Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.
Conquest of Paradise is a light game of civilization building in the Pacific Ocean circa 500 A.D. I first played it at the 2009 WBC, when the designer, Kevin McPartland, introduced it to a small group of us. I really enjoy this game’s exploration mechanics, and managed to pick it up for $16.00.
The box is sturdy and appealing, boasting a textured linen finish very different from GMT‘s usual high-gloss finish, and a beautiful painting of a Polynesian canoe. The back of the box shows off a few of the counters and boasts that you can “learn in 15 minutes and play in 60-90.” Now I learned how to play this game in 15 minutes, but that because the designer was teaching me.
The box is crammed with items, including a short rulebook and designer’s notebook, both printed in black-and-white. In my opinion, the rules are rather poorly written and organized. For instance:
A player’s Movement and Battle Step may begin with a Transit pre-move. If you have a Transport Canoe Chain, you may move as many of your Playing Pieces (Colonies, Warrior Bands, Transport Canoes, War Canoes, and Rumors) along it as far as you wish. Transport Canoe Chains have an unlimited capacity during Transit. However, any Transport Canoes serving as part of the Chain may not themselves move during this stage. A Transport Canoe Chain is simply a line of FACE UP Transport Canoes, with one Canoe in EVERY hex..(p. 5).
In the example above, the term “Transport Canoe Chain” is used before it is defined, which leaves the reader wondering, “Um, is this going to get defined?” Only a few sentences later do we learn what the heck it is. The designer’s handbook is pretty neat, however; it gives a concise explanation of every island and event in the game and how they are important to Polynesian history. One thing sorely lacking in all this is an extended example of play, though.
The four player aids are printed on thick paper in black-and-white. They’re functional, but don’t draw the eye at all. Last, it seems there were a few items left out in the original print run because GMT’s Web site includes updated PDF copies.
27 “Arts and Culture” cards come with the game. These are standard GMT fare: an eye-catching, glossy back and clean text with functional illustrations on the front. I immediately put them in protective sleeves, as the glossy finish tends to get nicked and start to come off after a few shuffles.
The game comes with two sheets of square cardboard counters (310 counters in all), and two sheets of large hexagonal cardboard map tiles. The map tiles are easy to punch out, hanging loose like Settlers of Catan tiles, but the square ones require more care. In my copy, they did not punch out easily, requiring the use of a thin box cutting blade and a nailclipper to cut off hanging corners. It was a pain, but I’ve had similar problems with some other GMT games. The art on the counters themselves is adequate, but not beautiful. One gripe I have is that the green and yellow players’ chits are so light in tone as to be almost indistinguishable except under bright direct light. This will cause problems for players with poor eyesight (like myself).
The map itself is thick cardstock along the lines of the original Twilight Struggle or Commands and Colors: Ancients board; it’s functional, but won’t grab someone’s attention from across the room. It requires the use of Plexi-glass or a poster frame, with the hexagonal map tiles laid on top.
Overall, I’d say the components are pretty middle of the road for a war game, and that Euro gamers will be a little disappointed with them. All the colors on the pieces and map are slightly washed out, when you’d think that a game about the Polynesian islands would be full of lush vegetative greens and deep ocean blues.
For $16.00, I can’t complain too much, however! The rules are short (though a bit difficult to read) and the game itself is pretty simple. Whatever small complaints I have with the components, I’m looking forward to sending out my canoes full of colonists and warriors and conquering paradise.