Planechase

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com and, if you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that I recently bought myself the Planechase Anthology box that came out at the end of last year. (If you don’t follow me there, why not?!) While I don’t always like to have a glut of similar stuff on my blog in one go, I wanted to feature this on a game day blog despite Amonkhet being released officially at the end of this week, so prepare for cardboard goodness for a while!

Happy Easter to me! #MagicTheGathering

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Planechase is a variant format for Magic the Gathering that is similar to regular games in almost all respects, except for the addition of a Planar Deck of ten cards that each player uses alongside his or her regular constructed deck. These cards are usually Plane cards, featuring a location and artwork from one of the many iconic locations found across the Multiverse, though there are also Phenomenon cards that can crop up. Planar decks consist of ten cards, no two of which can have the same name.

Planechase was originally published in 2009, with four products that featured 60-card casual constructed decks, and four ten-card Planar decks. The constructed decks were almost entirely reprints from earlier Magic sets, but also included four preview cards for the upcoming Zendikar block. These decks were five-colour, red/white, red/green, and mono-black. In 2012, a new set of four products was released, with new Planar cards and the new Phenomenon cards, alongside four 60-card casual constructed decks. Unlike the 2009 set, Planechase 2012 introduced a slew of 21 new cards that were legal in eternal formats, several of which became popular enough to receive multiple reprints over the last few years.

Magic the Gathering Planechase

What is the Planechase format?

At the start of the game, the first player reveals the top card of his or her Planar deck, and that card’s effects take place across each player’s turn. Some cards, such as The Academy at Tolaria West, have an effect that takes place throughout the turn, whereas others, like Orzhova, only trigger when you Planeswalk away. To Planeswalk, you roll the special Planar die, and if you roll the Planeswalker symbol (that fork thing), the active plane is put on the bottom of its controller’s deck, and the player who rolled the symbol gets to reveal the top card of his or her own Planar deck. You can Planeswalk any time you can cast a Sorcery spell, and for each additional time you choose to Planeswalk on your turn, you must pay one additional generic mana to do so. There have been a total of 86 Planar cards printed for the game, all of which are included in the Planechase Anthology, and depending on how you’ve built your Planar deck, it could form a hefty part of your strategy to Planeswalk multiple times in the game to ensure you get to use those effects.

Four sides of the Planar die are blank, and have no effect in the game, but there is also the Chaos symbol (the weird colliding-planes thing), which triggers the Chaos ability of the active plane if it is rolled. I’d say that the Chaos abilities on the Plane cards can be the more beneficial reason to keep them in your deck, and sometimes, you might not want to Planeswalk away too soon. Chaos abilities use the stack, and so can be responded to if you need to.

Magic the Gathering Planechase

As well as including all of the Plane and Phenomenon cards ever printed for the game, Planechase Anthology includes four 60-card decks from the 2012 edition of the game. While the 2009 edition were all reprints, it would have been nice to have had both sets of the constructed decks, not least because those decks include hard-to-find things such as the Mirrodin Artifact Lands, Cabal Coffers, Phyrexian Arena and Master of Etherium (although Wizards has been reprinting many of these things in products like the Commander pre-cons).

At any rate, the four decks included are each led by a legendary creature, and I know that Maelstrom Wanderer at the very least is pretty much a Commander staple. The cards in these decks are really nice to have, and while I mentioned earlier that some of the newly printed cards have since seen reprints, there are still ten that have only ever been printed in Planechase 2012 or else here in Planechase Anthology (Elderwood Scion; Felidar UmbraFractured Powerstone, which is admittedly somewhat format-specific; Indrik Umbra; Krond the Dawn Clad; Preyseizer Dragon; Sai of the Shinobi; Sakashima’s Student; Silent-Blade Oni, and Thromok the Insatiable). In order to buy the four legendary creatures and the rest of these cards that have never since seen a reprint would cost just over £30 as of the writing of this blog – importantly, that’s the price to buy this printing of the singles, as well; some cards like Silent-Blade Oni and Maelstrom Wanderer have a significant premium attached to their actual 2012 printing. I feel really pleased, then, that I actually managed to pick up this box of cardboard goodness for £60 from my local game store in Wrexham, which is cheaper than every other place I’ve seen. They originally reduced it in January to £80, and I did consider getting it at the time, but I’m really glad that I waited!

