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Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Age of Conan, the game of kings rss

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juan sebastian rams
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This game deserves much much better treatment than the one it got. In a world where GoT the board game is number 58 in the bgg, this game just can’t be number 1153. Why? Here’s why

Age of Conan is an empire building game. A slow empire building game, and for what it does it is amazing. While playing the game I truly felt like a king trying to subjugate native tribes in order to expand my empire, while preparing my arsenal during a cold war for the inevitable clash against my opponents, a clash that unlike other games might just happen near the end of the game and will bleed you dry and break your back if you are not careful, just like a true clash between powerful kingdoms should feel.

Many are control games don’t provide the same kind of campaign system Conan provides in order to militarily conquer neutral land, and honestly this system is a gem, it really provides the player with the feel of how hard it is to take control of indigenous land, and once you do, you get the feeling your domain is more consolidated than in normal are control games. Also the idea that you have two ways to conquer land, whether diplomatically or military is great too. Diplomatical conquest is easier and will bring you some short term benefits, but it might not be nearly as useful in the long term as a military conquest. And this is where the meat of the game comes to me. This game is secretly a game between long term strategic thought against short term tactical thought you can either get resources that might get you victories in te round or get points that might win you the game in the end.

This debate between short term and long term is also present in the economic system of the game. Roughly there are 4 resources in the game,(cards, gold, sorcery and adventure tokens). 3 of these have utility in the inmediate term, during the game rounds(gold, sorcery and the cards), while the other one only really comes to use in three moments of the game(age change and final scoring) and only if you have the most, so if you don’t hoard them correctly they are useless to you. The thing is that you can change this long term resources for short term resources, but only at one moment of the game, when you obtain the tokens. So there you have a moment to measure the utility of one term of the game over the other, this decision is built across in a sense risk management too. Should I take the secure way of getting resources or should I try to hoard the tokens in order to see if I might win in the end?

Talking about risk, the Conan bidding system is another excellent piece of hardware. Where again you are measuring risk, should you burn your best strategy card in order to get conan, or should you let other have him and use your card to solve your inmediate military problems. Again you are measuring risks and trying to do the most. Also losing this bids by one or two points when you invested heavily in them is both frustrating and very costly, so the bidding system is really intense, sometimes frenetical and might affect your strategy quite a bit.

Now in age of conan, I heard a ton of people depreciate the value of conan to the game. To be honest conan interferes quite a lot, and not only that, his interferences really affect the game a lot, but conan is a quirurgical knife not a sledgehammer, whoever controls him must again measure well when and where to use him, the battles in which he takes part must be used for something other than just shock value.
Then there is the destiny dice this pool isn’t as limiting as it seems to the player at first sight, what it does allow is for some old fashioned passive aggression between player, hence providing a more subtle way of fighting than just throwing dice and kicking them in the gut. Now you can read your opponents plan and deny him the dice he needs to activate them, who knows maybe even in picking that dice he needed you might just help your cause even exponentially, or make an enemy that later might break your back. Then again you are measuring how useful is using a take that mechanic over just living and let live (in all honesty this game could have had some sort of diplomatical alliance system between kingdoms, thot would have made it simply perfect).

Finally I need to talk about the kingdom cards, this should not be underestimated, they bring lore and flavour to the game and every area control game should learn from them. They make Hyperborea feel like a vining zombie horde of people that can take casualties simply because they have reserves, or Aquilonia feel like the better equipped fighting force of pseudo romans that they are. Some are indeed generic but even those generic ones still have some flavour in them, and also the cards in a way tell you how you should run the economy of your kingdom, which resources should you value, sorcery tokens or gold. So yes they are pretty neat.

Well that was a lot of different mechanics(resource management, risk management, bidding, asymmetry, public action pool, public objectives and some good old dice rolling), and to be honest at no point while playing did they feel fiddly at all. Most of them felt pretty thematical and having a place in the game, and those mechanics that didn't click at first I understood while I was analizing about this game and I realised their hidden utility. The whole group just combines together in something that feels organic, so not only is this game beautiful to look at, but also a beautiful piece of design rules wise. It is a long, slow game about the hardships of building an empire, of consolidating power, of a cold war followed by an intense clash, a game about calculating, that compensates he who has been the most cerebral, who has seen the better balances and read his opponents better. Age of Conan is a game for kings, not a game for the feeble minded, a game that invites people to invest heart and soul in order to become the ultimate ruler of Hyborea.
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Tony Watson
United States
San Diego
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Nice review. I am in complete agreement with you regarding how good AoC is--it is an excellent empire-building game. There are some very interesting mechanics and clever player interactions built into this design.

I think the main reason the game is not held in higher regard is that the main focus is not on Conan. While the players may wield him as a tool, they cannot play as him, or go on his adventures, which I think is what many gamers wanted from this title. Here the emphasis is on the "Age of" and not "Conan". Myself, I have an appreciation for the historical mish-mash that is Howard's "Hyborian Age", so I enjoy the focus the game takes. I wonder if it would be better regarded if it was an empire-builder in a generic setting, without the Conan / Hyborian Age theming?
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