Technologies & Agendas
2021. August 04.
In our Design Spotlight journey so far, we went over how Production and sectors work, and we also took a look at the turn structure, centered around the Focus cards as your instruments in steering your empire towards greatness. If you missed those Spotlights, you can catch up with the first one here and the second one here.
Today, we’re going to take a look at Techs in Voidfall, which are something that no true space 4X game can do without. On the other hand, we will also be covering Agendas, which are unique to Voidfall and are a centerpiece of forming your own strategy throughout the game. Let’s get started!
In Voidfall, the Houses’ technological achievements are represented by Technology cards. Even though the Domineum had fairly advanced technology before it fell to the Voidborn, the player-controlled fringe Houses are relatively low-tech. As you’ll see on each of the individually illustrated cards, we’re talking more Dune or Asimov’s Foundation tech level than Stellaris - we’re not even using the term Quantum, the swiss army knife of sci-fi terminology
In each game only 8 of the 26 Technologies will be available on the technology tableau. The different technology groupings and combinations ensure a different experience each time you play, while maintaining a fair Tech access for all players, free from the luck of the draw.
Furthermore, each player’s House picks one of two additional Technologies to be included in the current game as their starting Tech.
Each Technology will have a significant impact on the game, mostly by bending a core rule. This can mean altering a Focus card you play, introducing new ship and Installation types, turning your Trade tokens into offensive or your Shipyards into defensive weapons, and many other effects that aren’t available anywhere else in the game. Most of them will also include an immediate effect fitting to the ongoing benefit of the card.
Let’s look at Terraforming as an example! This Technology helps you increase your sectors’ population, and - as we covered previously - increasing your population will also increase your productivity. This effect is normally pretty scarcely available, but once you have this tech, all it takes for a population boom is a few Development Focuses! Most Technologies also provide an immediate benefit when you gain them: in this case, it’s an additional population increase right away, in any of your sectors except your Home sector (as long as it is free of the Voidborn’s corruption).
Technology is as scarce as it is important: although there are eight Technologies to choose from on the tableau, each of them only has two copies. The first House to develop a Technology will receive a minor Influence boost for it each cycle, while the one to grab the second copy misses out on this and has to pay an extra credit to develop it.
Your player board only has five spaces for Technologies, so you have to think carefully which ones you choose to research - even one or two Technologies can greatly influence your game, so imagine the crazy combos you could do with five of them! But don’t spend half the game hunting for the perfect combination though, as your opponents might be eyeing up the same ones as you are...
Once you have a Technology, you will never get rid of it - think of the Technologies as a way to customize your Empire, to create an emergent asymmetry dictated by your options and your strategy.
And that is not all, as some Technologies will be available for further research: improving them will grant you a much greater power, and a huge gain of Influence (Voidfall’s victory points). But each Technology can only be improved by one player, and which Technologies are available changes during setup and throughout play, provoking you into prioritizing different tactical advantages and ultimately shaping your long term strategy differently each game.
The other card type of crucial importance besides Technology cards are Agendas. They form a vital core of your strategy in Voidfall. Each player will start with one (chosen as a pair to their starting Technology), and you can gain more as you play the game. Your starting Agenda begins already in play, and is designed to give you some initial direction for formulating your path towards victory. Yet the game is more than just eagerly collecting things your starting Agenda requires: you have a huge freedom within the game to set your own strategic direction, by choosing your additional Agendas from a selection of available ones.
Each Agenda you gain during the game has two halves: the effect on the right is an Agenda Action, while the left shows a scoring condition.
Agendas come in three types: Growth, Subterfuge and Expansion, each with its own Agenda action type. These are powerful one-shot actions that take effect when you play them with the Focus card the Agenda is paired with. Let’s look at a Growth agenda as an example!
Being paired to Development Focus means you can play this card on the same turn as you play a Development Focus. When you do, you gain the card’s Agenda action as an additional action - in this case, Organic Migration helps you establish a new Guild and raise your Population, even in your home sector. Imagine combining this with the Terraforming tech!
But the real kicker comes in at the end of your turn, after you’ve fully resolved your actions. At this point, you may add the Agenda to your player board, and its left half becomes a scoring condition for you! These scoring conditions work much like the Evac conditions in Anachrony: once you’ve achieved the top condition (in this case, 5 sectors without Corruption) you’ll score a flat 6 Influence, plus anything the bottom condition earns you (in this case, 4 Influence for each Technology you own).
These conditions are scored at the end of each Cycle, and they provide a big chunk of your total score in the game, especially if you get them early. Finding the right Agendas for your strategy - or adjusting your strategy to the Agendas you pick up - is an essential and very satisfying part of Voidfall.
The final thing you’ll notice on the Agenda card are the upkeep icons on the left edge, in a space that strangely resembles the outline of a Trade token - but let’s keep something for later Spotlights as well!
So, how can we actually get all these juicy Techs and Agendas? The answer, just like in case of mostly anything else, is through Focus cards! There are several Focuses that give you either a Tech or an Agenda as one of their actions, but the best example is Innovation, the only card that offers both at a hefty time unit cost of 9. The Haste action even allows you to play the Agenda for its scoring part right away, without waiting for the matching Focus to play it with.
Thanks for joining us today! Hopefully this spotlight has shown how Technology can aid and customize your House, how powerful Agendas can be if played right, and most of all, how many elements of Voidfall are intrinsically connected.
We hope to see you next week, when we’ll move on to the topic everyone has been asking about: galactic conquest, and the Voidborn’s Corruption!