Adventures in Hyboria” is the upcoming expansion for the Age of Conan Strategy Board Game, designed by Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello. This is the second Designers' Notes article about the expansion.

In the previous article we have told you about the radical changes to the Adventure cards that govern the role of the barbarian in the game - but we only hinted at the part that excited us the most during the design process: the development of the Reference Board that handles the growth of Conan as a hero.

The Reference Board is divided in three sections: Conan the Warrior, Conan the Mercenary, and Conan the General. The game starts with Conan as a Warrior, but as the barbarian accumulates experience, he changes his title and role increasing his Strength, Agility, and Cunning scores. In the course of a game, Conan's stats grow from Strength 2, Agility 3 and Cunning 1 (Conan the Warrior) to an impressive Strength 4, Agility 3 and Cunning 3 (Conan the General).

Each section of the Reference Board includes a different version of the Mood Wheel, a circular track that shows ability modifiers. These modifiers will be applied to all die rolls made during the adventures of Conan, to reflect a moment of sluggishness or a surge of superhuman power. The modifiers range between +0 and +3 and, contrary to the ability values that increase with experience, the bonuses slightly decrease with each new role of the Cimmerian. For instance, the Warrior’s Mood Wheel has modifiers like +1, +2, and +3 , while the General only has +0, +1, and +2, reflecting the hot temper of a younger Conan versus the relative calm of a more mature barbarian.

Preview of the Conan Reference Board that handles the growth of Conan as a hero.

Preview of the Conan Reference Board that handles the growth of Conan as a hero.

While Conan is adventuring, a player may spend gold to affect the Mood Wheel to modify the bonus it grants. As an average, the amount of gold spent by the players will be greater while Conan is young and inexperienced (low abilities, high bonuses), but will decrease as Conan gains experience, becoming more "reliable" and less temperamental (high abilities, low bonuses).

Another feature of the growth of Conan is what we consider a little dream come true: Conan's special dice. In the game, when Conan is around, a player may get one additional die to use in battle or intrigue, and may roll a maximum of 6 dice instead of 5. When we were still working on the original game, we wanted this extra die to be a special die, but production issues advised us not to do that.

So, for the expansion we created a special Conan die, but we did not stop there: we made three different ones! In Adventures in Hyboria the special die granted by Conan's mighty presence depends on the experience of the barbarian, so Conan the Warrior will allow to roll the Warrior die, Conan the Mercenary will use the Mercenary die, and Conan the General will boost your army with the General die.

Obviously these three dice have different results, and feature new game effects in addition to those found in the dice of the original game, like for example the AXE/SHIELD icon (hit with both results), the insidious GOLD symbol (counts as a hit only if the player spends one gold - greedy sellsword!), the annoying NO SORCERY icon (the player cannot spend Sorcery to reroll - damn that superstitious savage!) or the HIT/REROLL symbol (hits AND allows to reroll any dice that missed).

As you can probably tell by now, we designers really enjoyed ourselves creating this expansion. We have been able to further characterize the mighty Conan, following his "personal" growth both in power and usefulness to the Kingdoms around him; and we enjoyed the chance of creating new rules and materials that make Age of Conan even better and more interesting for the players. And this being an expansion, we did not worry about “going too far": tables, experience, Story cards, special dice - everything we wanted to add to the game is in.

It is possible that using all the new rules makes the game a little longer, but certainly makes it more diverse and FUN! And remember Nietzsche's quote in the opening of Arnold's first Movie, "the tests we survive make us stronger". By Crom and Ishtar, if you are a player of Age of Conan, you're now strong enough to enjoy Adventures in Hyboria!

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