With more and more games under my belt, I want to start talking about Conquest tactics with a discussion on its most mild-mannered unit, the Spire’s Force-Grown Drones.
Now a few weeks into my journey into Para Bellum’s “Conquest: The Last Argument of Kings”, strategies and subtleties are beginning to reveal themselves. A favorite of these early revelations is that even the most humble, and “basic” of units is not only valuable, but are actually integral to success. In a call-back to earlier tabletop games. Heroes certainly matter, but the rank-and-file troops can be the real stars.
The Spires’ “Force-Grown Drones” are a unit that I have come to love which really evoke the ethos of this game’s design in all regards. As one of the units in the two-player starter set, and a core of the Spires faction, all players are likely to encounter this unit. It really getting to the heart of Conquest was important, and I would say they succeeded!
The origins of the Force-Grown Drones are equal parts tragic and horrific. As The Spires are a culture tightly interwoven with life-entension and the process of cloning, distinctions needed to be made between carefully, thoughtfully grown clones of Lineage lines, and those who would be their slave… and worse. For this reason Force-Grown Drones were developed with the single purpose of dying for their higher class counterparts.
These units are literally grown in a week, and shipped to battlefields specifically to die while drowning enemies in numbers. So disposable are these beings that they have neither free will or even immune systems. This lack of agency doesn’t end the cruelty brought against these beings who, sadly, can very much still experience pain… sometimes even beyond their deaths as Pheromancers literally will the near-corpses to drag their agonized, broken bodies, further into battle.
Wow. Grimdark is a word I would use if it was not so closely associated with another IP, but the point stands that these are not a spin on something you have played before. Their fluff very much speaks to their battlefield role, but it also really gets the imagination going. A lot of what I have loved in my gaming years about Undead, Dark Elves, and even Tyranids all come to mind as inspirations.
On the table this unit is an incredible tool. Coming in at a base price of 80pts for three stands, and at only 25pts for further stands, it is easy to see how quickly you could flood the table with these. Better still, they are Mainstay (Troop/Battleline/Core for those coming from other games) units for four of The Spires’ Heroes, meaning taking these very cheaply unlock even stronger unit options in virtually every arm list you can take them in.
Let’s talk upgrades. At 25pts the units Command model is a Pheromonic Node. This is a single model that is both a “Leader” and “Standard” in one, meaning it has the standard perks of re-rolling charges, adding 1” to double-march actions, a single re-roll every clash (melee attack) action, and halved wounds on retreats. Your mileage may vary on the value of taking this option. It certainly has value, especially in larger units, but in minimum sized units buying an additional stand is almost always the choice I would make.
Their more interesting option is that of the 25pt Catabolic Node. Channeling their awful, disposable origins, this unit adds a biological bomb to the unit, delivered in their very bodies. When making their first clash action of the game with this unit the player rolls 2d6. This is the number of hits instantly done to the enemy, while the unit itself suffers hits equal to the higher dice rolled of the two. As these are not shooting attacks they also instantly cause Resolve checks, meaning further losses. This can be very strong. Interestingly this doesn’t scale with unit size making minimum-sized units with even a single surviving model, as frightening a suicide bomber as a large horde, though one unlikely to survive its own detonation.
A look at its stat-line shows a unit that is terrible at a glance, but deceptively efficient. While Defense of 1 is very nearly as bad as it gets, the in-built Shield rule bumps that to a 2 when attacked from the front. Not too bad considering their price, and the fact that they exist to delay and then die.
Encouraging taking them in larger numbers is the Support rule, which means unengaged stands will contribute two attacks to your pool versus just one. This works in tandem with the Resolve buffs for larger unit sizes. In Conquest, units get a Resolve buff for taking 4, 7, or 10+ stands. While often cost prohibitive, a ten-stand horde of Force-Grown Drones sit at a 4 Resolve (above average), and have a whopping 40 wounds to eat through! At this point even this simple unit has a real table-presence, and I expect that as we see competitive Conquest games grow into the realm of 2000-2500pts over time, this unit at these sizes will be seen often. Worth note is that a Pheromancer General using its Supremacy Ability literally makes these units Resolve 6, essentially ignoring most Resolve losses for a pivotal turn.
Support models can do work added real value to FGD. A High Clone Executor hiding in a very large unit can offer Bastion, a Draw-Ability that raises a unit’s Defense by one (making attacks to the front a very respectable 3). One the other side of things, the fluff appropriate Pheromancers can do things ranging from raising D6 Drones a turn (furthering the frustrating grind against them), or even doubling their attacks with Siphon Strength. There is, after all, something to be said for volume of dice.
I have really been loving these models as I continue logging games. In the true spirit of Conquest they not only work as viable units, but they work in many different ways depending on YOUR choices as a gamer.
Cheap chaff, suicide bomber, ever-resurrecting horde, the Force-Grown Drones can do a bit of it all, and are worthy additions to a new players collection.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!