Warhammer 40,000: Conquest--A Double-Take Review

Neither of us has any experience with Warhammer--the closest we've come is Firestone playing a bunch of Blood Bowl, but that's not really the same thing. So there's no history or expectation for us. We just want a fun game--not one that has to live up to any expectations. 

We DO, however, have plenty of experience with Fantasy Flight's other LCGs. We've both played The Lord of the Rings LCG, Jeremiah has dabbled in the Star Wars LCG, and Firestone has had his brain fried playing Netrunner. 

So we do have an expectation of something new from a new LCG--other than theme. Does Warhammer 40K: Conquest deliver? Or is it D-Ork-y? Let's find out. 

This is the first LCG we've played that isn't a co-op or asymmetrical. The base game comes with starter decks for seven factions: the Space Marines, Astra Militarum, Orks, Chaos, Eldar, Dark Eldar, and Tau. They're planning to introduce the Necrons and Tyranids in upcoming deluxe expansions. 

A few of the planet cards

A few of the planet cards

Jeremiah--I was a little surprised (pleasantly) that there were a full seven decks in the box, I thought for sure there would be 2 maybe 4 and if you wanted to get the others you'd have to get the battle packs. I'm sure there will be other factions introduced through battle packs etc. (or maybe there are only seven factions in the Warhammer universe? I don't know, someone look that up!) but it was nice to have a bunch of choices to start with in the base game.

Firestone--Well, not really a full seven decks, since you're poaching from decks in order to build other ones. But I totally understand why Fantasy Flight did that, and I appreciate that it gives us seven factions to goof around with. That many playable factions is generous.

Let's go ahead and talk about the Factions that come in the box. 

Orks--They want to fight. In fact, with many Ork units, the more you hurt them, the stronger they become. 

Space Marines--These guys have strong soldiers and lots of Reactions. 

Eldar--These are masters of trickery, tactical movement, and exhausting and opponent's cards while unexhausting their own. 

Dark Eldar--The Dark Eldar want to cause you pain for every decision you make. They might make you sacrifice a unit, exhaust a unit, or lower a unit's attack. 

Chaos--The Faction is about hurting you with direct damage. And sacrificing small units to make other units better. 

Tau--The units here aren't as strong in their base stats, but they get stronger as you add some of their cool attachments. 

Astra Militarum--These are military fighters: tanks, tactics, interrupts, and strong units.

Again, since we're unfamiliar with Warhammer, we don't know how closely these tactics and play styles connect with the traditional Warhammer groups, but we imagine they're appropriately thematic. We do know that the different Factions actually feel different and play differently. 

There are a few thematic elements we feel  we should bring to your attention. 

  • The Dark Eldar Faction has troops called Wyches. Rather than the fantastical idea of witches, with spells and magic and so forth, the term Wych here just seems to mean "butt-kicking women."
  • The Dark Eldar Faction also seems to be built around the idea of pain and torture, with cards such as "Power From Pain," "Suffering," and "Alter of Torment." 
  • The Chaos Faction has Cultist token cards, and some of their stronger units require you to sacrifice Cultists in order to bring them onto the field. Sacrifice here means discard the card, so it's not like you're chanting anything or dancing around in your underwear in order to "sacrifice" the Cultist. 
Such. Cool. Artwork. 

Such. Cool. Artwork. 

We're not suggesting you should or shouldn't play the game based on these themes; we just wanted you to be aware they're there. 

The game comes with 10 Planet cards, which is where you and your opponent will battle. Each planet has one, two, or three symbols on it--Material, Strongpoint, or Tech. Everyone builds a starter deck, and sets aside his or her Warlord, which is the leader or general of each side. 

You play with seven of the 10 Planet cards, set out in a line. One is designated the start planet.

We'll quickly go over the Phases.

Deploy--Players alternate paying for and deploying cards to planets. 

Command--Each player has a dial (similar to the ones used in the X-Wing Miniatures Game), and secretly chooses a planet for the Warlord to visit. You'll determine which Warlord wins the command struggle, and that player gets cards and resources, depending on the planet. 

