Cardboard Children – Warhammer 40K: Conquest

Hello youse.

I promise that this will be the last Warhammer or Warhammer 40K related game I cover for a little while. For some reason it feels like there’s a Warhammer everything these days. Warhammer board games, Warhammer lunch boxes, a Warhammer lingerie line at Ann Summers. I don’t want to fatigue you with all this Warhammer talk, so I’ll make sure to cover something a little less Warhammery next week. But what’s a guy supposed to do when Warhammers of every shape and size keep flying through his door? ONLY WARHAMMER.


Okay, so this is another one of Fantasy Flight’s “Living Card Games”. You buy the base set and then you can expand the game through regular releases of new cards. There are never any blind buys in an LCG – you can get hold of everything, which is good. It’s how the current release of Netrunner works, and how the brilliant Warhammer: Invasion worked.

So, Conquest then. Every player takes a warlord card – these are the key cards in the game. Then you take a deck that fits with that warlord (you take a Space Marine deck for the Space Marine warlord) and you can also fill out the deck with some cards from factions that you can logically ally with. So your Space Marine deck can have some Imperial Guard (or Astra Militarum as Games Workshop have now named them, dunno why) in the mix.

Cards/units can do damage and take damage. They all have special abilities, of course, because WHEN HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A CARD THAT DOESN’T THESE DAYS?

In each game you lay out seven location cards, representing planets. Five of these are visible, and two are hidden. The players will deploy units/cards to the planets, to prepare for the gathering of resources and the laying of claims to the glories of the horrible universe. You will also have cards being played in front of you, to your headquarters – which is where your warlord sits until you’re ready to send him (and them) into the fray.

Deploying your warlord is a super-secret top secret decision that you make by using a little super-secret top secret number wheel you can hide in your hand, secretly. Both players’ warlords are deployed simultaneously, by showing your wheel – and wherever a warlord lands, a battle is certain to happen at the end of the turn.

The next phase of the game is the Command Struggle, where the planets are stripped of whatever bonuses they provide. At any planet where units are deployed, a comparison is made between the totals of the command icons on the cards of each side in the fight. The winner takes everything from the planet – extra cards or resources. If a warlord is present, the player who owns that warlord wins the command struggle automatically.

Then it’s into the combat phase. Battles only take place at the first revealed planet in the queue, or any planet that has at least one warlord making a visit. And combat is simple. Players take turns exhausting cards (tapping them) and sending their attacks at opposing units. Special abilities come into play, and players can discard cards from their hand as “shield cards”, reducing damage. (This is why it’s crucial to get some cards into your hand during that Command Struggle phase – shields are vital.)

The fights carry on until one side is killed or fully retreated, and the winning side takes the planet. You win the game if you win three of these planets, or if you kill an enemy warlord.

I won’t go into mad detail on the rules here, because you can watch this great video if you want to know exactly how it works.


Here is my opinion, such as it has been formed inside my mind.

Eric Lang is one of the designers of Conquest, and he’s a guy whose games I just love. He knows how to take some simple mechanics and make them flow smoothly – and the fundamental mechanics of this game are very simple. It’s a million miles from something like Netrunner (which is great, but just a bit too much of an investment of thought for me) and even more simple than my lovely, darling Warhammer: Invasion. Conquest is a smart, tidy, fun card game with simple resolutions underpinned by some exciting interplay between cards.

With the bulk of the game being about direct head-to-head clashes between units, the cards were always going to be the crucial factor here. Do they do enough cool stuff? Do they spark off exciting little synergies and pop off nice little surprises? And they really do. Whether it be Orks or the Tau or the Space Marines or the Eldar – or any of the seven factions in this core set – there is plenty to get your teeth into here. It’s tasty.

My favourite element of the game? I like that there’s a front line of battle. That first planet in the queue is where the war will focus in each turn – but there will be plenty of jockeying for position on those other planets in preparation for future front-line status. It’s nice.

You can teach this game in 5-10 minutes, easily, and both players can then get straight into finding out what their cards can do. You can get straight into the fight. You can play through a whole game in less than an hour and you’ll definitely want to set back up and go again when you do.

Is there enough in the core set? Well, there never really feels like there is enough in these things. The cards are excellent, and so you want more of them. It’s a positive that spirals into a negative. “Yeah, great. Cool. Now gimme more.” Will it be something I invest in? I’m not sure yet. I want to play a little bit more, and see how those expansion packs are working out for people. But for you?

