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Subject: My Review of Conan rss

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Vincent Darlage
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I received Conan (King pledge) after much waiting. This was actually my very first Kickstarter, but it was among the last I received from those I backed in 2015 (see My First Year with Kickstarter: 2015). I found it worth the wait.

Before I start my review, I should state my biases. I am a Conan fan. More than that, I am a Robert E. Howard fan. I am one of the moderators on the Robert E. Howard Readers group on Goodreads. I have written 16 source books for Mongoose's Conan RPG (see Conan Roleplaying Game Sourcebooks I Wrote) and I helped write several others (see Conan Conan Sourcebooks I Helped Write). I wrote one full book for Modiphius' new Conan RPG ("Conan the Adventurer" is what I think they titled it). I am a member of the REH Foundation and a former member of the REHupa. So... I am a Conan fan. However, that doesn't mean I automatically love all things Conan; for example, I was disappointed with Munchkin Conan.



Presentation
The King Pledge, plus some of my add-ons, came in a large box, and the boxes they came in were nice. Everything in its place, with two different sets of artwork. Inside the box, the miniatures were in CMON-style boxes, tucked in plastic. I loved the artwork on the rule books better than the box covers, though.



The Good Stuff
The miniatures are awesome. I liked them very much, and there are a lot of them, especially with my King Pledge. Even the base game has plenty. I really liked the miniature of Thaug with all the tentacles. Here, let's see a picture of (an unpainted) Thaug:



The game is fun to play. I'm not much of a video-watcher (my computer is so old it takes forever to watch a video), so I was happy I could learn the rules from the rulebook fairly quickly. I played a solo game to learn the rules (even though it is not really solo playable - I played the Overlord and three characters). I just wanted to know how to play for my gaming group. I learned it fairly quickly, and I was surprised how versatile the game was. My gaming group picked it up pretty quickly.



I liked how the characters were presented and how their actions could be quickly chosen. I liked how damage weakened the characters because it took away from the amount of actions they could potentially do, as damage moved the action tokens (little plastic gems) into an unusable pool.

I also liked how the Overlord control panel works, with its river of tiles with variable costs to activate units, which can be identified by colored bases. All of that was really nifty.

I like the art on the game mats, and was pleased to see they were like game boards - for some reason I thought they'd just be thin cardboard... but no, we got actual game boards. Love it.



The Bad Stuff
This may seem nit-picky, but I do not like the presentation of the Picts. The Picts look like Bran Mak Morn era Picts, not Conan era Picts, which I always pictured looking more like Native Americans, and a little less like cave-men. Anyway, that doesn't affect game play.

I also don't like that you can't take your base move even when you take a cautious stance. That really limits how often you can take that stance. I think you should be able to slink and move cautiously. Anyway, that's against the rules.

The Ugly Stuff
This is the section where I comment on things that are neither good nor bad, but simply notable.

I was missing a figure in my shipment (Ageera), but upon emailing the company, it seems they'll take care of that, so that's good. Although I haven't received the figure yet, all indications seem to be that customer service is important to the company.

I really regret not having the money to buy all the add-ons, especially the scenery pack and the Black Ones. Hopefully, I will be able to get the boxed expansions from retail stores. This is a fun game, and now I want it all.

Conclusion
If you like tactical miniature games and/or Conan games, this is probably the game for you. I recommend it. If you like Zombicide, you'll probably enjoy this, too. I'm happy with my purchase and will be looking to buy future expansions of this game.
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Rafal Areinu
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Good to hear there are other people than I who managed to learn rules from rulebook. I thought I was the only one based on reports.
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anthony dybacz
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Areinu wrote:
Good to hear there are other people than I who managed to learn rules from rulebook. I thought I was the only one based on reports.


Come on, its really not as bad as all that!

The rulebook is not great and has holes and is unhelpful in deciding fringe cases (and the terrain on the boards...).
The scenarios and skills have mistranslations that lead to errors while playing.

I acknowledge all this but I still learnt to play the game.
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CardboardAnt wrote:
Areinu wrote:
Good to hear there are other people than I who managed to learn rules from rulebook. I thought I was the only one based on reports.


Come on, its really not as bad as all that!

