Conquest of Elysium 3 has a simple mission statement: conquer the world! Take control of a warlord (selecting from many different classes) and defeat all the others. That sounds simple, except achieving this differs depending on who you “are” — e.g., the Necromancer would be interested in finding graveyards and old battlefields on his way to get a huge army, while the Troll King would yawn at such endeavors.
Johan Karlsson is the game’s co-creator, so he should know exactly what makes the game “tick.”
Man Cave Daily: There are those who would say that CoE is “old school.”
Johan Karlsson: It’s good if you like how games used to be and prefer game play over stunning 3d graphics. The first version of CoE was made in the early 1990s and while the game has got upgraded graphics and more content since then it is still pretty much the same game. The animations are intentionally kept very simple to allow us to add many monsters without too much work. The game is also has a manual instead of a tutorial, although you have to print it out yourself to get that real old school feeling of actually having a paper manual.
MCD: What are the strengths of a turn-based fantasy strategy game like CoE?
JK: Most modern strategy games are realtime and require fast reactions with the mouse to do well. Being turn-based allows you to take as much time as you want to give your orders and then press “end turn” to let the enemies do their turns. One good thing with a turn-based game is that it makes for an excellent tablet game. It doesn’t matter if you get interrupted while playing and the slowness of a touchscreen versus a mouse is not a problem as you can take all the time you want. Of course, being a fantasy setting, we focus on setting our races to real world mythos/historical fantasy as opposed to some of the “high magic” fantasy games you may be familiar with. In that way we can play with the idea of a Roman legion (the senator faction) fighting an army of Lovecraft-esque horrors from the deep.
The game can be described as a strategy rogue-like, it plays fast and you can die quickly if you are unlucky. Worlds are randomly generated, with a setting that depends on the scenario you have chosen. The scenarios goes from the Dark Ages where there is little civilization and the forces of nature is strong to the Empire where there is a great capital and towns all over the continent. Different factions may be stronger in some scenarios, but in every scenario the random rogue-like elements will turn a strong start into early retirement pretty quickly.
MCD: And the 18 classes that the player can take on?
JK: Most them are human. In general each faction falls into one or more categories of abilities. Barons, Barbarians, Senators, for instance all rely on recruiting in various methods to raise a giant mostly human army. Meanwhile Demonologists, Witches, Necromancers and similar factions use a non-gold resource to summon a variety of creatures with different powers. There’s also the stranger hybrids and unique races, such as the Bakemono who get free units from mountain resources, summon creatures, and still focus a lot on recruiting–they do a little of everything but can’t do any of them super well. Even the Voice of El, a zealot inspired race, focuses on generating random events and converting the world to the religion of El…and if things go wrong for them, can literally cause Armageddon as a last resort, though they’re no safer from that than any other race.
MCD: So the classes are very different in their powers and in what resources they need?
JK: I think this is one of the best things with CoE, it makes for a very different game when you try another class, and you must adopt your strategy for the new class. E.g. the Troll King starts with himself as a one man army, he can conquer small towns and mines all by himself and should do so as soon as he sees one. On the other hand the Warlock starts with only a small number of infantrymen which he needs to keep himself out of combat, so he can cast spells from the rear. He will have to choose carefully what to conquer as he might lose some of those men even by trying to take a small village and then he might not be able to take the important things.
MCD: What about the dreaded learning curve?
JK: Any good strategy game is going to have a learning curve, and I would say CoE3 is a very oddly shaped curve. If you go into CoE3 blind, having not played or read about it, there’s certain things we do that are unexpected to the player, such as not being able to directly control combat. This doesn’t mean there’s no strategy. What units to bring to a fight, when to avoid a fight, when and where to attack, these are all vital skills the player will learn and once you get over that first hurdle of not being able to control combat once it happens there’s a myriad of strategic decision that will open up before you as you attempt to calculate not only if you can WIN a fight, but what the expected death toll is going to be on your side.
MCD: Is CoE3 too complex to have been made as a board game?
JK: Yes, and having it as a computer game definitely helps. e.g. the battles in CoE are quite complex, but they are also fully automatic, so they are easy for the players and can be resolved in a second. In a board game having these kind of battles would probably take hours to resolve. To model (all that would be needed) in a board game would be impossible, (as) neat details would end up being smashed together into something more vague. While you’re rarely going to look at the goblin who lost an eye (he’s replaceable easily enough), having such an event happen to your giant demon lord may have real game implications as well as help tell a narrative when you talk about the game with friends.
Conquest of Elysium 3 is available on Linux, Windows, Mac and Android platforms.
Marshal interviewed a goddess in Why We Love Jaimie Alexander (and Lady Sif).