In Void Bastards, a prison ship of 1,000,000 inmates becomes stranded in the Sargasso Nebula with a broken FTL drive. Under the direction of the on-board AI, BACS, prisoners are sent out one by one to scavenge for parts to save the ship. The game is a run-based first person shooter with permadeath and persistent upgrades. Every "run" begins with a prisoner who has a trait assigned to them. These traits can be positive, such as radiation resistance, or negative, such as a bad cough that can alert nearby enemies.
Navigation through the Sargasso Nebula is done using the star map. The star map shows the immediate paths ahead through the nebula, with space ships and wreckage making up nodes on the star map. Traveling to a node consumes 1 Fuel and 1 Food. The player can board any ship to scavenge for supplies, crafting materials, and parts for creating and upgrading equipment. Before boarding, the player can see an overview of some of the supplies the ship has, some of the enemies, called Citizens, that are on board, and traits the ship has. Much like prisoner traits, these traits can also be positive, such as deactivated security, or negative, such as radiation leaks.
There are many types of weapons and gadgets that can be built to engage enemies, either offensively or defensively.
When the player dies, another prisoner is sent out aboard the escape pod to take their place, keeping all of the upgrades and available weapons. However, all resources are lost; instead, prisoners begin with a care package from BACS to get them started.