Expeditions Conquistador is an Historic Turn-Based Role-playing games that brings back the nostalgia of the original Gold Box SSI D&D role-playing games of the 1990’s but with the graphics of the 21st century and an amazing soundtrack.
It got started as a successfully funded Kickstarter project by a Danish indie development team called Logic Artists with a final funding amount of $77k USD.
Expeditions Conquistador Welcomes you to the 16th Century
It’s 1518 and you are the Spanish captain of a ship with a crew of followers headed towards the Mexican mainland currently occupied by the Aztec Empire lead by Motecuhzoma Xocoyoti (Moctezuma II, famous for his diarrhea revenge). Before you get there, you stop at Hispaniola, modern day Dominican Republic, for resupply and trade. Immediately you are detained by the Governor of Santo Domingo and pulled into a quests of intrigue, politics, and warfare with a dynamic multi-threaded story involving the local Taíno natives and various Spanish factions.
The plot covers deep issues with multiple branches all with real consequences and no real dead ends. The game makes you feel like your decisions matter and results are all real and viable. The stories are all very well written with extremely well flowing dialogue that I’m genuinely impressed by. There was one point where my actions lead to the death of someone innocent that made me feel actual remorse and sadness. It’s very rare that a game can make me feel anything but blood thirsty rage.
On top of the rich story, everything is historically accurate to the degree that we know. You can literally take any fact, whether direct or casually alluded to, and look it up in Wikipedia and find out a deeper story and background. I’m a history geek, so as biased as I am, I was really sucked into the historical setting and it kept me engaged and immersed, much to the aggravation of my wife.
The Taíno culture is painted with a reasonably objective hand, pointing out the merits and flaws of pre-Colombian civilization in the Caribbean Islands. The Spanish ruthlessness is also portrayed without pulling any punches. Not only did the Logic Artists not shy away from racist themes, but made it an intricate part of the experience… in all it’s ignorant ugliness.
On a personal note, I found the dynamic portrayed between Taíno and Spanish extremely entertaining and amusing since my ancestry comes from both sides. I experienced a kind of multiple personality playing this game with both sides of my lineage playing out a story that was true to their historic records.
Once you make it to the Mexican mainland, you are greeted by the Totonac natives who are under Aztec domination and want your help. All your choices are valid so you can choose to help then, support the Aztecs, or play both sides. There’s a lot of freedom in this game which pulls you in even deeper.
The only sour pain in the plot was when i encountered an Aztec deity I feel this supernatural element detracted from the historic journey they pulled you into, and was completely unnecessary.
La Comunidad del Anillo
Your followers are the heart of your experience. You hand pick your group from a selection of over 30 characters and acquire more local followers as the game progresses. Each character has a full back-story narrative, class, and personality attributes such as Open Minded, Racist, Pacifist, Aggressive, Pious, Greedy, etc. This is very important because each person will lose or gain morale in response to the attributes of your plot choices.
For example, if I have a choice between peacefully resolving a conflict or attacking, and I chose to use diplomacy, then any character with the pacifist attribute will gain morale while those with aggressive attributes will lose morale.
If a character gets too low a morale, they could leave your group in mutiny. On the other side, characters with high morale get bonuses that would make the power-gamer in you giddy.
Tactical D&D Combat on a Hexagonal Board
Combat is very detailed. I mentioned it’s turn based, and you know what happens in turn based combat from the 10 hour Dungeons and Dragons combat sessions, right?
You control every follower’s actions, movements, buffs and equipment. It’s a totally micro-managed system and I love it! You get that same old school D&D satisfaction from all the planning and strategy before, during and after combat.
All combat takes place on a hex grid using obstacles and cover to your advantage (or detriment). Each character has one attack action, a class predefined movement rate, and free actions to switch between melee or ranged weapons at your whim.
Each class has special actions that produced enhanced effects, like stun or stealth. Your followers can acquire more special actions as they level up.
An important combat resource is equipment. Equipment, while expensive, is vital for each of your followers in combat. “Equipment” is an abstracted concept of whatever gear that character would normally use, and it’s represented by a number. Assigning equipment to each characters determines their combat damage, damage absorption as well as their endurance (health).
Tactics and strategy play a meaningful role in combat. Quite often I’ve found myself replaying battles repeatedly to try different strategies and formations, I had a really great time finding the enemy weaknesses and ideal tactics for leveraging those weaknesses.
There’s also a tinkering system where you can build items to use in combat, such as barricade to block spots, or various traps.
Expeditions Conquistador has Tanks, Healers, DPSs, and a Scholar?
Here’s a rundown of all the classes available to your initial followers.
