Conquest Tactics: Card-Based War Gaming

Conquest Tactics box

Note: despite this mockup box image, Conquest Tactics is NOT a CCG.

Overview: I mentioned Conquest Tactics: Fire Continent previously as a game that’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to actually play it yet at that time. Conquest Tactics is a strategy card game that mixes elements of Magic: The Gathering and tabletop war games. The Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, February 5, so you have just over a week to take a look and decide if you’d like to back it. [UPDATE: The campaign funded successfully, and Conquest Tactics: Fire Continent is now available for purchase.]

Players: 2

Ages: 13 and up

Playing Time: 40 minutes according to the box — but see my notes below.

Retail: $50 on Kickstarter

Rating: Intriguing and fun, with some reservations.

Who Will Like It? Conquest Tactics is a mix of strategy card games and war gaming. There are some similarities, I’m told, to Magic: The Gathering (which I’ve never played) but there’s also a board representing the battlefield with line of sight, and everything is paid for with tactical points. Since the base game comes with complete starter decks, you won’t be doing any deck-building yet, but there are plans for a lot of expansions so that you can customize your army.

ConquestTactics-Kaborha

A few Kaborha troops: big, strong rhinoceros guys.

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Theme:

There’s a bit of a story about humans ruling the world of Yen-Sen with magic, and then getting magic taken away as a punishment, and then being enslaved by the Kaborha. Now, the humans are rediscovering magic, rising up against their oppressors … just as some interdimensional evil (the Malice) enters their world and throws everything into chaos. So the game is about these three factions battling each other for supremacy of the Fire Continent: strong Kaborha, magical Malice, and versatile Humans.

The abilities of the three factions are in line with the themes: the Kaborha have a lot of health, massive melee attacks, and a lot of brute strength. The Malice have strength in numbers: lots and lots of little Gunget creatures that are easy to kill but can be hard to wipe out, plus some spellcasters with dark magic. Finally, there are the humans, who are not very physically strong but have the ability to organize effectively and have a mix of magic and physical attacks.

All of this fantasy stuff is about what I’d expect in a game of this sort: swords and sorcery, imaginary beasts, and so on. What I didn’t expect was the humor that’s present in the game, too. Each card has a little bit of flavor text at the bottom, totally incidental to gameplay, but a lot of fun to read. It reminds me of the little quotes from Zombie Ninja Pirates. Not every card’s text is funny, but a lot of it is. For instance, this text from a promo card for the Kaborha Heretic Fire Mage: “What’s worse than an 8 foot tall rhino creature chasing you? An 8 foot tall rhino creature chasing you ON FIRE!”

Conquest Tactics game in progress

Conquest Tactics game in progress. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Components:

The current incarnation of the game, what you’ll get on Kickstarter, comes with:

  • 3 starter decks (Kaborha, Malice, Human) of 68 cards each
  • 1 plastic Initiative gem
  • a bunch of small glass bead tokens in three colors
  • 1 game board
  • 4 additional promo cards

The box is a simple cardstock box, not really great, but I know this is one thing they’re planning on changing for the Kickstarter backers. However, as I mentioned before, because of the size of the game board, no matter how they design the box it’s going to be fairly sizeable with just a board and some cards and tokens in it. If they plan it right, they can build nicely organized room for expansions into the original box.

The gameboard is fairly large, enough to lay out 25 cards in an 5 x 5 grid, plus a border which includes a turn summary and a tactical points tracker for each player. The points tracker is a little tricky, though: they just include round glass beads for tracking points, and they’re not really the right size or shape for marking your position on a simple ruler.

Another note about the tokens: the instructions don’t actually say how to use these. In fact, they don’t even say that the big plastic gem is the initiative token, though we figured that out because there’s just one of them. The others, though, we just decided that one color was for 1 hit point, another color was for 5 hit points, and the third color we used for the tactical points trackers and to count victory points.

The decks of cards each come in their own tuckbox. For some reason, the tuckbox seems really tight for the number of cards in it: it’s like it’s made for about 64 cards, but the extra 4 cards squeezed in make it pretty hard to open and shut. I’m worried I’m going to tear off the lid, and I’ve considered just ditching the tuckboxes and using a rubber band instead.

ConquestTactics-skills

Skills and spells

The cards themselves are a pretty nice quality, with some great artwork. They’re mostly pretty easy to read and figure out: cost in the top right, health in the top left. Various icons indicate which troops can use which spells or skills, and there are icons and numbers across the bottom for attack, defense, and counterattack. The descriptive text right below the name of the card is a little small and can be hard to read depending on the background color.

For the most part I felt the cards were easy to understand and worked fine. However, the one thing that doesn’t work well is equipment. When you equip a weapon, say, to a troop, you tuck the card under the troop card, with the title showing. If a troop can carry more equipment, you have all the titles showing. But now your equipped troop doesn’t really fit into the rectangular space on the game board. More importantly, the text showing what the weapon actually does is printed on the bottom of the card, below the image — which means that until you have all your equipment effects memorized, you’ll just have to resort to picking up your troop cards often to see what they do.

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.