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I love classic science fiction films. I love the good ones and the bad ones. I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 because they turn the classics (usually bad) into something new. This is why I was excited when I found out about Conquest of Planet Earth from Flying Frog Productions. Conquest of Planet Earth is a game of alien invasion where the players take on the role of alien race with unique abilities racing to conquer Earth, classic 50′s sci-fi style. The game does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of a 50′s drive in movie. The object of the game,in competitive play, is to be the first player to collect 8 terror points. This ends the game immediately.
Time to discuss components. Flying Frog continues to produce games with excellent production values and Conquest is no exception. The game features a five piece game board, alien race boards, and several cardboard counters, all of which are solid with a glossy finish. The alien invaders are represented by plastic miniatures in red, blue, green, and yellow. The miniatures are quite detailed and are shaped as flying saucers in keeping with the 50′s theme of the game. There are also four allied creature miniatures molded in gray. Each allied creature is a unique sculpt. The game play relies heavily on cards and there are five different decks in the box. The art on the cards and counters is colorful and fun. The flavor text on the cards really emphasizes the humor of this game.
The rule book is thorough and features plenty of diagrams and examples that make the game easy to learn. I enjoy playing Conquest of Planet Earth because it is a quick and easy game to teach and to play. The game also features two different ways to play, cooperative and competitive. The rules recommend learning the game competitively initially. Since there is a cooperative play mode which provides a way to control the human resistance without player involvement, the game can be played solo as well.
The five piece board allows for different game set ups based on the number of players. This also means the board is free from pesky and weak fold points. With all the different card decks, cardboard bits, and the multiple board pieces, the game can have a bit of a set up time. Although this can be easily shortened by storing the bits in an organized manner.
Conquest of Planet Earth is played in a series of rounds. Each round starts with the Command Phase. The Command Phase determines which player goes first for the current round as well as how many action points each player will have available to them on their turn. This is determined by using a series of chits numbered 2 through 6 and one labeled D6. These represent the number of action points a player will have on their turn. The first player for the round is determined by each player selecting one of the numbered chits from his pile and placing it face down on the table. These are all revealed at the same time. The player with the lowest number will go first that round. Play continues to his left. Since the game ends immediately when the victory conditions are met, turn order can be very important. The used chits get removed from the players pile and do not refresh until a player only has the D6 chit available so timing the use of chits matters as well. The D6 chit is reusable and the player’s action point bid is determined by a die roll immediately after the chits are revealed for a round.
After the command phase each player takes a turn in that round. A player’s turn consists of three phases. These phases are performed in order starting with the action phase and continuing with the battle phase and draw phase. The action phase is when a player spends action points to move his saucers around the board, play cards that require action points to be spent, and return destroyed saucers to the starting area. This is when all of the player’s action points are spent.
The battle phase is really the meat of the game as this is when fights take place. As the players explore the map, cards are drawn to represent locations on Earth, things like cities, towns , hills, power plants, and military bases. Each card has a resistance value which represents how many fights will be required to conquer the area and a population value which represents how many terror points the conquered area is worth. When a saucer, or saucers, explore a new space they have to fight the resistance they encounter. Fights will occur between saucers of opposing players during this phase as well.
The resistance for each fight is determined by card draw and there are several types of defense units as well as heroes which add to the units strength total. Some defense units have special abilities, like Assault, which wins on ties. The aliens strength is determined by the strength of the particular alien race and the number of saucers attacking the area. There are also cards a player can use to enhance the strength of his aliens for a fight. Fights are resolved by die rolling, with another player rolling for the resistance and the current player rolling for the aliens under his control. Die rolls are added to the strength of the aliens and resistance respectively, with the highest number winning the fight. It is very possible to generate enough strength to make fights impossible to win an the roll of a single die. The game design takes this into consideration and the Crushing victory rule allows for prohibitive underdogs to manage a victory. When a 6 is rolled on a fight die, strength totals don’t matter and that side wins that round. This makes any fight a bit of a gamble and doesn’t allow for building tons of power and just trying to steamroll the game. If the resistance wins a fight the aliens lose one saucer and if the aliens win the current resistance card and any heroes are discarded and the next fight with the resistance begins. If the alien wins fights equal to the location’s resistance value, that location is conquered. If the fight is going against the aliens, the player can elect to retreat to an adjacent conquered space. It is also important to note that players can steal conquered spaces from other players by moving into them while unoccupied by the enemies saucers.
The final phase of a player’s turn is the draw phase when the player replenishes their hand of Event cards. Event cards allow players to alter effects during the game, add to their terror points, or make things harder for other players to conquer.
That is the essence of Conquest of Planet Earth. The game moves at a fairly good clip and generally finishes in the projected 30 to 90 minutes. Most of the games I have played have taken about an hour. All of the games I have played have been very close, which I love. It is always better for everyone to be in the game. Conquest of Planet Earth is fairly kid friendly and could be played by folks slightly younger than the recommended 12 and up. The game is simple but does allow for some light strategy. The biggest issue can be the randomness of card draw and dice rolling, which can be frustrating. Those issues are relatively minor as the rules have been implemented to provide some ways to alleviate the worst of those issues, the Crushing victory rule, for examples. I enjoy this game immensely and the overwhelming majority of people I have played with have had fun as well. I have to admit that we have not explored the cooperative game to this juncture but that just means we still have another “new” game to play. Conquest of Planet Earth retails for around $50. Considering the amount of bits and pieces and the fact that the game provides two forms of game play make this one a pretty good value for the price.
I strongly recommend Conquest of Planet Earth to anyone looking for a quick and easy game. People who love classic science fiction should love this game.