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CONQUEST OF PANGEA

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Immortal Eyes/Winning Moves Games, 2-4 players, ages teen to adult, 90+ minutes; $40.95)

 

Scientists theorize that, in the beginning, the Earth consisted of one large land mass that, over time, broke apart to create the continents we know today. In Conquest of Pangea, this idea is the crux of the gameplay as the super-continent of Pangea starts to split. It is up to the players to assure that their species survives and achieves dominance in this new world.

Conquest of Pangea, a Phil Orbanes design, is one of the three initial releases from Immortal Eyes, a new imprint from Winning Moves, an American company that has published both American style games (here in the USA) and Euro style games (in Europe). Evidently, they have decided that the time is ripe to plunge into the American market with Euro style games.

Conquest of Pangea comes with a mounted board, 7 continent pieces, 120 population markers, 4 Leader tokens, 28 Dominance cards, 52 Power cards (a White deck and a Yellow deck), 32 Time cards, 4 Play aids, 30 Terrain tiles (and a draw bag to place them in), 6 Raft pieces, 5 Power Stones and six pages of instructions.

The game begins with all 7 continent pieces on their starting positions on the board, creating the great continent of Pangea. All players begin with a set of population markers in their chosen color (from 30 for a two player game down to 25 if four players are involved). All of the terrain tiles are placed in the draw bag. The Time Card deck is shuffled and players, in turn, draw a Time Card to seed the continent.conquestpangea

Continents are divided into areas with spaces for population markers and terrain type. Each Time Card displays a continent and it is on any area on that continent that the drawing player draws a terrain marker, marking that area with that particular terrain for the entire game, and claims that area by placing a population marker there. There are six basic terrain types, each with a specific point value: mountains (valued at 1), tundra (2), hills (3), forests (4), plains (5) and lakes (6). That player also receives a corresponding Dominance card for that terrain. (Two hostile environments – volcano and sulfur – may be drawn. Both have no point value and no Dominance cards since neither can support population markers. Areas that draw these environments are impassable.) Point values are important for two reasons: they indicate the cost of placing a new marker in the area AND indicate the marker limit of an area. (Cost and limit, in every case, equals the point value of the terrain.) Once all 25 areas are filled, Time Cards are reshuffled and regular turns commence.

Each turn, the active player begins with the five Power Stones (think of them as “action points”). He may then use them to pay for additional Population markers in three ways: growth, expansion and invasion.

Growth allows you to place an additional marker in any area where you already have a marker. Expansion allows you to place a marker in an area where you do not have a presence but ONLY if you have at least two markers in an adjacent area. In both growth and expansion, the new population marker is placed BELOW the markers already in the area. The player with the most markers in an area (ties go the player there first) earns a Dominance card of that terrain type and gets it from the player who previously HAD Dominance in that area. IF the appearance of a new marker causes a change, the majority color is placed on top and the new majority holder gets the Dominance card for the area from the previous holder. In addition to population markers, each player has a Leader and Leaders are important for expanding your holdings.

A player gets a Leader at the end of his turn if he has dominance in three ADJACENT areas and is placed in any of those three areas. On the following turn (and on subsequent turns), a Leader may be moved to 1, 2 or 3 adjacent spaces (or simply stay whereever he is). If moving 1 space (or remaining stationary), a player gets a FREE population marker in the area. (If moved 2 or 3 spaces, this bonus is forfeited.) Leaders are permanent (UNLESS lost due to an Event revealed on a Time Card) and are worth 2 in attacks and/or defense and are very helpful in planning an invasion. Invasions are how an enemy population marker can be replaced by one of your own in battle and are only possible if the terrain limit of an area has been reached.

Battle is handled well as players need to use their Power points (and the Power Cards they will earn) judiciously. A player with two population markers in an adjacent area (or at least one marker in that area) can initiate battle. First, he must expend Power points equal to the value of the contested terrain. Then, he can use additional Power points (playing cards face down) to try to replace an enemy marker with his own. The defender now plays as many cards as he wishes, face down, to repel the invader. All cards are revealed. If the attacker has more power, the defender removes one of his markers and it is replaced with one of the attacker’s. If the defender wins, the attack is repelled. However, the attacker may play ONE more card to which the defender may respond with ONE more card. Now, the totals are again tallied to see if the attacker has managed to amass a higher total in which case, the defender’s marker is removed, replaced by one of the attacker’s. In all cases, played cards are discarded (except for those which are reusable). After actions are done, a player may earn Power Cards.

Yellow Power Cards are earned at the end of a turn when a player gets a SECOND Dominance card of the same type and these cards add more Power to your growth and expansion efforts (and can be used in battle too). Yellow Power cards are kept so long as a player controls at least one Dominance card of that type. White Power cards are earned (one if they have grown, two if they have expanded or successfully invaded an area) are often one use only cards (although some are reusable) and are also received at the end of a turn. These cards can be used to increase your Action Points in a turn to be used to increase your presence on the board.

The last action in a turn is to draw a Time Card, implementing the event on the card (if possible) resulting in removing (or placing) population markers on specified areas and placing the card on a “time line”. Each Event card also carries a time frame (in millions of years). When the total reaches or exceeds 25, the continent pictured on the card BREAKS away from Pangea. (If that continent has already split, the next continent listed on the card (or the next) breaks away. When the last continent breaks away, the game immediately ends. The player with the most Dominance points wins!

Conquest of Pangea has many good aspects. The variable nature of set up assures that the game will always play differently and leave players with different challenges to face. As mentioned, the battle phase of the game is handled well. The production value of Conquest of Pangea is exceptional. Thick cardboard continents, high quality plastic Leader and population markers, nicely produced decks of cards, all indicate care and planning with little left to chance. Not so with the game play.

The “chaos quotient” in the game is very high. In set up, players are limited by the draw of the Time cards as to where they can place their pieces. Add to that the random draw of terrain type and set up can often result in players with vastly unequal starting positions as well as initial amounts of Dominance points. These puts some players at a significant disadvantage, a disadvantage that can be impossible to overcome! In addition, randomization caused by events on the Time cards serves to undermine careful planning and, in some cases, allow a kingmaker problem to emerge as the active player can use an event to decide dominance in a particular area, swinging Victory Points from one player to another, without the play having any direct impact on him! (To minimize some of the chaos, we suggest a variant of simply IGNORING the events on the Time Cards allowing players to exert more control.)

When you have continents splitting into the ocean, chaos fits the theme. But the chaos running rampant throughout the game only negates attempts at serious planning and long range strategy, a situation mitigated only to a degree by our suggested variant. There is a game here. But to reach its full potential, more development and a revised set of rules are needed. For now, this game is strictly for players more forgiving of events beyond their control. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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