This is a review of Conquest of the Empire by Eagle Games. I'm a HUGE fan of Conquest of the Empire, and as such it is probably well overdue that I actually write a review on the game. Much of this will be written in relation to the Original Conquest of the Empire that came out in relation to the Classic rules. On the otherhand, the Conquest of the Empire II rules are a completely different game and have more comparisons to the Classic rules included. Overall, despite how it sounds, it scores quite highly. It's summary is as follows
Materials - 9
Rules Presentation - 7
Gamplay - 7
Personal Tilt - 10
Replayability - 10
Useability - 8
Final Score - 8.5
Materials - The materials on this revision of the old Classic Conquest of the Empire are top notch. The materials for the game are even better then the original, and that says a lot. Eagle games typically has some great stuff for it's games and this one is no different. Each player has their own set of colored soldiers this go around, along with cavalry, catapults and galleys. Also included are plastic cities and their fortifications as well as plastic roads to mark connections. Even better, the money comes in LARGE plastic coins that are a blast to pile up in hordes in front of you or clink together as you amass your wealth. Of course you'll have to spend these riches much to your sad dismay as you watch your lightly taxed income go away in place of cities and armies. The board is massive, and typically has large enough areas to fit your armies, however, just like the original there are certain areas which simply are not large enough to fit everything inside their borders. You'd think with a larger map that it would be easier, but everything else is also larger, and hence makes similar problems with making everything fit occur. It also has nice thick cardboard chits to mark your territories as well as tons to use in the second game included within the box. It also has cards to use with the second game, but these are the exception to all of the high quality things you get. The cards are rather thin and flimsy, though they do what they are intended. Overall, though the cards are a slight disappointment with their durability, overall the game has exceptional materials.
It scores a 9.
Rules Presentation - The rules are colorful and straight forward. Perhaps it's because I'm used to the game play of the old game, and familiar with some specific games upon which the Conquest of the Empire II rules are based upon, but I found the rules rather easy to understand. There isn't anything especially spectacular in their presentation, but it's well enough written and concise enough to read the rules and play in one night. It is neat that there is MORE than ONE rulebook in the box. This is because there are two games included in the box. One which is a remake of the original Conquest of the Empire, and the other a completely new game with more similarities to a totally different game than the original Conquest of the Empire. Both are presented in nicely put together rulebooks with easy to read text. Overall the rules presentation is what I would hope and expect.
It scores a 7,
Gameplay - Now this is probably the hardest part to rate on this Game as there isn't just one game in this box, there are two. As such, I'd say the quality of gameplay is raised in some ways simply due to added options of play. Of course, it is made more complex since the two games really have NOTHING to do with each other and are completely different games. The only similarities are the theme and combat mechanic.
In the Classic rules, you have the remake of the original game. Overall it's a fun game much like the original with a civ lite approach to ancient warfare. There is only really one MAJOR difference, but it's a BIG enough difference to actually change how the game flows, but more on that later. Other than that major mechanic (which is the combat system) there are only minor changes to the rules, some dealing with the costs of items, amongst other small rule modifications. The costs aren't all that different, and in fact are very close, small enough to really not make much of a difference. The economic track is still in full force as in the original. However, you have only four generals and a Caesar to play with in your collection of playing pieces. There are also additional rules for placement that can change some of the strategies built upon where you start as a nation, and some of the monies you collect from territories have changed. Overall, except for combat it plays mostly like the original.
In contrast the other rules, or Conquest of the Empire II, are NOT a Civ Lite game. They are more a political game where you are collecting cards and moving armies around to gain influence on territories. Unlike the original where one person can be in a territory at a time, you can collect influence from an area one turn and another the next, and be contesting politically who will get the points for a territory. It's more of a person to person interaction with bluffing, bargaining, and all the full forums of a political maneuvering game. This game style will appeal more to the Eurogamer types out there.
Both are area control type games, but the dynamics in which area control is decided are very different. One is more of an influence over a territory (Conquest of the Empire II) whilst the other one is more of a war to gain a territory (Classic Rules).
