Sunday, July 31, 2016

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest: A head-to-head battle for distant planets

Posted By on Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 9:21 AM

click to enlarge NATE WARREN
  • Nate Warren
You’ll be forgiven for thinking what’s pictured here looks none too exciting. Just a bunch of cards, right?

Wrong. These are two factions locked in pitched battle for planets in a far-flung sector of the ludicrous and — if you are secretly 12 years old, like me — alluring universe of Warhammer 40,000.

Warhammer 40,000: Conquest puts its own spin on head-to-head strategy games like Magic: The Gathering by letting two players fight a head-to-head battle using decks of cards, each one with unique abilities that can be played at the right time or in concert with other cards to clobber your opponent.

The neat part? Unlike Magic, the makers of W40K Conquest followed the template of their other living card games (LCGs); all the army decks are available to the entire market and are released in identical sets, meaning that your kids don’t have to go broke snapping up booster packs in hopes of getting rare or unique cards.

This game sold out at Gamer’s Haven so fast two years ago that I never even got my reserved copy. A year later, I snagged one and recently spent an afternoon trying it out with two buddies. There was a nine-pound brisket in the smoker, plenty of beer and plenty of time to explore the wrinkles of this game. Yeah, we were messing a bunch of stuff up and having to check the rulebooks all the time, but we still knocked out several games that afternoon. (Since so much of what happens is determined by the ability of each card, we were always getting into weird situations that the basic rules didn’t seem to cover.)

Learning a game can be more fun than mastering it. We were in the ecstatic throes of discovery, trying our hand at commanding the six armies that come with the base set: Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tau and Imperial Guard, each one with unique cards that enable different strategies. (Once the vanilla decks get dull, there’s a guide to customizing them. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Look at all the expansions Fantasy Flight has put out since the game’s release.)

As commander of one of these factions, it’s your job to contest your opponent for control of a series of planets in the middle of the table. You take turns deploying various units and assets to one of five available planets, resolving battles and claiming victories until you’ve won battles on three planets with a matching symbol, you’ve killed your opponent’s warlord card or your opponent has exhausted his or her deck.

The fun started after we’d gotten our heads around the basic mechanics and began to discover some of the sneaky crap you can pull with these cards — and how much nuance an experienced player could put into his or her approach. We were like cubs in our first springtime, charging over one hillock only to see a new vista each time. We probably got six or seven games in. (Some of our matches were over in 20 minutes, which gave us ample opportunity to try a different army or play the same army with a slightly refined approach.)

Am I any good at this game? No. I suck. But I do know I’m going to play the bejeezus out of this thing every chance I get. If you have a head count of two and a few afternoons figuring out the wrinkles, W40K Conquest has a huge amount of strategic variety and brisk gameplay to offer.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.

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