February 23, 2012

Conquest in a Box 2

Okay, I can now give a play report of Conquest of Nerath, having tried it firsthand.

Play was much as I expected, with a few surprises.
–Dungeons are hard to take. Venturing into one with a single hero is a risky proposition; I found it much safer to cross the threshold with two, preferably wizards because of their first strike capability. (As in MAGIC, First Strike is pretty powerful in this game.)
–Dragons, as expected, are fierce opponents, but (unless I'm missing something) using a dragon to attack an area with a single enemy counter is an instant win because of the dragon's toughness.

So how did the actual game go, you ask? Pretty good. I got the Iron Circle (goblins), in random draw, which are very balanced and would have been my first choice. Play was very even until a mistake by the Elf player opened up his flank to his nearest neighbor ... then it was quickly over.

I only have two criticisms:

1) Play seems a bit simple.
Somehow RISK 2210 seems to have more varied ways to win, Despite the racial differences and card differences, our gameplay was very similar. There were also many repeat cards. Larger card decks with more variety would have been welcome.

2) What I affectionately call Four Corner Syndrome.
Certain games, such as Nerath or Age of Mythology, make it easier to attack those players sitting on either side of you. In our game the Elf player made an all-out attack early on that failed badly, and he lost many troops. The result was a wide open field for the Karkoth player. because the medium-length game rewards taking undefended spaces the same as defended spaces, the Karkoth player just plowed through miles of near-empty territory and won the game. I was doing fine on the other side of the board, and army for army I'm confident I could have beaten the Dark Empire in a head-on conflict, but because I was all the way across the board I didn't have time to prevent his victory. This left a our taste in my mouth, which had nothing to do with sour grapes. I played well, and I'd play that way largely again, yet I lost.
There are probably similar situations in RISK 2210, yet that game only rewards taking opposed countries, and I think that's the important difference. If Nerath only rewarded taking occupied enemy areas, it would make for a fairer (albeit longer) game.

I also found myself wishing that heroes could "level up" in some fashion, like the leaders in Shogun/Samurai Swords. Winning a certain number of battles and/or surviving a dungeon should count toward a slow leader progression of some sort.

Overall, Conquest of Nerath is a solid game and I'd recommend it, giving it a B+ score. If you like RISK and similar "men on the board games" you will like Nerath,
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