Empires of the Void II - Board Game Review
In Empires of the Void II players are members of various alien species who have traveled to the fringes of the universe on massive worldships after their homeworlds were destroyed. Once they arrive on the outskirts of the universe, they begin to expand their control to see who will be the true empire of the void.
I should start by saying I’ve never played Empires of the Void 1, and was a little thrown off by the naming conventions and wasn’t sure if this was a revamp, sequel, or add-on like Dead of Winter: The Long Night (it’s a revamp of the original). On top of this, I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve played by Red Raven Games, but most of their games that I’ve played are quirky mid-weight games with a story telling aspect. Could these guys put together a good heavy-weight 4x strategy game? It turns out the answer is yes!
In Empires of the Void II players are building an empire by conquering planets, forging alliances with various alien races, and building up structures on their personal empire board. These three things are also what gain players points during the two scoring game rounds, which occur once when players randomly draw the scoring card from the power deck and again when the power deck is empty. The player with the most command points after the final scoring wins the game.
The game is continually flowing from player to player with no upkeep or cleanup steps. On a player’s turn they can take one of the five available actions as long as it wasn’t taken the previous round, then each other player in turn order can take that action, pay two command (a sort of currency) to take a different action, or refresh to regain command and draw power cards.
The actions are the meat and potatoes of the game so I’ll touch on each one briefly.
- Move & Attack allows you to spend command points to move ships around fighting with people at the planets you land on. This is won through a simple card and dice battle resolution and can gain you control of planets. Research & Build allows you to spend resources you’ve gathered off planets to build structures from your player board or research tech. These things increase, command and hand size, give you special power on planets you control, and let you take bonus abilities unique to your race.
- Card Action or Diplomacy allows you to play a card from your hand for various effects or add influence to planets. Influencing planets allows you to ally with the species native to the planet, gaining their abilities and points during scoring.
- Recruit units allows you to spend command to recruit either your own units or those of races with which you are allied. These help you conquer and defend in battle.
- Finally, Scavenge allows the active player to refresh and is really only used when you have backed yourself into a corner and can’t afford other actions.
This is one of the best rulebooks I’ve ever seen for a game. They hit all of the big items I look for in a good rulebook. Everything is clear and concise with lots of examples, both written and in pictures. The back of the rules contains not only a glossary of terms, but also detailed descriptions of every card in the game and an index! Fantastic!
While not as thematic as some other Red Raven titles, this one does a good job conveying theme. All of the different races feel very original and the planets have their own personalities. The only thing where I feel it lacks a little is in the play itself. For some reason I just didn’t feel like I was a conquering empires as much as I have in similar style games. This is a minor gripe though.
There is a fair amount to set up on the board here. Lots of different planets with all sorts of little chits, a power deck that is formed differently depending on what planets are used, and a bunch of individual player boards. Make sure your friend is helping or set up in advance.
Red Raven delivers again on components. The design and art here is stunningly beautiful and really gives the game great flavor. The colors alone are enough to make the game supremely eye pleasing. All the chits and various pieces are sturdy and have a nice feel to them. This game is a little on the expensive side but they don’t skimp on what you get.
As you can probably tell, I really liked this game! It’s thinky, it looks great, and the gameplay flows super smoothly. With this said you my wonder why I gave it a Buy this Game rating rather then a Buy it Now. Well, pretty simply I just don’t think it will appeal to everyone. When we finished out the first game I was super excited and couldn’t wait to play again, but some of the other members of the group were a little more lukewarm on it. Like a lot of similar games this one requires some deep thought and the willingness to abandon your strategy if it’s not working out. I love these sorts of games, but they are not for everyone. However, if you want a heavy 4x style game that game be played in under 2 hours, don’t hesitate to pick this one up!