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

Subject: Something's missing... rss

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Jaime Lawrence
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Age of Conan is a solid game. It has nice doses of theme and some interesting mechanics.

So why do I feel something is missing?

After a fair few plays, I'm haunted by the feeling that this game SHOULD be better. Let's look at the way the game works and see if there's a reason - or a fix.



Age of Conan involves war between 4 factions in Hyboria, Robert E. Howard's ancient world of high fantasy. For the sake of ease, you can imagine the factions as Romans(Aquilonia), Egyptians (Stygia), Arabians (Turan) and Necromancers (Hyperboria).

Within this setting, the factions vie for control of territories in two ways, either getting tribute from them diplomatically or annexing them militarily. Both of these are governed by specialised combat dice. The different factions are good at these to different degrees - the Turans and Stygians tend to be a little better at diplomacy while the Hyperborians and Aquilonians are better with their military.



Each turn, players roll dice to determine what actions are available to them, then take it in turn selecting and playing those actions.

Meanwhile, Conan is on adventures, wandering through all four empires, causing chaos and interfering with battles. Players bid cards from their hands in order to become the 'Conan' player and guide the legendary barbarian, trying to get him to his goal before the other players can empty the adventure track of its tokens. For every four adventures Conan completes, there is an 'Age Change Phase' in which empires score points and gain mystical artefacts that help them achieve their goals.



The aim of the game is, of course, to score the most points. A significant aid in doing this is to crown Conan as your king. This can only be done in the third Age of the game, only if Conan is in your home province and only if you have taken the most of one type of token from the adventure track. If you try to crown him and don't have the most, Conan kills you and you are removed from the game.

Now, what bothers me is that the game seems to have limited interaction between Conan and the Empires. It's sort of like Fantasy Flight made a quite engaging wargame, then tacked on some stuff about Conan.



On the other hand, there's a lot to like here; the board is quite snug and you will be butting up against the other empires - conflict is inevitable. The Tokens and cards are beautifully illustrated and have a lot of flavour. The custom dice are very cool and the empires really do feel like they have different identities.

But as I said, something's missing. There's a sense that the whole thing has been cobbled together hastily and some of the parts don't fit. There's a bit of anticlimax at the end of the game when everything is counted up, an uncomfortable moment when you all look at one another and think 'What have we achieved in this past two hours?'

The jury is still out in my group. I know I like parts of the game, but it's incomplete. One of my friends said he wouldn't bother with it again, another thinks its pretty good and wants to see some more play with it.

I'm giving it an 8/10 for now, but my thoughts have varied from a 7 to a 9...

Any other similar experiences?



Thanks to the other Geeks whose images I've used here!
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Fabio Calzolari
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Bought by someone in my gaming group after years spent playing "War of the Ring", and abandoned after 3 plays, two of which are to try the game and the last to "verify that it really did not deserve the space in the game bag i bring here each tuesday" (quoting the owner).

Lack of interaction, "playing alone", was what i recall was the bigger flaw.

I never played both, but since i can't recall who is owning it, this means that Age of Conan have not survived to the swords of the "non skirmish" players of my gaming group.
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Blorb Plorbst
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Excellent review that echos many of my thoughts. We play this more often than we might otherwise do since we have a Conan fanatic in our midst. And it's not an bad game -- but as you say, it feels like it should be more.

There can be a lot of player interaction if the players so choose but they can also choose not to conflict.

The thing that I think could be most improved is the pace with which you take over neutral provinces: Each province has 2 or 3 terrain types listed and you must campaign across each of these to gain control of the province. Often (and especially early in the game) this takes 2 or 3 turns to complete -- more if you get an unlucky roll or don't have the cards to improve your dice. So you really don't get much done each turn. Faster campaigning could lead to more aggressive expansion and more player interaction but is it worth it?

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Bryce K. Nielsen
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There is an expansion coming out...

-shnar
 
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Hugh G. Rection
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shnar wrote:
There is an expansion coming out...

-shnar


It wouldn't be an FFG game otherwise. laugh
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Actually it's a Nexus game, FFG is just the US Distributor. And it's been a while since I've heard anything about the expansion, so maybe it's not going to come out? Go the way of Nexus' other game, Marvel Heroes

-shnar
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David K.
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Nexus has been pretty busy with the War of the Ring CE and getting those all shipped out, etc... I imagine most of the their focus has been on that for a while. Once that is all out of the way, you can expect that they will shift back to their other projects.
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Sean Shaw
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As stated Nexus has been pretty busy. Personally, I think the game captures the feel of the world around Conan quite well, with different events from the original stories being brought up quite often. I'm pretty excited by the prospect of the expansion with the different roles of Conan, but would rather them take their time and get the expansion right rather than rush it out the door.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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GreyLord wrote:
As stated Nexus has been pretty busy. Personally, I think the game captures the feel of the world around Conan quite well, with different events from the original stories being brought up quite often. I'm pretty excited by the prospect of the expansion with the different roles of Conan, but would rather them take their time and get the expansion right rather than rush it out the door.


Yeah, I think that as a game, it's okay, but as a Conan game, it's great. I own it, and my play group was fairly unimpressed by it, but I have a blast playing it because I'm familiar with the original REH stories and the Dark Horse comics adaptations. It's exciting to see quests from the stories come up, and to live the alternate-universe thrill of crowning Conan Lord of Stygia with Thoth-Amon as his faithful advisor, but to them it was just another ameritrash experience theme-driven thematic fantasy war game.
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Nate Downs
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I play it with my eight (well, soon nine) year old. He loves it, building armies, marching to my forts. Tearing me down.

I don't see a real issue with it being "solitaire"... (not when getting attacked all the time!)...

I wouldn't mind if there were more varied kingdom cards that did explicitly interact... and maybe even some turn interrupt type cards.

I don't play many "battle" games... but this seems very basic, easy to learn (if you are in the right mindset) and fun.

Plus, like the Conan stories themselves, I never get the impression that it takes itself too seriously (like a lot of the war games I have tried to read the rules for seem to do...)
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Edward B.
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Good review. I'm surprised you rate the game an 8, though, as you seem to be fairly lukewarm on the game.

I really enjoy it, and feel that Conan is integrated well. Conan, just like in the short stories, bows to no man. He has his own agenda, and the large nations can only ride on his coat tails (by following him on his journeys) or influence him for a time (by sending him into battle).

There is always a lot of player interaction in the games I've played. I think it's best with 4, but perfectly serviceable with 2-3.

There's usually a lot of friendly trash talk back and forth, and lots of player interaction, especially socially. Things like:

- Bidding on Conan and on the artifacts. There's a good amount of tension and decision making. Do you try to go for the sword, which you really need, even though you think one of the other players might have more monsters, or do you try to grab a less useful artifact that you're sure to get?

- Combat. Even if you're battling a neutral nation, another player is rolling the defense dice. It feels like your fighting the other player.

- Diplomacy. Same thing with combat.
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Jaime Lawrence
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I rate it an 8 because I do enjoy it, I just feel like it isn't quite coming together. I'm also probably a little bitter because I can't get it to the table - none of my friends wants to play it again
 
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Benj Davis
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Hida Mann wrote:
I rate it an 8 because I do enjoy it, I just feel like it isn't quite coming together. I'm also probably a little bitter because I can't get it to the table - none of my friends wants to play it again


I wouldn't mind giving it another try. It felt kind of like Thunderstone, in that it had loads of cool ideas in it that didn't quite work together right (though to a lesser extent).
And like Thunderstone, I feel like something could be done. I just don't know what yet.
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