While I’m sure that, in time, I’ll be pulling these decks apart and making all kinds of weird and wonderful things with the contents – or else adding in different things to change them up and whatnot – for now I quite like the idea of using it almost as a boardgame. Much like I have kept the duel decks that I’ve bought intact, I like the fact that I have a collection of decks that are designed to be played against each other, and require little more than pulling off the shelf and shuffling up before I’m playing.

Game stuff ahoy!

Hey everybody!
I’ve been missing out on a lot of new game stuff coming out over the last few days and weeks, so following the news about new 40k yesterday, it’s time to get caught up!

Magic the Gathering Commander

So first of all, we’ve got Commander 2017 coming on 25 August. August? I always thought these things came out later in the year! Well, anyway, Bank Holiday weekend will no doubt be full of digesting all of that stuff. Four new pre-constructed decks coming, based along a tribal theme rather than the usual colour-based design, I’m excited for this for a number of reasons. First of all, getting four will be cheaper than five, and since the C16 decks have sold out so quickly and I’ve missed out on at least the Atraxa one, I’m planning to buy all of them this time around just in case. Secondly, I love tribal stuff, so I’m sure there will be a lot here that I’ll enjoy. Definitely looking forward to seeing what’s going on here!

The Commander Anthology is of course coming out in June, and that’s something else that I’m feeling the need to pick up before it becomes impossible to find a Kaalia deck once again.

We also know the name of the next set after Hour of Devastation: Ixalan! It has that vaguely Mesoamerican sound to it that came through from the “leaked” packaging a while back, though with a different name. Hopefully it’ll still have that sort of aesthetic and will be wonderful, anyway!

Iconic Masters will apparently be a thing, but crucially the Reserved List is going to remain unviolated and intact. While I’m a huge proponent of allowing people to play the game rather than supporting people who want to hoard the components of a game and not use them for their intended purpose, I’ve recently changed my mind and have come to appreciate the fact that having a Reserved List adds a depth to the game that elevates it above its competitors.

And, I don’t think I want to actually play with cards like Kukemssa Pirates, Tracker or Boris Devilboon. I’m sure there are plenty of more interesting cards on the list (dual lands, anyone?) but by and large, I’m actually content to have the new stream of cards coming out.

Legend of the Five Rings

Let’s move over to FFG now, and their Legend of the Five Rings LCG!

Another famous CCG from back in the day, L5R is being reimagined as a LCG from Fantasy Flight and is due out at the end of the year. It looks like a really interesting game, a bit of a cross between A Game of Thrones and, well, Magic. I’ve noticed that I’ve been buying fewer actual games lately, partly because I’m saving up to buy a house, but also I’ve been throwing a lot of money at Magic singles. L5R looks like it should be a good experience, so I’m actually looking to get this thing and see what it’s all about!

We’ve got the next deluxe expansion for Arkham Horror LCG, while we’re on the subject of the living card games now, The Path to Carcosa. I mean, first of all this expansion has already been spoiled on the internet by a European game shop (I believe), so I suppose it’s about right for them to show it off here before too much thunder has been stolen.

I’ve not actually been delving too much into Arkham Horror LCG since I first played through the core set at Christmas, but I’ve picked up a couple of the expansions that have come out since, so really should get back into this game. It seems to have been really popular locally, and the boardgamegeek forums are lighting up daily with threads, so a part of me is slightly concerned that it might actually overtake Lord of the Rings LCG soon, because –

The final Saga expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG has finally been announced, and it looks splendid! We’ve got two scenarios that follow Frodo and Sam through the spires of Cirith Ungol and to the fires of Mount Doom, with the third depicting the clash on the Pelennor Fields. I am really excited to see this box, even might get me playing through the entire Saga at last!!

Ever since The Black Riders was announced, there have been rumblings about the future of Lord of the Rings LCG, with an almost consensus being that the game would lose a lot of momentum once we dump the Ring into Mount Doom. I’m hopeful that FFG will have room for two co-op LCGs in their stable but, given that they have previously cancelled one LCG in order to start up another (Warhammer Invasion for Warhammer Conquest, for example). If Lord of the Rings hasn’t got anything further to offer once we’ve been to The Mountain of Fire, and it will be retired in favour of Arkham Horror.

As much as I would love to see more content for years to come, and as much as I’m concerned that we might not see this happen, I’m sure my wallet will be relieved to have one less game to pick up each month!

Runewars Miniatures Game

Runewars has been released, and while I haven’t actually dropped the £80 on a core set, I have actually been tempted by that Rune Golem model. It does actually look pretty decent, though, and I’m concerned that my resolve will waver if I walk into my local store and it’s still on offer there! But the fact that I don’t know anyone who has even expressed a passing interest in the game has managed to keep me away from it for the time being. Maybe at some time I’ll see if I can get a demo in, and see what it’s all about.

