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Empires of the Void II» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First Impressions review from Gen Con rss

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Anthony Faber
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I had the opportunity to play a full game at Gen Con, as well as teaching a full game a separate time, and those two games have given me enough to give a mini-review here.

To put it simply, I think this game is going to deliver on the expecations we have for it. I found it to be great mix of all four of the 4x elements.

1) The follow mechanic

Like all RR games, actions are tight, and the actions selection here makes for very tough choices about what to do and when. Do you spend extra command to do what you really want to or wait until you are the commander and get to choose the action? Or do you refresh so that you can follow with what you want when you want?

The mechanism also keeps downtime low and everyone involved, since everyone is watching the current commander to see what they are going to call out, and none of the actions take very long to complete.

2) Diversity of strategies (multiple paths to victory

Do you want to focus on battles? Ally with a planet with good units, recruit them, research a good combat technology or two, and go to town.

Do you want to focus on diplomacy and exploring? Travel around fulfilling deliveries and missions to gain lots of influence on different planets.

Do you want to build an engine based on powerful buildings and technologies? Travel around collecting goods, use the trade ship, and make all your actions more efficient. There are some great choices in the buildings and technologies. For instance, it's tough to decide whether to increase your income, your hand size, or your command first.

All of the above paths yield victory points in their own way and none have to be specialized in.

3) The production is stunning

Everything looks even more gorgeous in person. The colorful and translucent influence and control markers, as well as the commander and action markers, really add to the look. The art is Laukat's best yet, in my opinion, with unique pictures on all the cards, planets, etc.

The rule book not only looks amazing but is the most thorough I've seen from RR in terms of covering corner cases. There's also the usual enormous amount of gorgeous chits and other components to mark absolutely everything. The money is particularly beautiful and satisfying to hold. If you haven't already, read the latest Kickstarter update to see some of the new final art and components:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/953146955/empires-of-th...

4) Everything is thematic

In addition to the art, the races, the events, the action/mission/delivery cards, the varied exploration tokens, the allies and their ally powers, - everything pulls you into the theme, while still playing a balanced, eurostyle game.

5) Interaction level is perfect

The game is extremely interactive, from the follow mechanic, to competing to have the most influence on worlds to frequent battles to control them. And yet the game never feels too mean or punishing. By making combat only have you retreat instead of eliminate units, it prevents one player from steamrolling and actually makes you more willing to engage in combat because you aren't afraid of losses. And having the winner lose a card also prevents steamrolling.

I thought the combat might be too nice and that the board would just fill up with units. But the game doesn't last long enough to have too many units there, and there are so many things you want to do that it's hard to get the time and money to recruit too much.

6) The game is just the right length

The game does not drag, and has a nice arc. With four experienced players, this is probably a two hour game, or maybe even a bit shorter for a fast group. The arc builds to midgame scoring (another interesting choice), and then battles come fast and furious in the second half as folks attempt to control worlds for final scoring.

I love how the endgame conditions being met still leaves a bunch of turns to play out - the one thing I dislike about a game like Scythe is how the game ends suddenly. There is plenty of time here to make a last play for what is important to you.

7) The replayability seems to be there

From the different viable strategies, to the five different events for each planet, to the extra planets you won't use every game, to the tons of different diplomacy cards, to the modular planet starting locations and variable player start locations, to all the different exploration tokens, and the different technologies for each race, there's a ton of stuff that will play out differently each game.

Conclusion

You may have noticed that I like this game! The edged out Rising Sun for my favorite of the dozen or so games I played at Gen Con. While I'm an admitted RR fanboy, the game still surpassed expectations. Ryan Laukat has succeeded in the midweigh euro niche. While this is my favorite genre, I always wanted RR to put out a game which felt a bit more epic. This game does this while still keeping to a reasonable play time.

About the only negative thing I can say about this game is how long we're going to have to wait to see it released!
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Big Tom Casual of Orange Nebula
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Thank you so much for taking the time to write this up. I'm dying to have this one!
 
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Jeffrey Secrest
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Thank you for the excellent review! I also got to peek at the preproduction copy and agree that it is stunning!
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Nevin Longardner
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Thanks for posting this. Can't wait!
 
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Anthony Faber
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I've been thinking about the game quite a bit since I posted this review, and what other games it feels like, and surprisingly, the game I most get the same vibe from is Scythe.

Both games do a kind of 4x area control thing with euro engine building, gorgeous components, and forgiving combat. The encounter tokens in Scythe are analogous to the exploration tokens in EotV2.

There are obviously huge differences - I love how EotV2 gives you plenty of time to anticipate the end of the game and plan your last few turns, as opposed to the abrupt ending of Scythe. And while combat is forgiving in both games, it's more common and necessary in EotV2.

Also, EotV2 has the whole diplomacy/influence/ally power/unique alien unit thing which is amazing and doesn't have something comparable in Scythe, not to mention the whole follow mechanic which doesn't exist in Scythe. Although, the recruit bonuses in Scythe do give a bit of connection to other players' actions in that game, and both games do have a mechanic of not being able to choose the same main action on consecutive turns.

Differences aside, the basic vibe of building up a beautiful empire with euro mechanics does feel somewhat similar - more similar I would say than to American style space 4x games like TI3.
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karlo arciaga
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would you recommend purchasing the KS copy for its stretch goals? anyone want to provide input on this?
 
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Anthony Faber
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toxicwater wrote:
would you recommend purchasing the KS copy for its stretch goals? anyone want to provide input on this?


The only big differences between the KS and retail versions are the metal coins and the 40 page designer diary (there's also one extra miniature and a cloth bag).

Your call on how much they matter to you. The triangular metal coins are very cool.
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Christian Billman
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I agree with most of your points. I have the full KS version but I don't know that its worth buying it over the non-KS version for more than a few extra bucks. The metal coins are great and fun to clink but the gap between KS and non-KS isn't really that large (metal coins, Fuzian Beast model and art book). We found the metal coins were sufficient for a full game without having to supplement with cardboard coins, which was great.

The interaction level is great and every action you take is both light but meaningful. If you find yourself stuck making a less than optimal decision, you aren't punished heavily and it quickly comes back to your turn but the sum of your decisions do matter.

From the two games I've played it seems to have a bias towards combat-related strategies although you don't need to be combat heavy to win. Grabbing a planet, gaining influence with allies and recruiting at least one or two rounds can carry you pretty far.

I disagree on theme. For me it felt shallow and just a skin over the top. There are some minor places the themes matter but the game could just as easily have been a different IP and I wouldn't notice.

Setup is lengthy but replayability is definitely here. To do two games quickly back to back I recommend keeping the same basic cards between the two games (i.e. same planets but reshuffled, same races, etc.), which keeps it easy to reset.
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Joe D
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After my first game (5 players), I completely agree with everything said in this review. I really like this game. I was in the minority in the group, however. The primary complaint seems to be a lack of meaningful decisions and randomness. Multiple players commented that game played them, not the other way around. I disagree, and I believe some solid strategies could be developed given the special powers available, and those that appear mid game. After thinking about how I played, I could identify multiple areas where I could have improved with another go. That's a sign of depth in my opinion. It is true there is a lot of randomness, this game requires you to adapt as opportunities present themselves. I found the follow action mechanism fast and enjoyable, and a lot of meaningful decisions throughout (enough that it hurts to pick one over another). Player interaction was just right. Game length was just right. Artwork is phenomenal. Thematic elements are interesting and on the mark. Ability to still do something at the end is cool too. I didn't do well, and came in last, but still I enjoyed every minute of it.
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