Posted by: gschloesser | July 29, 2011

Conquest of the Fallen Lands

Designer:  Andrei Burago
Publisher:
3 – 5 Players, 1 – 2 hours
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

NOTE:  This review first appeared in Counter magazine.

Most games of conquest inevitably involve attacking one’s opponents.  After all neutral territory is gobbled, bloody wars against opposing forces is the only way to gain additional territory, which often translates into victory points.  Conquest games, by their nature, generally are not very peaceful. 

Conquest of the Fallen Lands by Andrei Burago is a bit different.  Oh, conquering territory is still of vital importance, but here all territory conquered is neutral, held by ‘vile hordes of monsters’ that have overrun the kingdom.  Players have been assembled by the king with the purpose of ridding the realm of these nasty beasts.  There is no direct conflict between players.  On the contrary, the previous conquests of one’s opponents may well be vital to one’s own expansion.  

The Fallen Lands are comprised of 61 large hexes (fewer when playing with only three players), arranged in a hexagonal pattern.  Each field has a defense value ranging from 1 – 12, and players must amass forces in sufficient strength to equal or exceed a field’s value in order to conquer it.  Players amass these forces off-board, with cards being played to initiate attacks and provide support.  Wealth is received for each field conquered, and ultimately the wealthiest player is named the King’s champion. 

The game was recently re-released, but I have not seen the components in the new version.  This review is based on the original edition. The designer has clearly put a considerable amount of time, effort and attention to his creation, as the components are of high quality.  All tiles – both land and followers – are backed with a heavy felt, which helps prevent them from sliding about the table if jarred.  Player pieces are heavy glass beads, while the currency is plastic doubloons in three colors.  The entire package is quite attractive … and heavy.  

After the board is set, each player receives 25 coins, eight cards and two followers.  The deck of cards depicts various military and magic units, each indicating the requirements needed to utilize the card.  The requirements are the number and types of followers needed, which can be warriors, craftsmen and/or mages.  After receiving their cards, players each begin assembling their forces by selecting any two followers from the common pool.  Once recruited, followers will remain with the player for the duration of the game. 

Each turn, a player may recruit a new follower, taking either a warrior, craftsman or mage for five gold.  This increases the size of a player’s army, and gives him more flexibility in his actions and cards he can use.  There is no limit to the size of one’s army, but since money equates to victory points, players will reach a point where purchasing more followers would be unwise.  Determining when that point is reached can be critical. 

At this point, a player may begin his conquests.  Players may only attack territories adjacent to a territory they control.  For each territory attacked, a player may play exactly ONE card, which is placed and permanently left on the hex.  To the card’s attack value, the support value of all cards on surrounding hexes – both your troops and those of your opponents – may be added.  The goal is to accumulate a combined total that is equal to or greater than the defensive value of the territory being attacked.  When successful, the card and a player’s token are placed on the tile, and the player receives gold equal to the territory’s value. 

A player may continue to attack new territories as long as he desires and is able.  He may also place fortification cards into conquered territories, which adds to the support value of a field.  Each card played requires the expenditure of certain followers, as indicated on the card.  Followers remained expended until the end of a player’s turn, so can only be used once per turn.  The challenge is recruiting the proper type and quantity of followers so you can best utilize your cards, while not having too large an army, which means lost victory points due to their cost. 

After ceasing new conquests, acquire new cards in several fashions: 

  • Draw one card;
  • Draw two cards for 7 coins, reducing this cost by 2 for each mage you expend;
  • Discard a card from your hand and draw a new one at the expenditure of one mage. 

Getting a steady supply of cards into your hand is critical, as one’s mix of cards can change drastically.  At one point, a player may have a supply of cards primarily requiring warriors, but one turn later his hand can be filled with magic cards, which require a stable of mages to utilize.  The original rules made it tougher to acquire new cards, often resulting in stagnation for afflicted players.  The revised rules have made acquiring cards a bit easier. 

The game is one of positioning, and a main objective is to cut-off opponents’ paths of expansion, while keeping your expansion options open.  The revised rules do provide a method to continue to expand if cut-off, but it is expensive.  A player may “fly” to any open field, but it cost seven coins AND the expenditure of one mage for each tile flown over.  While this is costly, it may be necessary if you find all adjacent tiles occupied by opponents. 

Play continues in this fashion until all tiles are captured, or two successive turns are played with no new conquests.  Players tally their wealth, and the richest player receives the favor of the king and wins the game.  A typical game takes 2 hours or so to play to completion, and it does not overstay its welcome. 

There is much to like here.  Conquest of the Fallen Lands has numerous clever ideas, particularly the concept of using previous conquests – whether your own or your opponents’ – to  support future attacks.  This causes players to carefully plan their conquests, realizing that cards they place onto the board could quite possibly used to aid their opponents in their subsequent expansions.  Often, this causes one to delay their expansions until they have amassed the proper cards and forces to seize key territories and prevent their opponents from profiting from their work.  Delaying, however, is not without its perils, as it provides an opportunity for an opponent to beat you to the punch and seize an important territory before you do.  

As mentioned, the game is one of timing and positioning.  Players must constantly keep avenues of expansion open, while closing the expansion options of their opponents.  This requires a healthy hand of cards and a sizeable force of followers.  This provides options, and having numerous options and the ability to exploit opportunities is critical.  

As with any game relying on cards, the luck of the draw can have an effect.  Even with the more liberal card drawing methods, it is still possible to have a handful of cards that require followers you do not possess.  This is less likely than with the original rules, and players should have ample time in which to cycle through cards and adjust their strategies to their hand of cards.  

Conquest of the Fallen Lands is quite good and has a fresh feel.  While the objective is similar, it is not your typical attack and conquer game.  It also successfully avoids the usual pitfalls of most conquest games, which is quite refreshing.  In fact, that is a good word to describe the game:  refreshing.

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Responses

  1. 1 play. I really had terrible card draws during this game so my play was hampered. I did not get to experience the variety of the game. The play was ok and I would like to try again. (5/10)


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