A depiction of The Fall of Hazliah from Conquest: Last Argument of Kings

Interview

Para Bellum Games Talks New Conquest Army The Old Dominion

April 15, 2022

By: Giaco Furino

 
 

Para Bellum Games is one of the most exciting new names in the world of wargaming. With the release of Conquest: The Last Argument of Kings and its skirmish spinoff Conquest: First Blood in 2019, the company's been growing a strong audience with its in-depth, tactical gameplay, deep lore, thematic ruleset, and engagement with the community. Now, the company's releasing it's sixth playable faction for Conquest (both Last Argument and First Blood), called The Old Dominion, and we sat down with Stavros Halkias, Creative Director at Para Bellum, and Leandros Mavrokefalos, Community Manager at Para Bellum, to talk about the game, the new faction, and the future of Conquest.

What Is Conquest, And How Does It Play?

Conquest is a tabletop wargaming system with two different iterations. The larger system, Conquest: Last Argument of Kings, is a rank-and-flank tabletop wargaming game where units are arranged in ranks and battle for domination on the table. Conquest: First Blood is a fast-paced skirmish game using much of the same rules and all of the same models. As Halkias explains, the goal of Conquest is to create a game that is both approachable and offers a robust gaming experience, saying "usually what scared a lot of people off was the speed, the tremendous investment [you had to make to get into wargaming], like, I need 40 models to make this unit look good." But with relatively low model counts on both versions of Conquest, it doesn't take much to build a superior force. "So we wanted to modernize rank-and-flank games, make them play faster, eliminate a lot of the weight of them, and, at the same time, make them more complex."

 

The Age of Worship, a time before the Fall and the creation of the Old Dominion in Conquest. Image: Para Bellum Games
The Age of Worship, a time before the Fall and the creation of the Old Dominion in Conquest. Image: Para Bellum Games

Some of that complexity comes in the way Conquest handles activation. You don't start with all of your units on the field, they stream onto the battlefield. And you never know the order your opponent is going to activate. As Halkias explains, "Something that always bothered me about war games is the perfect information that you have about your opponent, about yourself, about everything. We wanted to create a scenario which introduced the fog of war. By introducing the question of timing. It's not just what I want to do and to who." Halkias thinks the main strategic decision in most modern wargames is all around unit activation. As he says, "It's like, 'I have to be here because I want to hurt them.' 'I have to be here' is always more complex in rank-and-flank, which I think is what a lot of people like about rank conflict. And it's what a lot of people dislike about rank-and-flank, right? That movement is more critical, but by introducing the when I'm going to do this within the turn sequence, you add an entire level of strategy that is missing from the other games."

Mavrokefalos agrees, stating, "In order to make a game faster or more fun, [other wargames] left behind strategic foresight. And this is a critical part of designing a game and critical part of playing a game. Because when you put strategic foresight into the mix and bring it at the forefront of your design process, you take the weight off of 'what list am I going to build?', and you put it on 'How am I going to use the things that I have,' and we find that in Conquest, it used the better player wins more often than the player with a better list."

 
 
Strife is a way of life in the world of Conquest. Image: Para Bellum Games
Strife is a way of life in the world of Conquest. Image: Para Bellum Games

Halkias sums up the entire design philosphy of Conquest succinctly when he states, "Unlike the competition, we are not a miniature company. We are a gaming company. So we are committed to making our game balanced. And we're committed to making sure that the factions play the way we told you they would play, the way we advertised that they played."

Who Are The Old Dominion in Conquest, And How Do They Play?

In Conquest, the newest army The Old Dominion are a sort of analogue to an undead army, but their lore, mechanics, and story go so much deeper than simple shambling skeletons. Halkias speaks to the original inspiration for the army when he explains, "One thing that is important for our design philosophy is we look very much at history. We don't pull fantasy out of our heads, because whatever we pull out of our heads, trust me something weirder has happened in the last thousand years. And one of those historical archetypes that I think a lot of people are aware of if they were raised in the west is the sort of dark ages after the fall of Rome. And that is the concept that led to the birth of the Old Dominion."

 
 
The units included in the upcoming Old Dominion One Player Starter Set
The units included in the upcoming Old Dominion One Player Starter Set

In essence, the Old Dominion does serve as a sort of stand-in for ancient Rome. It represents humanity when they were at the height of their powers, and wielded the most influence. And all of that prosperity was under the watchful eye of the god Hazliah. "The problem with Hazliah," says Halkias, "is that he went mad and had to be put down. The problem is it's hard to put down a God." And even though the forces arranged against him mostly succeeded in bringing him down, "mostly, with a divinity, is close but no cigar. Actually, not only "no cigar," but... cataclysm."

Once injured and near death, but undying because he was a god, Hazliah struck up a bargain with Death itself, and now the legions of warriors who had pledged themselves to their god, and a pantheon of other gods around Hazliah, rise from their graves to take vengeance on the land. It's an incredible story, and the lore, like the lore of all of Conquest, directly ties into the game mechanics of the Old Dominion.

Units included in Conquest Old Dominion Faction Taster
Units included in Old Dominion Faction Taster

"We try to figure out the game mechanics that show, essentially, what that faction is," explains Mavrokefalos, "to find ways to explore the world of Conquest, not to find ways to populate the game for the sake of populating the game." The way that manifests in the Old Dominion is through a transfer of essence or energy. Each warrior has a shard of energy in them, and at first these warriors are just shambling along, attacking and strategizing with an almost mindless, basic approach. But as the army takes on more casualties, those shards lost in the dead warriors are being absorbed by the warriors still moving on the battlefield, and they remember more of who they were, and what made them such incredible fighters. So while they're not getting stronger, they are gaining more tactical options and abilities as their numbers dwindle.

Along with the incredible look of these new models, this sense of an army growing more aware as they fight on the battlefield really sets this army apart from any other faction in Conquest. We'll be checking out a starter set of the Old Dominion soon, and from there we'll do an in-depth dive, but for now we're very excited by what we're hearing.

 
 

What's Next For Conquest?

We finished out our conversation talking about what the future holds for Conquest. "Starting in the immediate future," says  Mavrokefalos, "we're starting with First Blood version 2. We're turning First Blood into a complete, competitive, fully-fledged game. We're sticking with our design decision to have two different game systems with the same miniature collection. That's very important to us."

From there, the goal is to expand Conquest's organized play and tournament experience. "And then," says Mavrokefalos, "we're looking forward to the next faction." This upcoming faction, the City States, was selected by the Conquest community via The Living World. The Living World is a section of the site that allows users to create a profile, log on, and vote for everything from the outcomes of major story moments to which faction they bring to the game next. As Halkias explains, Para Bellum gives their community "control over serious decisions that we make. I mean, because frankly who will know better what they want to see next than our players?"

The Legions of the Old Dominion rise in Conquest
The Legions of the Old Dominion rise in Conquest

Finally, Mavrokefalos says they're developing, "further quality of life updates for Last Argument of Kings." At this, Halkias chimed in and tantalizingly said "He's being coy. Well, then, I guess I have to be coy too and not reveal too much. Okay. Quality of life. Yes. Yes. Go on. It's okay."

We'll keep you up to date on what exactly these "quality of life" updates to Last Argument of Kings could mean as we find out more. Until then, if you'd like to learn more about Conquest, head over to the Para Bellum site, and check out our review of the Core Box for Conquest: Last Argument of Kings posted in May 2021.