A long time ago there was a small circle of friends who would get together every Sunday morning and play a fantasy war game right through till the following day.
They would laugh and joke and make fun of each other and share food, drink and above all else stories with each other. For several years the friends met every Sunday and played the same game, though often changing their armies throughout the years.
New editions of the game came out and though they tried them all, the friends suck with the game they loved so much.
Of course over years friends move away or get life partners and things change, much like a new edition of a game, and the group drifted slowly apart. Time passes and games come and go, but the memories made back in those formative teenage years would stay with them always.
So here we are now, halfway through 2019 and hundreds of games and groups later, my passion for gaming is still strong and steadfast.
So why this trip down memory lane, looking at gaming through rose tinted glasses? Well to be honest it’s all thanks to Warren and Justin from On Table Top and their coverage of a brand new war game from Greek games company Para Bellum Wargames.
Conquest The Last Argument of Kings is a brand new fantasy game system that has just been finally released after many years in development.
The game pits warning factions against each other on fantasy world of Eä (pronounced Air), each vying for survival, land and dominance over the others.
The humans of Eä are beset on all sides and fight a seemingly tireless war against those who would challenge the might of the Hundred Kingdoms.
In the north surrounded by mountains and inhospitable lands are the Nords, Viking like warriors who are cunning and deadly.
Deep in underground caverns and mines are the Dwegom a race of short humanoid creatures who rose up and killed their gods, and when your gods are dragons you are a truly formidable race.
Finally The Spire, an ancient alien race that can shape the very fabric of nature for their own needs and harness its biomass to create truly horrific beings to help destroy any who stand in their goal of terraforming Eä into a world in their own bizarre yet, beautiful image.
So far things seem to follow the standard templates that seems to have been set down for fantasy gaming for decades, humans, check, Vikings, check, dwarves, check, and elves, er check again.
That, however, is where the similarities in the background seem to end and once you peel off the top layer of Eä then much like an onion there are countless more beneath its surface.
I will get to the background of the game in a moment but it’s the rules that I want to talk about first. Written by a true games legend Alessio Cavatore, Conquest has learned from all those that have gone before it, and as such is a living and vibrant game that harks back to the early days of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (a game that Alessio worked on extensively for many years) hence the nostalgic retrospective at the start of this review.
This isn’t Warhammer by any means. The rules are tighter and the mechanics honed by decades of experience in writing games rules for a living. And the only thing that this has in common with Warhammer Fantasy Battle is it is a mass combat fantasy game which happens to be written by one of the writers of the former game.
No Conquest is its own game, but the feel of Warhammer is still there, a game that I played on a weekly basis for many years. Something that is meant with the highest regard and complement.
So where to begin?
Well, most games do stand on the miniatures that support them and if this is the case then Conquest will. stand head and shoulders above rivals.
The core game comes with over seventy hard plastic miniatures, often with the modeler in mind and allowing for multiple poses of miniatures to give truly unique looking units.
The core game consists of the following
Pheromancer: 1 Plastic Miniature, 1 Base and 1 Command Card
Brute Drones: 3 Plastic Miniatures, 3 Cavalry Plastic Stands, 3 Bases and 1 Command Card
Abomination: 1 Plastic Miniature, 1 Monster Stand and 1 Command Card
Force-Grown Drones: 24 Plastic Miniatures, 3 Infantry Plastic Stands, 12 Bases and 1 Command Card
Noble: 1 Plastic Miniature, 1 Base, 1 Cavalry Plastic Stand and 1 Command Card
Men at Arms: 24 Plastic Miniatures, 3 Infantry Plastic Stands, 12 Bases and 1 Command Card
Crossbowmen: 12 Plastic Miniatures, 3 Infantry Plastic Stands, 12 Bases and 1 Command Card
Household Knights: 3 Plastic Miniatures, 3 Cavalry Plastic Stands, 3 Bases and 1 Command Card
4 plastic model objective marker; x12 dice; 1 soft-cover Rulebook.
That is an awful lot of miniatures for a core game and gives the player the best part of two full armies to being their adventures in the worlds of Eä. These are just the standard units however and if you wish to expand on them with command assets such as banners or unit leaders, then you will have to purchase those separately from the company.