The major item that is similar between them is the combat mechanic. Supposedly this was created to try to balance the original combat rules because some people felt that it was imbalanced (an opinion which I won't ignore, but don't completely agree with). The downside is that for the Classic rules, the new combat mechanic in MY OPINION is even MORE broken. The reason for this is that the costs don't correlate to the value of a combat piece. The game takes a dynamic similar to Attack!, for those familiar with that game. Basically it tries to create an total force concept. However this model cheapens the worth of pieces whilst trying to force one to include one of every type of piece in their army. So, an infantry hits on 2/6 sides of the dice, a cavalry on 1/6 of the sides of the dice, a catapult on 1/6 the sides of the dice, and a galley on 1/6 side of the dice. The idea is that if you have several types of pieces, say an Infantry, a Cavalry and a Catapult, then you would have 2/6+1/6+1/6 chances to hit or a 4/6 chances to hit. The problem that comes into play in the original game is that a catapult costs so MUCH in comparison to an infantry. Someone may say, hey you pay for that with the increased chances to hit. However, whilst someone saves up for a catapult they'll literally be overrun by Infantry in the early game, and since Infantry hit far easier anyways, it makes catapults almost worthless if one wants to survive the beginning portions of the game. This becomes even more prominent with the more players one has. Sure it get's rid of the catapult complaints by basically making it almost worthless to try to get one. This of course is my opinion, but overall, due to this everyone ends up smashing infantry with the occasional cavalry, and anyone who goes for something different, get's slaughtered. Catapults really just aren't good sense. They don't add enough to anyone's army to be worth investing in, even in the later portions. Furthermore, sea combat is really just involving the galleys and their rolls, which ends up making sea combat faster....and more deadly, but not really as involved as with the original. The biggest problem with the implementation of the combat mechanic really has NOTHING to do with the mechanic itself, which is a good mechanic, but more to do with how large a price difference there are between pieces. Because of the price difference, it makes it so that there really is only one piece really worth investing in for combat, all others are merely worthless unless you want to get overrun. Occasionally someone will pull of a catapult but catapults now are uncommon game pieces.
However, this combat mechanic works wonderfully in Conquest of the Empire II. As I said, the mechanic itself is great, the implementation into the economy is what was broken in their Classic remake. In Conquest of the Empire II, the reason the combat mechanic works is that the prices for pieces are closer. This makes a WORLD of difference. It's far more enjoyable to buy and use catapults when you aren't spending the price of half an army on one (as in the Classic version, and then see it overrun anyways by a slew of infantry). The reason is that the prices overall aren't as gigantic an impact upon what you buy as far as your army pieces go. It makes the combat mechanic far smoother and easier to run. In fact for Conquest of the Empire II I couldn't imagine using the rules found in the Original (as in the Milton Bradley version), that would truly feel broken in comparison to how smoothly and enjoyably the new combat mechanic works in Conquest of the Empire II.
So, in my opinion to rectify the brokeness of the mechanic in the Classic Rules found in Eagle games, simply use the prices found in the second rulebook for Conquest of the Empire II, and it starts to balance out much more nicely...ALL IN MY OPINION of course.
Now don't get me wrong, the Classic rules included are STILL fun, but have that broken feel about them like getting robbed the first time you try to build a catapult in a highly aggressive game. It may not be as terrible in a game where everyone turtles instead of goes for the kill. I would say, overall, as far as the rules go, if you want to play the original Game, you really have two good options. You can download and use the ORIGINAL combat rules from the Milton Bradley version, OR adapt the new classic rules to use the prices found in Conquest of the Empire II rules for your Infantry, Cavalry, and Catapults.
Overall, the Conquest of the Empire II rules feel more playtested and are the better rules in this box. In fact the difference of the two in how nice they feel is different enough to make the rating rather hard to give. I'd say the Classic rules are probably rated a 6 due to the combat mechanic's economics, whilst it would rate an 8 or 9 for Conquest of the Empire II.
In that light I'll probably take the middle ground and give it a score of 7.
Personal Tilt - Overall, I'm a huge fan of Conquest of the Empire. Moreso the original than this set, but still, this set is still AWESOME. It is more than easy to download the original rules from BGG if you lack them and use the pieces of Eagle Games to play the original with the slightly modified board...or at least use the combat mechanic from the original. That in and of itself makes this game awesome. However, add to that fact that you ALSO get a second game in the box just for the heck of it and it makes it even better! Personally, this is a GREAT value, and awesomeness is just the beginning of the description.
