Conquistador is a board game simulating the exploration of the New World in the 16th century. Players take on the role of European countries sending expeditions to find gold and establish colonies. Although the design uses the trappings of board wargames such as a hex map, combat is not a major part of the game. It was designed by Richard Berg and originally published by Simulations Publications, Inc. as Conquistador! in 1976, then republished by Avalon Hill in 1981.
The basic game can be played by two to four players, representing the activities of Spain, England, France or Portugal. The game also includes a solitaire scenario where Spain is played by a single player, and the original SPI edition included optional rules for an additional player to take a purely financial role as the German bankers.
The map includes the entire Americas and has a variety of terrain types such as clear, rough, and jungle. it is divided into areas such as Patagonia and California, each with ratings reflecting the hostility and fertility of the environment and the attitude of native inhabitants to European settlement. Game counters include soldiers, colonists, missionaries, carracks, caravels, galleon fleets, and gold bars, along with individual named explorers, privateers, and conquistadors.
Each turn represents five years, with the first turn beginning in 1495 and the game ending in 1600. Each turn consists of five phases, each of which is in turn divided into several segments.
- The Royal Council phase is focused on planning, beginning with a Random Events segment which determines money and colonist availability, as well as unforeseen events such as plague or unusual requirements such as searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola or El Dorado. The players also determine the order of play for the remainder of the turn and plan their expeditions, purchasing materials and forces and recording the composition and destination of each expedition.
- In the Initial Naval phase, players move their expeditions to and from the New World. They may also move within the New World, possibly engaging in naval combat or invasions, after which all expeditions check for possible losses due to attrition.
- Segments of the Land phase include attempts to discover gold and production from existing gold mines, movement and combat of land units, combat with natives, attrition of land units, and collection of resources.
- The Final Naval phase consists of another opportunity to move expeditions to or from Europe, followed by attrition checks and credit for discoveries made by expeditions which have reached a friendly port.
- In the Maintenance phase, players pay for units which will be kept in play for the next turn.
Since the map is already displayed, game play does not involve actual exploration of unknown territory, unlike other contemporary board games such as Source of the Nile. Instead, players are rewarded for being the first to reach different regions and return safely. The most significant route to victory in the game is to establish viable colonies, which is not straightforward as turn-by-turn attrition as well as actions of European or native enemies can wipe them out entirely.
Writing in 1980, Jon Freeman says that Conquistador "may be the best of Richard Berg's designs", and that while "too cynically realistic" in favoring colony development over the glamour of exploration, it is nevertheless "a lot of fun".
A much simplified version of the game, "New World", was published by the Avalon hill Game Company c.1990. It allowed for up[ to 6 players, and for a blank map in which the terrain/climate was revealed as players entered the various areas.