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Wizards of the Coast
"Conquest of Nerath"

Four mythical kingdoms compete for dominance in the fantasy war game “Conquest of Nerath,” from Wizards of the Coast.

Although it is based upon the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game, “Conquest of Nerath” is no RPG. Rather, this is a fully contained board game that presents a fantastical battle royale where fighters, dragons, wizards and elementals compete for supremacy.

The board is divided among four asymmetrical powers that each control a corner of the board. A great sea is located in the center, with an island and broad peninsula offering room to expand in the middle. However, mingled among the core lands of each kingdom, enemies hold smaller territories that are begging to be overrun. Victory points are awarded every time an enemy's territory falls to your armies.

In addition to fighting their opponents, however, players can elect to send some of their forces into various dungeons scattered across the board. Within the dungeons lurk deadly monsters that must be vanquished before you can reach their treasure. Once you have defeated them, you may draw a treasure card, which provides you with additional victory points and other bonuses like gold, used to buy new units, or combat bonuses to your existing forces.

A variety of multi-sided dice are used to resolve combat, making for genuinely tense moments once battle is engaged. The variety of dice is also important when considering which units to build, move and send into the dungeons. The units themselves are beautiful plastic miniatures, many of which are unique to each faction.

I was not expecting to like “Conquest of Nerath” as much as I did. Part of the reason, I suspect, is the strong similarity in game play mechanics to another Wizards of the Coast title, “Axis & Allies.” One of my favorite board games of all time, “Axis & Allies” is a grand strategic game set in World War II, and “Conquest of Nerath” feels a lot like it, except instead of battling with tanks and bombers, wizards and dragons ravage your enemies.

Turn order also mirrors the World War II game. Players move, attack, buy units and place units in a very similar fashion. One of the only major differences is the dungeon mechanic, which is a lot of fun and adds a lot of variety to what otherwise would be a very straightforward war game. I also really like how this game encourages combat. With the primary source of victory points coming from conquering territories, it just doesn't pay to hunker down, consolidate your forces and bide your time.

If you are like me and don't really care for RPGs, you might be pleasantly surprised by this fantasy strategy war game. Recommended for ages 12 and up, “Conquest of Nerath” is for two to four players and generally plays in two to three hours.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com