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Stylianos Kalaitzis
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Game: Vanguard of War

Genre: Tower Defence (Cooperative / Action Point System / variable player power)
Player: 1-4 (5-6 Player with official Rules, doesn‘t look very playtested though)
Lenght: 2-3 hours
Price: Kickstarter 110€ plus Shipping for Base Game, 250 for all-in, incl. Shipping
Producer: Archon Studio (Load, Re-Load, Chronicle X, Empire of Men), former Prodos (Aliens vs. Predator)
Kickstarter Page:
Language Dependence: Moderate in-game text

Bioworm recomendation: No

What this is about:
Vanguard of War is a tower defence miniature game, where your heroes battle incoming waves of monsters set in a science-fiction-fantasy-warhammer-world trying to protect their base (in this case a church). As known from other skirmish-battle-dungeoncrawler games you try to combine your skills as opposed to the skills of the enemies and position yourself good on the map. Heroes are allowed some action points, which will be mostly used for movement, various attacks and rummaging through the ruins in which you are playing – similar to zombicide. Dying isnt permanent, you can easily be ressurected for a minor price – there is a church after all. Also there are ways to improve your character, without it you ll loose for sure. Kill all the waves and the end bosses and you are the hero of your realm (storywise you got some strange killing weapon out of bad guys claws – literally).

Story and Theme (6/10):
There is that generic story, written or copied from „any-other-generic-story-you-see-in-science-fiction-games“ about bad aliens – or was it demons – developing some killing device – something like a death star in carrying-around-in-a-bag-size. Of course heroes would go in a group of 4, because – well, more ressources for what seems to be the end of humanity would apparently be a waste and save the day by recovering (technically - it is stealing) this device. Interesting enough this is not what the game is about. The game is about after you got the device! You somehow managed to get surrounded in a church and have to fight of monsters. I may have one or more details wrong here, because the story obviously didnt stay long with me.
I give archon credit for at least produce (or copy) a story and some background, not more or less than most other game producers, which is so generic that i dont know, if they got it from somewhere else – they could have. I have to admit that the theme (galactic space demon aliens) is present in the game in the graphics, skills, items.

Gameplay (8/10):
Vanguard of war surprised me, because it was actually not bad. I had no high hopes gameplaywise, coming from the hands of what was actually more a miniature game company than a board game producer, but gameplay is really tense and lots of fun. The beginning of the game is more about getting much of the map by using the action points to search in order to get many items needed for leveling up and not let things go to much south. As the game progresses it gets more tense and survival of the church becomes vital. There are lucky elements like boons for both heroes and waves of monsters coming from events every round, items and traps you get from searching and of course dice, which not only determine the outcome of every skirmish but also the strenght of the monster waves. There is no dice manipulation, but the attacks you and the monster do vary that much that outcome does not only come from luck. That beeing said there is also clear that the game has not gone through much (if any) playtesting. As game gets more challenging in the end, minor luck driven elements can ruin your gaming experince, because you may loose regardless your good performance. There are events which are just impossible to beat in the advanced game (on one event you are praktically not allowed to do anything) that needs fixing. Also most miniatures look too similar on that size – little pink terryfying blobs of plastic and you have to look twice sometimes in order to see what monstrosity is going to cause you pain. The alternate versions dont really help making unique, identifyable monsters. Painting would assist gameplay and is therefore almost needed (or good eye-sight). Heroes look apart and have a different colour of the enemies.
Complexity (no rating): easy to learn and jump-in rules, challenging strategic thinking, but not that complex to make your brain burn (the 3 of 5 rating on bgg seems a little bit too high for my taste).
Length: it takes some time – around 4 hours first play, settles at 2-3 hours including set up.
Summary: gameplay is fun – much more than expected, but because of lack of proper gameplaytesting there are flaws in gameplay. It can be reduced by experienced gamers by house ruling or not allowing some events or combinations in advanced game.

Solo mode (9/10):
I dont really play solo, only for learning games, but this one is really fun to play solo, as there are no special rules or other extra things to do. You have the whole gaming experience – but alone – not a very social thing and admittebly nerdy thing to do, but as far as solo games go, i d pick this one as one of my favourites.

