Recently released from Para Bellum, Conquest, The Last Argument of Kings (or just Conquest) is a new unit-based wargame set in the world of Ea. A few of the other folks here had a chance to catch up with Para Bellum at UKGE and were very impressed by what they saw. Although I didn’t make it to UKGE, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a copy for review. It’s a big weighty box, so lets see what’s inside…
Whats in the box!?
A lot. Seriously though, there’s no padding or filler. Opening the lid you are accosted by a huge stack of plastic, some cards, a nice handy-sized rulebook, and of course, ubiquitous d6. A special note of mention for the box art here. It wonderfully captures the dark fantasy tone which remains at a consistently high quality throughout.
In total the box contains sixty-nine miniatures of various types (infantry, cavalry, and monsters) for two factions; the Hundred Kingdoms, and the Spires. Although not push fit, these models are easy to assemble as I’ll discuss below. I’ll have to assume that if you buy this as a wargame you’ll have some modelling tools and glue handy but if not, they are a necessity. This is definitely not a “play straight out of the box” deal.
Rules of Battle
The core rules themselves have been designed by none-other than River Horse Studio’s Alessio Cavatore. As such, one would expect a fairly tight, well-explained ruleset. In that request, Conquest delivers in spades. Split into basic and advanced, the rules are an easy read and similarly easy to pick up. Top marks for plenty of diagrams, cutaways and explanatory text.
The basic mechanic is roll a number of d6 and compare against a target number i.e. tally up your ‘attacks’ and roll that many dice. Check how many roll equal or less. Then your opponent/sworn enemy rolls a number of dice equal to your ‘hits’ and is looking for results equal or lower than their defense. There’s obviously modifiers and such but the guts of the game should be easy enough to pick up.
Tactics > Buckets of Dice
Although individually based, the miniatures operate as units and each group of miniatures comes with sabot style bases to enable this. Being based on round bases and then edged ‘unit bases’ means even someone as blunder-prone as myself cant fail to rank up models properly. Now, despite this being a massed battle army game, Conquest actually plays pretty quick. It’s not basic, lite or fast play rules. Units can seem to zip around a fair bit and movement is relatively fluid. Despite this, units do have limitations and you need to do some forward planning. Movement and facings are important as units don’t just operate like blobs of skirmish troops.
That planning is heightened by use of a command deck and reinforcements. Where most army games have you set up your chosen forces opposite each other with either an IGOUGO set up or some convoluted fog of war simulation, Conquest takes a different approach. Not all of your units will be available at the start of the game! Dont fret, they’ll appear over the course of the battle. Some may dislike this method as it’s disheartening to suffer from poor rolls preventing your lovely painted models appearing. Whilst they can be delayed by dice, troops do eventually automatically turn up so your plans can only ever be delayed in a worst case scenario.
Command and Activation
Next up, let’s talk about the command deck. Each unit you bring will have an associated card. At the start of each turn you put these cards into an order unbeknownst to your opponent. You then alternate in taking turns to reveal your next card and activate that unit. It’s similar in function to other games I’ve played and on the whole I’m a fan of the mechanic. It adds a certain unpredictability and forces you to react rather than just focus on your game plan. What was it about the best laid plans of mice and men? I’ve added examples of the unit cards below and these give further examples of the wonderful colour art present throughout.
When a unit is activated, it gets the opportunity to perform two actions. There’s a list of these but essentially it’s things like march or charge, shoot, or strike blows. Seems simple, right? My initial thoughts are that there’s a deceptive depth to the tactical options available. Looking through some of the advanced rules such as characters and additional event cards, the core mechanics are merely the engine to drive the gears of war.
The Hundred Kingdoms
After the great cataclysm that was the Fall, the remnants of humanity suffered greatly during the long winter. In the decades and centuries that followed, rebuilding has taken place but the glory of old is long now lost. The team have allowed players a wide berth to design and add their own touches to their forces. As a Hundred Kingdoms player you could be fielding a mercenary company out for plunder and profit. Maybe a valiant force of city state defenders is more your thing? Of course, you could even be fielding the tattered remnants of a noble family or warriors of the Church. Either way, you’ll have a good start with the unit of men-at-arms, crossbowmen, and knights here.
Dotted throughout the bleak landscape are cyclopean towers stretching thousands of feet into the air. For the commoner, these are the source of myth and nightmare. The more learned are aware of the disturbing truth…
The spires are home to the remnants of a vast civilisation that spanned the stars. Originally setting on Ea millennia ago as pioneers and scientists, some calamity also befell these explorers. Refugees began to pour towards this new land before being halted by the actions of a few. With superior technology and a dying empire, the forces of the Spires can call upon vat grown clones and flesh-crafted monstrosities to get their points across.
Whats on these frames then?
Para Bellum’s Conquest uses a nominal 35mm scale. I say nominal as it’s difficult when one is considering lumbering flesh golems and monstrous abominations. I’ve added pictures of a lot of the frames below to give an indication of what you get.
As they are all the same standard size frame some end up looking a little ’empty’. Whilst it might have been possible to condense these down, I appreciate that to sell separately it’s probably a far easier option than retooling.
In the past when confronted by a box set like this, I’ve attacked it like a kid at Christmas. Clippers in-hand, there have been bits flying right, left, and centre to get everything assembled and stuck in. As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I take a more sedate approach and ensure I don’t lose anything. My original plan was to assemble these unit by unit. To make sure I could show of a range of figures though, I put together three contrasting miniatures.
The parts were easy to snip off the frames and clean up. There were some mould lines but the plastic used meant they were easy to remove. I didn’t see any instructions (which would have been useful) but despite the variation available from the joint design, there weren’t many ways for me to muck up. Well, you can judge from the pics below.
You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
I’m of an age where 28mm is what I consider ‘normal’ gaming figure territory (I’m not counting 6/10/15mm scale figures here). I’ve played against older folks who honed their craft on 25mm and now you’ll hear heroic or 32mm scale as the go to. With these being bigger still, I need to be honest and say I found them daunting. That said, the more I worked with them, the more I enjoyed the scale that Conquest offers. The larger figures are truly imposing and I think they’ll take the paint very well.
Whilst big army games would not be my usual choice for a game night (I’m more of a skirmish gamer at heart), there are a lot of neat touches in the rules which I’m eager to try. With the figures themselves being relatively easy to clean up and assemble, it shouldn’t be too long before I have everything ready to test out with a few friends. As I mentioned regarding scale, it’ll be interesting to see if this ends up being better for my painting skill (or lack thereof!). Keep an out for my follow-up and thoughts once I’ve got a couple of games under my belt.
It’s a great feeling to get in on a game early as the setting grows. The community engagement from Para Bellum seems really proactive and I hope this continues. If you’ve any thoughts on Conquest please leave a comment below or join us over on the Facebook page.