Conquest of Nerath – DnD Axis and Allies
Conquest of Nerath is a pretty big departure from the typical offerings from Dungeons and Dragons, but borrows a lot from another WotC offering, Axis and Allies. The setup is similar to other massive war strategy boardgames. Players choose a realm (Nerath, Vailin, Iron Circle or Karkoth) and start with a certain territory and certain armies. Conquest of Nerath replaces the infantry, tanks and bombers of Axis and Allies with footsoldiers, siege engines and dragons.
The realms are about evenly matched starting out. About the same number of territories and about the same number of units. This could be an all out slog of waves of armies crashing into each other. But it isn’t.
The twist comes in the form of hero pieces and dungeons. You can buy heroes in the form of fighters and wizards at the same time you buy regular units during your turn. Heroes can form a party and have the unique ability to explore the dungeon entrances scattered on the map. Once the heroes explore the dungeon they encounter an iconic D&D monster (Beholder, Medusa, Troll) and must defeat it to claim it’s treasure. Spending resources on these delves reduces the number of troops you have on the front lines capturing and defending territory, but the treasure the heroes win if they defeat the monster can provide a huge tactical advantage. For example, I sent a group down and defeated a troll and claimed “Boots of Flying” which allowed my troops to fly over one square of water. Typically, if it is a non-flying unit, you have to build a boat, load troops on the boat, and hope it doesn’t sink while being subject to attacks from other players with dragons and elementals. For me, the gamble paid off. Other times, the monster is too powerful or the party too weak, and you lose a bunch of heroes for no real gain.
We played with four players, but two teams. The realms in opposite corners work together. The Iron Circle (goblins, ogres and such) with Karkoth (zombies, undead) and Nerath (Humans, dwarves) with Vailin (Elves, Fey). It was a lot of fun and very high replay value, in that the treasures and monsters are randomly dealt about the board. The MSRP of $79.99 is pretty steep compared to some board games, but if you like strategy games, and can appreciate some D&D fantasy, its definitely worth it.