The rulebook is not great and has holes and is unhelpful in deciding fringe cases (and the terrain on the boards...).
The scenarios and skills have mistranslations that lead to errors while playing.

I acknowledge all this but I still learnt to play the game.


No, it most certainly is as bad as all that. They didn't issue a public apology and tell everyone they are making a new manual for no good reason.
 
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Drake Depew
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broken clock wrote:
CardboardAnt wrote:
Areinu wrote:
Good to hear there are other people than I who managed to learn rules from rulebook. I thought I was the only one based on reports.


Come on, its really not as bad as all that!

The rulebook is not great and has holes and is unhelpful in deciding fringe cases (and the terrain on the boards...).
The scenarios and skills have mistranslations that lead to errors while playing.

I acknowledge all this but I still learnt to play the game.


No, it most certainly is as bad as all that. They didn't issue a public apology and tell everyone they are making a new manual for no good reason.


The rulebook is bad, but there are people claiming it's Myth bad, and that is simply untrue. in the spectrum of Good-OK-Bad-Unlearnable, it falls squarely between OK and Bad.
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Rich Radgoski
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Vincent

Old fan of your Mongoose stuff... Thanks for this.

I *think* that Halo stays active until you change stances... so if Hadrathus starts in Aggressive stance, his Halo stays where it is with no need to continue to pay into it.

I agree I wish the cautious stance were a bit more expansive...just standing and guarding really means rest...not cautious.

other than that, I'm very pleased...

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Vincent Darlage
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Arkobla Conn wrote:
Vincent

Old fan of your Mongoose stuff... Thanks for this.

I *think* that Halo stays active until you change stances... so if Hadrathus starts in Aggressive stance, his Halo stays where it is with no need to continue to pay into it.

I agree I wish the cautious stance were a bit more expansive...just standing and guarding really means rest...not cautious.

other than that, I'm very pleased...



Thanks!

I think they should be able to move cautiously - so long as they don't move into areas with enemies or exert themselves to such a point that they have to use a crystal on movement.

But that's a small quibble. Overall, very happy with the game.

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Frank BLACKFIRE
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Arkobla Conn wrote:
Vincent

Old fan of your Mongoose stuff... Thanks for this.

I *think* that Halo stays active until you change stances... so if Hadrathus starts in Aggressive stance, his Halo stays where it is with no need to continue to pay into it.

I agree I wish the cautious stance were a bit more expansive...just standing and guarding really means rest...not cautious.

other than that, I'm very pleased...

In the French version there are no "aggressive" or "cautious stands"...Only "active" or "resting".

For the Halo, Hadrathus loses it when he becomes active (agressive) after a turn where he was resting (cautious).
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zoran
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I know what you mean about the picts, I always imagined them as wiry rather than thickset.
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The War Chief
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zemus wrote:
I know what you mean about the picts, I always imagined them as wiry rather than thickset.


Agreed. That's how I pictured them when reading REH Conan stories.
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Vincent Darlage
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Pallantides wrote:

In the French version there are no "aggressive" or "cautious stands"...Only "active" or "resting".


That's a lot clearer. I wonder why they didn't translate it that way.
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Rafal Areinu
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I'm pretty sure they have been using that terminology around PnP version, or at least in original demo videos. Maybe they got feedback that original names were confusing? Who knows...
 
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Mark Taraba
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Arkobla Conn wrote:
I agree I wish the cautious stance were a bit more expansive...just standing and guarding really means rest...not cautious.

In the pnp draft of the rules they called it active and inactive. It might be a bad choice in wording through the translation, but certainly they intended that the hero really is just standing and catching their breath while trying not to be killed. People probably complained about inactive because it sounded like you shouldn't be able to defend either.
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Andreas Hemming
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VincentDarlage wrote:
I also don't like that you can't take your base move even when you take a cautious stance. That really limits how often you can take that stance. I think you should be able to slink and move cautiously. It also makes having certain spells (Mitra's Halo) active at the start of the game (since, because the non-overlord goes first, as soon as you move in, you lose the spell - making it pointless to have had it active in the first place). Anyway, that's against the rules.

