7 Nov

Age of Conan (Boardgame)

Filed under: Boardgames 2 Responses


One of the problems I have when writing about boardgames is that it’s impossible to wait until I’ve played a game several times in order to write about it. This is because for some games it can be very difficult to arrange multiple sessions of a game within a reasonable span of time. Apparently one of the dark secrets of the hobby is that many owners only get to play some of the bigger games they buy a handful of times, sometimes not at all, and yet they keep buying them anyway!

This was the case with Age of Conan, a game that Han brought in to play at CarcaSean and that I probably won’t see again for a long time. This means that all of my impressions and opinions were gleaned from a single playthrough and should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt. As its name implies, this game is set during the fictional Hyborian Age from the stories of Robert E. Howard. Up to four players each take control of one of the major nations of the era and strive to be the greatest empire of all.

Each player only takes one action during his turn and there are really only three types of actions to choose from: military, intrigue or court. The military action allows you to either move or attack with your armies or build additional troops. The intrigue action enables you to move your emissaries, deploy more of them or try to use to convert a province to an ally. Finally, the court action basically lets you either draw cards or play them.


The twist is that not of the actions are available all of the time. Instead, a pool of possible actions is created by throwing seven dice and the actions available correspond to the symbols that turn up. Some die faces show wild cards which can be used to perform any action and some show dual symbols, but the rules state that these must effectively be the last dice to be taken from the pool. Whenever a player picks one of the available actions, he removes the appropriate die from the pool, so that there are fewer and fewer choices left. Once all the dice have been taken, they are rolled again to create a new pool.

Of course this wouldn’t be a Conan game without the barbarian himself in it so in addition to fighting against each other on the map, the players also vie for control over Conan. This is done by secretly submitting bid tokens. Whoever wins gets to control Conan’s movement on the map and if he happens to be an area where you’re fighting against an enemy nation, he will be able to lend his mighty sword to your cause. Conan however has his own adventures to get on with and if his controller helps him to get to his objective, he’s rewarded with adventure tokens that can be immediately exchanged for resources or kept to earn points at the end of the game.

After Conan has completed four adventures, one age is complete and the nations must consolidate, earning money from the provinces they control and spending it on additional troops and other resources. At the end of the third age, the game ends and the victor is determined according to how many empire points each nation has earned. Alternatively, during the third age, a player who controls Conan can try to crown him as his nation’s king. This ends the game prematurely and gives the nation that successfully pulls this off a significant bonus in points.

The key to winning is in fact through military conquest because you immediately earn points equal to the value of any province you successfully subjugate and don’t lose those points even when another nation grabs that province away from you. Converting a province into an ally through diplomacy never earns any points, but is usually much quicker and allows you to immediately earn money in between ages. The Conan mechanic itself seems to mostly act as a timer. It’s quite difficult to actually use him to help out your nation directly but it’s evident that whoever controls him most of the time can achieve a lead in adventure tokens.


During our session, I controlled Hyperboria which starts with only four army units, one less than Turan and Hyperboria, but like Stygia has two sorcery tokens which can be spent to reroll any dice I throw. I also started with an artifact that gave me a bonus die whenever I attempted an intrigue action, so I spent my early turns converting a couple of neutral provinces into allies. This allowed me to get some decent money at the end of the first age but left me trailing behind in the race for empire points.

My wife played Aquilonia, which occupies the centre portion of the map and thus is a natural focal point for most of the action. She started with an artifact which allows her to win ties in military contests even as the attacker (the defender normally wins) and focused almost exclusively on military action. She actually managed to build and sustain a small lead throughout the game, while at the same time gaining control of Conan enough times to be more than competitive in the grab for adventure tokens.

Another way to earn empire points is by fulfilling the conditions on the objective cards that come up. Sure enough one of the cards that popped up awarded bonus points to the nation that had the most forts in the centre portion of the map and Sean, controlling the Turans, duly gravitated in that direction. As the cowardly player that I always end up becoming, I headed northwards and contented myself with munching on the empty neutral provinces there. This kept me in the running without becoming entangled in any big wars but you really need to be bold to win these kinds of games.


Our game ended when my wife succeeded in crowning Conan as king. Unfortunately, her obvious attempt to do so had made her the obvious target and both Han and Sean continuously attacked her. Han in particular was able to play some impressive Kingdom cards, representing the special abilities unique to each of the nations, that significantly boosted his military power, and gradually whittled down Shan’s forts. What the rest of us, except for Han, had forgotten was that the value of each province is added again to the final score at the end. Since Shan only had two forts left by the time she crowned Conan, she came in at last place even though she had a small lead before that. I think she’s still upset about that.

Overall, I found the game to be decent enough without being particularly impressive in any way. Some of the military aspects and the idea of splitting the game into three ages with a consolidation phase in between each phase reminded me a bit of Struggle of Empires, but SoE is still the cleverer and more interesting game. The mechanics involving Conan feel a bit odd to me as he simply moves around the map and completes quest automatically. I suppose that this is a necessary abstraction and it would be silly to have Conan fail at anything, but I would have preferred some additional options there.

As it is, anyone who’s a devoted Conan fan, as Han obviously is, will probably love the game. I’d like to play more in order to see what additional options the Kingdom cards offer, but it seems to me that you draw them very slowly over the course of the game. Finally, I note that the estimated playing time on BGG at 90 minutes is wildly inaccurate. In our case, we took nearly four hours to finish, though that includes extra time taken to explain the rules.

Written on November 7 2009 and is filed under Boardgames. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Age of Conan (Boardgame)”

Chong Sean

Actually i’ve only attack Shan once. But i persuade others to attack her to draw the attention away from me :p

I don’t think i am going to get this game so next time you want to play is probably when you are back in KL and play with Han…


Heh, I think that this going to be at least a year away. You need to convert more people to hardcore boardgame players! Or else you won’t have enough customers and we won’t have enough people to play with!

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