Review: Conan Board Game

  • February 3, 2017
  • James Skemp
  • review

The following is a review of the Conan board game, received as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Amazing Components, Unique Gameplay, for Dedicated Players/Fans

Recently I started really getting into the second edition of Descent, where a single player plays as the overload, and up to four other players take on the roles of adventures in either one-off missions or as part of a larger campaign.

So when I had the opportunity to try out the new Conan Board Game, I leapt on the chance. For that reason, I’ll be focusing my review on a comparison between the two.

The Conan Board Game (henceforth just Conan) is based upon the original character of Robert E. Howard, not the comparatively newer series of movies. This means you can expect to see artwork appropriate for Howard’s works, and you won’t see anything resembling Schwarzenegger in the beautiful artwork.

Descent, on the other hand, is set in the Runebound Universe, but is ultimately a fairly ‘generic’ fantasy land, with the story coming from the games themselves.

On the one hand Descent is a little easier to get into for this reason, however, not knowing the Robert E. Howard stories doesn’t negatively impact Conan, and for fans, it may actually make the game easier to enjoy.

Both Conan and Descent offer play for two to five players, with one player being the overlord who controls all the monsters/enemies that the heroes (other players) fight against. However, Descent does offer a free app for phones, as well as paid expansions, that allows one to four players to play cooperatively. There are also a number of free variants online that involve printing cards to serve as the overlord. At this time Conan offers no such single player, or cooperative, variants.

For the components we have the player characters and monsters, tokens, and the tiles or boards that the game is played on.

Characters and monsters for both Conan and Descent consist of small plastic models, which in both cases are of great quality. I think Descent edges out slightly when it comes to character model detail, with Conan models being a little smooth, but monsters for both games are quite detailed. Conan’s models are generally larger in size, but for both games the scale seems to be pretty good, with models from each game being relatively within scale.

Conan uses small round discs to help differentiate between different groups and classes of enemies. Descent, on the other hand, uses different colors, with more powerful enemies being red, and normal enemies being white.

Both Conan and Descent use tokens for various needs within the game. In both cases the tokens are pretty much the same, so nothing much to note about differences for these.

The boards are where things are quite different. In Conan we have two absolutely beautifully done boards, with fantastic artwork on both sides. These truly shine. Which isn’t to say that Descent’s tiles aren’t pretty, but they’re definitely more generic. Yet, this is part of why they work as well as they do, since Descent uses interlocking tiles instead of set boards to create the maps. Combined with an online tool to create your own scenarios (or just creativity), Descent definitely wins when it comes to versatility, since the tiles can be combined in a multitude of ways, while the Conan boards must be use as-is. (Of note is that one scenario for Conan does only use half one board, with the rest coming into play in a later scenario.)

Gameplay for both games is relatively the same, with the overlord controlling the various enemies and each other player playing one or more hero characters. Since the game is called Conan, choosing who plays as Conan might be a bit of an issue. With Descent, instead, there are different characters and classes that can be used, which fits certain play styles, but no one character necessarily stands out.

Conan features an action point system where actions cost points to do, with some points restored each turn. With Descent each character and enemy has two set actions that they can do, from a determined listing of possible actions. Conan’s action point system is actually pretty unique and interesting.

If you’re a fan of Conan, and you’re interested in the gameplay, and can wrangle two to five players, then Conan may be exactly what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for a game of this type, however, Descent seems to, currently, provide a good deal more customization and out-of-the-box scenarios than Conan. Conan may eventually get to the same point, especially since there were so many additional components in the Kickstarter that could eventually be released as expansions.

By itself, Conan is quite the experience, with beautiful boards and components. But keeping the price in mind, and the current lack of expansions, you might want to look at other options if you’re a big fan of the Conan tales. Ultimately I give Conan four of five stars.