As you can see on the video unboxing below, these are not small cheap miniatures, but high quality and on the whole even the core rank and file troops stand well larger than miniatures from other games companies and with over seventy miniatures in the box, you do get an awful lot of stuff to keep you going!
The rulebook is in full colour and well laid out and contains dozens of examples of how to resolve things, such as movement, close combat etc, and is well thought out.
Unlike many other wargames out there, you don’t deploy your entire force or majority of it on the battlefield before the game begins, rather you deploy a couple of light units first, with other units coming on as reserves during later phases of the game. While there are a few games that have done something similar in the past; Conquest has you bringing in the reserves by class (light, medium, heavy, monster) and unlike a lot of wargames, you don’t start with the reserves at your table edge, instead you advance them up to be inline with your regiments furthest onto the battlefield.
Each unit is represented by its miniature in a regiment which is made up of several stands and a command card which details all the regiments attributes and abilities and anything special that the player needs to know. The cards are also used to activate your regiments each turn, with you choosing the order you want them to activate in and placing the card face down into a pool. Then each player takes it in turns to turn over a command card and activate that regiment respectively. This form of activation can be highly strategic and if you are savvy you can set up traps and spring them on your opponent.
As noted each command card features the regiments statistics as detailed below.
M (March): The distance in inches that a regiment can make a March move with a single activation.
V (Volley): A stand or regiments ability to lay down suppressing fire with bows, axes or spears, etc.
C (Clash): The stands effectiveness in melee combat with another unit or stand.
A (Attack): How many attack dice each model on the stand will contribute towards an attack. Some may only contribute 1 point, others may be as high as 4.
W (Wounds): How much damage the stand can take before it has a model removed.
R (Resolve): The morale or courage of a stand and its willingness to stay and fight after taking casualties.
D (Defence); How much physical damage a unit or stand can take before its armour is penetrated and the damage is done
E (Evasion): A stands ability to use its speed and cunning to avoid incoming fire or spells.
Each regiment may perform two actions once their command card is turned over and these can be chosen from a number of options such as moving or aiming and firing. You’re limited to what actions a regiment can perform and unless stated the only action that can be performed twice is a March action, and some of the core regiments have a March of 10″ which means they are superfast at closing distance between themselves and the enemy.
Some actions such as certain spellcasting actions, may take up both of your regiments allotted actions for the turn, and some actions can be done in any order such as move then shoot or shoot then move.
Melee combat in Conquest is pretty deadly and the only way to engage the enemy in combat while in hand to hand is to charge them. A charge check must be made for the charging regiment to see if it is within distance to close and engage, this is done by rolling a die and adding it to the units base March stat, if you are eight inches away and have a March of five you would need to roll a three or higher to successfully cross the distance between regiments.
As with most fantasy games, your basic units can be augmented by the addition of a command unit to your regiments, with a leader and a standard-bearer which gives bonuses such as inspire to your troops and allows them to roll extra dice in combat.
Speaking of which. The mechanics are pretty tight and use a system that once you have resolved all of your attacks and any wounded models have been removed from their stands, you make a second check to see if any more casualties are taken due to the impact of the action, reflecting the push of a charge or units rushing into spears. Its important to note that this ruling only applies to close combat and not ranged combat and as far as I can tell magical attacks.
When a regiment suffers a wound and fails its armour check, then the number of models it failed by are removed as wounded. They are not dead and certain conditions will allow you to attempt to bring back wounded models to regiments. Once a unit takes enough wounds it breaks and runs off.
Each miniature is based individually, but these round bases sit inside larger square bases that make up the regiment base. One the whole infantry tend to be four models to a stand with four to six stands making up the regiment, and large creatures are one per stand but in regiments of three or four!
The rules go into great detail on how each aspect of the mechanics work and they are often accompanied by examples and all in all it’s very well laid out set of rules.
The game is played in turns with activation alternating between each player, and each turn is broken down into a set of phases.
- Reinforcement Phase. Both players check to see if any of their reinforcements can arrive this turn and see if they enter the battle.
- Command Phase. Players assemble their command stacks to determine which order they will activate their units and they are then placed face down.
- Supremacy Phase. Players roll for initiative to see who will be the First Player, who will then activate the top card on their command stack.
