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Empires of the Void II» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First Impressions from SaltCon 2017 rss

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Daniel Thurot
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The highlight of Thursday's romp through the exhibition hall was getting to sit down with Ryan Laukat and some hairy dude to play Empires of the Void II.

First things first, this is nothing like the original Empires of the Void, which is simultaneously refreshing, bold, and maybe a little nuts. Rather than feeling like you're cobbling together an empire, the first point of comparison isn't necessarily the most accurate, in that the game initially resembles Laukat's recent Islebound. In both games, you're the captain of a ship — pirate galleon or star-warping worldship — and you drift from place to place across the vast sea/space, making friends or enemies through diplomacy or warfare, seeding your influence, gathering resources, and battling your opponents.

The peculiar thing is that the comparison only holds true for the first few turns, when your worldships first trundle out into this newfound patch of solar real estate. By the time you've launched your first all-out invasion of a planet, made friends with some natives to gain access to their special units (a feature that I'm delighted to see return from the original game), and found yourself locked in a race to claim rare resources, all comparisons to Islebound vanish. Somewhat ironically, this is even more of a 4X game than the original Empires of the Void, even though it doesn't resemble any other 4X-style game out there.

So here's the scoop. Space is vast and unexplored at the outset, and each new planet feels like a genuine discovery. There are resources to be plundered, significantly lowering the cost of your buildings as you accumulate sets. Much more importantly, each planet sports its own alien race to invade or make pals with. There's a tension to how you approach things, which is fun to explore when you have multiple players trying to seize territory or allies. Claiming an alien race's lands will get you some points and slots for your buildings, which are severely limited on your worldship, but will also wipe away any diplomatic progress you've made with them. On the other hand, only one player can actively be allied with a race at any given time, so you might not actually care how that species of quartz-warriors feels about you when Ryan Laukat himself won't let you pry their affections away from him.


Nicely, there are a whole lot of ways to earn points, and none of us followed quite the same path. By the end, I'd built all my cities, which required vast swaths of conquered land and enough resources to make sure that each fresh construction didn't singularly break the bank. At the same time, Laukat and I found ourselves in a cold war to claim the most allies, while Hairy Man and I were locked in a hot war for raw real estate. There were missions to accomplish, something that I didn't bother with very much other than carefully fulfilling the two objectives that I did have a hold on. It felt like it was broad enough that there was room to play around, but constrained enough that we bumped into each other's goals regularly. A nice balance.

Okay. A trio of highlights:

First of all, the action system is a little odd to get a handle on, but I think the mental sweat is worth it in the end. Each round, one player sets the tempo by selecting an action. Recruiting some explorers, say, or moving his ships around, or drawing cards, or playing a card, or making nice with some aliens. Stuff like that. The other players are then presented with a choice. You can either mimic the lead player's selection, which doesn't always fit in with your overarching plan, or you can take a sort of "pass" action. What's so nifty about this, though, is that not all of the pass actions are worthless. For one thing, one of the pass actions is to take your income. Another is to reset your "commands," the ability to move ships and troops around. There's even one that lets you discard a card to gain a bomb, which nobody did in our game, but it's a bomb, so that sounds neat.

Another highlight was the card system. Each card represents a sort of opportunity, like going to a planet to get a jump on diplomacy there. But they're also used as battle modifiers, so it's always tempting to hold onto the best ones for when some Hairy Person invades your worldship for no reason other than jerkiness. And they're the game timer, so it behooves a leading player to run the deck down a bit. Very interesting.

Lastly, the event cards that are shuffled into the deck are rare, but actually make a profound impact on the map. There might be space stations or planets where some local problem won't let any buildings be placed there until the issue is resolved — stuff like that. The game was moving at a lightning pace, so I didn't have much time to watch these unfold, but they were definitely one more shiny trinket in a star system full of them.

Oh, and one more highlight: I won. Take that, Hairy Guy.

Originally published as part of this GeekList: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/222851/space-biff-saltcon...
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Big Tom Casual
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Jealous!!! Thank you for sharing the experience!
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Mick Whyte
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That modular board with just a few planets just looks so unique. I wonder if he will offer PNP on it so we can try it out
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Brad Scaggs
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Sounds like you had a great experience. Which race did you play?
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Daniel Thurot
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cromusz wrote:
Sounds like you had a great experience. Which race did you play?

Humankind.
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Jeffrey Secrest
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I hope to demo or at least watch a demo at GenCon if that if it even proves to be possible.

What was your favorite planet visited? Favorite unit recruited? Do you remember any specifically cool event or action cards? Sorry, we are patiently awaiting a new game play video but until then the hunger for more info is significant cry
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Daniel Thurot
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AccidentalCultist wrote:
I hope to demo or at least watch a demo at GenCon if that if it even proves to be possible.

What was your favorite planet visited? Favorite unit recruited? Do you remember any specifically cool event or action cards? Sorry, we are patiently awaiting a new game play video but until then the hunger for more info is significant cry

Since it was just one play, I wasn't paying all that much attention to planet names or anything like that. My favorite race was probably an even split between the fin-headed dudes who boosted my ability to conduct diplomacy, and the prescient dudes who forced opponents to play their combat card in advance of me picking my own. I even won one battle at really poor odds, which was hilarious because my opponent was banking on pushing me out of orbit around a particular planet and found his own units displaced. I love when stuff like that can happen. The crystalline fighty dudes also seemed cool, though they were hotly contested by the other two players so I didn't bother wasting resources on courting their affections.

There were two main planets I visited, though I don't recall their events — I believe they triggered later on. The one that sticks out was a freshly-discovered planet, which my enemies were banking on as a foundation for their buildings. Unfortunately, the locals wouldn't let them build unless they rolled a particular number when conducting diplomacy, but then they never rolled to free up the planet (I think it was a 50% chance, which made each failure all the funnier).

The good news is that I went in expecting to take notes and pictures, but before I knew it the game (and around 90 minutes) had flown by. I was having a good enough time that I didn't really think to do anything but play.
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Jeffrey Secrest
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Thanks so much for your recollections Daniel!
You have confirmed my suspicions
The soon to come updated game play videos should help us to knock out a stretch goal or two
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Samuel Helderman
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Me needs this like Tommy wants chicken wings!
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