Warhammer 40,000: Conquest is a two-player Living Card Game (LCG) of Warlords, planetary domination, and conflicts. Many factions both human and non-human have emerged within this universe, and all of them want to dominate it.
Advanced strategic thought and foresight are needed in this game, as you need to balance current and future struggles and outcomes across a range of interconnected gameplay mechanics and systems.
I’m expecting a lot from Warhammer 40,000: Conquest as the game has a huge reputation among card game fanatics and I was an avid fan of the tabletop war game as a teenager.
So does the game have what it takes to conquest the LCG world? Read on to find out…
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest’s suggested play time is 30 minutes to an hour, which it is – after your first couple of games. Your first game is likely to be double that, as you’ll be referring to the rule book and quick start guides a lot to clarify corner cases as they emerge. I advise you to watch the introduction videos online. These tutorials – published by Fantasy Flight Games – serve as a gateway to learning the basics of the game.
The suggested starting factions of the Space Marines and Orks are fairly vanilla, but don’t be discouraged by this as there are a total of seven faction decks to choose from, each with their own particular mechanics.
Setting up is quick and easy with the only fiddly part being opening the packs of cards – though you are rewarded with that new card smell (my drug of choice!). Play takes place across five planets, with another two face-down in reserve to be revealed as the initial two planets are won. Both players will battle it out in order to dominate planets and eventually hold three of the same symbol spread among the planets they control.
The alternative victory condition lies in wiping out the opposing Warlord unit – though this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ll more than likely be prioritizing securing planets over doing damage to a Warlord.
Warlords are essentially the commanding officer of the faction you are controlling. They have crucial information printed on them for the start of the game and an effect that is triggered when the conditions are met. Starting hand size and starting number of resources are the crucial information printed on the bottom, with their hit points and attack value on the left.
Warlords are unique units that you can participate in battles as and score you instant Command Phase wins on a planet where no other Warlords are present – such is their mighty power!
The flow of the game – once mastered – is fast and furious, with both players taking it in turns to assign units to planets and resolving conflicts. There are multiple phases that need to be progressed through to resolve all contested planets and battles between opposing forces.
The decision making here requires you to think in advance: Planning what will happen two, or even three turns ahead – amassing an army that should then be able to take a planet with minimal casualties.
The first phase requires both players to commit units one-by-one to any of the five face-up planets they choose or to play any of the supporting cards in the Deploy Phase until both players pass on deploying/playing a card. On the first turn you have access to your starting hand and resources, and then two cards and four resources each turn thereafter.
Only the first planet can be won outright each round, with the remaining planets just giving up rewards for controlling it that turn or by winning a battle there if a Warlord is present. The planets you’ll commit to are dependent upon your deck’s play style because when resolving the Command Phase you’ll either want more cards or more resources by winning them in this phase.
The Combat Phase is the penultimate phase where the units committed to each planet duke it out until only one player’s units remain. This will then trigger the Battle effect of that planet, and if it is the first planet, it is awarded to the victorious player. Warlords then retreat back to the Headquarters and a new phase begins.
The Headquarters Phase is more of a reset phase where new resources, cards, and clean-up begins. Any units attached to the First Planet go back to the HQ with the Warlord and all units at other planets remain there. This is where the deeper strategies come into play, especially if you can dominate a planet later by ensuring your Warlord brings a whole army with them!
I did find that some decks have a better match-up against particular decks. There is a balance to the game and it does rely heavily on what you draw as to whether you can afford to commit heavily to a planet or not, and some effects are more powerful than others.
For example, the Dark Eldar are able to spawn an almost endless supply of Khymera tokens that have decent basic stats and unless you have a form of mass removal, you’ll find them hard to deal with. This form of rush tactic is hard for a majority of the core decks to deal with. I’d suggest you play through the suggested decks a few times before playing with the others.
Foresight and planning ahead are your two biggest tools in Warhammer 40,000: Conquest. In your first few games you’ll be learning the basics and understanding the phases correctly. After this you can begin to look at strategy and placement of units.
You’ll want to place your units on planets in accordance with your deck’s strategy. If your units are high-cost, you’ll be needing lots of resources, and if they are low-cost, you’ll want cards in order to deploy many units to one planet. Remember that units have a Command value that will determine their command strength at that planet if no Warlord is present.
I often found that committing to a planet that I know my opponent will avoid makes for some great plays. Sure, you only get the resources, and that unit is stuck there until it becomes the first planet, but if this happens a couple of times then you’re already making good progress in having more units there than your opponent will be able to deal with later.
Placing units in advance at locations nearly always gives you an edge there later. Sacrificing the win of the first planet in the first round might not be such a bad idea. Weigh up the options as to how much your opponent may benefit from it before committing to it.
DRAFTING AND EXTENDED PLAY
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest has so many ways to expand the game beyond a base set. New factions and cards create different ways to play and introduce new mechanics to an already exceptional concept. You can also shake up the gameplay given by the core set by creating new decks using a combination of different factions. The game has been designed so that you can mix the cards from two allied factions. Not sure which ones are allied? Check the back of the manual.
Extending your gameplay experience from a core set is a job that game companies usually leave for expansions and additional sets. I love the fact that not only can you do this in this core set, but are encouraged to do so. It makes the game feel far less “vanilla” and should iron out some of the snowballing gameplay that can occur when using two decks that aren’t so evenly matched. I did find that some decks will snowball hard against one another if they are not kept in check.
All you need to do is select a Warlord and put in your deck a mix of their loyal and required cards, and the rest is up to you. Buying multiples of the core set gives you access to some of their more powerful cards that you only get one of in the starter. This can be an expensive initial purchase, but is still considerably cheaper than what anyone would spend on a randomized, booster-based TCG.
There are many expansions to choose from, but I would probably recommend you go purchase these in the order of their release. This is because they often bring new factions and keywords that you’ll find confusing if introduced to them later and you’re expected to know what they do.
The Great Devourer is the first deluxe expansion and introduces the Tyranids faction to the game, complete with two new Warlords. Let’s see if you can survive the new Synapse unit type! The Tyranids are one of the dominating factions competitively right now, so if you’re looking to get into the game in a big way, you should definitely get this expansion first.
I love all of Fantasy Flight Games’ LCGs, but there are some that are definitely better than others. I was a little skeptical of the fanfare that Warhammer 40,000: Conquest has received at first.
However, all it took was to start playing and I realized how instantly addicted I was going to be to this game. The PvP interactions are intensely enjoyable, with a large and varied number of strategic decisions to make.
The artwork is phenomenal, and I really do wish there was more space on the cards dedicated to it (I’m starting to wish we could move to a card size that’s larger than poker cards!). The templating on each card makes it clear which faction it comes from, with colorful and engaging borders and frames to look at. The card quality is also pretty good, as it is with any Fantasy Flight game.
I’m eager to get my hands on more expansions and play through the different factions and combine them through deckbuilding. This is the Warhammer card game I’ve been waiting for. I also believe this is the card game you’ve been waiting for. You’ve read this far, so you must be at least a bit curious about this game. Stop being curious and buy it immediately. You won’t regret it!
If you want a tabletop LCG that’ll last years from now, then you can’t go wrong with Warhammer 40,000: Conquest.
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