Artwork (8,5/10):

Artwork is – as with most KS projects nowadays - very beautiful and professional done and helps the theme.

Quality (6,5/10):
There are miniatures and they are „other lesser things“ - or at least that must be what archon is thinking. The miniatures look good, are detailed and nice. Size is the usual one in mini games, not really big.Some backers reported easy breaking parts, my minis are still whole after a good amound of playing.
Now about the other lesser things: Cards are nice, standard quality. Items are thin cardboard instead of cards. But all cardboard items, including game board is a tad too thin, making the otherwise great looking game, looking a bit – cheap?

Rules and Rulebook (4/10):
Rules are easy. Monsters spawn, move in lanes and attack, you go in, move and attack (maybe search, change items, level up – but mainly move and shoot). Thats it. The Rulebook is poorly written, continously repeating itself with no structure and leaving out important parts (like what exactly happens when I die) and missing clarifications (rules on cards vs. rules on character sheets). You may have a feeling what should be the right rule on some situations, but these rules show again – there was no proper prior playtesting in which questions and problems on rules could arise and clarified.

Kickstarter fullfillment (7,5/10):
Product partly not sent complete, many backers missing items, slow / no response on kickstarter, but only minor delays in fullfillment otherwise and customer service responding quickly on problems if contacted by mail).

What you get for your buck (5/10):
For 110USD + shipping for base game + KS exclusives or 250 USD for the full in we are at the upper segment of kickstarter board game prices.
Vanguard of War Early Bird (Base Game plus some boons): 110+shipping. For that price I expect a fun, full game with detailed miniatures, quality items and enough variaty to last for some time. For that price I d expect a little more quality than I ve got. Even 35USD games in retail have better quality cardboard than this not so deluxe variant. But at least a got a fun game with nice miniatures and little flaws in gameplay. (6,5/10)
Vanguard of War EPIC pledge (all-in): 250USD included world wide shipping. For 250 USD I expect high quality and variaty to last for a long, long time. I got some boxes with some little miniature more, adding a little more variety, but not more. Art Book is not really needed and i dont use spawn, as these bases cant support one wave (minis are falling from them). Boxes are small and in a size which is somehow difficult to store. One big box fitting every add on is missing. The add-ons are way overpriced.(3,5/10)
Retail: There is no availability in retail, not even from the archon store itself at the moment.

Overall (7/10):
As far as kickstarter projects go, this one is not a bad one. You ll get a somewhat overpriced game, which is fun, although somewhat flawed in form of unbalanced gameplay. Experienced players can easily overcome those problems in modifying the (badly written) rules and leaving cards out in the advanced gameplay and by doing that obtain a quite good game. Gameplay is tense and interesting, quality is overall ok, not perfect as I would expect on that price tag.

Do I recommend buying this game?
This is not a game that will collect dust in my game shelf, but I think you can also get good games for a quite less. I dont quite regret buying, because I ve got a fine game. But it is not that outstanding or unique that the price would be justified. That is the reason bioworm (yeah, talking in the third person) cannot recommend vanguard of war.

I have to admit that I dont easily give out recomendations :-)
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Stylianos Kalaitzis
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Additional Information: One gamers group didnt want to play it again due to following reasons:
1) The info on the text is written poorly, or in a bad way.
1a) Monsters Ability is in the same field as flavour text and in the same size. Only difference is that flavour is in italics.
1b) Range is abbreviated with an arrow "->" and not Movement which would be m ore natural. Movement is abbreviated "SP" (for Speed). Armour is not abberviated with a Shield but with "AR".
2) All minis look more or less the same and you cant distinguish them easily. Tehy almost all have the same colour and some have a slight lighter pink for no reason (while the alternate counterparts are not in this light pink). End Boss has for some reasin the same colour as heroes.
3) They didnt like the game taking that long, especially tier 1, where you survive anyway.

I mentioned that in the review. Its not killing the game for me, but for one gamers group it did. Really a shame, because these are points that could have easily prevented prior production if one smart person would have sat down and actually played the game. (Point 3 we house ruled with starting with some 2 ascension and 20 essence distributed equally on Tier 2.
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