FFG have already announced the Latari Elves expansion for the game, which I find funny, so I might actually be tempted to get it if they bring the Uthuk Y’llan out and they also look as good. For now, I’m resisting, though!

DC deck building game Rogues

It’s been a while since we’ve had anything new come out for the DC deck-building game, but finally the next Crossover pack is apparently out and available, so it’ll be time to try and sniff that one out soon enough. We’ve also got the artwork for the next Crossover pack, Birds of Prey. The Multiverse Box has recently had another preview over on the Cryptozoic website, showing some of the new content that will be coming out in the box, which is really exciting! Anything that just adds depth to the game is always welcome by me, anyway! Looks like there are elements from the Crisis packs being ported over into the more standard game, which I like, so I’m excited to pick that up, anyway!

8th Edition is coming!

So, this is apparently the huge announcement that we’ve been waiting for, except – it’s not really announcing anything we didn’t already know?

The new website, warhammer40000.com, has launched today with a lot of glossy stuff, but very little substance behind it from what I can see right now. The main meat that I’ve managed to glean shows that the game is being split into a factional conflict between the Imperium, Chaos, and Xenos, which we’d kinda been expecting for a while, and a new General’s Handbook-style rulebook with three different ways to play.

The big news comes from the three-page FAQ that has been posted, that tells us all of the miniatures currently on sale will be fully compatible with the new edition of the game (which is currently not being called 8th Edition, but then 7th Edition was never officially referred to as such), including all of the Forge World models. Codexes are out, but points are still in. To me, that seems to be the sum of what we know for sure…

You may have thought I was underwhelmed when you started reading this blog – and I kinda am – but I’m actually curiously excited. I’ve been amassing a fairly sizable collection of little plastic dudes for quite a while now, so I’m looking forward to potentially getting into this game from the ground level, rather than coming to the game at least a year after everybody had learnt how to play 7th, and feeling distinctly daunted by the dense ruleset. Having an easy way in sounds great, so I’m really kinda looking forward to seeing what this actually ends up being!

The Painted Man

At the weekend, I finished reading the first book in the Demon Cycle by Peter V Brett, The Painted Man. This has been a book series that I’ve been thinking about getting into for a number of years now, as I kept seeing the beautiful covers on the shelves of my local Waterstones when browsing the fantasy section, but had always somehow held myself back. Well, no longer! I started reading the first early last week and, while it did take me a while to get into, as soon as I was there, I was absolutely hooked.

The first novel in any series like this is inevitably going to suffer from some pacing issues as the world is built up, though I must admit to being particularly impressed at the way the story almost seemed to know when it was beginning to lag, and picked itself up. At 544 pages, there is actually a lot of story packed in here, as we cover a period of about 14 years in the world of Thesa.

As ‘the Demon Cycle’ might suggest, the book is set in a world of magic and demons, where the people are plagued by nightly attacks from a nether world of demons referred to as the Core. The Corelings are split into a number of elemental types, fire demons and rock demons, etc, and rise up from below to terrorise humanity every single night. The humans manage to protect themselves through the use of magical wards which, when lined up correctly, form a protective barrier around their homes, though there is always the risk of these wards being somehow obscured, leading to the net to fail.

We follow three characters across the course of the book, though the trio don’t actually meet up until the final portion of the book, which can cause some disconcerting leaps in the narrative. We start with Arlen, who watches as his mother is killed by a demon, his father standing aside in fear as it happens. This causes a breakdown in the father-son relationship, and eventually prompts Arlen to flee from the little village of Tibbet’s Brook. He manages to survive in the wild by being particularly good at drawing wards, which impresses the messenger Ragen into taking him along to the free city of Miln. Messengers have something of an exotic appeal, as they spend days on the roads, defying the coreling attacks. Arlen wishes to become a messenger himself, but at first is apprenticed as a Warder, where he quickly makes a name for himself, though never losing sight of his ultimate goal.

Leesha is a young girl from Cutter’s Hollow, who seems to have her life planned out by her overbearing mother, though has a spark of something that makes her wish for something more. Quite by accident, she finds herself apprenticed to the herb gatherer Bruna, a crotchety old crone who teaches the girl everything she knows. Herb gatherers are the medicine-women of the world, though also guard the secrets of science that once held sway before the demons began their nightly war three centuries previous. Over the years of her apprenticeship, Leesha comes to learn much, and is eventually sent as a sort of exchange to the free city of Angiers to work in the hospit there.