You don't loose the spell when moving in the first turn imo. You have to SWITCH your stance from "cautious" to "active". As you start your turn "active" you should have your spell still activated.
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Vincent Darlage
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suxx wrote:

You don't loose the spell when moving in the first turn imo. You have to SWITCH your stance from "cautious" to "active". As you start your turn "active" you should have your spell still activated.


Yeah, we misunderstood that the first few times we played that. For some reason the person playing Hadrathus thought it meant the spell only worked while in cautious mode. We cleared that up in the days since I wrote that. I edited my review to reflect that. I still feel we should be able to move without spending crystals while being cautious, but that's only a minor quibble.
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Springheeledjack wrote:
zemus wrote:
I know what you mean about the picts, I always imagined them as wiry rather than thickset.


Agreed. That's how I pictured them when reading REH Conan stories.


From the Conan classic "Beyond the Black River" :

"A man lay there, a short, dark, thickly-muscled man, naked except for a loin cloth, a necklace of human teeth and a brass armlet."

Those were Picts in Conan's time.
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Vincent Darlage
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Chinkster wrote:

From the Conan classic "Beyond the Black River" :

"A man lay there, a short, dark, thickly-muscled man, naked except for a loin cloth, a necklace of human teeth and a brass armlet."

Those were Picts in Conan's time.


I disagree that this description implies a Neanderthal appearance. I'll outline my argument.

1. Conan is described as thickly-muscled.
From the Conan classic "People of the Black Circle" :

"Conan turned to Yasmina, his red knife still in his hand, his blue eyes smoldering, blood oozing from wounds on his thickly-muscled arms and thighs."

Therefore, using that logic, Conan should look like a caveman too. Conan is described as thickly-muscled again in "The Black Stranger." I don't think REH used "thickly-muscled" to imply a Neanderthal shape since he used the same descriptor for Conan.

2. Robert E. Howard stated Hyborian age Picts were of the same type as Kull-era Picts.
In "The Hyborian Age," Robert E. Howard says "The Picts are of the same type as they always were - short, very dark, with black eyes and hair." The "same as they always were" implies the same as they were during Kull's time. Ka-nu the Pict is described in the first Kull story as "lean-hipped." Again, nothing really sets him out as looking distorted.

3. One description can mean one Pict; it's not necessarily a racial description
Note also that the racial description in "The Hyborian Age" does not include "thickly muscled." Thus the specimen described in "Beyond the Black River" was a muscular individual of the race. It doesn't mean the whole race was thickly-muslced, no more than Conan's description of muscles implies all Cimmerians are more than average in their muscular development, no more than we would consider Arnold Schwarzenegger's build to be a typical Austrian build. Indeed, as I will show in a couple of paragraphs, Zogar Sag is described as lean, implying some variety in musculature among the Picts.

4. Robert E. Howard was always clear when people were atavistic or malformed
In the Bran Mak Morn stories, the Picts are absolutely described as malformed. In Men of the Shadows, the Picts are described as "a monstrosity, a hideous deformed giant, a ferocious dwarf" while Bran himself is described as being strangely human for a Pict, and his answer is that his blood is pure from prehistory (Kull's age, for Bran later claims Brule the Pict to be the first of his line). Again, this implies that Hyborian age Picts are simply short, very dark, with black eyes and hair - not malformed - since they are described in the Hyborian age essay as being the same as they were in Kull's time.

In "The Lost Race," the Picts are specifically described as "short but massive and misshapen" and then it is revealed they are also not pure from prehistory (Conan's era). Again, REH makes it clear when a race is misshapen and monstrous, something he did not do with the Hyborian age Picts.

In the drafts of "Wolves Beyond the Border," he says "The Picts are a white race too, in that they are not black nor brown nor yellow, but they are black-eyed and black-haired and dark of skin." Again, if he intended them to be Neanderthal-shaped he would have said something about that there.

Throughout his writings, when Robert E. Howard wanted something to look less than human or atavistic, he flat-out stated it with clarity. Throughout the Bran Mak Morn stories he made sure it was clear the Picts had descended from modern human shape. He didn't do that with Hyborian age Picts.