- Action Phase. Starting with the first player, turns are taken to activate regiments and resolve all moving, shooting, close combat, etc. Once a player completes his actions with his chosen unit, play then passes to the next player and so on.
- Victory Phase. Mission victory conditions are checked to see if either player has won, if not the game continues with a new turn.
Each phase of the turn is broken down and described and is pretty simple to follow and your average game will last for a number of turns dictated by the scenario you are playing. Some games can last longer than others, with all the given scenarios in the rules each being ten turns long. Ten turns may sound like a long time but given the speed of which the game plays you could rinse through that in under an hour once you have mastered the rules.
The book is split into twelve chapters that cover everything from standard games conventions such as line of sight, measuring distances, etc; to advanced rules that detail how to play larger games, adding event cards to your games and even a section for magic. It seems that all the many years of working on fantasy games have really paid off and all that knowledge is now being passed onto the gamer in a form of tightly knit rules.
The final section of the rulebook is a set of army lists that cover the Hundred Kingdoms and Spires, including points for each regiment to allow you to build up your forces and play your first games. More army list will be available on the official Conquest website, as well as an upcoming army builder that will allow you to build your forces quickly and easily.
Now on to those amazing miniatures and amazing is a word not used lightly. In all of the many decades, I have been a gamer I don’t think I have ever been as impressed by an initial set of miniatures like these.
The two factions are both fresh, yet retain a hint of familiarity that is hard to pin down at first, it’s only once you dig deeper into inspirations behind the factions that you see they are both rooted in classical art and history in a sense. The Spires are alien to the world of Eä, coming from across the skies, yet they are reminiscent of baroque artwork and conjures up images of pagan demons and fairy folk.
The Hundred Kingdoms
The Hundred Kingdoms is a prime example of a medieval-style army, with knights, men at arms and more. Looking like they have just walked from a tapestry onto your tabletop, these wonderful models have a style that nods again to Warhammer, being reminiscent of both the Empire and Bretonnian forces, yet retaining their own unique style and look.
The soldiers in their heavy looking armour are all weary and battle-worn and you are given a large number of spare heads to make unique looking regiments. The Men at Arms look amazing and are equipped with a variety of shields and swords that will make each model slightly different than the next.
The Crossbowmen are all poised to advance on their enemy and can be posed with the first rank of models kneeling to allow the second rank to volley fire from behind them.
The knights are all dynamically posed and in the midst of a charge or cantor and each is armed with a very Bretonnian looking lance and a selection of kite shields to protect them. The horses are well animated and look the part, and this unit is perfect to practice those heraldry skills on. If you buy the knights unit separately it comes complete with a huge banner that is almost as big as the miniature itself, something to really think about as the knights are fast and very hard-hitting.
Finally, for the Hundred Kingdoms in the core box, we get the Knight Lord! This miniature is an excellent example of how hard the guys at Para Bellum have worked at bringing the game to life and is excellently sculpted. For a company that is releasing its first game, let alone a set of miniatures, Para Bellum can not be faulted on the execution and delivery of their product. The Knight Lord is mounted on a heavy warhorse, complete with barding and is posed to reflect the mount raising on its hind legs as he leads the charge into battle. The Knight is decked out in heavy plate armour and again looks very medievil and perfect for the game.
As for assembly, the only thing to note is that the knight lords helmet needs to be seated correctly or you will end up with a gap under his helmet! Sadly I didn’t realise this till it was too late and I had already assembled and undercoated the model.
The Spire are the second faction in the core box set of Conquest; The Last Argument of Kings, and they look surreal and somewhat bizarre. Rather than sticking to the trope of a traditional pointed eared elf as most fantasy games will do, here the creators have opted to go in a different direction and add an air of the weird or otherworldly to their models.
Influences of H.R. Geiger are very noticeable with the Spire miniatures and they all have a bio-organic look and feel to them. You get three units in the core game and a character model.
