want to talk about CoS terminology because, frankly, it's a bit confusing and over the top. And I'm not going to use it. Meeples are actually minions (unless they're units, an term from playtesting days that didn't get changed everywhere), the spaces are encampments, the play area is skirmish area, etc. I get the sense that the terminology was used to add theme, but really it mostly just led to us having to check what "exploring" meant again. There is a two page glossary in the back of the rules, and believe me, you'll need it the first time you play.
I've given a lot of thought to this game, and I've realized that CoS has a fatal flaw -- it lacks tension. When you start the game there are 2 artifact cards (like locations, but they give you special powers if you win them) and as many location cards as there are players. In, say, a two player game, that means that there are at least sixteen possible places to put your meeple (Three or four on the locations and five on the artifact cards). Yes, I know there are only four possible cards to place your meeple on, but really, there's no rush to grab one card or another. It feels very much as if your choice doesn't matter. If the other player starts on that marsh with three spaces that you wanted, it's just as easy to put down another marsh card for yourself. There's no real incentive to fight for cards. Because...
All of the cards are basically the same. Sure there are four different locations and sure some cards have three spaces and some have four, but once they're captured, there's no difference in them. None of the location cards give you special powers or abilities, none of them are special at all. Sure you might get a bonus for marsh cards, but there are lots of those. Similarly, there's no real reason to move meeples around. Having your meeple moved or banished is only mildly irritating. There are so many ways to score that when the other player moves your meeple from the marsh card to an ocean card, you just sort of shrug. That'll do just as well, really. Maybe it has a resource on it you need.
And speaking of scoring, holy mother of meeples is scoring tedious. You score for cards you captured, you score for all your meeples on your cards and on the other players' cards, you score for bonus objectives and for sets of resources (each location has a resource of iron, gold or crystal in the corner). Adding it up is horribly tedious, especially when you have to look over at the other player's cards and figure out your score in their scoring area and having so many ways to score further reduces tension. All cards and meeples will earn you some points and a few will earn you marginally a couple more points. If this location won't get you an extra point, this other one will. You get the idea.
Overall: This game wasn't a winner for us. At all. As a card game and as an area control game, it flops. I wish there were cool powers on the location cards and fewer ways to score. I wish there was more tension and more incentive to grab one card or another. Even the artifact cards didn't have powers that were that great.
In some ways it felt like the Connect 4 of the modern board gaming world. You place here, I place there, until one of us manages to reach an arbitrary goal. That being said, even Connect 4 has more tension than this game as you start actively trying to foil your opponent towards the end of the game. That never happens in CoS, as you can just put out more cards when things start to fill up. So really, it's like a game of Connect 4 where you score for runs of four, played on a huge game board that gets bigger each time someone scores.
Who would like this game? I could see this game maybe being appealing to kids, but that's about it. It's simple enough for new players, but the terminology is frustrating and it doesn't have that "let's play again" factor you really want in a gateway game. It's not strategic enough for more experienced players and honestly, it just wasn't fun.