Conquest in Australia – Super Series One

Someone’s first event is a special time, full of hope, and crushed hopes like so many Crossbowmen stomped flat beneath an Apex Predator. Did my brand new fancy City States army march forward bearing the light of a god similar to but legally distinct from Athena? Did the fact that I finally had a fully painted Conquest army mean my inevitable victory? Spoiler: No.

Conquest Polemarchs City States Credit: Magos Sockbert
Conquest Polemarchs City States Credit: Magos Sockbert

This was the first event in the NSW/ACT Super Series, a range of events aimed at bringing together the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory Conquest communities. Four events across four cities and gaming clubs, with a goal to building Australia’s own little version of Ea. This was a small event, and just a single day, but every community starts small, and, most importantly, it was just fun.

Every game you play is a learning opportunity, so I like to take this time to reflect on what I learned and what I could have done better. After all, the more practice I get and the better I am, the closer I come to that coveted Adepticon victory next year!

Robert Cantrell, our resident Conquest expert, will be popping in to add his thoughts throughout this article.

Rob: hello there.

The List

Conquest City States Credit: Magos Sockbert
Conquest City States Credit: Magos Sockbert

Army list - click to expand

=== The Last Argument of Kings ===

Sockbert’s Sadness – May 2023 [1995/2000]

The City States

== (Warlord) Polemarch [135]: Atalanta’s Spear, Architects 1, Architects 2

* Hoplites (8) [370]: Dorilates, Minotaur Haspist Auxiliary

* Minotaur Haspists (3) [180]:

* Minotaur Thyreans (3) [190]:

* Minotaur Thyreans (3) [190]:

== Polemarch [190]: Standard of Last Oration, Inscription of Impact Resistance, Architects 1, Architects 2

* Hoplites (8) [370]: Dorilates, Minotaur Haspist Auxiliary

* Minotaur Haspists (3) [180]:

* Minotaur Thyreans (3) [190]: 

As you’ll know from my previous event reports, I am a highly original soul, and in this case shamelessly stole Ben Risolve’s City States army that won Adepticon earlier this year (you can find our thoughts on the Adepticon lists that did well here). Known locally as “Infinite Cows”, this relies on a couple of big scary Hoplite bricks coming in side by side, backed up by the glass hammers of the Tyreans and the speedy Haspists with Vanguard which, I’ll be honest, haven’t been impressing me too much lately. For such a beefy (heh) looking unit, they’re remarkably fragile.

Anyway, I did make a few tweaks to Ben’s list, partly from the May 2023 changes, and partly because tactics are for people who know things, and I’m not quite there yet. So I dropped the wildly popular Inscription of Lighter Alloys and Architects 3 from my Warlord in favour of the Inscription of Impact Resistance for banner waving Polemarch. I did this partly because Tenacious is incredible, but primarily because now both Hoplite units are the same. Both are effectively always Inspired (from the Standard of Last Oration and Army of Lions), both have Tenacious, and both have the same draw event in Battlefield Tactics. I cannot overemphasise how useful this is when learning a new army, and a new game. While the tactical play of something like Lighter Alloys cannot be overstated (there’s a reason it’s so popular), it can also be a bit much if you’re trying to work out just how the game works, while the little passive buffs are just massive quality of life benefits.

Game One – Head-to-Head

Conquest City States Old Dominion Credit: Magos Sockbert
This is called “foreshadowing”. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Rob Centrell – Old Dominon

Loss 35-18

Army list - click to expand

=== The Last Argument of Kings ===

An Age of Fracture [2000/2000]

The Old Dominion

== (Warlord) Mounted Strategos [155]: Aventine Armor, Skofnung

* Legionnaires (3) [120]:

* Kataphraktoi (4) [275]: Standard Bearer

== Xhiliarch [140]: Legio I ‘Primigenia’, Calamitas, Blade of the Caelesor, Regalia 1