The first unit is the Forced Grown Drones. Looking like something that just walked out of a madman’s nightmare, these bio organically created creatures have no identity of their own and are swathed in rags and bandages. Like most of the Spire units these are genetically grown in huge vats from harvested biomass (read people) and each drone is exactly that, a single cell acting within a much larger organism. Armed with a lethal looking long spear and a shield that is almost as tall as a man, these slender creatures are directed on the battlefield by a Pheromancer. Assembly is pretty simple but I would suggest that you check the spear arms before gluing in place as one of them is meant to be in an over arm position
The next regiment is the Brutes, and as their name sounds these creatures are literally designed for just one thing; to kill anyone or anything that gets in their way! Standing at almost two inches each, the Brutes are again a bio grown creature and have lots of bandages on their bodies. The scary thing about them is not their immense size, but the fact that each arm ends in a vicious scythe or blade that will slice through regular troops with ease.
The miniatures go together simply and the arms and torsos are all ball-jointed to allow for a great deal of animation and posing and could very easily be magnetised to allow repositioning of the deadly looking arms.
The Pheromancer was mentioned above and is the leader of your Spire force in the core game. This again looks organic and menacing and has what looks like a gas mask growing from his head and blending into his body. The miniature is armed with what looks like a lantern and is posed as if he is directing a unit of drones to do his or her bidding. It’s pretty hard to assign a gender to the Spires as some look male and others female and others androgynous. This model is designed to either be on its own base or can be added to a regiment as its leader in one of the unit bases replacing a regular drone!
I have saved the biggest till last as this will most likely be the centerpiece of most Spire players forces. The Knight Lord is a big and pretty impressive looking miniature and really stands out for the Hundred Kingdoms forces, but it is tiny when it stood against the Spire behemoth that is the Abomination!
This is a pretty huge model and depending on how you assemble it, the model can stand a good four inches or more in height. Like the Brutes, the Abomination is ball-jointed which allows for lots of posing and will allow you to raise the height of this bizarre-looking creature and comes with a selection of hands (claws?) that can be placed flat or curled over terrain.
It comes with a huge monster base that has a large footprint and it’s made even bigger with the square base that the round base sits in. Like all the regiment and cavalry bases these larger square bases can make moving your units far quicker.
As well as the movement/regiment bases, the game also comes with six faction objective markers for use in your scenarios and they look great.
Conquest: The Last Argument of Kings is a great looking game that has loads of potential for the future. It has a simple mechanic that I have only just glanced the mere surface of here and is fully fleshed out in the 140-page rule book.
The background for the game is quite unlike many other fantasy systems out there and has a lot of scope for growth. The world is only very briefly touched upon in the rule book and for more information and fiction you really need to delve deep into the Para Bellum website and read this rich tapestry of lore for each of the factions. If anything my only gripe is that the game could have done with including some of this lore, to give the players more of an idea why the Spire are wanting to harvest biomass or why the Hundred Kingdoms is a world on the brink of collapse and is plagued by other races.
The layout of the rules is excellent and this A5 book contains many examples of how mechanics should work and a handy contents page that gives a good idea where you can find what you are looking for.
The miniatures are excellent and are made from good quality plastic and on the whole assembly is straight forward, though I would recommend dry-fitting some pieces such as the spears on the drones and the legs on the Abomination, also super glue on the Abomination would be a good idea to get the legs right once you work out where you want them.
The fact that this is the debut product from Para Bellum is outstanding and this is easily up there with games that have been out for years from other companies. Of course, people will compare Conquest to other fantasy games such as Age of Sigmar or other games, and while the plastics may not have the detailing or definition of something from Sigmar, they are easily equal to anything else on the market and in many cases much better! Games Workshop, however, is a company with decades of experience in making plastic models and has some of the best technology in the industry. This is not a criticism but praise and I guarantee that Para Bellum Wargames is a company to watch out for!
The future for the game looks great with lots of releases coming soon for both of the factions in the two-player starter set, and of course, very soon the next two factions will be released and both have some totally amazing looking models.
An organised play for Conquest is in the works with support for players and stores and much more down the line. The website is a must for those new to the game and it has fiction, galleries and much more.
Conquest The Last Argument of Kings is available now from all good game stockists and directly from Para Bellum Wargames. For great savings, though I would recommend our good friends at On Table Top and save yourself some cash.
Overall a great game with loads of potential to rival even the biggest out there.
Images copyright Para Bellum Wargames all rights reserved.