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Review: Conquest of the Empire (Classic variant)

Posted by Denny Koch on September 22, 2010

Game: Conquest of the Empire

Publisher: Eagle Games
Published in: 2005
Designers: Larry Harris

Era: Ancients; Roman Civil War
Game Type: board game / area movement / plastic miniatures (2-6 players)
Contents: 3 mounted game boards, 2 marker sheets, 1 rulebook (CoTE classic variant, 11 pages), 1 rulebook CoTE II (17 pages), 1 set of playing cards (only used in the CotE II variant), 8 dice, 396 plastic miniatures, 75 plastic coins


HFC Game-O-Meter: E


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9
Rules: 6
Playability:
8
Replay Value:
7.5

Overall Rating: 8

PRO Fantastic presentation, high heft factor, great multiplayer experience, very thematic…
CONTRA …somewhat static and too long with 2 players, rules wording not always clear

Introduction

After our extensive playing sessions of Julius Caesar by Columbia Games and watching the first season of HBO’s “Rome”, we were in the mood for another Ancients game dealing with the Roman Empire.

Conquest of the Empire is a true eye-catcher

Since we are currently re-writing our old reviews in our operation  “review reset“, this was the perfect chance to bring one of our other Ancients games back to the gaming table and to play it with a fresh perspective.

We had to choose between Imperium Romanum II, SPQR, and Conquest of the Empire (CotE). CotE is a “light wargame” from the Axis & Allies family, so it was perfectly suited for being played again for a few weekends without the major time investment Imperium Romanum II would have demanded from us. In addition, we already had some extensive (German) reviews for both Conquest variants, which were written some years ago – so we decided to bring Conquest of the Empire back to our gaming table and to review it again.

The Conquest of the Empire box contains two game variants: The “Classic” game variant which is based on the old Conquest of the Empire game  from the MB Gamemaster Series (published 1984), and a new variant called “Conquest of the Empire II” which has not much to do with the original game and which introduces politics, intrigue, and diplomacy. It is next to impossible to play the CotE II variant with 2 players (which isn’t mentioned anywhere on the game box, btw!), so we decided to play and review the classic variant first (before forcing a third player to re-play the CotE II variant with us ;)).

Conquest of the Empire Classic is somewhat similar to Axis & Allies but not so static, allowing more different strategies and more maneuvering. The map depicts the Mediterranean (as it does in Julius Caesar by GC) and the game takes place in the Roman Civil War, but on a somewhat more abstract level than the CG game because each player is just “one Caesar” and his forces, fighting other (unnamed) Caesars.

The game can be played with 2-6 players and utilizes area movement, supported by naval movement,  building streets and capitals for more protection and faster movement. Battles are fought with special combat dice showing specific symbols.

Graphic Presentation

The map. Click to enlarge!

The graphic presentation is fantastic. The mounted map consists of three parts and requires a large table. The artwork is great, the area from the Mediterranean, central Europa, up to Britannia and the East is drawn in a geomorphic fashion showing mountains, hills, and other geographical features that don’t play any role in the game mechanics, though. The game design is very “Roman” and antique with lots of Roman chrome, for example creatures from the Roman mythology in the Mediterranean sea, or illustrations of Roman gods, busts, or statues. The font in which the map text is printed is somewhat playful but fits perfectly to the overall topic.

The game box contains an incredible amount of stuff and is one of the heaviest game boxes in our collection. First, there are six sets of plastic miniatures (color-coded, one set for each player, in one of six plain colors which ask for re-painting), which are divided into leaders, infantry, cavalry, galleys, and catapults. The miniatures are very detailed, you can even discover small details on the soldiers’ uniforms, and you can actually move the arms of the catapults. The legion markers (which are used to mark your captured territories) are printed with Roman legion insignia and even the golden and silver plastic coins (the currency to recruit your troops, build your streets and cities) are designed in a Roman fashion with a portrait of an Emperor.

The dice are plain ugly

There is absolutely nothing to complain about the game presentation; it is certainly one of the best looking games of its kind. If you are into painting plastic miniatures, you will have even more fun with the game because the figures are so detailed (check out the image galleries on boardgamegeek where players posted images of their painted miniatures).

We have only one minor complaint: the dice are amazingly ugly, showing black symbols on orange ground. The symbols are horrible and cannot be told apart from a distance, especially the galley and catapult symbols are very similar (and similarly ugly). Often you can’t recognize the symbols your opponent just rolled, and you even have to take a closer look to tell your own symbols apart. A clearer design would have been really helpful, or at least a different coloring for each symbol.

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