Conquest 2023 roundtable retrospective: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

No game is perfect (at least until Goonhammer creates one), but Conquest: the Last Argument of Kings has come pretty close in 2023. Join our intrepid authors as we discuss the epic highs and lows that only a tabletop wargame can bring, chatting about the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2023, and what we hope 2024 might bring.

Atrapos Imperial Knight Tontorr Wadhrun Conquest Credit: Magos Sockbert
You didn’t think I’d write an article and not use this image, did you? Conquest Credit: Magos Sockbert

The Good


This has been a big year for Conquest. A new edition, a relentless release schedule, and some absolutely killer new sculpts have made the game feel vivid and lively. Every faction got something new and more and more of the rosters are being filled in.

I’ll give a special call out to Para Bellum’s focus on internal balance with each update. Each time I feel like my lists are developing a sense of horrible gravity where a certain dominating build or combination is starting to edge out the faction’s other options, it gets scalpelled out. The changes to Incarnate Sentinels were a huge shake up for the Spires, breaking the Sovereign Lineage chain that constructed half of your list with a remorseless inevitability from the moment you selected your warlord. Now instead taking Centaur Avatara or a Siegebreaker doesn’t feel like leaving money on the table, and my lists are becoming increasingly adaptive and flexible over time. 

I’d also like to make the claim that the Spires are possibly the most well designed faction I’ve ever played in a wargame. Unbelievably thoughtful balance mechanically, each model hits it out of the park visually, ‘fragile fast ranged-heavy with healing’ is a combination of words that inspire dread in anyone who has tried to balance a wargame but they nailed it here. I’m deeply impressed.


It’s honestly just been a great year for Conquest as a game with the new edition. I come in to systems primarily with a focus on the rules and how a game plays, not so much for lore/setting or anything else. What drew me originally to Conquest in edition 1.5 last year is still around: a quick playing game where you don’t deploy anything at the start with satisfying rank and flank mechanics.  

City States are an obvious choice here too while it’s not an army that I’ve painted up for myself (aside from the Promethean) it’s a very cool army to see on the table. I really can’t wait to see how those chariots look though! We only just got to see their cavalry which are just perfect for the faction. 

As a Nord player what I’ve been waiting for longer than anything else is werewolves. Which got a name change when they were previewed to be werewargs instead. We didn’t only get werewargs though but a whole new hero which I think is going to be incredibly fun to put down on the table! A Shaman warlord bringing Werewargs on the table 21” turn one for a very early, very forward, reinforcement line is going to be incredible. Add in a Vargyr lord and you’re scoring objectives turn 2 very easily. 

Magos Sockbert

Para Bellum just doesn’t seem to miss, which is incredibly impressive given the speed and range of releases this year. Games Workshop, Battlefield NZ, Atomic Mass Games, they all stumble now and then, but PB has just been hitting it out of the park over and over, and for such a young and small company this is just amazing. The sheer volume of work this year needs a call out in itself. Things can always be better but Para Bellum has not dropped a single stinker for either model or rules all year. There’s been no 10th Ed 40k or Leg Man, or Cosmic Ghost Rider, and most every game we interact with has at least one crippling bug or whoopsie with every major update, so huge kudos to Para Bellum for avoiding that.

Oh, and cybernetic heroes of Greek legend. Those are pretty sick too.

General Cross

2023 felt like the year when Para Bellum really hit their stride. Conquest 2nd Edition has been a very welcome update that took some fantastic core concepts and revised them into a very intuitive system. Rank and flank games can often be hard to get into because of their complex movement mechanics, but Conquest games just flow in a really great way that also feels unique to other tabletop wargames.

Combine this with some fantastic outreach across global conventions, support for local game representatives (Vanguards) and community support through Discord and other social media platforms, and it’s very hard to fault how the company has approached building a Conquest community.

The icing on the cake for me has been the model release. Whilst I’m clearly biased as a W’adrhŭn player (dinosaurs go brrrr) but the release of eye catching models such as the Tontorr, Siegebreaker Behemoth and City States range have helped define the game from its competitors and draw in the interest of others.

