Overview: Conquest of Planet Earth recreates an alien invasion in the 1950s, but unlike Invasion From Outer Space, this time it’s on a larger scale. Instead of battling individual humans with your bubble-headed Martians, you take on entire locations at once, vying for domination. Although it’s been out for a while now — a new expansion has been announced but no release date yet — I hadn’t gotten to sit down and play it until recently.
Players: 1 to 4
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 30 to 90 minutes
Rating: Resistance is futile. A different direction than other Flying Frog games that I’ve played; can be a bit complicated but is fun if you get into the theme.
Who Will Like It? Fans of alien invasions … particularly if you like doing the invading. It has a lot of die-rolling so you’ll need to be okay with a high luck factor. There’s also lots of silly sci-fi humor, so if you love cheesy alien movies, this is right up your alley.
Conquest of Planet Earth throws in a lot of sci-fi tropes, mixing horror and humor (but probably a heavier emphasis on the humor.) For instance, the Menthalars pictured above are some sort of crustacean-looking alien, with long curly mustaches and the “Sinister” trait. Many of the cards have flavor text that’s not integral to the game but is quite funny. The “We Come in Peace” card (a “Treachery” event) lets you automatically win a fight, and the flavor text is “Works every time.” At the bottom of “Endless Waves,” which lets you respawn all of your destroyed aliens for free, it says “Parking might be a problem.” And sometimes you just get ridiculous cards like “Eating Kittens,” which shows a Trun warrior about to swallow a tiny kitten. It’s worth 2 Terror points.
I will note that, in keeping with schlocky sci-fi movies, there are some scantily-clad women in the form of the Venezian Matriarchy, an alien race of femme fatales wearing some sort of bikini armor. They appear on the alien race card and a few of the event cards.
- 5 game board sections
- 20 plastic miniatures (4 saucers in each color, 4 ally figures in grey)
- 70 Event cards
- 35 Resistance cards
- 25 Space Stuff cards
- 35 Location cards + 1 double-sided Objective location card
- 6 Human Tech cards
- 10 large Alien Race cards
- 1 large Resistance Phase card
- 16 small white six-sided dice (8 red, 8 white)
- 1 CD soundtrack
- piles of punch-out tokens (Alien Menace tokens, command counters, conquest markers, Demolished markers, and extras)
The quality of the components is comparable to other games by Flying Frog: the tokens, boards, and Alien Race cards are all made of sturdy cardboard with a glossy finish. They provide extra counters (not as many as in Last Night on Earth) for house rules or future scenarios. The cards are also thick and glossy, but as with their other games, they’re a little too stiff and stick to each other, making them hard to shuffle. The artwork for this game is illustrations rather than photos, somewhat cartoonish but not overly so, and it works well with the theme.
The plastic miniatures are fine, but I’m especially a fan of the giant robot and the Godzilla-like beast. The CD soundtrack (with original music by Mary Beth Magallanes) is a fun touch, with one track for each of the alien races and one for Captain Fantastic, the superhero. It is a little short, though, so you may have to put it on repeat if you don’t want it to run out before the end of the game.
There are a couple of ways to play Conquest of Planet Earth, competitive or cooperative — either you’re trying to get to 8 Terror points first, or you’re working together to hit a target number of Terror points overall before the humans build their Super Cannon and defeat the aliens. In competitive mode, you can also play a two-on-two team variant. Finally, if you’re sad and alone, you can play the solitaire game, which is basically like the cooperative mode but you control one to four alien races.
The rulebook is fairly lengthy and detailed, so you can check it out here. I’ll give a quick overview of how the competitive game works.
To set up, each player chooses an alien race and gets all of the associated pawns, Conquest markers, and Command counters (numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and D6). Each player also gets 1 Alien Menace token, and a number of Event cards equal to their Intelligence stat. You set up one center board with the Objective Location card in the center, and then one additional board for each player. The boards each have a logo in the center (these are the landing sites for the aliens) and six location spots around it.
Each player begins by choosing one of their available Command counters secretly, and then all reveal at once. The Command counter will indicate how many actions you will get for this turn (“D6” means you will roll a die). The player with the lowest number of commands goes first, and then play continues clockwise. Used command counters (except for the D6) are set aside, and you don’t get them back until all of them (except the D6) have been used.
Each player’s turn consists of three phases: Action, Battle, Draw.
Action: First, you ready any Activated (used) cards that you have. Then you can spend points to move aliens (1 point per space), spawn new aliens in your landing zone (1 point per alien, maximum 4 aliens at a time), buy Alien Menace tokens (2 points per token), or use Event cards. Some Event cards have a yellow Action point cost — you just pay the cost to play the Event.