5. Zogar Sag, a Pict, is described as lean.
Note also that the Zogar Sag miniature (a Pict) is not a Neanderthal. Indeed, labelled as a Pictish wizard by Robert E. Howard, he is described as "a lean figure of middle height, almost hidden in ostrich plumes set on a harness of leather and copper." This does not imply the Neanderthal. Unlike the difference between Bran Mak Morn and his Picts, Robert E. Howard did not make Zogar's physical description out to be extraordinary among his followers (something Howard always did when comparing Bran Mak Morn with his tribesmen). If he meant Hyborian age Picts to be misshapen, but Zogar Sag to be of an older, purer strain, he absolutely would have said it. Since he didn't, then the misshapen Pict does not belong in the Hyborian age.

In Conclusion
I conclude then, that even though one Pict was described as thickly-muscled, others were not so described - and Conan is so described yet is not pictured as a Neanderthal. Further, other stories indicate older Picts, purer Picts, were not malformed, and REH goes so far to call them a white race, which he would not have done if they were Neanderthal. Robert E. Howard is typically clear when a race or person is misshapen out of the norm, but he did not describe Hyborian age Picts in such a manner. Lastly, Zogar Sag is not contrasted with the rest of the tribe as being extraordinary in his build, therefore his build isn't extraordinary among the Picts. So, I respectfully disagree and reiterate that I do not picture Hyborian age Picts as Neanderthals.
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Weltallex
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After reading his Conan stories not long ago I'm pretty sure Howard described his Picts as "regressed, muscular, lumpish and ape-like" at one point – but I'll have to look up where he did so.
 
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Vincent Darlage
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luminok wrote:
After reading his Conan stories not long ago I'm pretty sure Howard described his Picts as "regressed, muscular, lumpish and ape-like" at one point – but I'll have to look up where he did so.


I did a quick word search with those terms on the Conan texts and I assure you Robert E. Howard didn't describe the Picts in such a way in the Conan stories.

I researched those stories heavily when I wrote Across the Thunder River, and I assure you he did not describe Hyborian age Picts as regressed, lumpish, or ape-like. He did occasionally say one or more were muscular, though. Saying someone is muscular is a far cry from "looks like a caveman."

REH even rewrote "The Black Stranger" as the pirate adventure "Swords of the Red Brotherhood," changing the Picts to American Indians without changing the adjectives describing them. They are not Neanderthals.
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luminok wrote:
After reading his Conan stories not long ago I'm pretty sure Howard described his Picts as "regressed, muscular, lumpish and ape-like" at one point – but I'll have to look up where he did so.


That gave me the idea to google for "how did robert e howard describe picts?"

That, unsurprisingly, leads to Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picts_in_fantasy#Robert_E._How...

Which says...

Quote:
Howard's descriptions of the later Picts portray them as very small in height, squat and muscular, adept at silent movement, and most of all brutish and uncivilized, quite unlike the Picts of Kull's day


But it also says:

Quote:
An interesting point is that, in the Hyborian age stories such as Beyond the Black River, when they populated the Western edge of Europe and share a border with Aquilonia, which tries to push them further west to colonize new provinces, the Picts show clear Native American influence, in their appearance, dress, armament, manner of conducting wars, and even the place names of the new Aquilonian provinces. It is hard to tell whether this is a case of inconsistency on the part of Howard, or a throwback to their earliest origins and savagery, as the Picts who Conan battled during the Hyborian Age are definitely more primitive and savage than those Kull knew many millennia earlier.


i.e. the correct answer is...

"Yes - Picts had a physical appearance."

REH was apparently inconsistent himself on the topic, so we cannot fault artists and fans for not having a "unified vision" of them.

PS: the page also mentions stunted and deformed, but in reference to another race which the Picts competed with:

Quote:
... Picts settled in the British isles, where they displaced a supposedly mongoloid race that had been the initial residents of the isles (though their origins were elsewhere). This previous race sought refuge underground, and over long millennia they evolved into stunted and hideous creatures, who were the initial subjects of tales concerning elves and dwarves, as described in the Bran Mak Morn short story "Worms of the Earth", as well in "The Children of the Night".
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Vincent Darlage
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sgbeal wrote:
Quote:
An interesting point is that, in the Hyborian age stories such as Beyond the Black River, when they populated the Western edge of Europe and share a border with Aquilonia, which tries to push them further west to colonize new provinces, the Picts show clear Native American influence, in their appearance, dress, armament, manner of conducting wars, and even the place names of the new Aquilonian provinces. It is hard to tell whether this is a case of inconsistency on the part of Howard, or a throwback to their earliest origins and savagery, as the Picts who Conan battled during the Hyborian Age are definitely more primitive and savage than those Kull knew many millennia earlier.


