Empires of the Void 2 – Red Raven Games – Review

"Lots of great story moments. A great build up to the end of the game for the final scoring. With the modular board and additional planets and events the replay value is high."

Theme and What is it?

After flying powerful Worldships through the void to arrive at this new galaxy, it is your job to establish your brand of civilization and galactic rule. Are you the power hungry Parasites of Screech, the cruel sadistic diviners of the Oracles of Zun, the scrappy band of Nomads from Earth, the unstoppable Legions of Decima, or an elite squad from the 7th Academy of Eegh?

Typing Worldship into Google will reveal plenty of information on the current state of our UPS shipping rates, “which is interesting”; this also means that Empires of the Void 2 is a game about Interplanetary Shipping. You will be shipping around the galaxy in front of you on your Worldship, engaging the alien races on each planet through the 4X’s of Space: Explore, Expand, Exterminate, and Exploit.

“Exterminate” immediately assaults me with a vision of a large silver fire hydrant shaped canister with a plunger sticking out of its side screaming “Exterminate! Exterminate!”. Is it just me?

In this game you are allowed to conquer planets through force. A general inability to lose your ships in battle is one of the cool factors. You either win the battle and force the other player to retreat or you yourself must retreat. If you are fighting a planet then a similar thing happens, although when you are victorious you place down a control cube onto the planet ensuring that its victory points are yours. Winning battles and capturing planets is one of the main ways to get victory points within this game.

Expanding your influence within the galaxy can be done through the use of your Astrotech Boots crunching the skulls of your enemies beneath your heals, but there are several other gentler ways of developing relations.

Diplomacy is the weakest venture to establishing peaceful connections with these alien races – this used to be a strong point in your former Galaxy and can be revisited in Empires of the Void 1. Diplomacy is now a last ditch effort to secure influence, and it is too costly, and  isn’t a sure thing. You will gain love and respect throughout the Galaxy by completing quests for these intergalactic civilizations. Go boldly into the unreachable jungles of Emrok and uncover one of their ancient relics. . . go gambling on Silast. . . or proactively save Korlo Zan from a planet ending weapon. This is one of the best ways to Expand through the Galaxy. The Player with the most influence on a planet also gains the support of powerful alien allies that may be recruited to your cause. Trust me, this is cool.

Exploit a planet. Do it for the resources. Grab up those delicious metal alloys and life forms that will help propel your Civilization back to the super power that it once was. You may silently snatch a resources from the orbit around the Planets, or through Extermination take 2 resources from the planet, even the smaller uninhabited planets (no they are not moons) have a resource for the taking.

Explore the Galaxy. You are a huge Worldship (I should not have to use huge, because world is in its name) that is similar in my imagination to the Death Star of Star Wars, obviously without the Imperial Death March playing in the background. Flying from planet to planet encountering a few hidden event cards and using cards from your hand to help make the Explore action for  each planet feel a bit deeper. Ryan Laukat is an excellent storyteller, and there is so much story to be had within this game. Each of the main Planets has 5 Event cards and you will choose 1 card for each and shuffle it into the Action Card Deck to be revealed later and cause a delightful turn of events. Many of these Events create new ways to earn victory points.

Gameplay Mechanics

Action Selection is one of the key mechanisms within this game. Where the main player chooses an action like

  • Move & Attack
  • Research & Build
  • Card Action or Diplomacy
  • Recruit
  • Scavenge
  • and the other players may decide to follow this same action, or take another action at a higher cost. Or, Refresh their player board which will earn them credits and refill their hand with cards.

Another mechanism is the Multi-Purpose cards. Cards in players hands can be used to achieve more influence with planets or get more credits, they also are used in fighting battles adding additional power to the fights, and they are used to research new technology.

The game is built around an Area Control mechanism where players are required to cover (control) many planets (area) with their influence. Doing this will provide large amounts of victory points during the scoring points within the game. Scoring happens twice, at the halfway point and also again at the end.

Empire Cards serve as hidden objectives. For instance the card Militaristic needs you to have built all of your Bases from your player board to gain 3 victory points, or Diverse says to have recruited at least 3 different units from the different alien races to gain 3 victory points.

Dice Rolling is at the core of the battling system, with ways to mitigate luck through the purchase of units that roll more dice and also tech that allows more units to be used within battles. At the end of the day, only the highest die roll is used.

The modular board also allows for a variety of game play variety.

Initial Impressions

The anticipation for this game was developed long before ever getting this game. I was one of the Kickstarter Backers for the project, and after receiving the game I could hardly wait to play the game.

It is a gorgeous creation for a space game. The first cracking of the box is intimidating as are most games of this caliber, but after review of the rules it is fairly straightforward. Setup takes along time – about 15 min. this is the same for the tear down. Most 4X games take many hours of play for instance Twilight Imperium takes about 8 hours, and Empires of the Void 2 took about two and half hour that first play with 3 players.  

There are some creative elements within the Multi-Purpose Cards that included the storytelling and the events that helped flesh out the world. I also liked the fact that it is very hard to lose your units within battles.

Exploit is one of the weakest aspects of this X’s in this 4x game. This is why I call it a 3X game. Josh Hale, the MeepleGamers editor, is confident that this game is a 4X game because it has all of the necessary aspects. Weak argument in my opinion, and Josh is regularly wrong, like glaringly. Just because this game has a exploity (it’s a word, now get over it) aspect to it, does not mean that it get a major love like the other 3X’s. It feels like a bit of an afterthought, as opposed to laying down a mining camp or a capsuled greenhouse on a planet and then exploiting the resources. Just because this is a weak aspect of the game, does not make me any less willing to play this game, but it does make me want to point out that it is a 3X game. . . If I am wrong let me know in the comments; if Josh is wrong, let him know regularly and often.

Game Build Quality

The Components are amazing in either the retail version or the Kickstarter Edition. The beautiful acrylic cubes and cylinders give the game a spacy vibe. The 2 piece miniatures worldships are very good quality and set the stage for the space journey. The chipboard planets and player boards are solidly constructed and promise to be around for many future plays

The insert for the game is not great. With so many components stuffed into this game, it suffers from the same problem that Gloomhaven does, without a solid insert the player boards and planets are just thrown into the box.

Buying yourself a better insert will help with the longevity of this product.

Artistic Direction

Perfect. . .(I’m a glowing fanboy of course). I love Ryan Laukat’s art direction for this project. I am always amazed by the product quality of a Red Raven Game. When you have the Designer Ryan Laukat also being the Artist and the Sculptor something special is created.

Fun Factor

Lots of great story moments. A great build up to the end of the game for the final scoring. With the modular board and additional planets and events the replay value is high.

Any 4X space fight is going to provide a certain amount of tension between players, like whether to call the game 3X or 4X…

Age Range & Weight

Mid range or weight in its complexity. This game has some redundancy within its play with a Action Selection Board and some of the more straightforward play, that the rules do not have to be reviewed as often in later stages of the game.

Because of the strategic nature of the game I feel this game suits the 13+ crowd. There are some moments of having a hard time to select an action (Analysis Paralysis), but this happens in even the older players.

Conclusions

Fly your worldship into the Void and conquer all who stand before you. This game provides many of the exciting 4X features of its larger cousins. I have loved every time that I have played this game. I have yet to win, but there will come a day where I will captain my ship the Arcadia Angel of Death back into that brink and win.