I backed Monolith’s Conan on Kickstarter what seems like a very long time ago. It was an ambitious project with beautiful artwork and a ton of miniatures. The game certainly grabbed my attention, along with many others’. It went on to be one of the most successful board game Kickstarter campaigns of all time. I just got my copy a few days ago and got to play the game for the first time.
Since I was the only one who had read the rulebooks I took on the task of being the Overlord, the Dungeon Master type role, in this asymmetrical game set in the world of Conan’s Hyboria. Trudi, John, and Alex took on the roles of Conan and his companions. We played the first mission in the campaign book.
I have played several asymmetrical board games, but none of them quite compared to being the Overlord in Conan. Most games of this type (especially featuring a campaign) have tons of rules and cards to wade through, but not so in Conan. The Overlord has a tray called the Book of Skellos that houses all of the enemies for the current scenario, and the components on the tray are determined by the scenario as well.
Being the Overlord required patience, anticipation, and unpredictability. Since the more often the Overlord activates a certain group of his troops the more expensive they become, timing is key. Sure, I wanted to activate my extremely powerful giant snake every turn, but it would have been impossible. Activated troops move to the back of the queue, and the further back the group is the more finite energy gems it takes to use them. If you let them wait however, they’ll slowly get pushed back into an affordable range.
The first mission felt a little like Pandemic for the heroes. I felt it even though I was playing against them. The task set before them was to kill a certain boss enemy, find a hidden princess, carry said princess off of the map, and to do all of this in a certain amount of time. Moves had to be planned out well ahead of time. The fact that the heroes were playing against a living player only compounded the already tight time constraint.
I polled the three folks who played with me after both of their failed attempts at completing the first mission. It was unanimous; they all very much enjoyed the game and would like to play it again. I certainly enjoyed my time as the Overlord and would love to take back up my evil mantle, as well as give being a hero a go.
If you enjoy games like Descent, D&D, Imperial Assault, or any other asymmetrical adventure games, Conan is definitely worth looking at. The system is easy to learn, not cumbersome at all, and most importantly – a lot of fun.