Well, would you like a fun, fast, easy-to-play Warhammer 40K card game that sells the world of 40K really well? Do you want to be able to play a game in, say, a lunch break?

If so, I think you should check this one out.


  1. amateurviking says:

    Warhammer the FLAMETHROWER (the kids love this one).

  2. EhexT says:

    It should be mentioned that the very next release for Warhammer Conquest is a Deluxe Expansion. Why should a new player care about that?

    Because it introduces a new faction. Why should a new player care about that?

    That faction cannot ally with anyone. That means you do not need anything but the deluxe expansion (maybe 3 times? and MAYBE one core set for tokens, depending on their inclusion in the Deluxe Box) to have a fully functioning faction. It should be the perfect introduction box for new players, cheaper than 3 cores and the entire first cycle (although the warpacks are really cheap for what you’re getting).

    • unitled says:

      I can’t imagine you would have to buy 3 of the Deluxes in order to get a full playset, that would be a very significant departure from the current standard FFG mould. Even if you’re coming into the game fresh, I would say a purchase of the core set is compulsory, not just for the tokens but for rulebooks, neutral cards, and planets. Plus there’s a whole lot of game in there too!

      Once you have a feel for the game, you can dip back in to this first cycle and see if there are packs you want to pick up, bearing in mind outside of their Warlord pack, each race will only get 2 or 3 new cards per pack.

  3. Veles says:

    I love the idea of Warhammer lingerie

    • lowprices says:

      40K lingerie is a full suit of power armour, accessorized with a heavy bolster bearing the legend “SPACE MARINES DO IT EVEN IN DEATH.”

    • Loyal_Viggo says:

      This… is indeed an intriguing and slightly titillating thought first thing in the morning as I drink my coffee.

      Indulge me, and describe a good set I should get a) the mrs, and b) myself (think Borat mankini).

    • Vitty says:

      Warhammer dildos? Anyone? Anyone?

  4. Duke Flipside says:

    This sounds nice and all, but I’ve been playing so much Witcher 3 that the only card game I really care about is Gwent. I love Gwent. I want to play Gwent. Can someone make me some Gwent please?

    • Tacroy says:

      I’m pretty sure it exists

    • amateurviking says:

      You got two decks with the collector’s special unique day-one preorder backwash uptown funk edition.

      So it’s possible.

  5. Xantonze says:

    Ah, Conquest… aka “Netrunner for (cardboard) children”.
    Seriously though, system and feelings-wise, it’s pretty sub-par, specially compared to Netrunner.

    • tonallyoff says:

      I love Netrunner but the LCGs that Fantasy Flight put out in the last few years have all suffered, unfairly I think, just for the unfortunate crime of not being Netrunner. This and the Star Wars one are both great games by any measure and it’s a mistake to dismiss them.

      • Xantonze says:

        It’s quite streamlined and easy to get into, for sure. But the number crunching gets a bit dull quite quickly, the fights bringing in too many effects and calculations. The best part of the game is the bluff about where to attack and with what, but as bluff goes, Netrunner is vastly superior, IMHO. I bought 2 core sets of Conquest, we played a dozen games or so and felt we had our fill. For a simple fighting card game, we prefer Blue Moon legends, and for the LCG fix, well no need to repeat myself…
        Conquest feels good as an entry game though, and the core set is quite playable.

      • unitled says:

        Yeah, agree with tonallyoff here. I really like the clean and tidy rules for Conquest, feels like FFG have really learned from past mistakes, and the action/reaction/interrupt system solves so many issues that plague the other LCGs. The art is great, the balance seems pretty good, there’s a whole load of flexibility in how to build your decks.

        That said… Conquest isn’t Netrunner. That’s a game that clicked for me in a way no other ever has, to the extent that I travelled across the country to attend the Nationals recently, something I previously only ever thought the preserve of the uber-geeky.

  6. Ashrand says:

    Their called Astra Militarum because ‘Imperial Guard’ can’t be trademarked, and GeeDubs are smarting after the kicking they got from Chapter House in court (from their perspective it’s bad enough they can’t take ‘Space Marine’ and ‘Eldar’ for their own use)

  7. tonallyoff says:

    I’ll say this for it, this game definitely has the best manual FFG have ever produced.

  8. KoenigNord says:

    No Forbidden Stars review for at least two weeks? I’ll call the Inquisition to find out what kind of heresy is played instead

  9. Da5e says:

    ‘I promise that this will be the last Warhammer or Warhammer 40K related game I cover for a little while.’ – Not doing Assassinorum?

