Conquest: First Blood


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Review: Review of the "Tasters" or "Teasers" First Blood Faction Starters for Conquest

May 27, 2021 by jahatch28 Cult of Games Member

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So, I've played a lot of Conquest: The Last Argument of Kings and own literally all 5 armies available for that game.  It is a great game that is only getting better.  The world is rich, the rules are being streamlined, updated, and rebalanced, new factions and importantly new models/units are being released almost monthly, and the game play is fantastic.  There are some issues (rules as written vs intended, game balance, characters are probably a bit too powerful at the moment) and some of the earlier models (100 Kingdoms mostly from the 2-player starter box) are not nearly as nice as a lot of the newer sculpts and plastic kits.  The resins for this game are amazing and beautiful.  One big downside to the game for people who play other games is the scale.. the models are about 38mm and so don't work well in most other fantasy agnostic games... but at the same time, that large size makes them really fun to paint, and they look amazing on the table.

Now, First Blood is the small skirmish version of The Last Argument of Kings.. it plays on a smaller table (3x3 vs 4x4 or 4x6) and one of the products for First Blood are these $50 US "Faction Starters" that come with 1 amazing resin character model, usually 8-12 plastic models from usually 2 different kits/units for the faction, and then a small soft back rulebook for First Blood (the rules for both First Blood and The Last Argument are free, online, and there is an AMAZING army builder for both games on the Para Bellum website (that said, it is way easier to use on a tablet or PC than your phone!)... but I digress.   So, for $50 US, you are getting around that much or maybe a bit more in models, and then basically the rulebook for free.  Compared to some of the earlier deals that Para Bellum was offering, I feel like the price point for these starters isn't as good as it could be... but it's not bad... it just isn't as good of a deal as some of the previous starter sets.  But that's fine.

The issue IMHO is that First Blood is a game that focuses on building your army around your heroes... in The Last Argument, each Hero can take up to 4 units, and they spend the game attached to one of those units... with characters being around 70-140 points, and units running from 90-300 points on average, it is easy to build a 1000-1500 point army with 2-3 characters, and 4-6 units for most factions.  For First Blood, characters/heroes fight by themselves, with maybe a small specialized retinue surrounding them, and they can only take 2 units total along side each hero.

The other issue is that in The Last Argument, units of infantry are 12+ models in size, and cavalry and large brutes are 3+ models per unit minimum.  In First Blood, that drops down to 4+ infantry models and just 1-3 cavalry or brutes per unit... so Characters still cost about 70-140 points on average, but now a single infantry unit of 4 models might only be 30-60 points, and a single cavalry or brute model might be about that 50-75 points.  But you are only taking 2 units per character... so a single 100 point character might only have 100-150 points of units running along side them.... so it's a bit more awkward to build up your First Blood army using these if you are trying to play a roughly 500-600 point game... you can increase unit sizes to 8 or even 12 infantry, or 2 or 3 cavalry or brutes and increase the points you are playing with.. but then you end up running very expensive units (for First Blood) and often don't have the activations needed to sort of counter your opponent.  Ideally you are looking at probably running 2-3 Heroes each with 2 units in a full game of First Blood, so these "starters" are a bit on the small size to be fair.

(and then let's compare this to the Warband Sets that Para Bellum has for their games... these are $149 US, but have 2 characters, and usually 36 infantry models that make 3 different units INCLUDING the unit standards and champions... so now you have about 200-250 points of heroes, and probably 400-600 points of infantry, giving you about an 700-800 point army for The Last Argument that is DEFINITELY a great starting point for learning this version of the massed battle rank and flank game.  Obviously this is 3 times the investment, but almost a full army for $150 is not a bad deal).... and then as I think on it, these Warband Sets do come with the rules for First Blood too... so you could definitely take this Warband Box and run both characters and 4 units (one of the units of 12 could be 2 units of 6) and you'd have a full sized First Blood Army in all likelihood... so if you do want to play First Blood, but aren't as interested in The Last Argument, definitely do look at these Warband Sets.

And then finally getting back on topic and contrasting with the Warband Sets, the First Blood Starters I'm not sure if they really give you a great feel for the game... running 1 hero and 2 units of 4 models into your opponents similar forces isn't the worst way to test out the rules... but it definitely has been my experience that these 'demo games' end very quickly when either a melee character gets a charge off, or when that same character gets surrounded and quickly chopped down.... in The Last Argument, the characters end up being protected by their 'unit body guards' of 12+ models... while in First Blood, they are very vulnerable and have a much shorter game life expectancy!

Now, that said, I do like First Blood... and I love the idea of being able to take my larger Conquest: The Last Argument forces and play around with smaller level skirmish games... or even learning how to use the force in a Skirmish format where characters are more vulnerable and my tactics have to change!  Another side benefit to these small Faction Starters is that I will end up being able to add 1-2 more stands (of 4 models each) to my other armies... so I can use these Faction Starter models in The Last Argument seamlessly... I've also been playing around with taking some of these "extra" models and converting them to be Retinue models (effectively character body guards and models that represent upgrades to my Heroes in The Last Argument of Kings) if I don't need them built "as recommended" for First Blood or The Last Argument... so this is a good source of bitz and extra bodies for the game as well.

So, in conclusion, these First Blood Starters are really, IMHO, for 2 different types of players... the first is people who literally just want to see some of the models that Para Bellum makes, spend $50 and get 9-13 models including one really, really nice resin figure... and then decide from there if they want to invest in the game more heavily... Although 2 different Faction Starters will let 2 players play the game (for a $100 total investment) my concern is that they won't be getting the full experience and may not enjoy that demo as much as a slightly larger game that lets them do more and see more of the game mechanics in action with more units or larger # of models.  The other group of players that this appeals to are people like me that already own the game but that are just looking to add another Hero and 8-12 more infantry to their army either heavily converted up or as alternative stand ins for various upgrades or retinues.

So, just my 2 cents on this interesting approach that Para Bellum has to getting into their games.  If you are curious about the models, their quality, and just really want to check it out for yourself (and no one around you plays) then these Faction Starters for First Blood may be a good place to start.  If you are definitely interested in testing out BOTH First Blood and The Last Argument, then I'd 100% recommend the Warband Sets and maybe skip the Faction Starter until you need that 3rd character.  If you are currently playing The Last Argument and want just a few more models to mess around with, convert, or give you that extra stand or 2 that you need for your basic infantry without buying a whole new unit, then also look at these Faction Starters.  Thank for reading the wall of text! And don't forget to roll low (in this game at least!).

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