Friday, April 01, 2011

Conquest of Planet Earth Review

Published: 2011
Designer: Jason Hill
Publisher: Flying Frog Productions

Rules Complexity: Medium
Players: 1 -4
Type: Cooperative, Competitive, Solo

Artwork: A
Bits: B+

Gameplay: B
Playing Time: 45 - 90 minutes

Overall: B

Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien game is one of Flying Frog productions  newest games. Probably best know for their zombie game Last Night on Earth Flying Frog is a company some people love and others love to hate. I've seen their games criticized for their shallow play and the fact that instead of art work they use photographs of actors.

Conquest is no different then the companies other products. It's fast to play, has relatively simple mechanics and is fun to play. In this game you're an Alien race, part of an Armada which is conquering earth. The game offers several ways to play. As a competitive game you're vying to be the biggest, baddest Alien race in universe. Players compete against each other to see who can cause the most terror to the poor humans first.

As a cooperative game the players work together to face a stronger human defense. Finally the game can be played solo and it work much in the same ways as the cooperative game. While I have played the game solo, I have yet to play it as a cooperative game with multiple players. The reason for that is simple, this game is a really fun competitive game. You can really launch surprises on the other players and thus far every game I have played has been different.

The contents of the box.

You look amazing!
To my knowledge this might be their first game that doesn't contain any photographs in lieu of artwork and frankly it shows in a good way. While I don't mind the photographs in other games, the artwork in Conquest is outstanding. It does an excellent job at conveying the 50's era scifi theme they were shooting for.

The saucers and 4 special ally miniatures are also really well done and ripe for painting. As always the components are outstanding. The card board is thick and sturdy and the cards for better or worse have that glossy application that Flying Frog loves. It makes them very hard to shuffle and grab but there is no denying that they last a lot longer. As with their other games a CD soundtrack is included and I have not listened to it. I haven't actually opened one of the CD's included in any of their game but this is certainly a staple of this company at this point. Over all from top to bottom the bits are great quality I jsut personally don't like what they do to the cards.

Lets munch and crunch
The game is relatively simply to play, in fact a lot easier then the rules would have you think. My biggest gripe with Flying Frog games are their manuals. They are no intuitive in my opinion and while everything is covered and they included examples the rule books just seem structured very poorly. Having said that the rules in Conquest are less affected by this then same Touch of Evil.

So after each player randomly chooses and Aline race from a nice mixture which is provided they collect their color and tokens. Draw a starting hand of event cards based on their intelligence and prepare for the invasion. Event cards offer options to the player. Some add benefits, others harm your opponents and some benefit everyone. 

Each turn begins with a command / Initiative phase. The players have a set of counters that range from 2-6 plus an additional D6 counter. Each player secretly chooses one of these an reveals. The player with the lowest number goes first (ties are rolled off) but this number also represents the number of action points you have. So if I use my 2 counter because I want to go fist, I only get 2 action points. Once a counter is used it is set aside, you only get these back once you have used all of them and the only one in your hand is the D6 counter. The D6 counter is the only one that doesn't go away when you use it. When played you roll a 6 sided die to determine your action points.

You spend your action points to do things like play event cards, bring destroyed saucers back into play, buy aline menace tokens which are use for some of your alien races special abilities and finally to move and explore.
Location, location, location!

The heart of the game is exploring locations and subjugating the poor humans their. When you explore an empty board space a location card is turned over. The card will have a name, a population value and a defense value. For example a small town will have a 1 population and a 1 defense.  Some cards have text specific to their location like the fair grounds which adds a d6 to the resistance strength total. Finally some cards have icons denoting them as a certain type like technical or mountain etc.

The green population value is essentially the scoring system. Once you've conquered an area that value turn into terror points for your race. So the small town mention above, once you've crusher their resistance you now have 1 terror point. The first player to 8 terror points wins the game, this might sound awfully easy right about now so lets talk about defense.

The blue number on the card is called the defense value, but it is not the number you're fighting. It is in fact how many consecutive battles you must fight to conquer an area. So if that number in the blue shield is a 3, you need to win 3 battles without being destroyed or retreating in a row.

Take the fight to the alien menace!
Combat is the game boiled down into a nutshell. When you enter an area you draw a card from the resistance deck. That card is going to be either a unit or a hero. Hero's are best thought of as attachments to units. They might add +2 strength or even double the strength of the defending unit.

You can fight a hero alone, it must be accompanied by a unit. So when you draw if you get a hero you need to draw again until a units comes up. It's not uncommon to be fighting a battle with a unit and 2 or 3 heroes attached.

Units themselves also can have special abilities but for the most part they have a strength value. So if I draw a unit with a 5 strength and nothing else that is the opposition I am fighting.  Your attack strength comes from you alien races card. If your race has a strength of 3 you get a 3 for each attacking unit which makes it a good idea to not go into unexplored areas alone.

Once you calculate your attack strength and the defender strength you roll a die for each one and add it to that and the higher number wins the battle, ties are consider a pushed fight round. There is one little exception a roll of 6 is an automatic victory, regardless of strength totals. This means any battle is winnable or losable.

If you win the fight and have fought the number of battles you conquer the area. If there are still battles to fight due to the defense value of the location you can keep fighting or retreat. When you defeat and enemy or retreat the resistance you were fighting is discarded and new resistance is drawn, in this way the overall flow of the battle changes from fight to fight.

If you lose the fight but have saucers left you can still attack although your strength is reduced but unlike above you fight the same resistance until it is defeated or you leave the area. Sometimes it is better to live to fight another day then to press an attack hoping for a six.

Summing it up
I've only scratched the surface of the game. As mentioned there are aline powers, lots of nasty event and space stuff cards. There are resistance units that can come into play on the board and as I mentioned earlier the solo / cooperative game makes the humans a lot tougher by introducing human technology.

All in all, Conquest is a very fun game. It can be played in an hour and it's a perfect light game where you go after each other and have some laughs. It shouldn't be taken too seriously and players who despise games where your opponents can basically screw you over should stay far away. However it is a perfect game for young or tween children that the whole family can enjoy.


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