Monday, 30 March 2009

Replayablility and Reviews

There seems to be a shortage of good Age of Conan reviews, right now. Having now played the game as three of the four kingdoms, I can say some things about it, but not that much. Maybe the game is too "deep" to allow quick quality reviews.

On the surface Age of Conan looks like a Risk variant. Underneath that layer is a game about converting resources into victory points. You essentially have three types of resources: Conan bid tokens, cards, and the fate dice.

Conan bid tokens (plus a strategy card) convert to control of Conan (assuming you win the auction). Control of Conan gives you access to adventure tokens (which can be kept for potential end game scoring or converted to money/sorcery), Conan's aid in battle, and ability to drop raider tokens (negative points and/or make neutrals harder to take).

Fate dice let you do 4 things: move emissaries (main source of gold in the game), move armies (main source of VP in the game), get cards (which make your other actions more efficient), or effect Conan (either by dropping raiders, shortening the adventure track or moving Conan more quickly to his destination).

And cards (as I claimed earlier) aid your efficiency. Increasing your odds in dice contests, giving you special powers to sway events in your favor, and so on (I'm not that familiar with Stygia's deck so I'll keep things vague).

I am familiar with Aquilonia, Turan, and Hyperborea. I know what most of my opponents have hidden in their kingdom decks. I am not surprised when Turan plays Sultan's Gold (for example).

But all of this still feels like the surface of the game. I'd need a lot more plays to see how it all pans out. All these fun plays are just me getting a handle on the strategy and tactics allowed by the game.

I've tried a game where I tried to control Conan via lots of card draws (for the auction), tried a cash strategy (doesn't do much unless you have play on the table cards to fuel), and even tried a military only approach. Each has some merit and I don't think there is an optimal path through the game.

Multiple paths to victory and all that.

Maybe the reason there are so few good reviews of Age of Conan out there is that the game takes time to learn and enjoy (which is true of teaching and individual sessions). Maybe that level of depth will give Age of Conan a level of replayability that most new games lack.

But those new games do get quick quality reviews. Oh well.

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