Voidfall Design Spotlight #9

Cooperative and Solo Mode - Stand against the Voidborn

2021. September 16.

In last week’s spotlight, the designers took a closer look at House Zenor, and the way asymmetric Houses appear in Voidfall. Now, it’s time to talk a bit about the Solo/Cooperative mode, which allows you to take on the Voidborn by yourself, or team up with up to 3 other players in a joint struggle to save the galaxy!

While the competitive game of Voidfall is about “dividing up the galaxy after the storm”, the cooperative game takes you back in time, right into the eye of the storm itself!

In the chaos of the years following the Voidfall, the human empire of Domineum crumbled as the Voidborn had begun slowly manifesting in our dimension. With the help of its harbingers, the twisted members of the former House Novarchon, the remaining Noble Houses are falling one by one to its corruption. You and your allies are humanity’s last hope of closing the portals in the heart of Domineum before the Voidborn’s final arrival brings about the complete subjugation and assimilation of humankind.

Just like in the competitive game, Influence acts as a general measure of control over the galaxy - but this time, that includes the Voidborn too! To win in the Coop/Solo mode, you either have to push back the Voidborn’s Influence by ensuring every player has more Influence at the end of the game than the Voidborn, OR by putting all your eggs in a basket and trying to thread the galactic needle: if you have more than 300 Influence at the beginning of your turn and every Rift on the map has been sealed, all players win.

However - as you would expect in the face of an extinction-level galactic Crisis - it is much easier to lose than to win. Since Voidfall is a game with a strong emphasis on engine building/optimization, where players are free to set their own level of interaction (and the less the interaction, the higher the average winning scores are), we knew we had to put more of a challenge into the cooperative game than just scoring a lot of Influence. After all, with no players to mess with your plans, winning the game once would otherwise mean that you would probably win every time in the future, doing roughly the same actions.

Our first solution to that are the Crisis cards: these cards represent various foreboding events unfolding across the human sectors in the wake of the Voidfall, threatening with catastrophic consequences. At the beginning of each player’s turn, the active player reveals one new Crisis card. Most Crisis cards have a condition to solve them that may require you to either go out of your way, play suboptimally, or over-specialize. Here are a few examples!

external imageDefense Network Hacked requires you to build a Sector Defence, and when you do, you must be able to spend an additional 2 Energy (and this is not an action cost, so you cannot use Credits).

external imageStudy the Voidborn requires you to build a Scientists Guild, and when you do, you must willingly take an additional Corruption, placing it on an Affliction.

external imageStrength is the Only Language requires you to advance on your Statecraft civilization track, but you must do it at a time when you have 5 or more Fleet Power on your board - and ones deployed on the map don’t count!

The Solo/Coop only Void Board will eagerly remind you to reveal one of these cards at the beginning of your turn, and that you can solve up to one of these cards each turn. When a Crisis is solved, it is discarded – but it might be reshuffled back a few turns before the end of the game. But since it’s quite rare that you happen to want to do the action required on the turn you just drew the card, your ongoing Crisis will often remain unsolved at the end of your turn. When that happens, you have two choices.

1. You suffer the immediate penalty of the Crisis, letting the Voidborn plot freely. In case of Defense Network Hacked, this would require you to remove a Guild from one of your sectors. Then, the card is discarded, the same way as if you solved it – the damage is already done.

2. If you cannot, or are unwilling to suffer penalty, you must place the Crisis onto the Threat board instead.

Economic Crises are placed on the top row, Military Crises are placed on the bottom, and General Crises can be placed in either. The board starts with 1 card on each track at the beginning of the game, and when you place a new one, you shift all existing cards on the same track to the right, placing the new card to the left. Remember we said you can solve one Crisis per turn? You can solve your current Crisis before it goes on the board, or you can solve any one from the board, discarding it (and sliding other cards left, to fill the gap if necessary). This way, you can - and often should! - solve a Crisis someone else drew.

This may sound easy, but the more cards are placed on the tracks, the more problems you’ll face: if a card eventually slides off on the right end, you place it face down on the right of the board, where it escalates into one of the four Catastrophes! Each Catastrophe boosts the Voidborn’s influence, and if you suffer four of them you lose immediately. Additionally, the leftmost visible space on the top track might show Turmoil, and at the beginning of your turn (besides revealing a Crisis) you must pay this many resources or immediately suffer a Catastrophe!

While Economic Crises and Turmoil are often more subtle in trying to cripple you, the Voidborn also has far more… direct ways of dealing with human resistance. The leftmost visible space on the bottom (Military Crisis) track shows the Fleet Strength of the Voidborn. Some Crises will have a penalty called Skirmish - this is when the Voidborn’s corrupted forces actively attack you! Some special cards in the Crisis deck won’t even have a Crisis to solve, merely an icon for Skirmish.

When a Skirmish is resolved, check each of your sectors bordering at least one Voidborn sector, and if the Voidborn can, it takes the sector (or at least puts a dent into your Fleets there) using Corrupted Fleets equal to the Strength value. These fleets are taken straight from supply, not from the other sectors, as the Voidborn can use smaller interdimensional jumps to effectively open portals from anywhere in its domain.

And even when you’re on the offense, you’re potentially risking a crackback: whenever you capture a Voidborn sector, any Harbinger present alerts the Voidborn to your advancement: this is represented by moving the Harbinger token from the sector to left end of one of the Threat tracks, permanently shortening that track!

But enough with the doom and gloom, as humanity won’t go so gently into that good night! The few remaining Houses are ready to cooperate, and they are willing to use the Coop-specific Joint Focus cards. When playing cooperative, the new Leadership Focus will allow you or other players to replace some of their Focus cards to a stronger, Joint version of the same Focus. Actions on the Joint Focus are usually cheaper or stronger than their basic counterparts, and to reinforce the idea that this is a cooperative game (and not a side by side optimization puzzle) most of them even allow you to let one of the other players perform an effect on your turn.

When playing solo, however, you’re on your own: other Houses promised to join, but not enough of them remained to stand tall. Their efforts are still present in the offer of Joint Focuses, but instead of upgrading your hand with them (since you will barely have enough actions to do what your actual strategy requires), you gain access to the extremely powerful Unity Focus, representing your last stand: you can directly utilize actions from a Joint Focus (receiving both what you and what another player would in a multiplayer cooperative game), and even pick an action from a Focus card you haven’t yet played!

Hopefully this short overview has given you a little insight into the way the cooperative game of Voidfall works. It shares the majority of the rules and components of the competitive game, but the invading Voidborn is far more active, and all of you will need to think, strategize and make sacrifices together to win. The time has come to rally the fleets, and save humanity from the yoke of the Voidborn!

Thanks for reading today’s spotlight! With this, the series highlighting the main mechanisms and concepts of Voidfall has come to a conclusion. Our last spotlight, just before the campaign starts on Kickstarter will be a little different. The designers are going to share the journey the game has taken from concept to what we’ve shown here, as well as their future plans for Voidfall after the campaign!