We know the drill: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” In Game of Thrones: Conquest, it’s a bit more like, “you spend ages farming and building then your magic bubble thing disappears and some random dudes teleport over, attack, and steal all your food.”
Welcome to the world of Conquest, the multi-player strategy game that launched in 2017; a game I decided, on a whim, to have a little look at last week, and which I’ve barely stopped playing since. For context, I am absolutely not a gamer. Original Nintendo Mario Bros and Duck Hunt are about my level. I used to like fighting games in arcades because I could just smash all the buttons at once, and might accidentally land a punch or two. I have a dusty PS2 somewhere, which I used to set up for playing Buzz at Christmas and for watching movies when my cheap-as-chips DVD players broke. I have a couple of puzzle apps on my phone, and that’s about it. So, definitely not a gamer. But I am a competitive nerd. And it’s still ages before there’s new Game of Thrones on TV. This might be the closest I can get to Thrones-y material for a while…
So I signed up. The first part is largely idiot-proof, with Tyrion giving systematic instructions. Handily, you get a reward every time you tick something off the to-do list, which is satisfying. Before I knew it, I had a pretty sweet castle. I went up the levels quite quickly. My troops got tougher. I got bannermen! I joined an alliance that seemed the right mix of tough and nice!
This is what I thought I looked like:
This is what I actually looked like:
And there was a little countdown in the corner of the screen…
You get a grace period when you start, and there was a widespread peace in play at the time as well, so all was calm with everyone sitting behind their (free) shield bubbles. In all honesty, it was a little dull. But the obsessive and engrossing kind of dull. A dullness I felt I had mastered! I was ticking off jobs like nobody’s business. The game’s group chat feature ensured that the members of the alliance started getting to know each other. We made a hive by teleporting over to the boss’s co-ordinates. (The teleport function has got to be a little tongue-in-cheek nod to the superhuman speed of Varys and Littlefinger, right?) We trash-talked the other alliances, talking about how we were going to kick some ass once the shields came down, whilst sending thousands of troops to take on a wild boar. What sweet, summer children we were.
The clock counted down to zero; the bubbles came down. Nothing happened. It was a relief, but we started playing at attacks. Even though we had no idea what we were doing, we muddled through together. There was a castle near the hive that had a funny name, so we had a go at a rally — where allies join their troops together to take on an opponent. Within seconds, Silly Name Dude was on fire. He thought about retaliating, but took one look at all our castles lined up in the hive and went for an emergency shield instead. (You have some spares that you can put up for a few hours, but it’s a finite supply.)
We celebrated, and we plotted our next moves. Another alliance wanted us to merge with them. You can merge with us, we said, figuratively flicking our hair and sipping our wine like the queens we were.
The rest of the day was quiet and carried on as normal. Feeling pretty smug, I went to bed. And then, I came down with a slight case of the dreads.
It was 1am, and facing the fact that I’m now totally hooked on this game I still don’t really know how to play, I thought I’d have one more check on the troops, maybe set a builder to work overnight as I’m at the point where upgrades take hours and hours, maybe have a sneaky peek at some of the huge alliances to see if they’d taken any more titles.
And the hive was on fire.
Some devious, vicious, evil genius bastards had found us. They had teleported their entire alliance right next to us, and had attacked all of us at once, in a whole bunch of rallies. We were caught with our shields and our pants down. They hit us so many times, we barely had the resources to heal our troops afterwards. (Seriously, it took all day to get them back to health again.) Thousands of virtual troops were killed. Those of us with some shields stashed away deployed them as quickly as possible. Eventually, a ceasefire was negotiated, and they teleported away again.
In a terrible clash of the nerdery, I’m going to call that manoeuvre the Cylon Base Star Play. It was impressively ruthless. These Cylon dudes knew what they were doing…
Eventually, the fires went out, our troops healed, we chatted strategy, we pondered vengeance, and we decided never to get complacent about the shields again. That’s the thing with international games, I guess; it’s always Attack O’Clock somewhere… The Cylons got away scot-free, because we couldn’t trace where they went, Westeros is a big place to search, and we took such a pummelling that most of us were in no fit state to go after them. We let it go. Kind of. For a while, anyway.
It was a sobering day after all our trash talk, and I’m now convinced that my days playing this game will have to come to an end once school starts, because I haven’t got enough shields in reserve to protect me for work days and sleepy time. But all the best Thrones characters are dead, right? (Isn’t that why Ghosts of Thrones is fun?)
If you are missing Game of Thrones, you could do worse than to have a play on Conquest. At some point, the big houses will be up for grabs, but for now, you can adorn yourself with your family banner and sigil, and harvest crops while the theme tune plays over and over again. You can mix up your sigils in a way that purists might find alarming, but it’s also pretty fun. For instance, I have a bear on my banner in honour of Lady Lyanna Mormont, and a stag chess piece in honour of my favourite ghost, Robert. I was a bit troubled by the fact that the only armour I could craft was upcycled from the fall of House Bolton, but hey, horrible as they were, they had an aesthetic, so it’s all good.
Like most games, there are a lot of potential in-app purchases. You can get by without them for the most part, though it’s hard to get the materials for armour without spending a little money, and you might find that it takes even longer to upgrade without buying packs that include additional ‘speed up’ tools.
What have I learned from my first week? Don’t let your troops hang around doing nothing, don’t be left outside alone when the bubbles come down, and don’t go to bed without putting a shield up. Don’t tell enemies where you are — seriously, one poor sod posted his co-ordinates in the Kingdom Group Chat rather than the one with just his allies, and he had to make a quick getaway. Make some friends, switch on the notifications so you get a warning when someone’s about to attack you, and try to let it go when you’re soundly thrashed by an opponent…
Is anyone else playing? If so, do you have any tips for surviving for a few more days? My troops are going back out for a fight tonight, and I’m very sorry if we smash up one of your castles!
P.S Yeaaahh, we didn’t quite let it go as much as you might have hoped. At first we did! Then today, I happened upon one of the enemy alliance castles nearby. I don’t think this particular player had been part of the Cylon Base Star Attack, but their liege lord definitely had been. Their shield was down. We took it in turns attacking them and nicking their food. Petty, petty, vengeance… This game really brings out the best in everyone!
P.P.S. I’ve checked in on the ghosts, and they are as impatient for season 8 as everybody else.
Header Image Source: HBO