Finally we have Rojer, a small boy who watches his parents killed in a coreling attack, but is saved by the jongleur Arrick, who takes him under his wing somewhat begrudgingly, and over the years teaches him the tricks of the entertainer’s trade. Rojer was maimed in the attack that killed his parents, losing two fingers, but nevertheless displays an aptitude for playing the fiddle, though any money he manages to make Arrick drinks away, and the two are forced from the city of Angiers to work around the villages and hamlets. While on the road, Arrick flies into a drunken rage and nearly gets Rojer killed, but manages to fend of the corelings long enough to save Rojer, who discovers that his music has a way of either hypnotising the demons with its calming melody, or else driving them off through discordant notes.

Arlen becomes a messenger, relishing the freedom it allows him, and using his time to search for lost treasures in long-ruined cities. While at one such ruin of Anoch Sun out in the Krasian desert, he discovers a tomb etched with many long-forgotten wards, along with a metal, warded spear. At the city of Krasia, where the men still fight the demons, Arlen joins them in their holy war, and his prowess with the spear does not go unnoticed by the first warrior of the city, Jardir, who betrays Arlen and takes the weapon. Arlen manages to return to Anoch Sun, and his mind begins to work over the idea of how the wards on the spear repelled the corelings. He paints offensive wards onto his hands, and the next night does battle with a sand demon, managing to kill it. Slowly, he begins to paint more of the wards onto his skin…

At Angiers, Rojer is badly beaten by a rival jongleur and ends up in Leesha’s hospit, where the two become friendly. However, news reaches her of a plague sweeping through her old home, and she leaves the city with Rojer pledging to help her on the road. They’re attacked not long after, and Leesha brutally gang-raped, but before the corelings can get them, the mysterious Painted Man appears to help. He accompanies them on the road, and the three slowly grow to bond, though when they reach Cutter’s Hollow, they find the village a shadow of its former self. Arlen, as the Painted Man, incites the villagers to fight the demons, and while the toll on the people is great, they manage to survive the night, fending back the demons for the first time in centuries. The people begin to look upon Arlen as the fabled Deliverer of myth as they rebuild their city in a warded defense pattern. However, there is another figure riding out of the desert claiming to be the Deliverer, wielding the warded spear from Anoch Sun…


This book is just fantastic!

While there are some moments that feel like Brett is trying to channel George RR Martin with his brutal depictions of corelings dismembering humans, there is actually a lot more to this book than one gruesome tableau after another. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of moments where I felt reviled (to say the least), and I thought the attack on Leesha and Rojer on the road was a bit too out of nowhere, but in the main, it’s the actual substance of the story that drives this book forward, and there is plenty of substance to be found here!

The magic in this book has a fairly sensible feel to it, and the story overall has a really grounded sense that makes me believe what is happening within the plot. Does that make sense? I mean, some fantasy novels are just that, with all manner of outlandish things going on. Here, there is a very clear sense of rules at play, and the world makes sense within that context. It’s always an important point for these kinds of books, but I have to say, it definitely succeeded there. There is also a highly developed sense of history within the book, and I found myself really interested in learning more about the fabled age of science, and of the ruins of Anoch Sun. Stuff like this gives the book real depth, and I hope we dive into that in the subsequent books in the series!

The three main characters of the book quickly established themselves in my affections, to the point where I found myself really rooting for them when things took a turn for the worse. The whole section with Arlen in Krasia I read in one sitting, as I just had to find out what happened next. Of the three, I think Arlen definitely came across as the most interesting, even though at times his constant need to be a free spirit did come over as a bit petulant-child-like. His willingness to fight the demons, and his transformation into the Painted Man of the title was an entirely believable character arc, and I can’t wait to find out where his story is going next!

Overall, this book is highly recommended!!

The Earthsea Quartet

The Earthsea Quartet

It’s birthday week here at spalanz.com, and as part of celebrating all things fantasy, I want to feature a book that I’ve come to enjoy, the Earthsea Quartet from Ursula le Guin!

Back when I was in college, my long-time gaming buddy Tony recommended this omnibus to me, and I picked it up but never actually read it. In moving house a few years back, I’ve evidently lost it as I cannot find it anywhere in my flat, but a couple of weeks ago I noticed it in the local Waterstones and decided it was high time I picked it up to see what all the fuss has been about.

