Monday, October 3, 2011

Conquest of Planet Earth!

by Randy

Greetings, gamers of the internet! We of the Growing Up Gamers collective come in peace to be your benevolent and protective game reviewers. Do not be alarmed.  We have recently acquired a review copy of Conquest of Planet Earth from Flying Frog Productions and wish to impart our wisdom upon you. Or consume your resources and leave it a dried husk. Whichever works. We have not yet come to a decision, so on with the review.
Are any of you familiar with Flying Frog Productions? We certainly are. I really enjoyed playing Last Night on Earth, their scenario-based zombie survival game. Complete with a soundtrack and stunning photographic art, it is a very nice game and worth a playthrough. So we were pretty excited to try out Conquest of Planet Earth, with its quirky 1950’s B-movie saucermen theme. And we love it.

How it looks
For starters, it’s pretty . This game does not use the fun photography and makeup of the Last Night… series. Instead, this goes for a more traditional painted/drawn style. The alien races are all well illustrated and really convey those B-movie tropes. You could totally see these in a monster movie from the 50’s or 60’s, or maybe even off of the original Star Trek series.  The Rantillion Beetlemen, the Fishmen of Atlorak, the Vyborian Arbiters…  heck, there’s even some warrior-women and and space emperors in faux-Roman clothing. The miniatures are well-scuplted, with four tokens of each color (all the same sculpt), and four unique ally tokens. They very much capture the theme. Embrace the cheesiness! And then there’s the soundtrack…

Player tokens

Why a soundtrack for a game? Why not! On the CD, there are eleven tracks of instrumental music that goes a long way to set the mood for the game. Most of the ten alien races have tracks named after them, themed after their breed of vileness. Crazy, spacey, atmospheric… I highly recommend those of you trying out the game play this in the background. Sure, it’s not absolutely necessary; but don’t let that stop you from turning a playthrough of a boardgame into an experience.
 Four different games in one!

The Orzax
For those of you really trying to make the most of your gaming dollar, I want to point out that there are four ways to play this game. That’s right: four. The first is the competitive game. In this, each player  plays an alien species bent on taking over the Earth, but there’s these pesky humans in the way… not to mention the other aliens who want this prime real estate! The second is the cooperative game, in which the alien players join forces to take over the Earth, but the humans are much craftier and have a more active resistance. The third is a team game, which has two teams of two aliens fighting for the planet. And the last is the solo game, which is just like the cooperative but it is played solitaire, with the player choosing to play one or more alien races, again, trying to subjugate Earth.  Of those four, the competitive and cooperative games fit our play style the best, and both offer great gameplay.

All styles have a similar board setup, with a central human capital and an additional adjoining board for each alien player. Location cards are played on the spaces when aliens move to an undiscovered one, and each have a Terror rating (victory points for the controller) and a Resistance score. The resistance score determines the number of battles a player will do with human defenders from the Resistance deck. Watch out! Those crafty humans have ways of joining forces and some cards will stack and give bonuses. Woe to the saucerperson who finds Captain Fantastic… he’s the toughest the humans have to offer, a pulp-era hero ready to swing his super-powered fists at any alien daring to land on his planet! A dice roll for each side, plus modifiers, determines the outcome, though cards in players’ hands can, of course, alter outcomes. Simple resolution, meaningful choices…  perfect for a theme-heavy game of this sort.

Our thoughts
The Venezian Matriarchy
We love this game. It’s just that simple. This is a game that can be equally enjoyed by those looking for a game with a quirky, fun theme, or a more strategy-oriented player. Granted, there is enough randomness here that hardcore eurogamers may have cause to turn up their noses, but this isn’t for them. This is an experience in a box. If you have ever delighted in watching a cheeseball low-fi movie with aliens and rayguns, check this game out. You won’t regret it. My advice is to make a night of it; try watching something like The Green Slime (1968, rating a whopping 3.8 of 10 stars at IMDB!), or maybe just an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series after playing the game. You'll have a blast!

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