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Subject: Geki's review - Conan, a fast paced and dynamic slaughter. rss

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Geki
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I had a chance to play Conan at GenCon and, while I did not secure a copy, I decided to give a review based on this one play. I am not sure of whether this disclaimer is needed (I rarely play a game a second time if my impression was not solidly positive) but here we go.



General overview:

The game takes an original spin on a dungeon crawler, with a clever combination of action points for the heroes and timing issues for the enemy player. It is refreshing and fun, with great minis and good artwork. However, the gameplay feels sometimes trite, your options limited, and in future perspective I worry about the limited number of scenarios in the box. I would play it again a couple of times if the opportunity arose, but I am not sure whether I will add this to my collection.

Components:


As it is often the case with Kickstarter miniature projects, the quality of the sculpts is impressive, with heroes and foes alike receiving a fully detailed production, that will not fail to impress when placed on the skillfully illustrated (albeit not too impressive) board. Miniatures are clearly the main visual draw of the game, and they are present in a decent number and variety even in the non-kickstarter edition.

However, the other components (player boards, equipment cards, monster tiles, etc.) are also of very good quality, with an efficient graphic design and art from a team of artist that is as impressive as varied. While the hyperborean setting is not my favorite, I could not help to appreciate the great attention that went into the details of every card, player mat and so on.
I am not surprised but it is worth repeating that the entirety of the components are of the outmost quality.



Gameplay and mechanical analysis:

The game is played over a series of rounds alternating between heroes and Enemy (the Overloard trying to kill them). NB: this is not a DM/GM style thing were the Enemy player is there to make sure the heroes have a good experience. The Enemy is actually trying hard to win, and from what I have seen the game seems balanced enough that there is no need for the Enemy to pull their punches.


Conan's player board: on top, action selection, on the bottom active and previously spent spaces for gems/AP.

The heroes take turns in any order spending their action points until they are satisfied. This is the first thing that struck my attention while approaching the game: not only the heroes can activate in any order, but they don’t need to exhaust all of their actions or resources for the turn: Conan can slaughter a couple of enemies, wait for the Thief to check whether the captured princess is in one specific hut and only then go charging in the opposite direction if that’s not the case. This opens up a deeper strategical problem than your usual “I-go-you-go” strict turn order can allow for. Most importantly, it gives the game a very dynamic feeling, with the heroes covering for each other and supporting each other advancing.

The action selection mechanism is a clever little idea: you spend actions to either take more actions (e.g. move more than your speed, attack twice, etc) or to increase the efficiency of your actions (most of the times, adding dice to your rolls to attack, open chests, cast spells, etc or to reroll given dice). Different players have different limits to their points’ expenditure, and different strength of actions in the first place (as in any tactical combat game, you don’t want your wizard attacking with the dagger or your barbarian trying to carefully pick a lock).

The action points at your disposal are represented by gems, and if you have any left at the end of the heroes’ turn, they can be used to increase your defenses. It would not be a bad idea to save some to the next turn, though, since you’ll only recover a certain number of them, depending on number of players, specific hero you’re playing and, most importantly, whether you are resting and skipping your actions or charging into the fray.

This creates a nice feeling of managing your resources without breaking with the immersion in the theme: you can certainly push trough and accomplished super human feats of massacre and violence, but you will have to recover the turn afterwards, or at least be very limited in your options.


The enemy board with the monster track.

The Enemy’s turn is similarly interesting, with them spending action points to activate different “groups” of minions, identified on the board by colored basis and on the Enemy’s board by corresponding tiles placed in a specific order. With a cheap expense of APoints, the Enemy can activate the minions that are “due”, or they can spend more to activate those that are further away on the track (usually the ones most recently activated). One of the tiles is a reinforcement, meaning that on regular intervals (that can be rushed by spending AP) new minions will come into the battle. The Enemy also has some other usages for AP, like helping the minions survive.

While I really appreciated all of this, I found that the tactical options were limited: the extreme simplicity of the board, with few “zones” instead of the more common (yet efficient) grid of hexagons of squares) makes combat fast, furious, but not very intriguing from a tactical point of view, much less from a strategic one. There are some neat exceptions (Conan can smash through walls!) but the fact that most attacks work the same and that the minions rarely have any special ability, but simply differ in Armor and HP makes for a slightly repetitive experience, despite the appreciable short playing time of the scenario we played.

Variety/Replayability:

Even with what is in the regular box, the visual variety is larger than expected, there are different groups of minions, big bosses, beautifully sculpted monsters, a few boards to play on, ect. The number of scenarios is supposed to be only 8 for the base game, a little under average compared to other products on the market, but decent enough.

