Conspiracy: Abyss Universe (or just Conspiracy from here on in) is a two to four player card game from designers Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier and published by Bombyx. This is a quick playing, card drafting, set collection game based on the bigger board game Abyss.
Political plots and corruption are afoot in the underwater world of Abyss kingdom’s deep waters. You find yourself in the heart of the ever present battle for power at the Oceanic Senate Assembly. Your opponents are relentless and will stop at nothing to gain influence and power. In order to organise your Senatorial Chamber, you must rally the most powerful Lords before your opposition.
Conspiracy is played over a number of rounds. On your turn you recruit Lords and then extend your Senate Chamber.
To recruit a Lord you can either draw one, two or three cards from the top of the Lord deck and choose one. The remaining cards are placed in the respective discard pile for each particular coloured Lord (Blue Lords in the blue discard pile etc). Alternatively, players can collect all of the Lord cards from one single coloured discard pile.
Next, a player will add the collected Lords to their Senate Chamber. The Senate Chamber will be created as an inverted pyramid, with five cards at the top, four cards under that and so on. Lords must be placed from left to right, top to bottom. If you add a Lord that you do not have the colour of already present in your Senate Chamber, then you take a coat of arms token and place it on the newly laid Lord. If the colour of the Lord is already present the coat of arms token is moved to the Lord with the most influence points. The Coat of Arms token (one for each colour) must always be on the most influential Lord.
Master Of The Locations
When laying a Lord, if you have two matching keys (or three of any key combination), you can then take control of a location. You draw either one, two or three locations from the deck and choose one, leaving the rest face up for later turns. Alternatively, you can select one of the face up locations revealed previously.
Master Of The Pearls
The first player to gain one or more pearls takes the Pearl Master token. Pearls are tracked on a separate Pearl track and will indicate the number of Pearls each player has. If another player gains equal or more pearls than the player with the Pearl Master token then they take the token. Whoever has the Pearl Master token at the end of the game gains an additional five points.
The game ends when a player completes their Senate Chamber by placing their 15th Lord. Influence points are awarded from the players Lords, locations, greatest connected Lords Coalition from one colour and the Pearl Master token. The player with the most points is the winner.
Abyss has always been a favourite of mine. So, of course, I was interested in anything in the Abyss universe. Conspiracy streamlines the parent game that it is based on, which to be fair is no easy feat considering that Abyss was pretty streamlined anyway. Yet, it still retains the tense drafting and tough choices.
A Place For Both
For me, I don’t think Conspiracy will replace Abyss but I can certainly see a place for both in my collection. They both have uses in different situations. Abyss is a more accessible game, it is easier to get to the table and simpler to explain. The interesting choices regarding drawing one, two or three Lord or Location cards are still present. I love this mechanism. Do you risk just drawing one card which might not be suitable for you or draw more, but potentially give your opponents more choice. Such a simple mechanism.
The Location cards have some fun and interesting powers as well as additional end game scoring opportunities. They are nothing groundbreaking but they offer another means of scoring and a focus.
One of the big draws, at least for me, is that Conspiracy has a solo mode. This allows me to have the feeling of Abyss in a smaller, quicker playing solo game. The solo mode is very snappy and works well. The solo game comes with five different opponents which have different priorities when collecting cards. It is a fun puzzle that you can play relatively quickly.
Overall, Conspiracy is a great card drafting game. I enjoy both this and Abyss a lot. Conspiracy has the appeal of the solo mode as well as the accessibility and quick game play which means it can get to the table a lot. It is also more portable and could make a great game for lunch time gaming or traveling. If you like Abyss, I highly recommend Conspiracy. If you are after a quick playing card drafting game for solo or multiplayer, I highly recommend Conspiracy.