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Subject: StormGate Reviews: Conquest of Pangea rss

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Chad S
Canada
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Hello, and welcome to the next entry in a soon-to-be-long line of reviews, collectively called StormGate Reviews. These reviews will not concentrate on the specifics of how the games work, but rather a brief overview of the main mechanics, how people who play the games receive and enjoy them, how they look, and lastly, my own thoughts. Any edits are to fix grammatical or spelling errors. To see other reviews in the series, Click Here!

Intro:

Conquest of Pangea is a light strategy and area control game where players attempt to take over the world during a time when all the continents were still together as one mass, Pangea. During the course of the game, millions of years will pass and Pangea will break up into and split off into their own islands.

How It Looks and What's In The Box:

The board is a vast ocean, with some faded outlines of where to initially place the continents. They match up their colours and join together to form the game world, and are quite colourful. The "army" units, in 4 colours (one for each player), are hexagonal pieces that can be stacked on top of one another. There are also "leader" markers, several decks of good quality cards, and cardboard tokens to determine the terrain of each space on the continents. There is also a nice insert to store the pieces, and it comes with bags to store the rest. It's a very attractive looking game.



How it plays: 75 to 120 minutes, including teaching the game.

Setup is done randomly, risk style. Players draw cards from a deck that have pictures of each area of Pangea, and they place units there. This could be both good and bad, as a player could get unlucky to have a really bad drawing of starting positions, or the opposite. You also draw a random terrain type for the zone you just drew. Terrain affects the game by governing how many units can be in one space, and by how many victory points that space is worth.

During the course of the game, players will expand their empire by moving their units around and causing civil unrest. Pangea itself will eventually split, forming multiple islands.

Players receive power points, white (weaker) and yellow (stronger, more effective) power cards over the course of the game by accomplishing certain tasks.

The game ends after a certain amount of time has passed, and people add up their victory points (Dominance) based on the terrain of spaces controlled.



Fighting occurrs when the population of one space exceeds its limit (determined by the terrain), and then all the units in that space duke it out. There are no dice in this game; all combat is resolved using power cards. This combat mechanic is not very intuitive. You don't move units and attack with those units; you move units to increase populations and to incite civil wars.

The last thing to happen during each turn is drawing and playing a Time Card. This deck results in a time limit for the game, of sorts, detailing and controlling when certain events take place. Events could be a volcanic eruption, or advancing the "time" that has taken place (millions of years). After so many years have passed, the continent on the most recently revealed Time Card splits off. forming an island. This makes migration difficult unless you develop a way of crossing oceans (aka rafts).


How it was received:

Our group has played a few games of Pangea, and they almost all turn out completely chaotic. There is so much randomness in this game that it makes planning ahead difficult, and removes much of the strategy that goes into similar games. Time cards are random, Drawing power cards is random and because of that, combat is random. Being able to have rafts is random. Advancing the time scale is random. Continents splitting off is random. Even settin up the game is totally random.

As a result of all this chaos, the game does not hit the table very often. It has a great idea for a game - continental drift, light strategic warfare - but it is executed in a manner that does not lend well to a strategy title.

None of the group outright hates the game, but it's nowhere near a game that someone would want to play regularly. It still hits the table, mind you, just not very often. It does make a good "vocabulary" game - a game that friends can sit around a table, talk about whatever friends feel like talking about, while they also happen to be playing an okay game.

My thoughts:

I really wanted to like this game. This is one of the first games I bought when I started getting serious about being a boardgamer - and I got a fantastic price on it ($10!). It looks great, the components are well designed, its colourful, and it has a really cool concept for a game. I just wish it played better.

One of the guys in our game group is a game designer, and also happens to be one of the hosts of The Gamer's Table. I think that the two of us could come up with a pretty decent strategy game that eliminates some of the randomness in this game, and it would be a much better game.

There is an expansion for this game, Atlantis, but I have not researched or sought it out. It might remove/fix some of the randomness, it might add more.

Bottom line:

If you're expecting a hardcore strategy game, there is one in there, buried beneath a mountain of Chaos. Not the evil kind of Warhammer chaos either, just pure chaos.

It's not a bad game, it's not a good game, it's just average. But it does look good.

Score: 6/10
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Ron Olivier, Sr.
United States
North Smithfield
Rhode Island
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Good review for such a mediocre game, I played this ONCE at a gamestore, and after 90 miuntes of tedium I've never been as happy to come in last plasce. Why? Because it meant the game was over!
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Gary Pressler
United States
West Lafayette
Indiana
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OMG! Overtext! How long have I been sleeping?! OVERTEXT! Also, I'm a DESIGNER now?! Sweet! OVERTEXXXXXXT!
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Great summary: looks gorgeous, but almost no control gamewise.

I probably should add it to my current GeekList auction. However, every time I open the box and look at it, I'm convinced a very good game could come out of it. (But in three years, I still have yet to continue working on it.)

In comparison, Trias is a lovely little game of continental divide. Simple rules provide good strategic control. Urland is also a lot of fun, but with more dependence on correctly guessing and taking advantage of your opponent's moves. And if you want a deep, heavy game of species differentiation and continental change, American Megafauna is amazing.


...maybe I should let someone else play with the pretty bits instead...

 
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