The problem is that, from what I have seen, the straightforward maps and game mechanic don’t suggest any significant variety to be had while playing. Once again, I had fun (despite a confusing demoer luckily helped by one of the developers) but I am not sure it would be something I’d like to play repeatedly.

Designer corner:
I usually try to spend some words about previous productions but the designers of the games I review, trying to compare the new game to their body of work, but the designer pool is so varied (and impressive, I must say) here that I will simply mention them in the order listed on BGG:
Henry (the most likely source of the AP, which he uses in Adventurers and in The Builders), and who is, I believe, the closest thing to a “lead” designer for this one (quite a step up in complexity compared to his previous designs).
Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala, each with an incredible designer pedigree and not unfamiliar with collaborations between them (7 Wonders Duel) and with others.
Pascal Bernard, whose biggest design before that was the beautiful but half-baked Cadwallon: City of Thieves.
Ludovic Maublanc, who had worked with Bauza on Terror in Meeple City and, most importantly, with Cathala on Cyclades, certainly Maublanc’s best achievement.
Laurent Pouchain, another master of clever but half-baked games like Cadwallon and Okko, both of which I still own despite their (serious, in my opinion) flaws.
And last but not least Croc, whose games I hadn’t had the pleasure to play before this one.

Final thoughts:
I must admit that in writing the review and rethinking about the game, I discovered a few precious aspects worth mentioning, and this one is certainly not “just” another dungeon crawler / tactical combat. However, it still does not seem like this would be a game I’d like to play over and over, and that’s worrisome, especially given the high MSRP. Maybe in the future I’ll be proved wrong, but I feel the only way to keep this fresh will be to add more and more content to it. Some of that additional content, I am sure, will be part of kickstarter add-ons and exclusives, but indeed backers are probably not the ones who most need a review since, well, you already have the game

I hope you enjoyed my review and I look forward to comments and feedback. For more reviews, both written and video, please check out my list, here on bgg.

Thanks for reading
Geki
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Leon Scheuber
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geki wrote:

And last but not least Croc, whose games I hadn’t had the pleasure to play before this one.



Cool overview, thanks! You really should play Claustrophobia. After reading the review I have the feeling you would like it.
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Geki
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Intourette wrote:
geki wrote:

And last but not least Croc, whose games I hadn’t had the pleasure to play before this one.



Cool overview, thanks! You really should play Claustrophobia. After reading the review I have the feeling you would like it.


I'll try to get around to it.
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Jack
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A wise sage and philosopher once said, "I applaud slaughter."
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Geki
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Believe it or not, the title was bait for you
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Jack
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Oh, I know. And I gladly took it hook, line, and sinker.

I KSed this and am hopeful that it will be fun...as if I need more crap to paint, though. shake
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Mike Welker
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Oh yeah. I KS'd the max level. Tons of minis. This will keep me busy for a few months.
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Christopher Brown
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Grabbed the King's Pledge! It cannot arrive soon enough.
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glen bruton
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Can't think of a board game I've ever had the chance of playing over and over again so that's not really a consideration for me.
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Geki
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surg3on wrote:
Can't think of a board game I've ever had the chance of playing over and over again so that's not really a consideration for me.


Very good point. In that case, this could be a great game for you!
 
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Todd
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Great review! Love the focus on the designer at the end of your review.

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Tristan Hall
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Great review, thanks for your thoughts.
Love the Conan theme - been re-reading the books on my kindle - and haven't seen it done well in a board game before so I went in at King level (I think). Looking forward to it arriving but I do really have to ask myself if I need yet another minis dungeon crawler!
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Jack
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Tristan - I don't bother asking myself that question. Even if I answer, I'm just going to ignore it.
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Tristan Hall
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senorcoo wrote:
Tristan - I don't bother asking myself that question. Even if I answer, I'm just going to ignore it.


Oh, for sure. Didn't stop me from going full retard on Massive Darkness either!
 
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Geki
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Falcons wrote:
Great review! Love the focus on the designer at the end of your review.



I just started doing it. I love history and stories, and looking at the designers' past gives me a sense of completion. Glad you liked it!
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Simon Croquet
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Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala did not design Lewis & Clark, did they?

They did work together to create 7 Wonders Duel and 2 Little Prince games but I think Lewis & Clark has been designed by Cédrick Chaboussit.

