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Subject: Thoughts based on my first 3 player game rss

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Marc S
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Tonight I was able to try my first 3 player game of Vengeance. Obviously one full play isn't enough to truly experience all that a game has to offer, so these are really just initial impressions that will likely evolve after more plays.



Overall, the game is good, but it did not quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. The mechanisms are all really interesting, the art is beautiful, and the theme is fantastic, but it feels like something is missing. The parts all come together, but not in a way that make this the game as amazingly fun and tense as I was expecting. I certainly think the game has a ton of potential and I am confident that it will be refined before it goes to production. I'm also quite excited for the solo rules where I think the game will really shine.

In no particular order, here are my criticisms and thoughts:

DEN AVAILABILITY
* After the first couple level 2 dens were replaced, the level 3 dens which replaced them became prime targets, so 4 level 2 dens were in play for most of the game and at the end of the game, 3 level 2 dens remained in play. I wonder if it would help to scale the number of level 2 and level 3 dens per player or incrementally increasing the value or desirability of the aging level 2 dens by adding wild tokens, points or something else.

* The 6 den area seemed pretty wide open for 3 players. Perhaps 2 and 3 players games would feel more pressure with fewer active dens.

* The prep step of fight scenes seemed to be pretty consistent: recon until you find a boss that you can match and attack that den. If you were unlucky and couldn't find a den that matched a color, you skip the fight. And most fights were successful, so there was rarely competition for specific dens.

VENGEANCE CARDS
* Drafting all vengeance cards at the start of the game felt a bit haphazard since there is so little information about the state of the board. This is something I don't like about Seasons. I much prefer the drafting in Blood Rage where you are drafting a hand for each age and with each age you have an increasing amount of information about the state of the board and the other players.

* After a big boss gets defeated, the matching vengeance cards for that big boss in (other player's) hands are dead only useful for scoring minions unless enough dens come out that the discard of boss cards get shuffled. (I believe that's what happens when the boss dead runs out.) This makes drafting a big boss a risky proposition. That's not necessarily bad, but it front loads a lot of important decision making to the card draft.

* Vengeance cards are quite limited. After the draft there are few remaining to supplement your shrinking hand of bosses. I wonder if vengeance cards used to score only minions could be returned to the vengeance deck instead of scored face down under the player mat.

MONTAGE
* We didn't pay attention to speed, it was mostly a side effect of the other actions that we wanted to perform and speed was always the last die drafted. This is related to the lack of tension with upgrades (no one was worried that they would miss out as most are good) and the fact that going early in turn order offered first dibs on den selection, but going later in the act increased the chances that you would have a fresh new (and possibly higher value) den available (with the possibility of a big boss.) And chances are if you found a boss you wanted to fight in a previous recon, you probably stopped recon and attacked the den. In other words, any dens you recon'd and didn't attack were likely uninteresting to you, so again no tension.

* There's no stress when choosing Montage cards since they are all available every Montage. Before reading the rules I fully expected that when a Montage card was used, it would be unavailable next Montage. Similar to the way Space Hulk: Death Angel forces you to cycle through action cards.

UPGRADES
* Upgrades are essential. Getting a couple good upgrades early seems like a no-brainer. With the number of upgrades available, there's rarely any tension since you will mostly likely have something good available. Perhaps consider ramping up the upgrades somehow? Limit purchases per act or don't refill the purchased upgrades until the end of the act. (Maybe we played this wrong?)

* The fights are mostly pretty easy after you have a good set of upgrades that work well together. The timed variant will likely address this and add a lot of tension, but that might not appeal to everyone. I will likely try this during my next play.

COMBAT
* The combat was smooth and fun. Finding interesting combinations was rewarding. There wasn't much rearranging of upgrades as everyone seemed to find a combination they liked. More importantly, the gangs didn't fell different enough to require reorganizing our upgrades. I think this might have to do with the fact that special abilities only affect the bosses and big bosses and not all minions in a den. If all minions in a den behaved differently per gang, perhaps it would encourage players to have multiple upgrade configurations that they swap per fight.

