I returned home from my recent trip to Germany with a bunch of games, a few extra pounds (German chocolate is a thing), and a ton of great memories. As a tabletop media member, I find that no matter how many games I pick up at conventions, there are always more games en route.
Such was the case in early October. I put in a late pledge for Voidfall, the new space epic from Mindclash. Even though our partners at the publisher indicated that I could get a review copy, I wanted all the fixins, and normally partners send the base game because that’s what most people actually play.
After doing a demo at last year’s SPIEL event, I knew Voidfall was the real deal. And “the real deal” meant I had to have miniature Corvettes and Dreadnoughts to fly around my tabletop galaxy. So I naturally ordered the Voidfall Galactic Box, with all of the fancy extras. Enamel painted metal structures. Triple-layer player boards. If you have read any of my previous content, I am not initially wowed by sexy components. I care about the gameplay first.
But once I know the gameplay is solid, that’s when I am willing to pay for those deluxified bits. Spending €203 for the premium version of Voidfall was one of the easiest choices I made last year.
Then the box showed up. And I stared at it for three weeks.
The Galactic Box
Many of my friends back tabletop campaigns with mountains of plastic and 16 unnecessary expansions and metal coins and promo cards featuring the faces of other content creators. Many of those same friends buy all of this goop then never open the box. It is heartbreaking to visit their homes and see a dozen $250 games that will never see the table.
While I believe this is criminal—another of the long list of issues I have with the tabletop space right now because there are simply too many games—I empathize with the “why” behind why some of these bigger boxes remain unopened. That sentiment is fear.
Twice, I put the Voidfall Galactic Box—it’s obvious that the entire galaxy can fit inside—on my basement island bar, ready to dive into what would become a two-hour set-up endeavor. I knew there were hundreds of cards and components that needed to be sorted, metal bits to swap in for cardboard bits, five rulebooks/campaign booklets/icon guides/etc., and a set of Game Trayz calling my name.
But each time, I buckled. Do I really have time to do all of this? Maybe I can do it later. Maybe I should use Taskrabbit to find someone else to do all of this for me…then I can just walk into a sorted box and fire up my first play.
The reality? It was just fear. Maybe anxiety was the real issue, though. The palms got a little sweaty because this was going to be more than just a punch-and-bag scenario, like most of the games I get.
I was excited to get the game going, but Voidfall is clearly a big piece of chicken. The teach video from Gaming Rules! is 63 minutes long. When I did the demo last fall, I knew that Voidfall was the “heaviest” game Mindclash had ever released. That’s saying something, given the other games in their catalog (Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, Anachrony, etc.).
Voidfall is a lot. Was I ready?
The first two times I intended to unpack everything, I was not ready. I pushed the box aside, hoping to have the mental strength to do it another day.
But I knew I had to get Voidfall going. Voidfall is my most anticipated game of the year! The chatter after my strategy game group’s first play was astounding. They were excited, and that excitement stemmed from the play of the tutorial mission. In the US, shipping was delayed; we got Voidfall two, maybe three months after peers in the UK and other regions. An episode of the Game Brain podcast featured hosts so excited about recent plays that it finally pushed me over the edge.
Buckle up, buddy, I thought to myself. On Sunday night, bust that puppy open.
I pulled off the box cover, and was greeted by everything. Nothing screamed “Galactic” like the moment when I opened this box.
For those who have opened the box, or really any of these massive crowdfunding projects of the last few years, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t watch “unboxing videos” because I like to discover the magic for myself.
And that magic kicked in immediately. The Game Trayz insert is beautiful. Four layers deep, the package does an excellent job of breaking up madness in such a digestible way (assuming this much game is digestible to anyone). Wisely, there’s a sheet that shows you how to repack everything so that you don’t get spooked by the idea of putting all of that stuff back inside.
I made a massive mess on my island bar, laying all of the “focus” cards in one area, technology cards in another, hundreds of tokens, and player pieces sorted by color in another area. It was fun to carefully put things in their place. At some point during my initial sorting, I realized that even if I never played Voidfall (Don’t worry! I’m going to play Voidfall!!), I just love taking new toys out of the box, putting stickers on meeples, punching cardboard chits, and marveling at the quality of a sturdy player board.