Thanqol's Conquest
Siegebreaker Behemoth, the Baddest of Bois. Credit: Thanquol

The Bad


The thing that’s bothered me the most is access to the setting’s lore. I was loving the Living World system, was happily reading every update, and then I had a child. Now I do not have the time or sanity to keep up with it and it’s not easy to catch up with the story when you fall behind. The lore of Conquest is extremely good, and the one army book I borrowed from a friend told a really gripping version of the fall of Hazlia and the creation of the Orders – phenomenal stuff – but I don’t know under what circumstances I’d have encountered that book in the wild. It’s not for sale on the webstore. The Warhammer codex system can die in a garbage fire, but at least it got everyone on the same page in terms of lore.

Relatedly, I’m a writer by nature and there’s nothing I’d like more than to start writing lore for My Dudes. But I kind of don’t know where to start a lot of the time, especially for the Spires. A Space Marine chapter is a really clear thing, with an order of battle, areas of responsibility, logistics and traditions and on and on. Writing one is really easy and fun. I kind of don’t know where to start writing lore for my Spires. Do Lineage Highborns just walk around picking fights? Do Spires do big weird merchant caravans that get raided? Why is my Biomancer leaving her Spire to fight against the Old Dominion every week? I know where the High Clone Executor fits in Spires society but not how many soldiers she might be able to call on, the force structure of a larger Spires army she might fit into, or even what her name might be. 

Magos Sockbert

Thanqol is 100% right. Lore is increasingly inaccessible to a newer player, and you have a problem when people start quoting Goonhammer article jokes for the lore of each faction. We’re amazing, I know, but it’s a symptom of a lack of approachability for where to learn more about this awesome game and world. Each box has a brick of cool text that I’m honestly not sure where to find other than the webstore. The companion book was awesome, and really needs an updated reprint; the app is amazing when it comes to rules, but if someone asks about a story and you have to pull out your phone to show a website or video, you’ve immediately lost them. Give me something I can pull down from a shelf and have someone flick through to read lore and look at pretty pictures while I whisper sweet nothings about dinosaurs into their ear.

More broadly, Conquest has some amazing rules, but the game designers seem overly enamoured by complexity on occasion. Just like in academia, using more words and more complicated or abstruse words doesn’t make your game better; simplicity is usually better, definitely so from a playability standpoint. This happens in a few places, but speaking as someone with several thousand points of W’adrhun models, the Chant mechanic as written needs to be taken out behind the barn and shot.

General Cross

Conquest is one of the best tabletop wargames that I’ve played, hands down. It is also not how I would introduce someone who has never played before into the hobby, mostly because it’s an expensive game (a 2000 point army is easily £400) but also because the complexity laid upon the base rules is not insignificant. There are some non-intuitive elements to the game in the nuances of movement, but I think that’s more a symptom of Rank and Flank than specifically Conquest. We (as the Goonhammer team) are looking to get some more First Blood content out, which should help cover the entry point bridge. More to follow!

I also think Characters need revisiting. They’re ok as they are, but unless you’re playing a spellcaster your characters don’t do much other than stall out activations. I’d like non-spellcasters to get ‘Hero Actions’ aside from Rally and Duel that make their activations feel less like a break in tempo of the turn. The ‘wargear’ section of Masteries, Artifacts, Retinue and whatever faction options on top could be streamlined too whilst we’re in here.


This is something that all Conquest players (maybe not you, City States players) experience, but the older kits are not holding up against the newer ones. The production value has increased by an incredible amount which is fantastic but it definitely leaves older kits like Hundred Kingdom infantry or Nord Huskarls and Raiders looking dated… and it’s only been 4-5 years.  