* The re-rolls versus the extra green die felt a bit strange as the re-roll didn't feel strictly better than the green die as it carried the risk of rolling a gang activation. So taking hits in various stats didn't always feel like a penalty.

SCORING
* I'm not sure what the end game scores are expected to be, but 2 players hit high 20's and the winner had 30. This felt strange since we didn't feel like we played particularly well but we reached the end of the score track.

* I was hoping that there would be more Missions available in the future so they could be randomized, but the mission card which rewards high mind feels like a solution to a design issue where Mind stat isn't important after Act 3 montage, so it feels like this particular mission is mandatory. The Mission which rewards points for a scored bosses of the game of your choice seems like it balances out the alternative of choosing a wide variety of gangs to ensure you'll always be able to score a den in each fight scene. I'm not sure if the Mission for most unspent wild tokens is meant to balance anything else or not -- maybe to counter a player becoming extremely powerful by collecting and spending the wild tokens? This is likely more related to my perception that mission are cards and not just built in end game scoring rules.

MISC
* Downtime wasn't too bad. Sometimes it took a couple minutes to think through all the possible ways to utilize your upgrades. Setup, teaching, and the actual game lasted about 3 hours, but we were certainly taking our time and breaking for snacks.

* Player interaction is very indirect: the interaction inherent in card and dice drafting, defeating a den someone else may have been interested in, buying an upgrade before someone else can, etc. The interaction of drafting is self evident. Spending a fight scene attacking a den just to prevent someone else from getting it didn't seem worth the effort and didn't seem to occur naturally in our game. Also, as I mentioned previously, the way things played out, there was very little reason to think that a player wouldn't attack a recon'd den if it contained a boss they were interested in killing. Also, since there are a ton of great upgrades, it's not terribly disappointing when someone buys one or two you were considering. This is not inherently bad, it will be welcomed by some and disappointing to others.

* One of the players was hoping for more specific limitations based on the terrible things the bosses did to our characters, not just reducing one of three stats. For instance, a broken leg would have a specific limitation when moving through a den. While reducing skill dice ultimately has a similar effect, it felt abstracted in such a thematically rich game.


Again, these are my subjective initial impressions after a single play of the print and play prototype. We probably got stuff wrong. I'm confident we're overlooking many subtleties of the design. I may try to organize these better after another play.

Thanks to Gordon Calleja and Mighty Boards for putting together an exciting and beautiful game that has a lot to offer. Also, thanks for providing a print and play so that we can experience it first hand. I have no doubt this game will be a success and I'm eagerly following it's progress.
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Eduardo Guimarães
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Nice that you played, i wish i had the patience to make a PnP!

All valid points that you made. Maybe with the upcoming hardcore rules (or whatever the name is) the tension will scale up a notch.

And of course i already have some variants in my head. I'll restrain for saying them because i never played the game and people will say that i'm arrogant or something like that

EDIT: What the hell, i have time and i'll write what i think and my variants, even with never playing the game once.

- As the READY part of the combat is first and everyone participate, a new den being revealed when the first player fight is not a big of a deal, because the slower player can't recon it and if it want to fight in the same fight turn, it has to risk it going without recon, risking it being an undesirable gang (IMO).

- The reroll of the 3 gang hits is a bit no thematic and silly for me. Maybe if you roll 3 gang hits, you can reroll IF you get a mind damage. It's like the pressure of vengeance getting in your mind. And it would bring a new layer of decision, influencing the endgame mission and Reverend Grey ability (receive 3 hits but can hit once etc)

- What if the skill and itens "store" never get refilled for the entire game? It would be a rush to get them early game for sure, i don't know if it would be too harsh and make for automatized play (everyone rushing for it on every game). Maybe refill at the end of act is better.