Obviously, if you can tell from my response, my personal Tilt is similar to this game as it was for the original.
It rates a 10.
Replayability - There is not just one game, but TWO in this box, and that by itself should double the replayability. I thought the original game had a great replayability for the game, but add to that the second game in the box and you basically max out this score. YOu can switch between the two as you wish, and each have a great deal of replay value. To me this is another area where the game scores well.
It scores a 10.
Useability - The original Conquest of the Empire was rather limited in some of it's audience, I believe that this audience is greatly increased with the inclusion of the second game. It expands the game to be able to be enjoyed by many of those who would normally shun lite Wargames, but who enjoy more political Eurogames. However, Conquest of the Empire II rules are not the simplest in the world, and new gamers might not particularly enjoy some of the finer mechanics at first. For more experienced gamers, they should be able to pick up the second set of rules quickly though, and should at least be able to enjoy it for a night or two of gaming...and probably more than that. So it still wouldn't have what I would call perfect useability, or useable for every group, however it's useability is much greater than that of the original.
I'd rate the useability around a 7 or 8, so will probably err on the air of generosity and give it an 8.
Final Score would be an 8.5
Despite what I said about the combat mechanic, and at length, I should note that this game probably has one of the highest ratings I've ever given in a review. Furthermore, this game actually scores a full point HIGHER than the original, which I might add I love. It's not really that much of a mystery considering that there is an entirely separate game packaged in with it that adds considerably to just about all dimensions of this game's value. In fact, with the prices that I've seen it going for recently (in the first half of 2009) I'd say this game is one of the BEST values out there. If you call yourself a gamer, run, don't walk...heck SPRINT, forget the running, to wherever you can get this gem and buy it before it runs out and prices go up. This is probably what I would consider one of the greatest gems from the Eagle Games era. Many would say Railroad Tycoon, which incidentally is rated higher on BGG as of late...BUT overall I WOULD say this game if FAR BETTER for the value it provides. If you like Civ Lite games with a concentration on lite Warfare, OR you like political area control Eurogames, this is one that you should NOT pass up. I really can't say enough good things about this game, though you're already probably starting to tire of my gushing on about it. So I'll leave you with this, to me this is the finest board game that Eagle Games came out with, a great homage to the original, as well as a Great game in it's own right.
My understanding is, though I have not played Conquest of the Empire, the so-called second game rules or "euro" version is based upon the Martin Wallace game Struggle of Empires (which I have played and very much enjoy).
Thanks for the review GreyLoad, excellent!
GreyLord - Glad that you too love this awesome game. When I say "this" awesome game, I'm actually referring to "Conquest II" (aka CotE2), as opposed to "Conquest Classic," the second set of rules and "2nd game" included in the box. I have written at some length about my game group's enthusiasm for CotE2, we have played five times now, every time with six players and have truly enjoyed the experience. We have made minor "house rules" changes to CotE2 but in our opinion they do not substantially change the flavor of the game. With Conq-Classic however, there is an entirely different story. It seems as though this was a hastily thrown together after-thought wityhout much real attention given to it. In that regard two of my fellow game group guys and I have met twice for a couple of hours each time to re-write Conq-Classic: mainly to revise the combat mechanics, land and sea, and a few other items. We haven't finished. Essentially we do not feel that Conq-Classic is worth our time to play as it is presented "out-of-the-box." The combat mechanics are poorly designed, and the intriguing parts of Conq-Original such as combat units can never stand alone without leaders (only 4 generals are included per color/player set in Conq-Classic vs the six that were included per color/player set in Conq-Original), are lost in Conq-Classic, as well as the "race to inflate" since now every player gets one final round of purchasing before inflation hits.
What I was hoping for with Conq-Classic was simply the same game as Conq-Original with the heinous combat mechanic of Conq-Original fixed. I did not get that sadly. One horrible combat system, that of Conq-Original, was replaced by a slightly less inferior one in Conq-Classic, no meaningful improvement.
To end on a positive note, Conquest II, which I also abbreviate as "CotE2," is just an outstanding game with balance, originality, and virtually limitless replayability.
Have more fun playing CotE2!!