The only class able to heal injured party members both in and out of combat. Doctors begin with a high Herbalism skill, but are also capable of Hunting and Tinkering as well. Doctors are weak in both melee and ranged combat. The Doctor’s unique combat skills are Restore, Cure, and Revive.
AKA: The Healer
The Scout is the most powerful Spanish melee combat unit in the game and actually starts without a ranged weapon. While camping, Scouts are given a high Patrolling skill allowing them to search the surrounding area of the camp for supplies and signs of danger. In combat the Scout’s unique skills are: Feint, Sneak, and Throwing Knife.
AKA: The DPS
The Hunter class is used out of combat primarily for Hunting and Preserving. The only camping skill they do not possess at first rank is Herbalism. In combat Hunters are specialized ranged units and are weak in melee. The Hunter’s unique combat skills are Rebuke, Quickshot, and Aimed Shot.
AKA: The Rogue
The Soldier is the generic, utility unit in the party. While they begin the game with no Herbalism or Tinkering skill, the Soldier is best suited for Guarding and Patrolling. In combat the Soldier is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ with the ability to deal strong melee damage and fire from range as well, however, they are best suited as front-line units and have the potential to be suited with the most armor in the game. The Soldier’s unique combat skills are: Flawless Defence, Stun, and Guard.
AKA: The Tank
The Scholar class has a number of skills which are more heavily weighted outside of combat. Scholars start the game with a high Tinkering skill while having no points in Guarding or Patrolling. With tinkering they can build equipment for combat such as Barricades and Torches, but can also research new technology to help the entire party. In combat the unit has a special passive ability with each ranged attack (Weakness Exposed) in which the scholars insight helps all other units which attack the target in the same round to have a damage bonus. The Scholar’s unique combat skills are: Logistics, Coordinate Attack, and Distraction.
This guy is arguably useless in combat.
AKA: The Corpse
Exploring the Map and Camping
Hexes per Diem
Movement on the map has a level of realness to it which, of course, brings a level of annoyance after a while. You get a certain number of hex tile movements per day, and then you have to camp in order to refresh your movement and start again.
While camping, each follower consumes food, may require medical attention, or you could be attacked at random. You must assign tasks to each of your followers based on their level of skill in different areas to optimally manager your night.
Hunting for Meat and Preserving To Eat
Unless you want to waste lots of your spoils on mass amounts of rations, you’re going to need some of your followers to go hunting. Hunting will bring back food to the camp to supplement what you already have. You can also find wild boar roaming around during the daytime which is a great source of meat. Wild boar glows red on the map.
If you have fresh meat, from whatever source, you got 1 day to eat it or it spoils and you lose it. Whenever you have fresh meat, you need to assign some followers to the Preservation task. This converts fresh meat into rations that can store indefinitely and be traded. Herbs glow green on the map.
Once you have herbs, you assign followers to the “Herbalism” task. This will convert the herbs in to use-able and trade-able medicine. Herbs never go bad, so don’t sacrifice preserving fresh meat in order to convert herbs into medicine unless you’re in dire need of the medz to heal a dying follower.
Potions of Lesser Healing and Weed
If any followers were hurt in combat (taken down to the floor) then you’re going to need a doctor and medicine to heal them. Obviously, you can trade for medicine in the villages and towns, but you can also forage for herbs. Herbs
Crafting Battle Buffs
As you explore the map, you’ll find various resources like oil, rope, metal, etc. These items initially have no use until you realize there’s a whole crafting system in the game called Tinkering. You can uncover recipes in your exploration and then assigning a follower to build specific items. These items are used in combat for tactical advantage, traps, barricades, lanterns (aka Molotov cocktails).
Wait, I Thought You Had the First Watch
Any D&D geek worth their salt will now that bad shit happens at night so you need a watch schedule. In this case, the task is called Guarding. Guarding will prevent bad shit from happening and they’ll tell you what happened or didn’t in the morning.
You Three, Go Run Around and Find Loot
Random encounters bring in the loot, that’s what the patrolling task is for. Sending your followers on patrol lets the scour the area, and sometimes they find good stuff.
Expeditions Conquistador Has The Sights and Sound
Now that gameplay, story depth and logistics are out of the way, let’s talk about the more superficial elements.
The graphics are balanced and artistic. The character portraits look like period pieces with the same stylistic flare as the early 16th century. The isometric 2.5d graphics are sharp and effective. Overall, I really like the look of the game, they managed to capture the spirit of the setting without going to far in to the photo realistic or too far into the comic book direction.
The music as, to put it mildly, outstanding. Composed by Leonardo Badinella, listening to music of the time period totally pulled mein making me feel like I was in history. It was the delicious icing on the cake. I’m a fan.
Mixing acoustic guitars, ethnic instruments and orchestral sounds, Leonardo Badinella has composed a unique soundtrack for a truly unique adventure.