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Subject: An Empires of the Void preview session! rss

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Scott Lewis
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While I was visiting my in-laws for the holidays, I had the opportunity to meet with Ryan, the game designer, and play a game of Empires of the Void with him. Joining us was his wife, Malorie, and his brother, Brandon, giving us a full 4-player game experience.

I was the Collective 5, a machine race that gets extra credits each turn, but has a major diplomacy penalty. Ryan was the Parasites of Sreech, a race which has a special ship type with which to infest planets. Brandon was the 7th Academy of Eegh, which gets bonuses when buying tech, and Malorie played the Narkani Alliance, who have an ability to get extra moves by paying credits.

We all started off by expanding early. Ryan used his race ship to quickly spread his infestation across the galaxy. By infesting a planet, he gets the special ability of the planet (but nothing else). This let him quickly get access to the Black Hole ship, a very powerful adversary.

I was fairly successful conquering a few planets. I didn’t have the right cards to really try diplomacy, especially with my penalty to doing so, so I had to just conquer them outright, forgoeing the ability. Brandon did much the same early on. Malorie tried a more diplomatic approach with her nearby systems, but had miserable luck, missing her needed roll by 1 or 2 in most cases.

Not too far into the game, a wormhole appeared that connected my planet with the central planet Pyrious. This allowed me to quickly take Pyrious, which is worth a lot of Victory Points. It also gave me a good central stronghold in the galaxy. Brandon began threatening Malorie’s border, and Ryan continued to infest planets and build up a nasty fleet of Black Hole ships.

All the while we were all steadily building our techs. I was in somewhat of a bind, as some of the techs I wanted needed resources that I didn’t have. However, I really like the interplayer mechanic of trade, allowing you to use a resource another player controls with permission (usually by paying some sort of compensation, like credits or cards). This allowed me to get some important techs to help me defend myself.

Malorie eventually broke through her bad luck streak, and started marching towards my planets. Ryan attacked Pyrious, but I retreated before I lost too many ships, and shortly thereafter I brought in a rather large fleet to retake it, which allowed me to hold it the rest of the game. I also acquired the Starbase technology to put a base there, so I could build some units there and help fortify it even further.

Towards the end of the game, all 4 players were involved in some level of warfare with their neighbors. Ryan marched in towards my homeworld, taking some of my key planets, and Malorie took a few as well. Even Brandon swooped in with a ship to threated my homeworld. Ryan was also chipping away at Brandon’s boundaries, and Malorie and Brandon had some skirmishes in their sector.

At the end, I drove Ryan and Malorie out of some key planets, and abandoned one of my worlds to protect my home world from Brandon’s little threat. Stupidly, I left another planet undefended instead, and he jumped on it and took it from me.

In the end, Brandon pulled out a victory. I don’t remember the exact scores (I should have written them down), but it was a very fun game.

As part of this preview, I wanted to review some of the aspects of the game that really caught my attention, and to me help set it apart from other current space empire games.

* The bargaining with other players was a very interesting mechanic. Many techs require you to get certain resources, and I like how you can “use” other players resources through negotiation; no matter how the galaxy is set up, you aren’t really completely hosed in that regard.

* The choice between outright conquest or diplomatic annexation on planets was very interesting. You definitely have to make a choice. Conquest is definitely easier, but by doing so, you also miss out on some powerful abilities. Also, diplomatic annexation provides you with “influence”, which can net you bonus points during the scoring rounds. Brandon used this with great effect.

* The technology choices are very interesting. There are a few that you almost need to get (one in particular that lets you move all your ships for 2 actions), but even then, there are still lots of choices, and you have to decide WHEN to get those “must-have” techs.

