Gaming Night in Canada #5: Bringing Back Dorky – Dice Towers; Game Review “Conquest of Nerath”
Where to begin, where to begin…
To start, I think that it’s fair to say that the hobby of table top gaming needs new blood. Not that it doesn’t have new players getting interested at a decent rate already, but it could always use more, and we at Fiery Dragon do our best to influence those around us to either start table top gaming, or game even more. “Our influence” in so far as that we, as The Crew, exude a level of coolness that is so overwhelming that those that wish to be like us have a tough time deciding whether it’s us that make the games we play cool, or, and more likely, that we are cool because of the games we play.
The rest of this blog will likely do little, if anything, to improve that thought.
However, our love for all things geek shall forge on in spite of itself and so, just a few years ago, a fella named Rob appeared on our geek radar. Rob was a gamer waaaaay back in the day, and our cool guy influence clashed with Rob’s cool guy influence, and Rob lost…the geek side of Rob suddenly expanding rapidly, like a pick-up truck full of Mentos desperately driven off a dock into a lake of soda. In a matter of months, Rob had gone from purchasing and playing board games, to painting miniatures, to playing Magic, to playing role-playing games, to building dice towers, to designing his own games, to going to Gen Con, to playing Skyrim, to…waitaminute. Back up there…
Building dice towers? Rob was making dice towers? Wtf?…
When it came to Rob’s drinking of the geek serum, I was the proud villain, like Jimmy Jones or Dr. Frankenstein, and if there ever was a perfect analogy to describe Rob’s acceleration of geekdom, “Frankenstein monster” is it. But building dice towers with irreverent themes…well, that’s just obscene.
In case you don’t know what a dice tower is, it’s a Rube Goldberg style “machine” that will successfully roll dice for you when you drop them in one end (usually at the top), negotiate some tumbler mechanism, and pop out the other end, similar to Taco Bell, but with a numerical result. This of course replaces any need to use more traditional tools to roll dice, like your hands. I guess the primary benefit of using a dice tower is that they generally control the die at the end of its path, stopping it abruptly in some kind of herding pen. The implication being that it protects from those assholes that roll dice like drunken ping pong players – especially during board games that involve a shitload of pieces – who discharge the dice with a missile like force in order to disrupt as many of those pieces as possible and ‘cause everyone to think about where everything was…as well as losing the dice themselves under the table, or under the couch in the other room, or under the neighbour’s car. I know this breed of inhuman well because I’ve played with them, but really, I’m one of them. Trust me, many a losing game of Risk felt the atomic dice throwing fate of a fistful of carpet bombing 6 sideds in my day I can tell you.
So, our gaming world was now awash with themed dice towers. Cute, little – if Martha Stewart was a raging geek – knick-knacks that were, frankly, adorable. I believe that inspiration comes in waves and wherever Rob got the inspiration to build a line of dice towers only survivors of UFO abduction would know.
We all got one. My love for Thor got me a Mjolnir themed dice tower. James got a Batman, Rob was Frankenstein, etc. During this time I got it in my head to quit smoking cold turkey. Combine that fact with a willingness to play Conquest of Nerath, and a desire to use said dice towers, and what you have is a Todd who is happy, effervescent, and content.
Conquest of Nerath is good if you’ve never played any of the Milton Bradley Game Master games like Axis and Allies, Shogun, Fortress America, Conquest of the Empire or Broadsides and Boarding Parties. Most notable from that series, obviously, was Axis and Allies, which has likely replaced Risk as the introductory war game that now-a-days most kids would play. Regardless, Conquest of Nerath does very little to disassociate itself from that classic collection of board games, and so, it turned out to be a pretty ho-hum experience from our perspective. Not that the game is bad in a specific sense, it’s not, but having already spent a lot of time pouring over those games at the kitchen table for many, many years, Conquest of Nerath is really just more of the same; more of the same when you can sum it up by saying that it’s basically Conquest of the Empire* but with Dragons, Wizards, and popular D&D Monsters.
Outside of the fact that they couldn’t even change the thing’s name – Conquest of the Empire, Conquest of Nerath – types of pieces are similar, the board configuration is similar (Nerath is a lot like the Mediterranean, but that’s not Nerath’s fault), and the mechanics are similar. Been there done that. Of course, there ARE differences, but I don’t like them. Methinks that with all new products of late, Wizards seems to be making an attempt to connect these products with nods to the lore of D&D (i.e. Castle Ravenloft, etc.). In the case of Nerath, not only can you play up the epic fantasy war, but you can try side missions into various classic D&D “dungeons” such as Tomb of Horrors, Vault of the Drow and The Trollhaunt Warrens (Wha…?) scattered about the board. I guess what they were hoping for was that old school gamers such as us would sit down at the table to play this new and exciting game and get all jazzed by seeing White Plume Mountain getting a mention. Well, the problem here is that my White Plume Mountain isn’t located in Nerath, it’s in Greyhawk. And somewhere in the tension of me not having a smoke, I was pretty pissed at the Frankenstein dice tower for producing such shitty results against the randomly drawn denizens of White Plume Mountain as to kill off my Wizard and Hero so easily. And Keraptis can kiss my ass because I can map his dungeon from memory! And where the fcuk is The Ghost Tower of Inverness?
Conquest of Nerath doesn’t skimp on the pieces. It’s the perfect game for dice towers, and it’s a great game for an entry level gamer who would still find the subject matter refreshing. Like I said, the hobby could always use some new blood. Thanks to Rob and the rest of The New Crew!
Next: Star Wars, Hobbits and Hockey
*It would be fair to label Conquest of the Empire (now Eagle Games) as Axis and Allies, but with Romans. However, Axis and Allies is now owned by Wizards, so you make the connection. Ed.