I understand that the games are popular and even fun but I am very much oriented towards things and would much prefer to spend my funds on plastic, particularly when I know exactly what my money is buying. Warhammer 40,000 Conquest is however a card game and I have bought it.
Firstly, I have not changed my opinion of card games such as Magic the Gathering. Secondly, it was something as simple as slapping 40K on the box that interested me enough to buy it though that was not the only reason. Fantasy Flight Games have a proven track record of producing quality games, even if they cannot get their distribution sorted out.
Being a living card game means that all the cards that you will need to play the game are included. No buying endless blind packs to find the best cards, you already have them. Because of this the game is tightly balanced as each deck is more or less pre-built so everyone has a chance regardless of the race they end up selecting. Also expansion packs that are released, there are already several out for Conquest, are complete and ready to use as well as being balanced to use against the existing decks. It is a finite game that can be as big or small as you want.
The game is set in the Traxis sector somewhere in the galactic east (it needs to be to include the Ultramarines and Tau) where seven forces are arrayed against one another for dominance. You select a deck and battle your opponent for control of seven planets, the first player to capture three planets with a similar resource which is split into three categories; materiel, strongpoint and tech.
Each force is led by a warlord who is one of the most powerful cards, able to deal out the pain and take a lot of damage in return. Each warlord also has a special ability to aid their side’s battles for control of the individual planets.
To play each player must create a hand which will contain cards which fall into the following categories:
* Unit cards represent squads, vehicles and unique characters or assets that will be your armies. They are used to conquer planets and will be the cards that will battle with your opponent.
* Attachment cards are either wargear or allies that improve the performance of your units.
* Support cards are generally locations that you can play during turns to influence the outcomes or help your units.
* Event cards are played to affect your or your enemies units and can range from healing your side, damaging the enemy or returning discarded cards to your deck amongst others.
* Token cards are not part of a player’s hand but are required when triggered by other cards. They represent additional forces or effects.
During a turn only the planet designated the first planet can be captured by a side to add to their victory tally but that doesn’t mean that players will want to throw all their units onto this world.
Each planet has a special ability or offers additional resources and cards for your hand. Control of these will swing the battle in either player’s favour. There are four phases when playing the game.
1. Deploy; players take it in turns to spend resources to deploy units to the planets in play as well as add attachments, play relevant events or activate support cards.
2. Command; the command phase represents the strategic element of the campaign. This is where the players first secretly deploy their warlord to one of the planets and then struggles for command of the different planets with units on them. Once the warlord is deployed the command points of the cards in play are tallied and the side with the highest gains access to the planets special ability or additional resources. Some are also shield cards that can be discarded to negate damage.
3. Combat; players take turns in playing units on a planet until all units have been exhausted. At this point the units attack and defend in order to be the only units left remaining.
4. Headquarters; this is the housekeeping phase where the first planet is designated and players refresh their hands and resources.
Each of the decks represents a race and these have their own particular styles of play.
Dark Eldar - Warlord Packmaster Kith; The Dark Eldar have abilities that rout and exhaust enemy cards plus other offer up other debilitating effects. They have high attack ratings and can bolster their forces with Khymerae token cards.
Eldar - Eldorath Starbane: the Eldar’s psychic powers offer them buffs to their units. They have a lot of cards that allow them to outmanoeuvre and disrupt the enemy.
Tau - Commander Shadowsun; the Tau have some dual purpose units that can also be attachments to bolster active units as well as having more attachments than the other races. They also benefit from a lot of event cards.
Chaos - Zarathur High Sorceror; the Chaos deck has a lot of events that deal damage to the enemy. They can bolster their expensive and powerful units with cultist tokens that can be used to attack or sacrificed for bonuses to those units.
Orks – Nazdreg; Ork units deal lots of damage with plenty of attachments to increase it still further. They have few shield cards but have access to grot tokens that can flood the enemy. They do suffer from poor command.
Ultramarines - Cato Sicarius; Space Marines are very resilient and have access to one of the most powerful cards, Exterminatus which is an event that will destroy all non-unique units on a planet.
Imperial Guard - Colonel Straken; the Imperial Guard have a lot of support cards as well as cheap units with high command.
Allen and I played a game of Conquest, initially trying to get our heads round the rules as I in particular am not very familiar with playing card games. At first the whole thing seemed very simple and potentially boring but as we got more used to it a wealth of tactical possibilities opened up, beyond Allen playing Exterminatus on the Orks that is (sore loser talk that is - what else are you gonna do with Greenskin filth?! - Al). We both enjoyed it and I am looking forward to a rematch as well as trying out the other decks and their different play styles. Recommended.