Certainly it’s no secret that I am a HUGE fan of the Conan universe and IP, consider that full disclosure in this review- not that I would give the game a pass for that, but rather a more critical review because of that.
Don’t you dare slap Conan on the box and deliver a sub-par experience.
Naturally the components- boards, miniatures, tokens, and dice are all top notch and very theme like so we are going to skip right to the review and ask the question does this game deliver the Conan experience as legions of other reviews and video unboxings can highlight the bling.
Before that, I feel that a few expectations need to be managed first as to what the game actually is.
Tactically we have a bunch of miniatures with the players each controlling a hero in the universe, and an overlord controlling the minions and any boss figures in the game. Right away one wants to draw comparisons from the many overlord-type games out there like Descent, etc. In these games the overlord is against the players, but they are also there to deliver a story, and set the adventure narrative.
With Conan the experience is actually more of a tactical miniatures game, only with a one vs. many focus. The overlord is there to play their miniatures against the players- not set up a game master story, or unfold the dungeon as the players explore.
100% it is all blood and guys with the Conan theme music pumping in the background.
Gameplay is bloody, fast, and furious for both sides…
…which is captured through a few VERY unique game features.
The first is how the players interact and activate.
At the start of the players turn, there is no set order, or number of actions you can take. There is no player 1 moves, player 1 attacks, player 2 moves, player 2 attacks, etc. All the players can do as much or as little as they want at any time during the turn. This leads to some VERY intense player interaction.
You can run Conan up and cut down two dudes, pause while the player controlling Shevatas tosses a throwing knife at a wolf, followed back to Conan who breaks through a door, back to Shevatas, etc.
There is also a unique level of character complexity in the game that is often only fond in miniature skirmish games. You can run, jump, even manipulate objects to throw stuff, opens stuff, pass it to another player- all in real time in the game.
Player actions are dynamically controlled through a resource gem system: You start the turn with a number of action gems. Performing actions uses up games. Take damage, you lose gems. Each turn you get a few gems back depending on what you are doing. Ameritrash feel, combined with euro resource management.
On the Overlord side there are a few neat surprises also…
You have a dashboard panel with your units that can be activated based on a similar gem-resource-management system. Activate a unit, and slide it down to the end of the board, bumping up other units for less cost. Add to this the ability to burn gems to get re-rolls, additional movement, and other actions suddenly turning the minions in the game into very tactical and nimble pieces in the game.
THIS is the REAL strength of the game- the ability to play a high level miniatures skirmish game in feeling, distilled down to the easy-to-understand mechanics of a board game.
Conan: Board game or miniatures skirmish game?