Conquest of Planet Earth and Isla Dorada
As gamers, we tend to be obsessed with the latest releases and whatever game is generating the biggest ‘buzz’ at the moment. But I find there are lots of games that get a bit neglected as a result, and don’t get the ‘table time’ they deserve. Games You May Have Missed will be an irregular series of articles looking at games you may have overlooked the first time around, but deserve some more attention. You may discover a lost gem of a game that grows to become a favourite of your collection!
Last night I brought out two games that have been languishing unplayed on my shelf for a while now—Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game by Flying Frog Games and Isla Dorada by Fantasy Flight Games/Fun Forge. Strangely, I’d found the time to paint the figures in both games, create a foamcore insert for one, and make rules summaries for both, but hadn’t yet played them! Both are really fun, luck-based, thematic games that possibly got lost in the cloud of hype surrounding other releases at the time. Let’s revisit them now!
Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game is a little bit different from other Flying Frog releases, and may have been neglected because it was released very close to their other game that features invading aliens, Invasion From Outer Space. That and Flying Frog’s other games: Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, share a similar graphic style (retouched photos of actors instead of illustrations) and style of play (characters move about a map playing thematic cards and fighting). Conquest of Planet Earth, however, is a bit different, though there’s still a heavy reliance on cardplay and combat. The first thing you’ll notice is that it features colourful, cartoony art instead of photos! You choose an alien race (your ‘character’ in the game) that has several special abilities, and begin the game with four flying saucers on your landing site. The board is made up of a central board and one board for each player, each divided into seven locations.
During your turn you secretly bid for how many Action points you will spend during the turn, and the player bidding the least number becomes first player. You can then spend Action points on your turn, moving your saucers to other locations, replacing destroyed saucers, buying tokens to fuel special abilities, or playing event cards that cost Action points to play. When your saucers move to a new location, you draw a Location card, which may represent anything from a military base to a small town to empty countryside. If there is a Resistance value on the location, you draw Resistance cards one at a time, in number equal to the value, fighting each card as it is turned up in an attempt to conquer the location. Depending on how populous the location is, you get Terror points for a conquered location.
So the rules themselves are pretty basic and easy to pick up; but where this game really shines is the fantastic variety of Event cards and ‘Space Stuff’ cards, that cover probably just about every alien invasion B-movie situation you can think of—and then some. You can drop an Atomic Bomb on a location to clear it of rival aliens; spread a Contagion to wipe out the human resistance; try Eating Kittens (‘Now that’s just wrong!’) to increase your Terror level; or play We Come in Peace to automatically win a fight. You might be joined by a Giant Robot ally in your quest to conquer the humans, use Disintegration Beams or a Death Ray to increase your fight strength; or deploy a Massive Blob to wipe out resistance.
The game is hilarious and fun, and as an extra bonus it has rules for both Cooperative and Competitive play—and you can even play solo. We had a great time playing this last night, and I’ll definitely be bringing it out on the table more often when I feel like like a good laugh and a light game.
The second game of the evening was Isla Dorada, designed by Bruno Faidutti (of Citadels and Ad Astra fame) by Fantasy Flight Games/Fun Forge. Faidutti considers it his best design, and I think it’s a very clever and very interactive game that is perfect for families, in the vein of Ticket to Ride—in fact it very much feels like a DOW game rather than a FFG one.
The main mechanic of Isla Dorada is a bidding one. You have a single expedition figure on the island map, and each turn players bid a number of cards to control the expedition for that turn and move it where they want to go. Different cards are used to bid for different types of paths—mountain, jungle, desert, river, and sea paths, and even air travel by giant bird or zeppelin. Of course there’s also a plethora of special cards that can do things like stop another player from bidding, convert cards to different types, and keep the expedition moving past the next location on the route. At first it all seems a bit daunting as all these cards have different semi-imaginary names in keeping with the ‘lost pacific island’ theme; but an excellent pictorial reference sheet helps you pick it up very quickly and before long you’re remembering which card is which with ease.
So why do you want to control the expedition’s destination? Well, at the start of the game, and at two points during it, you receive Treasure cards keyed to various locations. You also get a Destiny card, which gives you points for visiting a particular series of locations, and you can get Curse cards, which can reduce your points if you go to those places. So each player has very definite ideas indeed about where the expedition should go on the island! It’s a chaotic and crazy game with a little bit of what gamers call ‘screwage’ (ie, you have opportunities for making things tough for other players), all wrapped up in colourful and light-hearted artwork. There’s even three beautiful large miniatures incuded; one for the expedition and two for the Bigfoot and Leviathan, which can be played to block map routes.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing these two games and they’ll definitely be seeing more table time in the future. It just goes to show that occasionally you have to step back from the ‘new stuff’ and have a look at what else is out there. That’s why these articles will be here to keep you updated with games you might have missed! Good gaming!