Para Bellum has a frankly insane release schedule with a new army every year and new kits every month with many units unreleased. There’s no easy fix here other than making unreleased kits wait even longer by re-sculpting older kits, and who am I to say if it’s worth it or not? Would I rather have new Raiders or to finally have Steel Chosen and White Waste Tribesmen? Well the latter if I’m being honest. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes units on a table can look disjointed between themselves and between armies because of it.  

Thanqol's Conquest
Theist Priest. Credit: Thankful

The Ugly

Magos Sockbert

The hobby and modelling restrictions for Para Bellum tournament play are artificial, unnecessary, and actively suppress community growth. Now that we’re working stand by stand, there’s absolutely no reason to force players to play four models to a stand. A brick of four hoplites or legionaires looks amazing, but four T-posing slingers just looks stupid, even ignoring the difficulties of ranking the damn things up (hell, even Para Bellum can’t do it in their official pics). This isn’t like “oh, I have nine Space Marines and will count them as ten”, this is “your Space Marines don’t have grenade packs so your army is illegal”. It has no impact on gameplay, and we’ve locally seen four players have to drop from Cancon, Australia’s largest gaming event (and possibly soon to be the largest ever Conquest tournament) because they’ve decided to (for example) model their Varangian guards three to a stand because having dudes swinging greataxes line up hip to hip looks a bit stupid. Conquest is too small a game to take hits like that. Giving event organisers the ability to accept alternate model counts or conversions helps build the community and game while encouraging artistic expression and joy. Isn’t fun what this is supposed to be about, not bean counting?

Seriously, PB. When you have people post photos of games on Facebook and people comment how good W’adrhŭn look three to a stand, but that’s illegal, you have a problem

On an even uglier note, in 2023, Para Bellum minis have a problem with women: like many wargamers, they don’t seem to have noticed that they exist.Where you draw the line of acceptable is personal, but we here at Goonhammer believe it’s appropriate that 50% of the population receive somewhat more than “fuck all” of representation. As one data point, the Para Bellum webstore has 37 options in the “New & Upcoming” section, of which there are 16 different kits (excluding army bundles) totalling 54 models which, to be fair, includes a few monsters. Of this, there are only two female models. C’mon, guys.


I think that Para Bellum’s decisions as a company don’t entirely match my goals as a hobbyist. In particular, I’m a converter – there’s nothing I like more than kitbashing, rummaging around in my bits box until I can find the parts I need to make a distinctive character or unit champion. So far I’ve found this is really hard to do with Conquest models. Human heads are wildly different sizes and use utterly incompatible joint connections, arms aren’t much better, and many kits are extremely streamlined and bereft of options which makes it really hard to accumulate a bits box that can start cycling back into the army. 

The most fun I’ve had hobbying with Conquest, then, has been doing scenic bases for all of my characters. One small character with a stand base all to themselves has been a wonderful chance to build little dioramas and landscapes. But as cool as the results are, this has been fundamentally at odds with what’s meant to happen – the retinue system implies I’m meant to cram three additional weirdos onto each base, many of which are unavailable, making it a visually busy mess that fades into the rest of the regiment. I, like many players, ignored this entirely rendering my fully painted armies technically tournament illegal. This requirement has been fairly universally rejected by the community.

I’m also very lucky that I selected Hundred Kingdoms and Spires for my factions, each possessing slender units that mostly rank up nicely – and I say mostly because I just built two units of Stryx and getting four of those onto the same stand gave me a taste what other factions have to put up with. Look, I’m here for beauty. I’m here for visual effect. I love these models, they’re clean and excellently designed and my heart goes out to the Para Bellum sculptors and designers. Fantastic work.

But you cannot fuck around with base sizes. You can’t do cool skirmish game poses in your rank and flank. It turns the game from looking visually amazing to looking faintly ridiculous with four giant orcs standing elbow to chin, or a flock of Stryx tetris’d into the exact one configuration where everything fits together. My favourite example of this done badly is an Infinity model, the Umbral Samaritan. Absolutely absurd bullshit, worst model ever sculpted, it’s made out of metal so the second you place it on its 25mm base the top heavy thing slams face first into the table. Doesn’t matter how amazing it looks, I had to put it on a 40mm base and render it completely useless in terms of gameplay. Nothing in Conquest is that bad, but that’s where this path leads.