* Praetorian Guard (5) [285]: Standard Bearer, Profane Reliquary

* Varangian Guard (4) [265]: Standard Bearer

== Archimandrite [100]:

* Kheres (4) [210]:

* Praetorian Guard (4) [240]: Standard Bearer, Profane Reliquary

* Kheres (4) [210]: 

Rob: this is a city states tourney report, not an Old Dominion one (you can find that here!), but I’m very happy with how this list turned out and performed. Having Kheres back after a long absence in nerf jail means Old Dominion has a mainstay early game utility unit again, and being able to pressure the board and draw opponents in early helped me a lot in all three games. 

Otherwise, the list is trying – and mostly succeeding – at doing a little bit of everything. It has a variety of offensive options, it’s tough, and while it isn’t fast, the Strategos gives you a turn of moderately explosive power and threat extension that you normally don’t see out of Old Dominion early in the game. 

My first game of the day was against Rob, Goonhammer’s very own High Priest of Hazlia. I’ve suffered deep emotional trauma from his Kataphraktoi and Varangian Guard before, but what I was not expecting was the ungodly volume of Aura of Death this army could put out. 8 updated Kheres stands was worrying, coming in against my army with precisely zero magic or ranged attacks, but I lost something like nine freaking cows over the course of this game to Aura of Death alone. And yes, we were playing it right with no resolve checks.

This game was… rough. Rob is an excellent general, and I’m a very inexperienced one, but I never felt I really had the ability to hurt him. City States doesn’t yet have any real heavy hitters. Yes, big phalanxes of Hoplites and Phalangites can do some serious damage, particularly with the almost mandatory Doralites officer, but there’s nothing that can balance the sheer destructive output of Kataphraktoi or Varangians – let alone the consistent, high quality output of things like Praetorian Guard or even the new Kheres.

Conquest Duel Old Dominion City States Credit: Magos Sockbert
Have at ye, foul cur! Credit: Magos Sockbert

Moment of the Match: Kataphraktoi are a truly horrific unit, particularly when led by a Strategos, fully capable of breaking a Hoplite phalanx on the charge. What they do when they hit one in the flank can roughly be described as a war crime. I lose five stands to a casual “eh, have to reform and charge and can only get three in, but might as well” Kataphrakoti charge, the turn after they just deleted a Minotaur unit I used to try and hold them off. I’m honestly not sure what I’m supposed to do against this unit – hope they fail the charge and hit them back?

On a more optimistic note, Polemarchs can be wonderfully nasty – my Warlord and Rob’s Xiliarch duelled each other to the death, and there was a bit of a manic grin on my face when I realised that the Polemarch had Flurry natively, not just from the Dorilites officer, which gave him Relentless Blows – seven attacks turned into 10 hits, so bye-bye Xiliarch.

What did I learn? Fear is not just the mind killer, but the army killer too. I spent the whole game shuffling my second Hoplite block back and forth, defending my home objective against the Varangian Guard coming for it. That… was probably a bad idea. I knew the Varangians would mulch my Hoplies, but that fear caused me to avoid, rather than work out how to kill it. The Hoplite brick it faced off against was worth over 500 points, almost twice as much. Sure, it didn’t die, but it also didn’t help me win.

Also, I learned that I wish Old Dominion took Resolve checks. I knew that already, but I learn it again every single game…

Rob: from the Old Dominion perspective, City States is a fearsome army to play into when they’re allowed to play to their full hammer & anvil potential, but if you close with the Thyreans first, their glass jaw becomes very apparent. The Kataphraktoi charge Sockbert is talking about took some setting up, but I was very happy with it. Normally, facing down Thyreans with Kataphrakts is inviting disaster, as the minotaurs will go through them like a hot knife through butter, but I was able to position a forest that would block impact attacks and generally mess around with medium and heavy regiments trying to charge through it. This would be as bad for me as for Sockbert, but the Strategos’ supremacy ability allows for free reforms for all units on the turn it’s activated, so I was able to reform to change my angle of attack to come around the forest instead, which broke the flank of the formation Sockbert had around the main scenario zone and let me set up the subsequent charge into their Hoplites.