* The ship logistical planning lead to some interesting games. Ships can normally move through each other with no problem, meaning you can’t just set up a picket line and expect to hold your empire. You need defenses within and throughout the empire as well. Being able to have large fleets requires you to make good use of your ships abilities (the Diplomat can carry groups of weaker ships), as well as making good use of the “move all ships” tech. However, there is a tech which gives your Starcruisers the ability to “block” other ships, and near the end of the game (a tad late, I think), I was able to use this by blocking off some key routes to my systems to keep last-minute invasions from decimating me.

* I liked the dual-use cards. You could use the cards to peacefully annex planets, or you could use them for certain powers on the card. This flexibility made them very useful, even when you had no nearby planets that matched a certain culture type. There was one type that gave an extra Move action that was often used for the power, although Brandon kept wanting to collect it for diplomatic reasons.

* The map layout is tight and compact, but not oppressively so. You have enough to expand, but it doesn’t take long before you start butting heads with other players.


Overall, it was a very exciting game. My only regret is I only had the chance to play it once. I am definitely looking forward to seeing this one released, as it will be a great addition to my game library. Even owning Twilight Imperium and Eclipse doesn’t detract from that - there is definitely enough in Empires of the Void to make it different and worth playing in it’s own right.
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Scott Lewis
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I should note, too. I was playing with a prototype version, but man, the graphics are awesome. The hexes are pretty big - that was a very nice feature as even the planets with big forces didn't seem all that cluttered. This is certainly not a boring game, visually. Very pleasing, and (at least to me) it didn't feel overly busy or cluttered.
 
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OK, now I am truly jealous, Sigma.
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David Siskin
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Nice session report/review. Makes me glad I supported it on Kickstarter.
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Scott Lewis
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Another thing just popped into my head that I forgot to mention. Another thing I really like is the limited actions. A lot of my favorite games share this feature in different ways: there is always more that you WANT to do than you CAN do, and thus you need to choose your actions wisely.

In a typical turn, you have 3 actions. You can get more "free" actions through various techs and powers, but in general, it's often a tough choice which actions to use. Movement and Combat are the most common, and Mining actions were used the least, but there's just so much to do, and so little time!

dumpty wrote:
Nice session report/review. Makes me glad I supported it on Kickstarter.

Me too. I was excited before, just reading the rules. Granted, it's hard to fully judge after only one play, but for me, that one play was everything I hoped for and expected!
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Chuck Knutson
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The game sounded really balanced, yet you were able to hold you own as a newbie against someone like Ryan who's probably played this dozens of times.

Was the copy you played with the final copy or just a beta set of components? That is, if they were the same as what's going in the final game, how is the component quality?

I am really excited to play this.
 
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Scott Lewis
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kjell1979 wrote:
The game sounded really balanced, yet you were able to hold you own as a newbie against someone like Ryan who's probably played this dozens of times.

Well, Ryan had said they hadn't played it for a month or so, and they were all off fighting against each other too Ryan was also trying to go heavy on the infestation, which turned out to be sub-optimal, because you don't get points for infesting planets (just the abilities), and Melodie had some pretty bad luck trying to use diplomacy early on slowing her down rather significantly.

Quote:
Was the copy you played with the final copy or just a beta set of components? That is, if they were the same as what's going in the final game, how is the component quality?

It was a prototype copy, but the artwork was the same as the final artwork, and it was really good. I did get to take a look at the proofs that the factory had sent Ryan also, and the artwork looks great, and the cardboard samples they sent seemed to be pretty good as well.

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I am really excited to play this.

As am I It definitely left me thirsting for more!
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Gabriel Marquez
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I'm glad to see that this game stands on it's own amongst TI3, SE 4X, and Eclipse.
 
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Todd
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How long did it take to play? How long to teach?
 
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Scott Lewis
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Falcons wrote:
How long did it take to play? How long to teach?

The other 3 all knew how to play. I'd read the rules before, so basically the "teaching" was only about maybe 10 minutes to refresh my memory, as I hadn't read them for about a month.

I didn't keep track of the exact time, but I think it was only about 3 hours, maybe less.
 
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