When designing models, your base is a shackle you are bound to forever. I do not want to see even one toe hanging out over the side. And if the designers can’t restrain themselves to the canvas they’ve given themselves then they need to make concessions to the hobbyists who are putting hundreds of hours into making something beautiful out of the materials they have been given. Some kits are best post three models to a stand, and I think the community is going to vote with its feet on this one.


Honestly I don’t find that much that I disliked that much this year for Conquest. My only complaint would probably be to do with the app itself and only that it doesn’t auto-save lists as you build them! Too many times have I made up a whole nice tidy list, not hit save because it’s the only app I use that doesn’t auto save, and then have to build it all again. User error? Yeah, sure, but also something I hope can be fixed soon too. And if that’s the worst that I can come up with, Conquest is in a pretty good spot!

General Cross

Nothing Ugly from me. The Good has been outstanding and the Bad has been totally normal for a relatively small games company in a highly competitive market. 

Nord Konungyr. Credit: Bair

Our hopes for 2024


Sorcerer Kings! We already know that they’re coming and I really cannot wait to see how they look and how they play. Some armies are already pretty full of magic so I’m definitely interested to see how this army does it. 

I’m also likely starting my own Dweghom army this year having just built the new Ironclad Drake yesterday. 

One of the biggest things though is continued support from the rules team and continual balance patches. I think the armies are broadly all in a very good spot right now but adding in a whole new army to the mix can make ripples across factions that need to fixed. Generally the teams do well to amend these and create interesting changes for existing factions. It will be very interesting to see how that continues. 


I’m really looking forwards to faction rosters getting fleshed out. Hundred Kingdoms in particular feels like it has two absolutely lynchpin faction-defining units, Sicarii and Order of the Sword, and without those it somehow feels like almost a quarter of the faction is locked out. Sicarii in particular represent the Hundred Kingdom’s answer to terrifying monsters and I really feel their lack in every list I write.

On the whole, though, Conquest is in a very exciting place; every new release or rules update has been a pleasant surprise and I find myself content to trust Para Bellum rather than push my own wishlist.

Magos Sockbert

There aren’t a lot of large events for Conquest in Australia, and I’d really like to change that. Cancon and BrisCon are in January and May and that’s… kinda it. I’d love to be able to host a two day event, either near me in Canberra or further south in Melbourne, and it’d be the first one not run by Para Bellum staff, which would be neat. Other than that, I’m looking forward to a fairly chill 2024; City States and W’adrhŭn, my two armies, are shockingly close to having full ranges, so I’m going to spend some time building out these awesome minis and maybe test myself painting a Founder’s Exclusive model or two! 

Oh, and maybe some tweaks to City States to let them win a game or two, ever. They… don’t seem to be having a lot of luck in Australia.

General Cross

I really hope that the incredible momentum behind Para Bellum continues into 2024. Sorcerer Kings will (hopefully) bring a rich Central Asian theme that hasn’t really been done in recent years in wargames and stand out as an 8th distinct faction. I agree with everyone above too; factions filling out their rosters will help broaden list creation and keep the community exploring new options in their collection.

The event scene here in the UK is growing nicely too, and I’m hoping that with an equally strong representation across Europe that we can explore international tournaments too! Only good things to follow from a miniatures game that you really really should give a try.

Old Dominion Kataphraktoi. Credit: Rob

Wishing you a Happy New Conquest

There’s been some fairly brutal honesty in this article, and we think Para Bellum has a ways to go in some places, but we really don’t want to come across as overly negative here. There’ve been hiccups and missteps, but overall we’ve been incredibly impressed at how this game has developed, and we’re really looking forward to 2024. The four of us writing today have Conquest as our primary game system, because it has the best combination of models, lore, and rules that we’ve yet seen. Conquest is fun, and it’s only getting better every year. Come play with us.

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