When it debuted last year, MLB The Show‘s Conquest mode offered a very interesting way to enjoy Diamond Dynasty, even if you didn’t want to venture online. Essentially, it was Risk, the classic board game, but you were battling it out with baseball instead of dice. And despite the seemingly odd mix of gameplay elements, it was an enjoyable experience; it may have captured most of my MLB time during 2016.
So I was excited to see it return this year. Unfortunately, it was relatively unchanged. While the mode has a firm foundation, so to does it have a lot of room to grow. Risk is a board game from the 1950s that hasn’t aged well (Risk Legacy is amazing though). A quick glance at boardgamegeek.com shows that it is the 12,749th “highest” rated board game of all time. So while it’s a classic that most know how to play, it isn’t necessarily anyone’s favorite.
Here are few ways the mode could be improved by incorporating some more modern board gaming elements.
- Random Events: One of my favorite aspects of any sports game is dealing with the unexpected. Some of the most intriguing decisions you make are when a player gets hurt, doesn’t re-sign or retires. How you handle these unexpected occurrences can make more of an impact on your team than any one play. So I would love to see some kind of event “deck” shape each game. Maybe a sickness knocks out your left fielder or a nagging injury temporarily reduces a pitcher’s rating. These wouldn’t even have to be realistic — maybe both teams can’t use left-handed relievers for some reason. The general idea is the games are intriguingly dynamic; you aren’t simply playing the Cubs for the 10th territory in a row.
- Customizable Start Space: I get that you start in the upper midwest because it is the black hole of baseball in the US, but this makes for some boring and slow starts. I’d like the option to chose where I base my team. Starting in the northeast means I may get hammered from all sides, but it raises the intensity of each of those games and puts me in a better position to take out some tough teams early.
- Fortifications: One way Risk has offered some variation is the use of terrain pieces like forts or cities to make spaces both more valuable and harder to take. It would be neat to earn the right to fortify a space with a permanent boost. Maybe it’s is a space you can’t afford to lose, or maybe it’s adjacent to a big rival that must be taken down at all costs.
- Divisional Continents: In the original Risk, you earned bonuses for capturing entire continents. The same could easily be applied to Conquest mode, only separated by divisions. Capture the entire NL West and get a few extra fans each turn. Simple!
- Team-specific prizes: While some of this is tied to Missions and Programs, it would be neat if, upon eliminating a team from the map, you got to “steal” a player from that team. I suppose for the sake of the game’s economy, it could be a special locked version of the card that couldn’t be sold. But if I conquer the Angels, I’d like my shot at stealing Trout instead of getting the typical end of game card. This would be reminiscent of pre-card-based campaign modes, like those found in NBA Street and The Bigs.
Conquest as it stands is fun, but it is running on a very old-school framework. Certainly the MLB The Show team can spice things up for next year to keep interest in the mode high. What would you like to see improved about Conquest mode?