There are now six books in the Earthsea series, one of which is a collection of short stories that are also set in the fantasy realm. The first, A Wizard of Earthsea, was actually published in 1968, and the sixth, The Other Wind, in 2001. As of writing this blog, I’ve actually only read the first two stories, but I’m just so excited about this series that I couldn’t wait to start talking about it here!!

The stories are all set in the archipelago of Earthsea, a collection of islands surrounded by a vast and uncharted ocean. The main island, Havnor, is apparently analogous to Great Britain, though the cultures of the archipelago are not intended to be derivative of real-world settings, which is something that I really enjoy. Indeed, there is so much to recommend these stories that I cannot praise them enough!

A Wizard of Earthsea
The first novel in the series follows the magical training of a young boy from the island of Gont, named Ged. Names are actually very important in Earthsea, and the foundation of the magical system – by knowing a thing’s true name, a wizard is able to use magic to influence it. Ged is therefore known as Sparrowhawk in the course of the story, as he learns how to use his powers first as an apprentice to the wandering mage Ogion, and later at the magical academy on the island of Roke. Ged is first tricked into reading a book that summons a strange shadow which Ogion banishes, but later, at the academy, he is goaded into displaying his powers by raising the dead, at which this shadow reappears and begins to pursue Ged across the world.

The novel – it’s actually more of a novella – is just so impressive, I don’t really know where to begin! I love fantasy stories that are in this sort of post-Tolkien, pre-Game of Thrones period, where there is actually a lot more wonder and, really, a magical feel to the world, when authors didn’t feel the need to fall into prescribed story beats and such. A Wizard of Earthsea is actually quite small-scale in comparison with a lot of more modern fantasy novels, but this can be deceptive as we learn about the world of Earthsea in a protracted, progressive way, which I do enjoy quite a bit.

Something that I really liked was the way the wizarding academy on Roke did actually feel like a more medieval version of Hogwarts, where students could build friendships and rivalries, and both enjoy and dislike their lessons. While Harry Potter blends the fantastical with the realistic in a really great way, Earthsea is obviously a lot more clearly fantastical, and yet it still feels grounded in an almost believable way.

While I am quite firmly of the belief that this shouldn’t be an issue, it’s also worth pointing out that Ged – and most of the people of Earthsea, for that matter – are black. Much like the Drizzt novels I’ve talked about on this blog previously, having a black hero / central character in genre fiction is still really quite a big thing, and I think it’s important to note that fantasy has often been ahead of its time in this respect.

The Tombs of Atuan
The second book (also a novella-length story) completely changes tack, as we travel to a small island in the far east of the archipelago, and delve deeply into the religious cult of the Nameless Ones. There is a Dalai Lama-style ceremony where the late priestess of the Nameless Ones is reincarnated as a child born at the exact moment of her death. The child, Tenar, is consecrated as the priestess at the age of six, renamed Arha, and trained for her service. As the years go by, Arha is inducted in the many mysteries of the religion, namely the labyrinth underneath the temple complex, where she one day discovers a thief – Ged. He has come searching for the lost half of the ring of Erreth-Akbe, half of which he came into possession of during the course of the first novel. Arha traps him in the underground labyrinth, but he becomes a source of fascination for her, and she eventually comes to help him escape, and the two leave the island having reforged the ring, which is said to have the power to bring peace to all the islands of the archipelago.

The Tombs of Atuan is a definite change of pace after the first book, and I was initially quite surprised when I read it, having expected to have more tales of Ged the wizard. While he does of course appear, this is most assuredly a story centred around Arha, and the two books have been said to form both male and female parallel coming-of-age stories. Despite being surprised by it, however, I actually really liked the tightly-woven story, and my curiosity only grew with each chapter – in this respect, I think it is more definitely a page-turner than the first book. However, both were tremendous stories!

I said earlier that these books fall into the sort of early-modern fantasy genre, which is of course quite difficult to describe further, but I suppose the main attribute they possess is a sort of self-awareness – these books know that they are fantasy, in fact they knew they were young-adult novels before young-adult novels were a thing, and they don’t try to be anything more. As such, they are a truly fantastic read in the very real sense of that word. There’s no attempt to spice things up for a different market – these are fantasy books, written for people who want to read fantasy books. Aside from the racial ideas I mentioned earlier, there’s no attempt to politicise the story, either. It does what fantasy should be best at: providing escapism.

I could proselytise all day about these two stories, but I think the best thing would be just to read them for yourselves – each one is really short, and provides such spellbinding storytelling that you can get through them quite quickly. If you haven’t already done so, definitely pick them up; if you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

And stay tuned for more on Earthsea as I make my way to the remaining books in the series!!

