Vengeance Review - Revenge Is Never A Straight Line

Hold up, where's the Vengeance video?! Well on a recent podcast I mentioned that I need to get my work/life balance in check and part of that means not trying to do 6 videos a week every week for every game that looks even remotely good! Trust me, as a hobby, it's a difficult task. So I want to balance videos with written reviews and it will essentially be a personal "play by ear" thought process as to what games I believe are popular/complex enough to warrant a full video discussion. Plus some people have requested some more written content so I'm pleasing both worlds. Now with that out of the way. . .REVENGE!!

Any game that comes out where it's a giant box full of miniatures, I always have a slight worry. Ever since the days of Zombicide and CMON blitzing us with giant Kickstarters, there seems to be an evergrowing trend of these types of games now. And usually the issue I've found is that they don't differentiate enough from each other or rely too much on the quality of their miniatures over the quality of the mechanics or even theme in some cases. Vengeance from first appearance gave me that Zombicide-esque vibe. But the theme was infinitely more appealing and one I don't believe I've seen represented before. Could Vengeance be something new and fresh?




Designer: Gordon Calleja
Publisher: Mighty Boards
Age: 14+
Players: 1-4
Time: 90-120 minutes
RRP: £89.99


Ever watched a revenge movie? Kill Bill for example? Taken? Then you should at least give Vengeance a look. With it's 14+ rating it's proud to showcase all the trops we've seen before. Each of your characters has been wronged in some horrific way and you're out to take the pain back to the bosses who did it. You'll first choose the bosses who wronged you and apply the lasting damage effect it had. Then over the course of 3 Acts, you go out to the various dens and take out as many minions and bosses as you can, specifically targeting the bosses who screwed you over if possible. But try not to become as deranged as those you're taking out.

Each act begins with a Montage sequence (you can already hear the music playing) in which you acquire new special moves, scope the dens for your bosses and heal your character before the big fight. You can also play more Vengeance cards to score more points for killing off clans and bosses, but you'll suffer the damage and be weaker for the fight. After the Montage, you'll have one or two combat rounds in which you have exactly 3 turns to blast, dodge, stab and roll your way through the minions before eventually plunging your blade (or manually inserting your bullets) into the final boss to settle the score.

Combat is a dice puzzle of allocation where you will assigning them based on your skills and what minions you're fighting. Nothing too complex, but you'll have enough choices of who's the best minion to take out or the best route to take to reach the final boss. If you can complete it in 3 turns then great, otherwise you'll have to flee, take the hits and fight another day.


STARRING IN YOUR OWN MOVIE


Well certainly from a thematic perspective, top marks here. If you've watched any movies in the "Revenge" sub-genre you'll instantly be quoting lines or making references based on what's in Vengeance. From the selection of combat moves to the gritty art styling used and even down to the simple concept of a Montage round it really does fit the theme well and yet you're using dice a lot - pretty impressive as many games falter when they use dice as a means to an end. And you won't be short of references because you'll be surprised just how many movies are in this genre.

Production wise, there are hits and misses. The miniatures included are really good, nice and detailed and you've got lots of colour bases to distinguish the different types, though maybe they could have differentiated them a little more as the henchmen use the same red base regardless of which clan they're from. The cards and the dice are your typical fare, nothing amazing, but the side boards and location tiles are nice and chunky and intricately detailed with great artwork. So quality has been focused more on the main components that add to the theme directly and that's a good thing.

However I do have to mention the gripe I have with the insert. I only have a retail version so I'm not even dealing with any KS exclusives (assuming there were any), but there are some niggling issues here. Miniatures are essentially piled into one tray. Location tiles are held in this flimsy square cardboard cutout that reminds me of the Fantasy Flight Star Wars trench inserts yet the side boards don't have a specific place. Cards fit on top of areas where you're expected to bag and squish up small tokens, but have fun storing this vertically. But what gets my goat is the slots for the ability/item upgrade tiles. You can fit most of them in there, but not all of them and I've tried every other space, no luck. It's odd. The guide in the box isn't much use either. At the end of the day, I'll probably end up chucking the insert anyway for bags/cases, but you'd think for a Kickstarter one of the stretch goals should be a good custom insert.


CUE THE MUSIC


Vengeance is at its core a dice game - you roll dice, allocate them how you can and then resolve. With that said you have to accept that there is a bit of randomness in this game. You can acquire ablilities to mitgate this to an extent, but there will be times when you just get hosed by a die roll or your opponent draws the exact clan boss card they need in a round. If you can accept that you're on to a good start, but don't play this expecting a strategic miniatures game - if anything they are more there for flavour and to set the scene visually.