- I thought that maybe speed could be a bit more proeminent. It was mentioned that the fight would have a timer on the hardcore rules (2:30 minutes i think). I thought in something like this:
Speed 1-2: you have 2 minutes to fight
Speed 3-4: You gave 2:30 minutes to fight
Speed 5,6 or 7: 3 minutes
8+ : no time limit and you have 4 turns(?!?!)
As i said, never played the game and doing this just for the mental exercise

- What if the skills in your character can only be used once per fight? you and would not be using the same one over and over again. I was even thinking in a system that you have to use the skill at the top of the stack, and when you used a skil, you turned it face down and put it at the botton of the stack, and you have to use the one that it's on the top of it now, it would make you plan how to organize the 3 skills stacks before the fight. The only one that you could use every round would be the character special skill.

I hope i don't appear to be presumptuous here, it's just some ideas and in any way i'm trying to denigrate the game or anyone involved, i'm a backer and very excited for the game cool
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Marcello Abatantuono
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Nice review! I tried to write one for the game we played this weekend but it was not so good. We had a very different experience from your game. In our case it was a very tense one. We also attacked bosses we did not have to take points away from those that were leading or close to the person attacking on the score board. Sometimes it was a lot more points-sense attacking a den that another player has high points bosses for and just getting the points for the den instead of attacking a higher boss. This was the case especially when more than one player wanted the bosses. Maybe it's my group that is aggressive.

The montage was also more exciting than you describe for us. A lot of things to think about and reconing had less importance. The question was more how much to heal and to upgrade and to take vengeance cards.

The speed was important. Not in first montage but the others. We wanted to attack some dens before other player. It made all the difference in who gets the points. One player didnt care about it and he got bad choice to attack.

I am not sure about vengeance cards being limited. Half the group like having less so it made it precious, but it was easy to get. I did not mind so much but felt strange they finished. I guess it is designed like that.

The fights were so so exciting! Great problem solving and really nice with timer.

Of course it makes sense we have different experience. That is why it's a game not a book

Verdict- my group LOVED this game. Super theme, super art and really new/different gameplay that are perfect for the them.
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Marc S
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eduguima wrote:
Nice that you played, i wish i had the patience to make a PnP!

All valid points that you made. Maybe with the upcoming hardcore rules (or whatever the name is) the tension will scale up a notch.

And of course i already have some variants in my head. I'll restrain for saying them because i never played the game and people will say that i'm arrogant or something like that

EDIT: What the hell, i have time and i'll write what i think and my variants, even with never playing the game once.

- As the READY part of the combat is first and everyone participate, a new den being revealed when the first player fight is not a big of a deal, because the slower player can't recon it and if it want to fight in the same fight turn, it has to risk it going without recon, risking it being an undesirable gang (IMO).

- The reroll of the 3 gang hits is a bit no thematic and silly for me. Maybe if you roll 3 gang hits, you can reroll IF you get a mind damage. It's like the pressure of vengeance getting in your mind. And it would bring a new layer of decision, influencing the endgame mission and Reverend Grey ability (receive 3 hits but can hit once etc)

- What if the skill and itens "store" never get refilled for the entire game? It would be a rush to get them early game for sure, i don't know if it would be too harsh and make for automatized play (everyone rushing for it on every game). Maybe refill at the end of act is better.

- I thought that maybe speed could be a bit more proeminent. It was mentioned that the fight would have a timer on the hardcore rules (2:30 minutes i think). I thought in something like this:
Speed 1-2: you have 2 minutes to fight
Speed 3-4: You gave 2:30 minutes to fight
Speed 5,6 or 7: 3 minutes
8+ : no time limit and you have 4 turns(?!?!)
As i said, never played the game and doing this just for the mental exercise

- What if the skills in your character can only be used once per fight? you and would not be using the same one over and over again. I was even thinking in a system that you have to use the skill at the top of the stack, and when you used a skil, you turned it face down and put it at the botton of the stack, and you have to use the one that it's on the top of it now, it would make you plan how to organize the 3 skills stacks before the fight. The only one that you could use every round would be the character special skill.

I hope i don't appear to be presumptuous here, it's just some ideas and in any way i'm trying to denigrate the game or anyone involved, i'm a backer and very excited for the game cool

Agreed on the rerolling 3+ gang activation dice. I think at least one should remain as a gang activation.

I definitely think the upgrades should not refill until the next Act. I would be surprised if this wasn't part of the hardcore rules.