Combat--Players fight a battle at the first planet, and each planet after the first one where there's at least one Warlord present. There are a series of combat rounds where units attack, defend, and "exhaust" (which means turn sideways). If there's not a clear winner, everything unexhausts, and you go again. Warlords can retreat during this time. This is important, because if someone's Warlord dies, that player auto-loses. 

If someone wins a battle at a planet, he or she can choose to resolve that planet's Battle Ability. If it was the first planet, that player also takes that planet and puts it in front of him or her. If a player has three different planets with a common type on them, that player automatically wins. 

It's possible for a battle to end and no player to have any units left at the planet. In that case, the planet is removed from the game. 

Headquarters--This is basically a cleanup and administration phase. 

the units are varied--and very cool

the units are varied--and very cool

This is an LCG, so Fantasy Flight Games has already come out with War Packs to increase your card choices. And they'll be coming out with deluxe expansions, which will expand the card pool even more, and introduce even more factions. 

But this review isn't about what happens in the future. It's about how this plays as a base game, and as-is. 

If you're not into deck-building, the base game is good. You'll have to swap out some of the neutral cards if you want to switch Factions. It's a little annoying that you can only have two decks built at the same time, but seriously...seven unique Factions in the base box is a lot of replayability. 

And if you are into deck-building, the game allows you to grab some cards from an "Ally" Faction. There's a sort of Faction Wheel on the back cover of the rules, and you can Ally with any Faction on either side of you on the Wheel. 

And Fantasy Flight's releasing a new War Pack every month, so even if you're reading this on the day we publish it, there are already two packs of additional cards for you to use for deck-building. 

these are the smaller "token" cards some of the factions use.

these are the smaller "token" cards some of the factions use.

Firestone--As far as complexity goes, Warhammer 40,000 Conquest feels straightforward. That doesn't mean easy, as there's a learning curve when it comes to how to best play each of these factions. It just means the mechanisms and gameplay are relatively easy, while the Factions themselves introduce the complex elements. As such, this would be a good introduction game for someone curious about the LCG format. It's certainly less complex than something like Netrunner. 

Jeremiah--Yes, it's straightforward with depth, and I like that. Nothing seems mechanically unnecessary, nor is there a ton of housekeeping to do along the way. There's a strong learning curve if you want to master, or at least feel comfortable with, all of the Factions. I'll likely focus on one or two of them, and let the three or so people I'll play with claim a faction of their own to build out and learn all of the nuances of. 

Firestone--I like is the mechanism of the planets, which means the game is only going to last so many turns. Seven turns at the most--and often it will be fewer turns. And that's assuming no one loses because their Warlord gets whacked. The built-in game timer means it won't overstay its welcome.

Jeremiah--It really works well, and the way you score them adds another layer of tactical decision-making to each round. I'm also a HUGE fan of the Command Struggle phase of the game. It's an ingenious resource-gathering mechanic that's both great in game play and makes perfect thematic sense. I love it! 

Firestone--I can't believe we haven't talked about the artwork yet. It's all terrific.  

The only downside is that now I have yet another LCG to keep up with. Stop making LCGs I love, Fantasy Flight! (I'm kidding. Don't ever stop.)

Firestone Final Verdict--I like Warhammer 40,000 Conquest a lot. It's very tactical, filled with on-the-fly decisions about where to dive in, what cards to play, and when to retreat. The factions are varied and fun and unique. And with seven of them included out-of-the-box, there's plenty of play available before you even have to think about adding one of the War Packs. Thumbs up from me. 

Jeremiah Final Verdict--I'm impressed that each time I sit down to play an LCG from Fantasy Flight I walk away having experienced a very unique game. They're only similar in that they distribute and expand in packs and deluxe expansions. Warhammer 40,000 Conquest is yet another great addition to the LCG lineup: great balance, quick gameplay and tons of tactics! If you're even slightly into tactical, battling card games, I highly recommend you check this one out!

Theology of Games would like to thank Fantasy Flight Games for providing review copies of Warhammer: Conquest. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.

Thanks for reading!