Game Review: Conquest of Planet Earth is Landing on a Table Near You

The bad guys always win when players control warring alien races seeking world domination

If you're a fan of pulp horror board games, then the name Flying Frog Productions is already a familiar one. After breaking in with Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Flying Frog has gone on to sell many other games with the company's iconic art style. Best known for its use of real actors and makeup for striking photos on their game cards, Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game is a change of pace for Flying Frog as the game uses original illustrations, not photos. But can a Flying Frog game without the signature style live up to its predecessors? Read on for the full review.

Just the Facts:

Players: 1-4

Playing Time: 60 minutes

Age: 12 to adult

Publisher: Flying Frog Productions

MSRP: $49.99

Release: February 2011

The Gameplay:

Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game is about one thing: crushing humans under your slimy tentacle, claw, thumb, or other alien appendage. Each play in Conquest takes on the role of a unique alien race, each with its own special powers, intelligence and strength ratings, and a stock of four UFO models.

Over the course of about 60 minutes, players will manage their moves (regulated by the use of command point chips) to spread out across the board and take over territories. Conquering spaces will earn the alien race terror points, of which 8 are required to win the game.

A starting three-player setup. Re-configurable boards give a different setup for every player count.

It's not as simple as mowing down a few human towns, though. Aliens won't know what space they're about to conquer until they moment after they commit. A location card is drawn from the deck which reveals just how many terror points the space is worth, and what level of human resistance must be overcome to earn them. Many spaces are worthless, putting the aliens on a chase across the board for high-value conquests as they jockey among other races for the 8 point goal.

When it's time to roll for combat, each point of human resistance counts as one individual fight. For each fight, a resistance card is drawn, and its strength is added to the human's 6-sided die roll. The aliens also add up their strength and roll a D6. Modifiers from different equipment cards, location bonuses, or event cards played by the aliens are taken into account, and the side with the higher total wins. The only twist is that a roll of a 6 causes an automatic win, with ties going to the resistance.

The yellow aliens force a re-roll after entering a dreaded 6-6 tie against the human resistance.

If the humans come out on top, one UFO is destroyed and the aliens must decide whether to press on. If the aliens win, they can continue to fight additional resistance cards until they have met the total needed for a successful conquest.

The twist here is that when one race comes close to reaching their terror point total, it's up to the other players to snipe their conquests and engage in alien-on-alien battles to stave off defeat.

Conquest of Planet Earth can also be played as a cooperative game, where all of the spaces are pre-populated with human resistance tokens, and the aliens must reach a high collective terror point total. As the game moves on, the humans will spawn a steady march of new resistance tokens and earn technological bonuses along the way. If ten turns pass before the aliens reach total domination, then the humans will successfully fend off the invasion and the players will lose the game.

The Components:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 5 Game Board Sections
  • 20 Plastic Miniatures  (4 per race, plus 4 allies)
  • 70 Card Event Deck
  • 35 Card Resistance Deck
  • 25 Card Space Stuff Deck
  • 35 Card Location Deck
  • 6 Card Human Tech Deck
  • 1 Double-Sided Objective Location Card
  • 10 Large Alien Race Sheets
  • 1 Large Resistance Phase Sheet
  • 4 Reference Cards
  • 8 Small White Dice
  • 8 Small Red Dice
  • 1 CD Soundtrack of Original Music
  • 3 Sheets of Full Color Die-cut Counters

Yeah, that's a lot of stuff in one box. Luckily, since none of the components are overly large, everything still fits into a standard sized square box, so Conquest of Planet Earth won't be eating up some massive swath of your game shelf. The component count is inflated a bit as well due to some pieces being specific to the competitive or cooperative modes. Everything in this box is well made though, so you don't have to worry about trade-offs between quantity and quality.

Everything in this game can be described in one word: campy. That may be a polarizing term, so you likely know right now whether you're going to enjoy this sort of game. The game is stuffed with full color art, but it is all in that pulp sci-fi style. It's not going to win any awards, but it's well done within the bounds of the theme.

Scantily clad Venezian invaders are just one example of how Conquest pulls no punches in embracing campy sci-fi tropes

And its impossible to discuss a Flying Frog game without acknowledging that it comes with a CD soundtrack. These are all original instrumental tunes intended to set the mood for the game. I was not lying when I said this thing is dripping with theme!

I spoke with designer Jason C. Hill at PAX Prime back in August, and he described the Flying Frog process as an effort similar to a movie production. While that is obviously true of the photo-based games they've previously produced, I don't see any lack of effort with Conquest. If Last Night on Earth and Invasion From Outer Space were summer blockbusters, Conquest of Planet Earth is a top flight animated feature.

Final Thoughts:

One big question I can answer is whether this game plays too familiar when compared to past Flying Frog offerings, and the answer is no. Those games assigned most players one hero each, while one player got to control the army of villains. I've always felt that playing the bad guy in a Flying Frog game was the best part, and Conquest of Planet Earth lets everyone share in the fun.

The flexibility to play competitively, cooperatively, or in teams also separates Conquest from the pack to make it a likely hit among existing Flying Frog fans. This is no small accomplishment, as successful game design is like catching lightening in a bottle. To create two games that are both enjoyable yet use the same complex set of components is an incredible feat. No, Conquest isn't going to be my game of the year, but I would have a hard time asking it to be. One of my most important factors in judging a game is how often you'll actually be able to get it to the table, and adding this flexibility earns Conquest major points in my book.

As for other types of gamers who might play Conquest, fans of economic euros and simulation war games are not likely to be converted by this one. A heavy reliance on randomizers finds you mitigating large elements of chance with your decision making rather than using chance as the deciding factor between otherwise strategic choices. If the idea of having everyone huddle over the table for one climactic, game-deciding die roll drives you mad, then this game might not be the right fit.

Conquest is the sort of game that will be picked up by casual players, possibly in a comic book shop, and be well-received by fans of its theme. Between race-specific powers, event cards, equipment cards, and location-specific effects, there is a surprising amount of meat here for a 60-minute game that never crosses the line into fidliness. Coupled with its strong replay value, Conquest will go a long way in pleasing its both its core audience and the casual gamer.

Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game