Battle: This is when you fight the puny humans (or other Aliens, if you’ve moved into their spaces). If the space is empty, you draw a new Location card and place it there, and then resolve any battles that take place there. If there is already a Location that hasn’t been conquered, then you’ll fight a battle there as well as long as it has Resistance of at least 1. Finally, if you’re in a location with any other opponent’s Aliens, you’ll fight battles there.
For the human Resistance, basically you’ll fight a number of rounds equal to the Resistance value of the location (the number in the blue shield). You draw one Resistance card — if it says “Hero” on it then you keep drawing until you draw a non-Hero card. Heroes add strength to other Resistance cards and they can stack up. Some Resistance have special effects which you’ll need to resolve before you get to fight them. You roll a die, and an opponent rolls a die for the Resistance. You add your result to your total strength, which is your alien race’s Strength value multiplied by the number of saucers you have at the battle. Compare this to the total Resistance (their Strength plus the die roll). If you’re higher, you win the fight and defeat the Resistance (and then continue if there is more than one Resistance at that Location). If you’re lower, you lose one saucer and remove it from the board. If it’s a tie, nobody wins and you can fight again. Rolling a 6 is a “crushing victory” and is an automatic win even if the total strength value is less. Finally, after each fight round is resolved, you can retreat instead of continuing to fight. Once you’ve defeated all the Resistance in a Location, you get to place a Conquest marker on that spot, and you get points equal to the population (the number in the green icon).
Captain Fantastic is a special Resistance card — he’s Earth’s superhero, and he gets stronger the more aliens there are at a Location. Plus, after he’s defeated, he gets reshuffled back into the Resistance deck, ready to come fight again. That means that as you destroy more and more Resistance, Captain Fantastic is more likely to show up to a fight.
Draw: You can discard up to 1 Event card from your hand and then draw back up to your Intelligence level.
The game ends immediately when a player has reached 8 Terror Points.
Those are the basics; there are more rules for resolving fights between players, stealing unguarded conquests, and Resistance counters which can be played on the board, making those Locations harder to take over. Space Stuff cards are valuable technology or alien allies which are very useful for your cause.
In the cooperative game, all the aliens are working together to conquer the Earth. Your goal is to get a combined Terror points total of 8 times the number of players. There’s a Resistance Phase board with a Tech Track on it — as the humans move up on the tech track, they have the chance of developing new technology, making them stronger or giving them particular abilities — including Reverse Engineering your alien technology to use it against you.
In addition, some of the Event cards have a red area with text in them — at the beginning of the game these are separated from the deck and the Resistance will use them against the aliens. An example is the Atomic Bomb, which targets the space with the most aliens in it, destroys all the aliens in it, and then marks it “Demolished,” which makes it worth no points at all. In the cooperative game, there will also be a lot more Resistance counters (tokens) placed on the board, making it harder to take over locations and sometimes taking shots at your aliens if you’re too close.
If you’ve played any of Flying Frog’s other games, you’ll have a decent idea of what to expect: a game that’s packed with bits and cards, and is loaded with thematic elements. Like the others, I don’t think the actual mechanics of the game are what sells it, because the game is heavily dependent on card draws and dice rolls, and the set of rules can seem overly complicated for the type of game it is. That said, Flying Frog games are one of the few in which I’ll shelve my Eurogamer preferences and just have some Ameritrash fun.
Conquest of Planet Earth doesn’t use the same “game engine” as Last Night on Earth or Invasion From Outer Space, but the sensibilities are similar. You’ll spend a lot of time reading the cards the first time you play the game, but pretty soon you’ll become familiar with them enough to have favorites. (Or cards that you dread, like the Atomic Bomb.) One of my favorite mechanics is the way Captain Fantastic gets reshuffled back into the draw deck, because as the game progressed we had to face him more and more often. We joked that eventually the entire Earth population would be wiped out and Captain Fantastic would still be showing up to fight us, not realizing that there was nobody left to fight for. The cooperative game is pretty challenging but fun if you prefer working together rather than beating each other up, and the Resistance are programmed to behave in ways that can really throw a wrench in your plans.
Overall, this is one that I’d recommend to a gaming group that likes a loud, funny sci-fi experience, something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s probably not one for the serious game mechanics geek (though you never know — I still enjoyed it), and it won’t satisfy the hard sci-fi fan. But if you like the idea of giant robots, brain-sucking aliens, and teleportation pants, try your hand at Conquest of Planet Earth.
Wired: Hilarious sci-fi theme; sturdy components; Captain Fantastic!
Tired: Game mechanics aren’t incredibly deep; cards are stiff and hard to shuffle.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.