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Repel the Voidborn and Restore Domineum in Voidfall

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Voidfall
Board Game Publisher: Mindclash Games
One publisher I was especially excited to meet with at Gen Con 2021 was Mindclash Games. For my taste, they tend to knock it out of the park when it comes to highly thematic, heavy board games. However, due to Covid-related reasons and travel restrictions, they were unable to attend.

In lieu of meeting in person, I met up with some of the Mindclash crew via video chat after I returned from Gen Con, and (via Tabletop Simulator) Dávid Turczi gave me a high-level gameplay rundown of Voidfall, their upcoming, grand, sci-fi 4x Eurogame that is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) for a 2023 release.

Voidfall comes from the creative minds of Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi, the same designer duo behind the the unique, civilization-building, deck-building games Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends, which are 2021 releases from Osprey Games. In Voidfall, Buckle, Turczi, and Mindclash Games boldly present their take on a euro-style 4x game, capturing player interaction, tension, exploration, and empire-building, combined with minimal-luck gameplay, resource management, and tough decisions, often found in economic euros.

From gallery of candidrum
Photo provided by the publisher

Voidfall plays with 1-4 players in 60-240 minutes and can be played competitively, co-operatively, or solo conveniently using the same core rules. Here's the backstory behind it:
Quote:
For centuries, the Novarchs, descendants of the royal House of Novarchon, have ruled with an iron fist over the feudalistic galactic empire of humankind, the Domineum. During this time, they brought stunning technological innovation and scientific advancements to their domain. This accelerated progression helped the Domineum reach — and eventually inhabit — even the farthest segments of the known galaxy, where new Houses emerged to govern the outer sectors of the empire. As the House of Novarchon grew in power, so grew the religious cult that surrounded them, proclaiming grim prophecies about an ancient cosmic being from another dimension: the Voidborn.

Many thought it to be only a myth, but in truth, it was the Voidborn's dark influence that granted the Novarchs the sheer knowledge to achieve rapid expansion for the empire. While the cult of the Novarchs envisaged eternal life through the otherworldly entity, the Voidborn's only intention was satiating its eternal hunger. And so, when the Domineum had achieved a vastness fitting the Voidborn's craving, interdimensional rifts opened at the heart of the Domineum to unleash cosmic corruption. As the House of Novarchon and its followers welcomed the Voidborn and sought their false salvation, the entity infected and spread and seized control over the inner worlds. Now, it is time for the remaining Great Houses to purge the galactic corruption, prevent the Voidborn from fully manifesting in our dimension, and to ultimately overcome the chaos as the new rulers of the Domineum.
In Voidfall, each player plays as one of the ten Great Houses that broke away from the Domineum. Each house plays asymmetrically with its own history, strengths, and weaknesses. In the solo/co-op mode, players can win the game together by pushing back the Voidborn, whereas in the competitive mode, you need to gain more influence in restoring the Domineum than your opponents/rivals.

There is a lot to soak in with Voidfall. I was initially intimidated by all the components and iconography when I saw it in Tabletop Simulator. The good news is that Ian O'Toole is behind the art and graphic design, so it looks awesome and once you initially learn the iconography, it will click and make sense faster than you'd expect. At least, that's how I felt after Dávid explained the iconography on a few cards to me — my mind quickly went from "This is crazy!" to "Ohhh, I get it."

Voidfall features a modular map set-up with beautiful large hexes known as sectors that players interact with throughout the game. It can be played with a variety of map set-ups and scenarios, including multiple options for players preferring less combat/more peaceful gameplay — or more aggressive gameplay options if that's preferred. Between this, multiple play modes, and the variety of asymmetric houses, there is a lot of replay value packed into Voidfall that should keep things interesting and fresh game after game.