I think your speed variant is brilliant! I will definitely have to give that a shot.

Cycling through upgrades seems like an interesting idea, too.
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Marc S
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marcelloabatantuono wrote:
Nice review! I tried to write one for the game we played this weekend but it was not so good. We had a very different experience from your game. In our case it was a very tense one. We also attacked bosses we did not have to take points away from those that were leading or close to the person attacking on the score board. Sometimes it was a lot more points-sense attacking a den that another player has high points bosses for and just getting the points for the den instead of attacking a higher boss. This was the case especially when more than one player wanted the bosses. Maybe it's my group that is aggressive.

The montage was also more exciting than you describe for us. A lot of things to think about and reconing had less importance. The question was more how much to heal and to upgrade and to take vengeance cards.

The speed was important. Not in first montage but the others. We wanted to attack some dens before other player. It made all the difference in who gets the points. One player didnt care about it and he got bad choice to attack.

I am not sure about vengeance cards being limited. Half the group like having less so it made it precious, but it was easy to get. I did not mind so much but felt strange they finished. I guess it is designed like that.

The fights were so so exciting! Great problem solving and really nice with timer.

Of course it makes sense we have different experience. That is why it's a game not a book

Verdict- my group LOVED this game. Super theme, super art and really new/different gameplay that are perfect for the them.
And to clarify, I really dig Vengeance. I'm currently backing the game plus expansion. The game is unique and beautiful, but it's not perfect. I don't claim to know what it needs, but I tried to ask some questions that gives the designers and developers some perspective.

I'm really happy you guys loved it. The game deserves a lot of attention and to be hugely successful. I think my group was so focused on finding our own gangs, that we probably overlooked opportunities to defeat bosses that other players were hunting. Our game felt like multiplayer solitaire, not in a bad way. I'm sure subsequent plays will be different and I'm really excited for more plays.

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Geoff ...
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marcss wrote:
I think my group was so focused on finding our own gangs, that we probably overlooked opportunities to defeat bosses that other players were hunting. Our game felt like multiplayer solitaire, not in a bad way. I'm sure subsequent plays will be different and I'm really excited for more plays.

Going after other player's bosses seems opposed to the theme. When I play Vengeance, I want to hunt down those that wronged me, true to the source material (Kill Bill, Taken, etc). I don't want to kill some random bad guy because it nets me or denies another player some points.
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Marcello Abatantuono
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Geoff - it is good to know that you get points both for killing bosses you have on your vengeance - that did bad thing to you and also for killing gangs that did bad things to you (same colour as boss you attack) which for me is good for the story. What we were doing in our game is sometimes attack den which has matching colour but not boss that other players want boss of.
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Marc S
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marcelloabatantuono wrote:
Geoff - it is good to know that you get points both for killing bosses you have on your vengeance - that did bad thing to you and also for killing gangs that did bad things to you (same colour as boss you attack) which for me is good for the story. What we were doing in our game is sometimes attack den which has matching colour but not boss that other players want boss of.
That's a good point. You need a boss card which matches the color of the boss in the den to score points for defeating the minions. So even though you're not going after the boss who wronged you, you are thematically weakening his gang. And attacking a boss who hasn't wronged you but belongs to the same game is sending a message to the gang that you're coming. I think it all makes sense thematically. These are the things that keep me excited about this game.
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gordon calleja
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Hey Marc, major thanks for taking Vengeance out for a spin! Really enjoyed reading your review. I know it's a pain in the arse to print all the bits and get a game in.

I'll respond to some of the issues raised, but first an overall comment I think needs to go into an update cause I'm hearing it a fair bit.

Game Difficulty and Balance

The reviewers, and you lovely print and play-ers are playing the beginner version of the game. It's what starting players will get into as a tutorial game. Some players found Posthuman a bit difficult to wrap their heads around, and I wanted to make sure Vengeance is new player friendly. One thing that confused non-gamery testers was the variety of minions in the game and remembering what each of them does. This becomes even more complicated with gang minions since, like Bosses, they have specific powers. I thus put together a quickstart guide to get people jumping into the game and provide an easy setup (no wronging, less minion variety).