This was also a scenario where Sockbert let their hoplite units fall out of mutual support with one another, with one of the two big blocks shifting to defend the small objective in Off Balance against my unit of varangians. Both units ended up staring at each other for most of the game, but that was fine by me – 265pts of Varangians inactive in exchange for 560pts of Hoplites and the Polemarch sitting out of the way is a very good trade, and helped me win the fight over the main objective. It took some sacrifices – you don’t fight shield wall into shield wall without taking casualties – but after the Xiliarch’s praetorians formed up five wide and took an early game march-charge to land Aura of Death hugs on the forward unit of Haspists and stitch the scenario zone up in my favour, I had the game’s momentum swinging my way. Sockbert would eventually break their second Haspist unit through the holding legionnaires and into the back objective on my side of the table, but too late to overcome the points disparity. 

Game Two – Bulwark

City States Promethean – Credit Bair

Michael Martin – City States

Win 37-32

Army list - click to expand

=== The Last Argument of Kings ===

2k May [2000/2000]

The City States

== Aristarch [220]: Standard of Last Oration, Blades of Eakides, Long Lineage, Architects 1, Architects 2, Architects 3

* Promethean (1) [230]:

* Phalangites (5) [255]: Dorilates

* Hoplites (3) [130]:

== (Warlord) Polemarch [195]: Atalanta’s Spear, Inscription of Lighter Alloys, Disorienting Strikes, Architects 1, Architects 2, Architects 3

* Hephaestian (1) [250]:

* Minotaur Haspists (3) [180]:

* Minotaur Thyreans (4) [250]:

* Hoplites (6) [290]: Dorilates, Minotaur Haspist Auxiliary

A mirror match! Well, kind of. Michael’s two monsters had been intimidating me all morning, staring at me mournfully across the room. They’d had the misfortune of running into three (yes, three) Mountain Jotnar in the last game, and now they wanted revenge. The models are beautiful, and it was truly worrying to have them across the field from me. I could deal with magic and ranged attacks (mostly by standing still and nodding while removing stands), but what was I supposed to do against two demigods?

Throw Thyreans at the problem, apparently. This was my first exposure to Objective Markers, and having one act as a little roadblock to both monsters sitting side by side really saved my bacon (what’s the minotaur equivalent of bacon? Jerky? Do you think that people eat minotaurs in the City States? These are important questions.). I could just march up a unit of Thyreans and they could twiddle their hooves until the objective died before charging in to remove an elder demigod.

This game was a hell of a lot closer than the scoreboard gave it credit for, and I was behind for most of it. Michael’s Phalangies just went wild all game, killing Haspists, Thyreans, and a Hoplite brick over the course of the game without taking a single wound in return. Turns out, Flurry? Real good with Support (3). The game ended with a Hoplite v Phalangite stare down, neither willing to leave their Objective zone. That five point gap was a Warlord and an Objective Marker kill at just the right time, clawing back objectives over the last few turns by holding two – the Polemarch really saved me with Unyielding!

Hoplites Hephaestian Conquest City States Credit: Magos Sockbert
Hephaestian fleeing from my Hoplites. Ignore that Tyrean there. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Moment of the Match:

What did I learn? Hoplites are very bad objective holders. The game ended with a 500 point brick of Hoplites standing off against Michael’s 500 point brick of Phalangites and Aristarch. Neither of these units were doing what they needed to, but were almost required to just sit there to rack up points. Sure, that wins games, but it also wins games very boringly and inefficiently. I really need to start thinking about what kind of smaller units can do this kind of babysitting while the soldiers go out to actually fight. This is the third game in a row where this issue has come up, so I’m feeling a list change coming on…

Rob: I didn’t get to see any of this game because I was busy slogging through an extremely spicy earth sorcerer Dweghom list that was able to generate so much elemental power (by targeting its own units with both Sorceror and Kweragh spells) that it started turn four with thirteen tokens, which as you might expect meant the game went looooong and didn’t leave any time for spectating. 