From gallery of candidrum
Photo provided by the publisher

Players each get a player board that has slots for different agenda and tech cards, as well as a house mat that includes civilization track effects for their respective house. Players also receive an influence dial to keep track of their score, production dials to keep track of production and inventory of resources, and a deck of focus cards that are used to take actions during the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Photo provided by the publisher

Voidfall is played over three cycles (rounds), and each cycle has a new event, a new scoring condition, and a specific number of focus cards that can be played. Each cycle is split into three phases: Preparation, Focus, and Evaluation. While the Preparation and Evaluation phases are mainly maintenance and upkeep-related, the Focus phase is the heart of the game.

During the Focus phase of each cycle, you play 4-7 Focus cards, one at a time in player order, to take actions and guide your empire's strategy. First, you choose an available Focus card, then you resolve up to two out of three actions on it, then you discard it. Focus cards help you improve your sectors, improve technologies, boost your production, reinforce fleets, prepare for attacks...you know, all the things you need to do to make your empire more awesome than your opponents. You'll likely want to and need to do everything, but each Focus card can generally be played only once per cycle, so I can see how tough decisions surface when it comes to deciding which card to play, when to play it, and which two out of three actions you want to resolve on it.

As far as action on the game board goes, each sector starts a certain way based on the scenario and each player's house has a home sector that they rule. Each sector can be improved during the game by adding military installations to aid in combat, and guild locations to help you produce resources. Each sector also has a die to represent the population which is a production multiplier for your guilds. Beware though, the higher the population, the more likely your opponents will be to try to attack you and take over your sector.

From gallery of candidrum
photo provided by the publisher
In Voidfall, players can build/deploy a variety of different types of ships over the course of the game, which is typical in most 4x space games. In this case though, the ship miniatures can hold cubes on their bases representing an increase in fleet power.

Unlike most 4x games, combat is completely deterministic in Voidfall. There are no luck-based factors contributing to your battles so you can tell which side will win the war before it even starts since it's mainly based on who has the best fleet power.

Combat is split into two phases, an Approach step and one or more Salvo steps. In the Approach step, sector defenses deal damage to the invading player's fleet. Certain types of fleets can also deal damage in the Approach step if they have the appropriate technology. Then in the Salvo round(s), each side deals damage in initiative order, and initiative is based on who has the most fleet power. This step is repeated until one side runs out of fleet power. Hence the reason you can determine who will win before combat even starts. Considering this, you can think of the importance of strengthening your fleet in Voidfall to be similar to keeping up your military in a game like Through the Ages. But you can't always do everything, so there lies part of the balancing act that makes Voidfall appealing to those looking for a challenging and engaging gaming experience.

From gallery of candidrum
Besides being defensive and/or offensive against your opponents, another reason you'll want to keep your fleet power in check is to deal with the Voidborn situation in the galaxy. Voidborn's corrupt forces will try to prevent your expansion and will react to your actions, reinforcing its sectors in the competitive game mode. In the co-operative mode, Voidborn wreaks even more havoc and presents different challenges to players.

Voidfall also features an interesting agenda system where players can build and customize their own tableaus of influence scoring conditions. With each House, you can pick between two agendas to start with which can help guide your strategy early on, and you can draw additional agendas through Focus card actions and various other sources. Once you've played your Agenda in one of your open Agenda slots, it can be scored at the end of each cycle.

Whether you're playing Voidfall competitively or co-operatively, the game ends after the third cycle is finished. In competitive mode, the player with the most influence wins. In co-operative mode, you calculate the Voidborn's influence score and if all players have at least that much influence, you all win; otherwise you all lose.

There's tons more learn and discover in Voidfall. The sneak peek I got left me excited and curious to experience a full game, even considering I'm nowhere near fully grasping every aspect of the gameplay. I recommend checking out the design spotlight articles the Mindclash development team has been posting if you're interested in learning more about Voidfall.

I'm looking forward to playing Voidfall when it officially releases. In the meantime, I'm super pumped to get my copy of Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles – Episodes 1 & 2, which I'll get my hands on much sooner.
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