Andrei Burago


No. of Players:
3 - 5




The world of Fantasy Boardgames has expanded considerably since the first Lord of the Rings-based products have appeared a some decades ago, but it seems that quite often the authors of such games have chosen a well-trodden path which leads to the final game being either a game of character development and palpable simplicity like Talisman or Heroquest or a micro-management wargame of considerable scope like War of the Ring or World of Warcraft. Both of these categories have in common that these games take up a considerable amount of playing time, and it has been only on rare occasions that an author has dared to place his novelty outside of these two categories, into the field of family boardgames where an interesting playing mechanism needs to be coupled with a short to moderate playing time and enough player interaction to keep the game involving and challenging for all participants. As it seems, this small niche of Fantasy Boardgames has found a new denizen with Conquest of the Fallen Lands by Andrei Burago, a game of battles and conquest which somehow does not fit into one of the two traditional categories.


In Conquest of the Fallen Lands the players take the roles of Nobles who share the common goal of liberating a region of the Kingdom which has fallen prey to the hordes of Chaos. Thus, the gameboard shows the Fallen Lands and is made up of a number of hexagonal location tiles, each of which bearing a Defence value between "1" and "12". The Defence value is the difficulty which needs to overcome if a player wants to conquer a particular location tile, and it is graphically symbolized by the Chaos creatures which are shown on the tile in question. So, a tiles with a Defence value of "1" only shows two lonely Goblins, whereas the tiles with the value "12" actually show fearsome Dragons.

Once the gameboard has been randomly assembled, each player may chose two Follower tokens from the three stockpiles which have been placed close at hand. So, each player may draw any combination of Warriors, Craftsmen and Mages which he likes. During a player's turn, these Followers symbolize the resources available to each player, since the powers of each type of Followers will be needed to play cards which will be used for conquering the location tiles.

[IMAGE]The playing cards from the randomly shuffled deck are the central element of a player's action, since this deck contains Troops, Fortifications and Magic cards which the players need to use in favour of their military campaigns. Here, the Troop cards are most essential for conquering a location tile, since all a player needs to do in order to occupy a tile is to play a Troop card onto a tile which has an Attack value which equals or exceeds the Defence value of the tile. As might be guessed, there exist weaker and stronger types of Troop cards in the game, and the stronger a Troop card is the more Followers the active player will have to turn around and use in order to make the Troop card available. Generally, Troop cards use a lot of Warriors for their mobilization, so that a player who has focused on gathering Warriors and a few Craftsmen will have no problems in playing most of the Troop cards available in the game.

However, the placement of a single Troop card is not sufficient to conquer the location tiles with the higher Defence values, since even the strongest Troop cards only have Attack values going up to a level of "4". To conquer the better defended tiles, the players are allowed to check neighbouring tiles which they have already occupied, and here the second value of each Troop card comes to bear - the Support value. Thus, a player who wants to conquer a tile does not only use the Attack value of the Troop card he wants to use to occupy the tile, but in addition the attack is reinforced by the Support values of all of the player's Troop cards on neighbouring tiles. Following this procedure, the players first try to occupy tiles of lesser values in order to build up a favourable position to conquer the more valuable tiles later in the game.

[IMAGE]Only one Troop card may be placed into any location tile, and once a location has been conquered it may not be conquered by any of the other players. Instead, the conqueror receives a reward in Gold equalling the location's Defence value, and the possession of most Gold will be used to distinguish the winner when the game comes to its end. However, there exists a type of cards which can be placed into already occupied tiles, and this are the Fortification cards which have no Attack value but only a Support value. Thus, a Fortification may only be played onto a tile which has been conquered by the player, but afterwards it will lead its Support value to all of the player's attacks on neighbouring tiles. The building of a Fortification requires the player to possess a number of Craftsmen, and thus a player who has focused too much on acquiring Warriors as Followers will not be able to make much use of the more valuable Fortification cards.

The final category of Followers are the Mages, and their powers are mainly used to play the Magic cards which can also be found in the deck of cards. These cards offer various possibilities for one-time actions, like the temporal increase of a Troop card's Attack value or the availability of additional Followers. Also, there exist some Troop cards in the game which can be recruited with Mages, and so the Mages also have some use to gain troops for conquests. Finally, Mages have a larger impact on the drawing of new cards. Usually the players are restricted to drawing one new card per turn, but if a player should have unused Mages at the end of his turn he may draw an additional card for each Mage.

All kinds of Followers can be recruited for 5 Gold at the beginning of a player's turn, but as indicated above the possession of most Gold is also used to determine thw inner at the end of the game. Thus, the players need to think carefully whether they should spend money at all and which Followers they should hire.

Once the players have mastered the basic rules outlined above, there also exists a set of advanced rules for Conquest of the Fallen Lands which considerably increases the challenge. Cards now get more expensive, and unit placement becomes even more tactical since the players now benefit from the Support value of all units on neighbouring spaces, regardless of the owner of any of these units. This rule represent the fact that all players together try to free the Fallen Lands from the marauding forces of Chaos, and so it is self-evident that they have to assist each other when it comes to defeating stronger monsters. Finally, apart from the starting turn the placement of new units becomes restricted so that a player either has to place a new Troop card next to one of his already placed cards, or he has to resort to flying which needs Mages and also the spending of some Gold. As you can see, the tactical options greatly increase with these few rules, and even though the placement of Troops might seem easier due to the assistance of all other players, the players need to think carefully where to place their cards in order not to give an other player a big advantage for his next conquest.

As you can see, Conquest of the Fallen Lands is a tactical placement game which really falls outside the usual categories of Fantasy Boardgames. Although the players go to war against sinister hordes of Chaos, the comparatively short playing time of one to two hours has led to the creation of a playing mechanism which is quite sophisticated in terms of tactical planning and player interaction. There is no endless moving of armies which then may meet in a final "battle of dice", but instead there is a constant competition between the players to occupy the best positions for further conquests. Here the Advanced rules pose an even greater challenge, since the restricted placement of Troops and the expensive back door of flying to a new position force the players into a good degree of planning and speculation while at the same time balancing cost and usefulness of a flight move. On the other hand, Andrei Burago manages the difficult balancing act to leave some elements of resource management in the game due to the inclusion of the Followers which are needed to play the different kinds of cards, and so friends of more "traditional" Fantasy games also should find a high degree of pleasure in Conquest of the Fallen Lands with its highly enjoyable and absorbing gameplay.

A well implemented background story, smooth running playing mechanisms and really nice illustrations - I hope to see more games like Conquest of the Fallen Lands from ASSA GAMES in the future!

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany