Mindclash Games has just announced the title of their new sci fi 4X board game Voidfall, coming out of stealth mode and finally providing details on their (formerly) codename: Nova project.
Are you excited? i am. And if you’re not, here are 5 reasons why you should be.
1. It’s Mindclash
You may not know the name “Mindclash” if you don’t pay close attention to the names of board game publishers. The Hungarian company has earned its name by producing complex strategy board games that combine a number of different mechanics in fascinating ways.
My first introduction to Mindclash was Trickerion: Legends of Illustion, a stage magic-themed worker placement game with a a dark, semi-supernatural atmosphere reminiscent of the Christopher Nolan film The Prestige. i remember choosing it from a shortlist of games i was juggling in my arms at my friendly local game store as i madly looked up titles on Boardgamegeek.com on my phone, all while my precious board game store time was running as thin as my family’s patience. i ultimately left the store with a copy, and i recall my utter disappoinment when i discovered the game had been brought to life through a Kickstarter campaign. (i find BGG ratings and reviews on BGG tend to lean toward rabid, often unearned enthusiasm, as commenters frothily attempt to justify their support of a given campaign, usually before the game has even shipped.)
The good news is that Trickerion turned out to be brilliant, brain-burning fun, if ridiculously complex. It’s since become my “birthday game” – the game i pull out on my birthday and compel people to play with me, because they can’t say no!
Later games in the limited Mindclash oeuvre include Cerebria, which i haven’t played but reminds me, at first glance, of Pixar’s Inside Out, Anachrony, a time travel worker placement game set in a post apocalyptic future, and Perseverence, a multi-chapter game that mashes up LOST with Jurassic Park.
Mindclash have been consistent with the quality and depth of their games to date, and i have every reason to expect they’ll come up with something just as exciting with Voidfall.
2. It’s Ian O’Toole
i must confess, Ian isn’t my personal favourite illustrator – that honour might go to someone like Andrew Bosley of Everdell (though i don’t really dig his humans), or Ryan Laukat (though i don’t really dig his games). But who cares what i like? Ian O’Toole is red-hot, and if you dig his work (Black Angel is beautiful) then you should be pumped about Voidfall.
3. It’s Dávid Turczi
Dávid’s name first caught my attention when he took over design duties on the Trickerion franchise, crafting the Dahlgaard’s Academy expansion, along with the well-regarded Tekhenu: Obleisk of the Sun (here’s how to pronounce that), and Mindclash’s own Anachrony. Dávid shows up as the pinch hitter on a number of titles, desining a solo mode here, or an expansion there, like the expansion for Teotihuacan: City of Gods (here’s how to pronounce THAT).
i don’t know Dávid personally, but he strikes me as the guy publishers hire when they have an impossible task to complete, and they need someone who they know can get the job done. Example: “We have this insanely heavy worker placement game called Trickerion where the original designer kitchen sinked it with basically every game mechanic under the sun. But we’re leaving a lot of money on the table if we don’t put an expansion on Kickstarter. (snaps fingers) Let’s call Dávid!”
Of course, i could have that all wrong.
From a design perspective, Anachrony ticks a lot of “good game” boxes that you’d hope it to, but it doesn’t boast a lot of mind-blowing innovations. There are three currencies. There’s a fourth, premium currency that trumps the others. You buy tiles to build a tableau engine. There are worker placement slots, and they confer better benefits if you arrive there first. Fine. Even the “time travel” aspect feels like little more than taking a bank loan.
Anachrony is feature-rich – it has asymmetric factions, an advanced mode, chits that you can upgrade to paintable plastic minis and, if you back the Collector’s Editon, metal resource cubes.
The most interesting aspect of the entire game, to my mind, is the worker placement curve ball it throws you: you have to “pledge” off the top of the round how many workers you’ll place, without ever knowing for sure where you’ll place them, or even if you’ll be able to place them. And pledging more workers often comes at the cost of collecting water, another precious resource in the game. When it comes time to place your workers, you may not even know which of the four types of workers you’re going to place. It’s an interesting quasi-bidding system that reminds me of the imp allocation in Dungeon Petz (where you decide on how many groups of workers, and in what quantities, you’ll place), or the worker placement system in Trickerion where you decide specifically where you’ll place your workers, without ever knowing if your opponents are vying for those same limited spots.
If Dávid and his co-designer Nigel Buckle are able to introduce some interesting new puzzles to the 4X genre, i’m here for it!
4. It’s 4X
This point alone is enough to make strategy board game fans stand up and take notice. 4X is a style of game that has you branching out into a large game world, kicking ass and taking names (see: What is a 4X Game?) in the grand tradition of real-time and turn-based strategy video games like Civilization, Age of Empires and Master of Orion. Check out my How to Play Era of Tribes video for a taste).
There’s just something so satisfying about expanding your empire, heading your opponents off at a crucial pass, and then grinding them under your heel, even if your heel is only made of cardboard. 4X games do tend to run much longer than other gameplay genres, and they can fall into unfortunate design traps like player elimination (where some people must leave the game hours early and sulk on the couch) and runaway leader issues (where there’s no hope of catching up to the strongest player, so you might as well sulk on the couch), so i’ll be interested to see how Buckle and Turczi tackle those challenges.
5. It’s Space
Voidfall is set in outer space. And outer space is, factually, awesome. Sci fi has to be the most represented thematic genre in my board game collection, and it encompasses some of my favourite games: Race for the Galaxy, Roll for the Galaxy, Tiny Epic Galaxies, Alien Frontiers, and Terraforming Mars.
This won’t be the first time the board game world has enjoyed a 4X space game – far from it! We’ve trod the Plancks in games ranging from Eclipse, to Space Empires 4x, to Stellaris: Infinite Legacy (based on the video game) to the venerated Twilight Imperium (the one with Ron Perlman as the lion man from 1987 fantasy romance crime teevee series Beauty and the Beast on the cover).
There’s something about space that just lends itself so well to the 4X genre, and unlike terrestrial fare like Civilization, it feels a lot more freeing. You’re no longer bound by the confines of historical borders, peoples, or geography, and can instead stretch out into inifinite space in a frenized land grab that encompasses the entire known universe. Space 4X games lend themselves much better to randomized, variable board setups. And if Black Angel was a taste, i’m much more excited to see what kinds of ships Ian O’Toole comes up with than i would be if he were illustrating trebuchets.
Are you pumped for Voidfall?
Did that do it for you? Are you pumped yet? Or does it take more than that to put the wind in your solar sails? Let me know down in the comments what you think about Voidfall!