REH was apparently inconsistent himself on the topic, so we cannot fault artists and fans for not having a "unified vision" of them.


REH may not have been consistent when going from Kull to Conan to Bran Mak Morn, and so on, but he was quite consistent with his Hyborian age Pict depiction within the Hyborian age - they were quite obviously American Indian in appearance. Hence my complaint that Monolith inexplicably made them into cave men - they didn't even make them short, which is a near-universal description of them (the minis should have been Shevatas-sized). So, I feel I can fault them for not having a clear picture of them - just from the Conan stories alone. Even the art used in "The Conquering Sword of Conan" depicts them as American Indians, because the artist used the clear depiction of them from the Conan stories alone.
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VincentDarlage wrote:
...depiction within the Hyborian age - they were quite obviously American Indian in appearance. Hence my complaint that Monolith inexplicably made them into cave men...


i'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Monolith possibly decided to avoid the potentially tremendous PR problems they would have had to face if they had created 20+ of the "bad guys" minis modeled after Native Americans.

i know it sounds stupid, but that's the world we live in. They'd rather have 3-5 hard-core REH fans upset than tens of thousands of people who hear that "some game company is inappropriately casting Native Americans as bad guys!" protesting outside their doors.

To be clear, i have zero opinion on their appearance with regard to "accuracy vis a vis REH" - i love the minis as-is.

If, however, i were a decision-maker at Monolith, i would most certainly have argued that Monolith needed to proactively dodge that bullet and use an "alternate vision" of Pict minis so that the minis do not visibly resemble any extant folks who might be offended en masse by something so trivial as plastic figures in a niche-market board game. As said above: that's a stupid thing to have to consider, yes, but that's the world we live in (as opposed to the world of Conan).
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Vincent Darlage
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sgbeal wrote:
If, however, i were a decision-maker at Monolith, i would most certainly have argued that Monolith needed to proactively dodge that bullet and use an "alternate vision" of Pict minis so that the minis do not visibly resemble any extant folks who might be offended en masse by something so trivial as plastic figures in a niche-market board game. As said above: that's a stupid thing to have to consider, yes, but that's the world we live in (as opposed to the world of Conan).


And that's fine... and quite a different argument than telling me that REH described them as lumpy, ape-like Neanderthals when he clearly did not, which a couple of folks here tried to argue - one person using the argument that a description of being muscled equates to Neanderthal.

Your argument as to their reason for modifying the art makes sense - and does the honor of not mischaracterizing what Robert E. Howard actually wrote, but simply acknowledges that what he wrote might not be acceptable today.
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Weltallex
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I did not argument and I did not "try" anything
I just remembered a passage from the books, without knowing exactly, where I found it. Even if I am quite sure about it, I might be wrong. I didn't mean to question your "expert-level".

But as was already pointed out – REH wasn't really consistent, and not just with the Picts. So readers might get different pictures of Conan's world.

Monolith told us they were absolutely true to REH's descriptions. One might argue against that, yes. Again, not only with the Picts.

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Vincent Darlage
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When you enter into a debate offering support for one side or another, you've joined the argument. When you enter that debate with a claim but no evidence supporting that claim, you tried. It wasn't an insult to say that someone joined in debate - indeed, the skill of debating and making arguments is a valuable skill. One should always question - that's part of critical thinking. Just because I consider myself to be an expert doesn't make it so. I really appreciated that the first person to make his argument against my opinion offered REH words as supporting evidence.

While REH's views of the Picts changed over time, he was fairly consistent within each character's stories. The three Pict stories of Conan (Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, and Wolves Beyond the Border) show a clear case that REH was picturing American Indians. But with any written work, readers do bring a lot to the table and definitely different readers get different pictures out of the Hyborian age.
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