However, based on Sockbert’s report above, I’m not surprised that Thyreans in particular were decisive, and the play of using an objective as a neutral screening element to let them get the charge definitely sounds like a good use of them. 

For my part, I like Michael’s list, but those characters worry me in terms of how expensive they are. Over a fifth of the list is concentrated in just those two models. I expect this is actually a concession to models owned, but trimming those two down to afford something like some extra Phalangite stands or some more Haspists might have served him well.

Game Three – Breakout

Conquest Spires Credit: Magos Sockbert
Geoff’s wonderful Spires Credit: Magos Sockbert

Geoff Nicholson – Spires

Loss 46-38

Text to display

Geoff’s Genius [1995/2000]

The Spires

The Sovereign Lineage

== (Warlord) Lineage Highborne [140]: Cascading Degeneration, Command Pheromones, Pheromantic Override, Attracting Pheromones

Avatara (3) [200]: Superior Creations, Standard Bearer

Avatara (3) [200]: Superior Creations, Standard Bearer

Incarnate Sentinels (6) [385]: Superior Creations

Centaur Avatara (6) [380]: Standard Bearer

== High Clone Executor [140]: Marksman Variant, Suppress Pain, Disperse, Tactical 1, Tactical 2, Tactical 3

Marksman Clones (3) [160]: Standard Bearer

Vanguard Clones (3) [195]: Standard Bearer, Assault Preceptor

Vanguard Clones (3) [195]: Standard Bearer, Assault Preceptor

Note: Geoff’s list wasn’t in BestCoastPairings, so Rob’s done the best he can to recreate this horror from scratch.

Geoff came down to Canberra from Sydney (about a four hour drive) just for this event, and brought his beautiful Spires force with him. He’d based his models straight onto the stands, without the removable circular bases, and it looked awesome – it’s inspired my Wadrhun to be based just this way. More annoyingly, he’s also inspired me to try out Spires, which would be my third army begun in only a few months. I’d always been told that Spires were the horde army of Conquest, a complex well oiled machine relying on multiple overlapping buffs and, on bad days, infinite archers. Geoff’s army was, as you can see, wildly different to this, going the much more respectable route of “what if I took every possible Brute I could, then took them again?”.

This game was fantastic. Geoff was a lovely opponent, and despite absolutely obliterating me (seriously, at one point the score was 34-6 and he was very generous working things out at the end of the game), I learned a lot both about Spires, and about Conquest more broadly. Once again, the Haspists and Thyreans served the role of sacrificial victim, dying slowly to just hold up space to prevent a mass Centaur Avatara charge into my Hoplite’s flank. I’d already taken an Incarnate Sentinel charge to the face which just deleted them, and I wasn’t entirely excited to experience that once again. They are noble beasts, but a little bit of human chauvinism has crept in to my mind and I’m not quite sure if I’m amused from a fun narrative perspective, or annoyed that it may be holding me back. Hoplite blocks are fantastic in so, so many ways, but they’re still only half the army.

Conquest City States Spires Credit: Magos Sockbert
Images taken before, after, and during disaster. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Moment of the Match: A duel finally did something! From the Strategic Stack! I’m a tactical genius! Okay, not quite that impactful, but after slowly grinding back into the Incarnate Sentinel block corner to corner, they were finally broken – at which point I revealed my trap card, drawing my Polemarch from the Strategic Stack and screaming “CHALLENGE!” at the top of my lungs across the store. The forlorn look on Geoff’s face as my sweet innocent little Polemarch cut down his Lineage Highborn, shattering the unit, would’ve made me feel bad if I hadn’t just witnessed a unit of Vanguard Clones just eviserate a unit of Thyreans with nineteen attacks. I thought they were supposed to be the chaff unit of the army!