Unbreakable Bonds

It’s a game day extra here at spalanz.com!

As it’s Fantasy Week here, in celebration of the blog’s third birthday on Friday, I wanted to talk a bit about the upcoming Unbreakable Bonds expansion for Runebound third edition, which provides a co-op/solo alternative to the game.

There hasn’t been a great deal of news for the new edition of Runebound for quite some time, which has had many folks fearing the sky would soon be falling on the game. But feat not! This bad boy is coming in the third quarter, with new stuff (including new heroes) to add to the game.

To start with, there are five scenarios presented in the expansion – two new ones, and co-op/solo versions of both base game scenarios and Caught in a Web. I like this idea a lot, as I feel it could leave the door open for FFG to produce further co-op/solo expansions that do the same for any subsequent expansions they put out. I’m sure plenty of people will complain that this not only requires the base game, but also other expansions in order to play, but I’m sure there are plenty more completionists for whom this won’t be an issue. And the smaller expansions FFG have put out so far seem so packed-full of stuff, I don’t think you’ll be wasting money on them…

The way that combat is being handled in this expansion has interested me a great deal, as rather than having specific rules to essentially bolt-on a monster AI, there are new “combat boards” for four different monster types, along with the respective combat tokens. This could well future-proof the game for Unbreakable Bonds to work with whatever is next for Runebound third edition – though of course, we’re still waiting to see any kind of big box expansion come out here.

It’s definitely an interesting twist, and has come at a time when I’ve actually been on the cusp of trading off this game as one that I haven’t played since my first foray almost a year ago. I might just keep hold of the game and wait to see what Unbreakable Bonds has to offer me, after all!

Conquest of Nerath

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and in celebration of my blog’s third birthday this Friday, I’m making this Fantasy Week! What better way, therefore, to celebrate, than with a game set in one of the most archetypal fantasy universes ever conceived: Dungeons and Dragons! Okay, so I’m not going to be looking at the RPG itself, having never played it, but instead, I’m taking a look at one of the stand-out board games from the product line: Conquest of Nerath!

War has come to the Dungeons & Dragons world! In the north, the undead legions of the Dark Empire of Karkoth march against the fragile League of Nerath, determined to sweep away the human kingdoms forever. To the south, the infernal Iron Circle launches its own goblin hordes in a campaign of conquest against the elves and corsairs of Vailin. From the snowy expanse of the Winterbole Forest to the sun-warmed coasts of ancient Vailin, four great powers struggle for survival.

Conquest of Nerath

I’ve only actually played with this game once, back in 2013, and had an absolute blast! It’s basically the sort of area-control game that is a lot like Risk for those familiar with more mainstream boardgames, where you control a faction from the D&D world and attempt to take over the board as much as possible. The board itself is beautifully illustrated, and each of the four factions comes with a whole host of miniatures that represent the hordes they can bring to bear, from foot soldiers and siege engines to warships and storm elementals!

Rather than me go through the rules of the game here, let me present Rodney Thompson, one of the D&D lead designers from back in the day, and who has presented a load of video tutorials on D&D games:

The game is a lot of fun. It looks deceptively complex, as there are a lot of pieces on the board, from all of those miniatures to all of the tokens and cards involved, but the rules are actually really streamlined, allowing you to focus more on the narrative and fun, than on game mechanics and such. There isn’t a great deal of magic involved, aside from the wizards’ First Strike rule and, I suppose, the way some Event cards work, which also helps to keep the game straightforward. Each faction has the same sorts of units, and yet feels quite different in the way they play, which also adds to the ease of gameplay.

Conquest of Nerath

Of course, what would a D&D game be without, well, dungeons or dragons? The dungeon delving aspect of the game is one that adds a lot of the flavour of the setting that I think is otherwise missing from the game. The four factions, while being traditional fantasy tropes, are just that – tropes. The dungeon guardians, however, include some of the more iconic D&D monsters and villains, including the Beholder and Drow Raiders. Defeating these guys will give you the gold to buy reinforcements, as well as treasures to use in your battles against your enemies, but the mechanic is crucial, for me, to keeping the game on-theme overall.

Conquest of Nerath was released in 2011, and aside from one promo treasure card released at GenCon that year, there has never been any kind of expansion for it. Which is absolutely fine, when you think about it! So many games in my collection have been expanded unto death, it feels oddly satisfying to have a game that is completely self-contained like this, and the strategic depth involved in your conquest is something that can keep the game going.

Highly recommended!