For many of us Conan is a very familiar figure. Whether you were a fan of the books, comics, TV series, films or action figures, Conan was a very imposing figure for a lot of our generation. He’s the original Barbarian, an icon of the fantasy genre and no doubt Robert Howard’s greatest creation. However one thing though has always irked me as a tabletop gamer…is that I’ve never really found a Conan game that lived up to the image of the man that was undoubtedly found printed on the front of the box, usually decapitating some poor sod or standing triumphantly over the most recently recovered damsel. There has been a CCG and a board game but neither has ever inspired me with the raw and brutal atmosphere of the infamous Barbarian, his companions and their adventures in the Hyborian age.
Until now that is, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the guys from the newly formed Monolith studio who are hard at work on a miniature based boardgame designed to provide a Conanesque experience the likes of which you have never seen!
Lets start by having a look at the brains behind this tireless outfit.
Monolith represents the combined efforts of Frédéric Henry, game designer and sociologist, author of “Timeline”, “The Adventurers” and “Les Bâtisseurs” a fun strategy card game which recently took home the Jury’s Prize award from the Cannes Game Festival (yes that is the same Cannes as the film festival!). Alongside him are the Hascoët brothers, founders of Bombyx. Also of note is the omniscient overseer who will be watching from the shadows to make sure that the project never waivers from Howard’s vision is Patrice Louinet. Patrice is a World renowned expert on Howard and has been referred to by the team as their “temple guardian”.
When taking on a licence as ambitious and powerful as Conan you need an artist that can really give it that epic feeling. So when you need an epic artist who do you call on? Adrian Smith, that’s who. Now whilst those of you who are familiar with that name pick your jaws off the floor let me just remind those of you thinking “hmm…that name rings a bell” who Adrian Smith is…ready?
THAT’S Adrian Smith. Aka: the man responsible for making GW’s universe come to life, I don’t know any wargamer out there who wont recognise one of his drawings and none would dare deny that his work has not affected the way they envisage those games. A lot of concept art has already been released and you can see how they’ve really taken the look and feel of the setting and unified it under Adrian’s style to make it feel epic and enticing. Feast your eyes on some of this concept art including an exclusive showing of one of the fearsome Pict Tribesmen!
This is a miniatures game however so we can’t not mention some of the beautiful sculpts that are under way. The list of sculptors includes but is not limited to: Stéphane Simon, Yannick Hennebo, Gégory Clavilier, Jacques-Alexandre Gillois, Stéphane N’Guyen. Those names may not mean much at all to you (despite their skills sculptors don’t get enough praise in my opinion!) but click on the links and trust me there’s some serious eye candy there, when you combine those with the images below you know that we are in for some seriously good models that will make you just want to play them.
So far the list of models amounts to: Conan (3 variants: Conan the thief, Conan the mercenary and King Conan), Shevatas, Hadrathus, Belit, Valeria, Zelata and her wolf, and a Bossonian Archer. For the bad guys we have: Pict Shaman, Thak, Kosathral Khel the Colossus, Captain of the City Guard, Necromancer, an earth demon and a flying demon and of course hordes of basic enemies: Picts, Apemen, Guardsmen, Pirates and yes, yes that is a lot of models. Monolith want everything to be a 3D element, not just a marker so as to further reinforce the feel and atmosphere of the game.
So at this point you’re probably thinking: well this is all very well and good but it’s a game, tell us about the game! Well you’ll have to excuse this very sadistic turn of events but as of yet I can’t or rather I shouldn’t. Why? Simply put, I played the prototype a few weeks ago and according to our benefactors quite a few things have changed since then and seeing as I am due to go back for another session this week I don’t want to report on one thing only to have to revoke it a few days later, so check back soon and I’ll be giving you the full low down on the game.
I will say this however: Frédéric is committed to making this game as fun and immersive as possible and it really does show. Even though we were only playing on a printed paper map, with wooden markers and the zombie hounds from Zombicide as models, you could FEEL the game seeping through, I didn’t see a mish-mash of elements cobbled together for practicalities sake, I saw Conan charging into a pict village with his companions, fighting their way to rescue a nobles daughter, and taking the chieftain’s head with them as they escaped! Even though I played as the evil overlord I was happy to see Conan butcher his way through the pict hunters and their hounds as I felt like I was reliving a story and not just playing a game.
As you can see a lot is being promised here, in order to raise the funds needed to launch such an ambitious project, Conan will be on Kickstarter in September with a release expected for mid/end next year. You can follow its development on the game’s Facebook page and of course I will endeavour to keep you up to speed on everything also!
In any case be sure to check back soon and by Crom, once I’ve played through the new rules set I’ll be sure to report everything to you guys here!