What did I learn? Objectives are everything and greed kills. If you need to suffer to reform in combat so you can clip an objective, freaking do it. I don’t exaggerate that I probably would’ve won this game if I was only one stand to the right – I’d shuffled both Hoplite units over with the intent that I could hold the centre, rather than doubling down on holding one or two objectives then just hoping for the third. That comes up a lot in my games, getting greedy – if there are three objectives, I don’t need to hold all three. 

A little more sadly, City States really needs a blender unit to come out. Thyreans can be absolute monsters, but they’re weirdly fragile for such giant hunks of meat – there isn’t really anything I can yet field that can match any of the big nasties in other factions. I know that the army is brand new, and that combined arms is the name of the game, but it’s a little disheartening to hear people excitedly talk about all the horrific things their prime units can while the most dangerous unit I can field can drop to a pretty cursory volley of fire. It’s been suggested that the real cost of Thyreans isn’t 190 points, but 320, because you need to have a Hoplite human shield in front of them to soak Impact so they don’t just melt without having the chance to delete something of their own. A lot of Conquest’s gameplay is about trading, and a lot of the time I feel like I’m trading down.

Rob: Geoff’s list is possibly the tightest monster mash list I’ve seen out of Spires, and although I didn’t play into it on the day, I’ve been wracking my brain since trying to figure out how to engage that Incarnate block. It’s hellish, combining an overall quite affordable cost (in large part thanks to the Highborn supremacy, but also how cheap additional Incarnates are in a unit), with colossal resilience and offensive output. The fact that the regiment can present a seven-wide frontage of Aura of Death 4 on top of making two clashes in a turn with those Cleave 2 attacks means that there’s borderline nothing in the game they can’t muscle through. 

Ultimately, I expect the sole weakness of the list is its hyper-concentration, which is what I believe led to Geoff’s narrow loss in the second round of the day. A Nord list was able to stall out the big blocks with sacrificial plays and get just far enough ahead on scenario to carry them over the line by the end of the game.

Plan B, and what Sockbert managed, is to scalpel out the Highborn itself. This isn’t easy, but that Polemarch duel at just the right time cuts a lot of power out of the unit, turning off Aura of Death and lowering its resolve down to manageable levels. This was a clutch play and I’m glad Sockbert was able to pull it off.

Wrapping up

Conquest Hoplites City States Credit: Magos Sockbert
I’m not AFRAID of Varangians. I’m just… cautious. Credit: Magos Sockbert

This was my first Conquest tournament, but sure as hell won’t be my last. My first exposure to the game was walking by the world’s largest event at Adepticon this year, and I’m kind of hoping I might get to go next year. 

These kind of events have two real purposes for me: growing the community, and learning the game. Practice really does make perfect (see my journey last year from “oh God what am I doing” to never scoring less than 90 with my Imperial Knights), but it’s also not just about you – we aren’t playing for sheep stations here, so try and help your opponent get better at the game too. The better they get, the more likely it is they’ll get to love the game and grow it, which takes me to the second part – growing the community.

Conquest is a small game right now. It has a passionate community and superlative backing from Para Bellum, but to really make it grow people need to travel. If you have six people in four locations who don’t travel, your community stagnates around those six people in each place. If even one or two of them travel whenever another group holds an event, your events now have a dozen people, doubling in size, and the more popular games get, the more popular they get. That sounds obvious, but Warhammer 40,000 is the most popular and biggest wargame in the world, because it’s so big. Everyone knows it, and everyone can always find a game. If you can grow events, you can grow communities, and you grow the game. The Vanguard program is great, and you should really support your local ones, but give your own time too – we all benefit from this.

Conquest is an incredible game, with incredible models, set in an incredible world. Lets grow it together.

Rob: couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂 

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