  10. thekelvingreen says:

    Are there any of these FFG LCGs (urk!) that can accommodate more than two players? I have both versions of Netrunner but I don’t often get the chance to play with just one other person, and I’m not interested in competitive play.

    • tetristhemovie says:

      More players?
      Not competetive?
      Sounds like you’re looking for the Lord of the Rings LCG.

    • riadsala says:

      Blood Bowl Team Manager isn’t a co-op game, but it is fun and works best with more than 2 players.

  11. webs1 says:

    Just played this the last weekend and after just one game my thoughts might be a bit premature, but I felt that the game suffers from offering too much strategic possibilities. In our game it hardly ever came to real fights, as you can predict fairly safely if you would lose and omit fighting by placing your Warlord/units somewhere else. That led to a rather anticlimactic (boring?) game, which isn’t what I would expect from a Warhammer game. Maybe that changes when you’re using the instant effect cards or the shields more, but I suspect it also has something to do with the lack of dice..

    I am also not sure I like this whole LCG system. Theoretically it is supposed to be fairer and cheaper than the old MTG “use your weekly pocket money to buy new boosters” approach.
    Which isn’t really the case. To build a real tournament deck for the faction of your choice, you have to buy at least 2, better 3 core boxes, leaving you also with thrice the cards you don’t want or need. Each expansion consists of onyl 3 new cards for each section, so same problem there. Add to that the fact that other players to exchange cards with are definately harder to come buy in a time of dozens of CGs, and I really doubt you will be better off financially if you really want to get into the game/hobby..

    • tetristhemovie says:

      The fact you’re talking about tournaments means you’re looking to get in the competitive scene. In MTG,you’d be spending something like $300 a block for a decent deck and more commons than you can use as coasters. Contrast with the Netrunner LCG, where it’s about $600 for a full playset of every single card in the last 3 years, up to the next big box (which isn’t even out yet). And that’s retail; if you buy at a discounted retailer, you probably only need about $450, and you don’t have to worry about trading, or rare hunting, etc.. Still much cheaper than Magic, where you would have already spent $900+ in the last 3 years and most of the cards are now useless, outside of casual games.

      • webs1 says:

        I didn’t want to really, should have used “proper deck” instead. Assuming you want to build a competitive fun deck even in your local playing circle, I guess you would still need two/three of many cards.
        What I was refering to was the feeling that the main difference is that with LCGs like Conquest, you at least now beforehand what “useless” cards you will get. Which is not that much of an upside when I remember that part of the fun about MTG was exaxtly the excitement whenever you got a mighty, rare card in one of your boosters.
        I don’t argue that you definitely will spend less money on Conquest, but that’s at least in part due to the fact that there are still much less cards for it. What I find at once understandable from FFGs perspective and irritating from a gamers perspective is that they don’t offer single army expansions. Having to buy all the superfluous cards from the factions you don’t need to play alongside with the three (maybe plus the warlord and his entourage) you really want strikes me as a major waste of resources.
        In the olden times of CCGs there was nothing but MTG (at least here in Germany), so you could count on friends and acquaintances to exchange cards. Nowadays it would be hard to get at least two people to buy the core set and chose different factions so you can swap. I am well aware that that’s not Conquest’s fault (but FFGs ;), but still..

        • webs1 says:

          Oh, that should say know, not now…

        • X_kot says:

          A wise commenter once said about LCGs that you are paying for the ability to create any deck that is possible rather than random pieces that only work in a subset of possible decks. I’ve only played Conquest once, so I can’t speak much to it’s particular value in this format, but nu-Netrunner is less about chasing rarity and more about exploring strategy. Two players who have bought the same packs are on even footing, which is not something that a CCG can guarantee – you either have to buy more packs or delve into the secondary market to fill holes in a deck. I will grant you that someone starting out fresh in an established LCG faces a stiff buy-in cost, especially if they want to compete.

          • webs1 says:

            I guess that’s right.
            It is not only the buy-in cost that bug me, though, but the amount of useless cards you still HAVE to buy to get the ones you want.

            I haven’t played it yet, but Mage Wars seems to be a good example of a system that doesn’t feel like a money-grabber while still giving you lots of options..

          • X_kot says:

            I hear ya – low-tier cards often feel like dead weight in my collection. The only saving grace is that developers can count on committed players owning everything and thus design future cards to buff weaker ones. CCG devs can construct good combos, but they know that not everyone will have the right cards on hand unless they get them from the grey market.

            I haven’t tried Mage Wars yet, but I’ll look into it!