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Voidfall

Voidfall is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) euro-style space game set in the dying 'Domineum Empire'. Designed by Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi, it's a reimplementation of Nigel's 2014 game Omega Centauri but with a lot more bells and whistles, and icons.



Voidfall looks scary when you first open the beautiful box. You're confronted with a sizable rulebook, an even larger compendium, a glossary and a four-page icon reference sheet. But there is no need to be afraid: the big orange ‘Start Here’ on the rulebook will quickly launch you into setup and play of the tutorial. I would strongly recommend playing the tutorial if you are new to the game as it expertly leads you through the steps of the first era (1 of 3 in a full game).

 

Each of the 1-4 players takes control of one of the 14 Houses (factions) of the decaying Empire of Domineum in an effort to rebuild and become the most influential House whilst fighting off the invading Voidborn (aliens). Depending on the scenario, the board is made up of hexagonal sectors of space. Each player has their own home world sector and an adjacent sector already under their control, but there's also a whole host of other sectors from Wormholes, Ancient Ruins, Asteroid belts and a bunch of Voidborn infested places. Each player also has their own player board to keep track of their rise in Society, Statecraft and Economy, and store their useful technologies and not so useful corruption...


The action takes place over three eras which are split into a number of phases. In the Preparation phase, new technologies may be revealed and Events occur that affect the board state and scoring objectives. The number of player turns for the Era is also revealed.


The Focus phase is the main meat of the game. Driven by Focus cards, each player has an initial identical deck of nine standard cards but, depending on your House, some cards may be swapped out for more specialised versions. Each turn you play just one card, which has three available actions from which you choose two to perform, tho' you can perform all three in certain circumstances. Each action comes at a cost - usually resources or lowering your defenses in some way. It is achieving the balance of building up resources by constructing guilds, building installations to bolster your fleet of ships, and deciding when to take over adjacent sectors, that is the true beauty of the game: the decision space is huge and the options available all have their pros and cons.



The final phase is the Evaluation phase: time for the Voidborn to fight back! If you haven’t prepared well enough for the attack, prepare to be punished... Losing a sector can be a real set back. Upkeep must also be paid and Agendas and Era goals are scored.

 

Technologies play a crucial role throughout the game and only certain techs will be available in each game depending on the Houses you are playing and which additional ‘fallen’ Houses are in play. The techs will change each player's abilities; for example, adding new ship types like the Destroyer or Dreadnought, Ark Ships that allow you to increase your production capabilities, and Shields to absorb some attacks. The available techs really shape how the game will play, and utilising your techs efficiently is key to doing well.


Combat in the game is completely deterministic: the only dice in this game are those that are used to keep track of the population size of a sector. Being able to calculate the outcome of every battle may not be to everyone’s taste but it is core to the game: knowing when to attack, when to defend and even when it’s worth just sacrificing a sector. It’s extremely satisfying to build a fleet of Destroyers and steamroll through a few sectors, albeit probably coming at the cost of leaving your sectors poorly defended...


It’s very difficult to summarise the gameplay of Voidfall as there are so many interlocking parts. None of those parts, however, feels superfluous when playing and, after a few turns, every action just makes sense, helped along by the superb iconography. Co-designer Dávid Turczi is famous for his solo game designs and so it will come as no surprise that Voidfall also incorporates a fantastic coop/solitaire mode that introduces a separate Crisis board.  The gameplay is very similar but adds an extra challenge of Crisis cards that need to solved and additional shared Focus cards that are more powerful, and costly.


The components, box and storage are all exceptional, as we've come to expect from Mindclash, and the game boasts some striking art from Ian O'Toole. The deluxe version includes ship miniatures and triple-layered player boards and sector tiles. Tho' these aren’t essential, why would you want to play this masterpiece with anything less?


There is, in my opinion, no best player count. We've played at all player counts, both competitively and cooperatively, and they all work well. Playing time is really dependent on how long you let players deliberate their plethora of options but allow around an hour per player. There are 18 different scenarios in the box, with different layouts for each player count, all of which play very differently due to the available sectors and techs. The only gripe some people have is the long set up time, but with practice you'll find this decreases.


As you can probably tell, I really love this game and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys euros, 4Xs or heavier strategy games.


(Review by Greg White)


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