The main difference in difficulty here is that there is at least 1 grunt on each den (more in level 4s) and 1 grunt that comes with a boss that should be gunmen, blockers or bodyguards (or gang minions if those get unlocked).

Aside from this hardcore mode has more montage cards to start off with but 2 of these are discarded from the game from the 3 played. Makes for a fair few difficult choices.

And finally, this is not the finished game. It needs more balancing. It's hard enough designing a solid system with balanced content, it's a NIGHTMARE designing that for x number of scenarios depending on what unlocks or not during a campaign. So I made sure the game works well with no stretch goals and with two other scenarios: basic game + gang minions and basic game + gang minions + hardcore mode, but I've learnt that Kickstarter is not just a way to get your game out to players but a learning experience with a LOT of feedback (such as this review ) so I knew I'd need to tweak the balance given backer feedback and stretch goals.

Once the campaign is done, the resulting version of Vengeance has to go through internal testing and then be rolled out to the various test leads scattered around US and EU for expert tests (the groups that played it). Once it's in a good place, it goes out to brand new groups for a new round of blind testing.

SO of course, the game needs tweaking. If it were ready at the START of a Kickstarter campaign which had any sort of functional unlock I'd be a bit of blinkered dumbarse.

Number of Dens

I had a variable number of dens depending on player count. The problem there is that the probability of having bosses to play on decreased unpleasantly with reduced number of dens. There's nothing more annoying than rolling out recon on all dens available and not having anyone to play on. Just because there's less players there shouldn't be less chances of getting a match.

You also want players to have more options on what to play on - especially those that invest in more recon. On that point while it's good to save recon tokens, if you're playing an actual strategy (rolling out doubles and triples) you want to maximise your VP yield, which will need more reconing than the first one you find, unless you happen to be lucky of course.

Green die

The green die has a boss activation not a gang activation. So it only triggers in the boss room. The possibility of getting an additional result is much more powerful especially combined with upgrades.

Vengeance Cards

The limited nature of the Vengeance cards is something that's been on my mind. Here's a situation where all test groups didnt find it being a problem and liked the competition for them but I personally felt they were a bit limited. I have two solutions for this: roll back the cost to 2 wild tokens instead of 1 which is how it was until two iterations ago OR add vengeance cards that have no boss on them, only a gang, but give bonus VPs on dens. Only tested these internally though so need tinkering.

Montage

I would have kept discards of montage cards standard if several test groups hadn't reported that it slowed down the montage (although they admitted it was a lot more strategic). I erred on the side of fluidity and speed of play and went for making these optional.

Speed has an important role in the game, maybe it becomes more apparent in later playthroughs or with certain configurations of Vengeance cards/when bosses are revealed etc. One thing I took out for simplicity but will be re-instating in all probability is revealing all boss cards in the final fight round. You really want your speed then . Finally, if the group doesn't pay attention to speed as much it's a good and easy way of determining player order, so I m happy with it and all test groups have been as well.

Scoring


You're playing the easy mode, so the scores are gonna be higher. Most test groups had verrrry close scores at the end. The score track is rather arbitrary at the moment - it's max is not the max points you can get, it's what looked good for now on the board. That will need revision as we finalise testing.

Once again, thanks for your interest Marc! I ll post part of this as an update and link to this thread.
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Marc S
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Thanks for the reply, Gordon! I can't even begin to imagine how much effort it requires to design and balance a game as deep and thematically rich as Vengeance. Honestly, my appreciation for and interest in the game is the reason I felt compelled to write up my thoughts. I have no doubt this game will be fantastic in the end and I wanted to contribute in whatever small way I could to the development.

Thanks for your insight into your design decisions and testing results.

My green die doesn't have any enemy results.

I'll have to check to make sure my print and play files are up to date.

Thanks again!
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gordon calleja
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Thank you for your kind words Marc. Hmm, the PnP has a missing Boss hit. It should look like this:



Thanks for picking that out. Will update.

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