Do you know what part of Conan did Pascal Bernard and Laurent Pouchain design?
I know that Bruno Cathala handled the Stygian Expansion, that Ludovic Maublanc and Antoine Bauza designed the Khitai expansion and that the Nordheim expansion has been realized by Croc and his son, but that is the first time I hear about these two authors being involved in Conan.
 
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Geki
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Shoum wrote:
Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala did not design Lewis & Clark, did they?

They did work together to create 7 Wonders Duel and 2 Little Prince games but I think Lewis & Clark has been designed by Cédrick Chaboussit.

Do you know what part of Conan did Pascal Bernard and Laurent Pouchain design?
I know that Bruno Cathala handled the Stygian Expansion, that Ludovic Maublanc and Antoine Bauza designed the Khitai expansion and that the Nordheim expansion has been realized by Croc and his son, but that is the first time I hear about these two authors being involved in Conan.


First of all, you are absolutely correct on Lewis and Clark, and I edited the review accordingly. I have no idea how that need up there (I mean, I know it was me, but I don't know why ).

Unfortunately, no one was able to provide detailed information about the design process, and the designers were not available when we were able to be at the asmodee demo area. They were credited as involved in both one of the websites presenting the games (I think it was on ANA, but not sure) and here on boardgamegeek.

Transparency about design process (à la credits in movies) is still low in boardgames, to the point that (when dealing with smaller projects than this) I am sometimes dubious of whether the names on the box were actually involved in the design.

Thanks for your precision and for reading the review.
Best
Geki
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Itai Perez
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Frederic Henry is the main and lead designer of the game. The other designers listed all worked on expansions or scenarios under the supervision of Fred Henry.

Those you listed were only the known ones but they were some others. You can get the full list of those in the Kickstarter credits:

Conan kickstarter credits wrote:
Game Author: Fred Henry.
(...)
Scenario Designers: Antoine Bauza, Ludovic Maublanc, Croc, Bruno Cathala, Laurent Pouchain, Pascal Bernard, Adnane Badi, José Chaves, Jérôme Soffietti, Itai Perez, Jérémy Pinget, David Bertolo, Julian Lemonnier, Philippe Villé.





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Thanee
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geki wrote:
Maybe in the future I’ll be proved wrong, but I feel the only way to keep this fresh will be to add more and more content to it.


Well, that is fairly normal for dungeon crawlers, so not a huge concern, I would say.

Besides, there are several such expansions in the works already.

Conan: Nordheim
Conan: Stygia
Conan: The Tower of Khitai

Bye
Thanee
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Drake Depew
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ninjadorg wrote:
senorcoo wrote:
Tristan - I don't bother asking myself that question. Even if I answer, I'm just going to ignore it.


Oh, for sure. Didn't stop me from going full retard on Massive Darkness either!


In my Collection (or soon to be)
- Super dungeon Explore
- DnD Adventure Boardgame
- Conan
- Imperial Assault
- Massive Darkness
- Shadows of Brimstone
- mice and mystics
- Black Plague
-Claustrophobia
- Warhammer quest Adventure card game

I consider myself lucky I keep managing to avoid Dungeon Saga. I've tried really hard to stop looking at kickstarter altogether.

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Geki
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llyrghmnghyll wrote:
ninjadorg wrote:
senorcoo wrote:
Tristan - I don't bother asking myself that question. Even if I answer, I'm just going to ignore it.


Oh, for sure. Didn't stop me from going full retard on Massive Darkness either!


In my Collection (or soon to be)
- Super dungeon Explore
- DnD Adventure Boardgame
- Conan
- Imperial Assault
- Massive Darkness
- Shadows of Brimstone
- mice and mystics
- Black Plague
-Claustrophobia
- Warhammer quest Adventure card game

I consider myself lucky I keep managing to avoid Dungeon Saga. I've tried really hard to stop looking at kickstarter altogether.



No descent? :-(
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Jack
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geki wrote:
No descent? :-(


No tacos?
 
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Geki
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senorcoo wrote:
geki wrote:
No descent? :-(


No tacos?


By the way (off topic), the app for Descent has rekindled the fire.

(The fire for Tacos was never and will never be extinguished)
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Jens Larsen
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geki wrote:
Intourette wrote:
geki wrote:

And last but not least Croc, whose games I hadn’t had the pleasure to play before this one.



Cool overview, thanks! You really should play Claustrophobia. After reading the review I have the feeling you would like it.


I'll try to get around to it.


I second Claustrophobia. I am still amazed over how much variety Croc managed to cram into what I think is a small number of components.
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