I paused at this point, while handling those player boards. I wanted to do what I knew would be my favorite moment. I took the first of the 14 House sheets—each faction has its own way to play—and gently slid the sheet into the right-hand side of the player board.
Fit like a glove. Oh my goodness, these player boards and those House sheets are just heaven. There was a satisfying sense of calm as I looked at the slew of icons now appearing in the board’s open spaces, having no idea what any of it meant. It didn’t matter—in that moment, I knew that every dollar I had spent was well worth it. Like any of the best Lacerda productions from Eagle-Gryphon Games (particularly games like Vinhos: Deluxe Edition and Kanban EV), I could sit at the table and stare at my stuff for hours.
And in that silly moment, I did more silly stuff. Dropped cubes into the player trays (trayz?) over and over again. Read the text on some of the technology cards. I can’t wait to start firing “Deep Space Missiles.” I need to know why my Transports need to be more Tactical. Cybernetics…Hyperdrive…Cloning?
I found myself bathing in the gloriousness of pure joy. I pumped my fist, to no one except my seven-year-old son, who watched this exchange with curiosity.
“Daddy, can I see the spaceships?”
“NEVERRRRRR!!!” was my first instinct. But then I wanted to make sure that both he and my nine-year-old daughter have an appreciation for my toys, even if I ensure that they never play with this toy without Daddy around to supervise the action.
We opened up the ships. This was the main reason why I dropped coin on the Galactic Box, because the visual of the toys on the board really does add something during gameplay. The Voidborn versions of the ships are just really slick. But all of the pieces work for me. It’s a marvel in terms of production…thousands of ships for thousands of backers, all produced to perfection.
My son wanted to fly a ship around, like it was a LEGO ship he was navigating around the living room. I shut it down. Daddy wants to enjoy this toy for a little longer before you break all of my stuff, I thought but didn’t say.
The components were 100% Pure Love, to paraphrase a song you may know.
The Resource boards, though? A fate worse than death.
One Thing Had to Be a Nightmare
I’m a big fan of some “do it yourself” when it comes to my new games. For example, CGE’s latest game Kutná Hora: The City of Silver required players to place double-sided stickers inside the player boards to get those to function correctly. No problem. Component tuck boxes, like the ones in Circadians: Chaos Order? Count me in. Dice bridges, like the thick cardboard constructions of The White Castle? Yes, please.
But my thumbs—forged from the fires of intense corporate office work, comfortable with Herculean (right?) tasks like swiping a badge to enter a workplace, disconnecting a laptop from a USB-C power source, or using an Exacto knife to open cardboard boxes—weren’t prepared for the task at hand with the Resource tracking boards in Voidfall.
If we are being honest, the task of putting the Resource boards together is really simple. First, push a plastic peg through the bottom of a cardboard dial. Second, line up the dial and bottom peg with the open hole in the Resource board, then push the other half of the peg contraption through the top of the dial. Then, squeeze hard—OK, really hard—to snap the pegs together and keep everything in place.
In other games—Glass Road was a recent example from earlier this year—you have this same task appear, but you have to do it three or four times. No sweat.
Voidfall asks you to do this 52 times. FIFTY-TWO TIMES. Mindclash, what the $#%^@!^^@@^*#!!!!
My fingers were barking by the time I did the first Resource board (10 peg sets). By the second, I needed to take a smoke break…and I don’t even smoke. Boards three and four were done maybe 30 minutes after the first two, because my gentle thumbs were on fire and needed a quick break. And then I realized I had 12 more peg combos to knock out, because the points trackers in Voidfall also use cardboard dials.
I was making up curse words by this stage.
I had heard about the issues with building these Resource boards from other players, but I dismissed them before I had built the boards myself. To everyone I made fun of prior to this process—my bad, you were right, next time the drinks are on me.
But Then, Rainbows
After the Resource board debacle, I put all of the stuff back into the player trays (trayz?) and felt the admittedly satisfying feeling of closure. My copy of Voidfall was now playable. All of the cards are sorted, all of the Resource boards are done, all of the rules are now ready to be consumed.
As the box top settled into place on the finished box, I was excited to get the game to the table. Now, the real adventure begins—who will I find to play this game with me ten times? As it turns out, I didn’t have to search long or hunt very far. It’s great to have so many friends who love Mindclash!