You have control however over the Montage phase, drafting dice for bonuses and selecting cards to do actions. But we're not talking the toughest decisions ever. You either heal, upgrade, recon or save your dice for drawing more Vengeance cards. And usually you know exactly what you need, but it's more about how powerful you want the action to be. And each one is pretty important. Abilities will greatly help you to take out future dens, healing is critical to staying alive and in good shape and if you don't recon, you're going in blind not knowing where your boss is. I like how each character has slightly different stats and cards as well - not drastically, but you get the impression one is better at healing, one can recon better, etc.


HARD R RATING ONLY - NONE OF THAT PG-13 RUBBISH!


Vengeance can be played in two modes - hardcore and normal. Normal mode has you use all but 3 Montage cards and no time restrictions. Handy for teaching but. . . . we'll get there. Hardcore mode has you use all the Montage cards but be forced to discard some each round permanently. A relatively small change but it adds a bit of extra decision making. The biggest addition however is the 3 min sand timer that you have to use for the combat phases. Do all of your 3 rolls and resolutions in the time limit or you are forced to flee, attempting to simulate the action of a proper revenge movie scene.

I'm just going to go out and say it. If you play this game on Normal mode, it's not a good session and I'll tell you why. The box stipulates about 90 minutes for a typical game. Good luck with that when combat phases can drag on especially if you are unlucky enough to find someone who wants to plan their scene before they've even rolled the dice! As such, for what is a pretty basic and simple game when you think about it, the time length drags on way beyond what is acceptable. Now if you use the sand timer, every combat is a max of 3 minutes and more frantic. So if you have 4 players and 5 combat phases, that's a total of 60 minutes only for combat. Add another 30 minutes for montages/setup and that's a 90 minute game for 4 players. And that's about as long as I would want to play Vengeance for. Remove the timer and you could end up nearly doubling that if you're not careful.

Another bugbear I have is the setup throughout the game. It takes a while to get all the tiles out, sort out the different miniatures from each other (they are good sculpts, but it's hard to tell whether a minion or boss belongs to this clan or another one because they share the same red base) and get the cards organised and dealt out. Then you have to teach a fair amount of little rules in advance - it's not a game you can really teach as you play. But constantly throughout every time you clear out a den, you have to swap the tile with another one and set up all the minions AGAIN! And when the boss card is revealed you have to get even more miniatures out and set them up. Doing this multiple times quickly becomes tedious and the insert doesn't help with this - I say toss the insert and come up with your own quick-fire solution.



MAYBE WILL GET ONE SEQUEL?


One thing that can hurt this in the long run is the variety within the box. There's a decent amount of content, but not enough to make it last forever. You get 4 clans, but the difference between them is pretty minor, essentially one special ability that only applies to the main boss and henchman and its chance of triggering is dependant on the player not dropping them in one die roll anyway. There are expansions already out or on the way that add more clans and even supposedly some player vs player combat, but you can guarantee these won't be cheap. As such I don't think this will be a game you pull out every game night.

To help with longevity though, Vengeance manages to deliver a decent solo mode as well. As a bonus each of the five characters’s come with their own setup where you battle through a deck of specific bosses in order to complete objectives. This was added as a late stretch goal apparently, but it's done surprisingly well. I like how each character has their unique progression and setup almost like a story arc. Many games will simply give you a special power and that's it rather than change up the game itself.


VERDICT ON VENGEANCE


Rather than being a game that's going to blow you away with its amazing mechanics, what Vengeance does instead is make you stick around for the theme. We've seen this scenario before with miniatures on a board beating up enemies, but usually it's against monsters or zombies. To see a new theme on the block is refreshing and will appeal to anyone who's a fan of the revenge movie genre because Vengeance achieves a solid mechanical integration of its theme. You have to accept a bit of luck with the die rolling, but it's not just number crunching - utilising your abilities in the best way puts you in the seat of an action choreographer and makes the fights that much more enjoyable especially if you're roleplaying or making movie references.

The biggest problem comes down to the time length when playing outside of hardcore mode. Using that 3 minute timer not only makes the combat more fun, but also keeps the game going at a fast pace without dragging out. I would actually refuse to play this in non-hardcore mode for that reason. The variety is also not as good as it could be but maybe future expansions will increase this, but of course all that comes at a cost and it's already a £70+ game, which might be a bit too much for something that's a light dice roller at the end of the day.

All in all, it's still a good bit of thematic fun, just not without a few shortcomings.




PERSONAL BGG RATING - 6 (5 on Normal Mode)





YOU WILL LIKE VENGEANCE IF:


You are a fan of revenge movie tropes - Vengeance takes full advantage of the theme.


You enjoy dice combat mechanisms that aren't just simply "highest number wins".


You enjoyed timed phases in games to speed things along and add tension.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE VENGEANCE IF:


You were hoping for player vs player combat - however there is an expansion that will resolve this soon.


You were looking for a meaty miniatures game - it's fairly light compared to most out there.


You want more differentiation between the various clans.



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