It didn’t take long for me to take a liking to Age of Wonders: Planetfall. From its six over-the-top sci-fi factions spewing lasers, acid bile, and personality all over the randomly generated planets to the way it manages to finely balance its pacing between a traditional 4X campaign and XCOM-style tactical battles, there is plenty to praise. A little more sense of tech progression and deeper base building wouldn’t have hurt, though.
The far-future setting has layers of complexity without feeling overly complicated. Hundreds of years ago, the galaxy-spanning Star Union collapsed, and each of the interesting and distinct factions of Planetfall represents some splinter group of survivors that went their own way in the aftermath. The Vanguard are standard-issue humans who have been in cryosleep since before the collapse, and they offer a great starting point both for their familiar style of conventional warfare with guns and tanks, and the fact that they know about as much about the current state of things as you do on your first campaign. But if you want to get weird, there are plenty of intriguing alternatives, like the melee-focused insectoid Kir’ko, and the creepy-as-hell cybernetic Assembly.