Editorial | 5/24/2012 at 11:57 PM

Tabletop Co-Op: Conquest of Planet Earth

The puny humans will fall before the might of the Land Squid

Conquest of Planet Earth is an incredibly appealing game. It has a great theme, fantastic miniatures, high production values, and plenty of replay value. There are two gameplay variants included in the rules. One of them is competitive, the other cooperative, both using largely the same mechanics, but changing the overall goal. In the cooperative game, the alien armadas put aside their differences and combine forces to destroy the fierce human resistance.

Conquest of Planet Earth comes from Flying Frog Productions, a board game developer known for delivering excellent thematic game with a cinematic flair. While Conquest of Planet Earth doesn’t use photographic illustrations, like other Flying Frog games, it nontheless feels like a 50s sci-fi alien invasion film. Think Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, but with several different alien races teaming up to smash tanks and explode planes. Genre tropes like teenage lovebirds and the rugged local scientist appear in the game, adding to the popcorn movie feel.

Up to four players choose an alien race when the game begins. Selection can be difficult when you are presented with choices of such compelling aliens as the Fishmen of Atlorak (who summon the fearful Land Squid), the femme fatales of the Venezian Matriarchy (apt at bewitching the resistance), or the huge-brained Orzak (masters of robot technology). Each race has differing abilities and attributes; Strength reflects prowess in battle and used to resolve combat, while Intelligence dictates how many Event cards you can have in your hand. Differing player abilities is one of my favorite mechanics, and Conquest of Planet Earth delivers admirably.

Setup is modular, with a different arrangement of boards depending on the number of players. Alien landing zones are spaced equally around a well-defended, high-value target location in the middle. Each board has space for six different location cards, which are placed face down initially, then turned up when explored. Locations have two values: population, the measure of how many Terror (victory) points the location is worth when conquered, and resistance, which determines how many human forces show up to defend. Players work together to earn a set amount of these Terror points, in a race to subjugate the Earth. There is a time limit of ten turns, after which the humans develop and fire the Super Canon, which blows all the aliens into bits, ending the game.

Each turn, players roll a six-sided die to determine how many action points they may use that turn. One action point is required to spawn a new spaceship at your landing zone, and also to move a spaceship to an adjacent space. By spending two action points, players can gain an alien menace token; these tokens are used to fuel the most powerful alien powers. Players can also use action points to play Event cards from their hand. Event cards shape the flow of the game, and range from minor effects like dice rerolls all the way up to the epic Atomic Bomb blast.

The combat system in Conquest of Planet Earth is fairly simple. For each alien spaceship present, multiply by that race’s Strength to get the alien total. By drawing from the Resistance deck, the human total can be figured. There are two types of cards in the Resistance deck, military and hero. Military cards have a flat strength value, from low-power infantry to dangerous fighter jets and tanks. Heroes are particularly nasty, since they force an additional draw on top of providing their own strength bonus. You might get several heroes in a row, making even the lowliest troopers a force to be reckoned with. Once you’ve determined the alien and human Strength totals, add one die roll to each side, then compare the totals to determine the winner. If the alien forces lose, one spaceship is destroyed, though players can choose to press the fight if they like. If the puny humans are defeated, then the location is conquered, adding the location’s population value to the aliens’ Terror point total.

All of the components in Conquest of Planet Earth are wonderful. The miniature spaceships are detailed and suitably old-school, and the artwork on the cards is over the top, very appropriate for a game based on shlocky B-movies. Board and card design elements both are pleasing to the eye and easy to use during play. In a particularly unique touch, a CD filled with theme music is included, with tracks based on the different alien races. The music is undeniably campy, but it’s hard not to enjoy the game with the soundtrack playing in the background.

I found playing Conquest of Planet Earth to be a very good time. It isn’t the most strategic game out there, which may drive more cerebral gamers away. Luck plays a huge role in the outcome, as you’d expect in a game with dice and cards driving the mechanisms behind play. However, more than most games, Conquest of Planet Earth is about the experience, and it really delivers. If throwing some dice and talking in alien voices, making threats to the inferior human forces, alongside a few friends sounds like a good way to spend an evening to you, give Conquest of Planet Earth a try. Just watch out for that Land Squid!