As I wrote last week, the “sandbox Euro” of Feudum is a handsome but troubled youngster. It’s got some great ideas, a slick sense of style, and knows it’s clever. But maybe that’s the problem. For everything it does right, it comes parcel with two exceptions, fussy rules, or instances where it stubbornly refuses to be streamlined.
Still, it’s hard to deny that this dizzying blend of movement puzzle, player-driven feudal holdings, and market manipulation taps into something desirable. The freedom of a sandbox game can be intoxicating, trusting players to pursue their goals with unusual latitude. Where most games offer an intensely curated experience, it’s a joy to be set loose within a set of systems and trusted to sink or swim, boom or bust.
So, as an alternative for those who might be thirsting after something a little more open-ended than usual, what follows are a bunch of my favorite sandbox-style games, ranked in order of their ascending complexity.
Ryan Laukat’s original Empires of the Void was one of Kickstarter’s early success stories. It was 2011, long before everybody got jaded with underwhelming indie projects and enamored with the latest empty-headed box with miniatures in it. It pulled in somewhere upward of $35,000.
Now it’s 2018, Ryan Laukat has been a staple of the crowdfunding scene for years — long enough to have witnessed “phases” in his career — and now we’ve got a sequel. It made seven times more than the original game during its Kickstarter run. Does that mean it’s seven times more enjoyable?
Yes, that is how I think math works, thanks very much.
Very few things miff the staff here at Space-Biff! more than when folks treat genre labels as interchangeable—it leads to the same sort of discombobulation as staring at a Che Guevara sticker while seated in an Olive Garden restroom. Worse, it transforms the angelic stillness of the SB!
living room office into a cacophony of complaining voices. “Spec Ops is not an RPG!” Dan was shouting the other day. “Small World is not Ameritrash!” Thurot blurted a few weeks ago. Even Lee can’t stop talking about how The Walking Dead is an entirely new (and “the boldest”) genre. And over the last couple days, Wee Aquinas won’t shut up about how “Empires of the Void isn’t a 4X game!”
This is fine, because Wee Aquinas usually comes out on the wrong side of genre arguments and this has been a big get for him. Also, because Red Raven Games never claimed Empires of the Void as a 4X game—just that it’s a good one. And on that count, they’re absolutely right.