Posted Monday, 20-Nov-2017
Vengeance is one of the coolest, slickest, most fun games in ages. Our review.
Written by Calvin Wong
Vengeance is the moment when the music stops and everyone in a room looks up at the sword-wielding figure who just walked in. Vengeance is the roar of gunfire in an illegal chop shop followed by the clinking of bullet shells in a dead silence. Vengeance is every ‘backflip through a plate glass window into the camera with two guns blazing’ scene in every action film you’ve ever seen and it’s right here on your table.
The axe forgets. The tree remembers.
Welcome to Vengeance. A roaring rampage of revenge patterned after the archetypical revenge flick, the game is unapologetically blood and bullets, wearing its 14+ rating proudly on a bullet-ripped sleeve. Each of the characters in this game has been wronged in some particularly awful way. Each has been hurt, and now they want to hurt back.
The cavalcade of bad guys who drill, bash, drug, and break you.
The main way to score points over Vengeance’s three rounds (here called Acts, in another hat tip to the films that inspired its creation) is to decide which of the game’s 12 big bads battered you and why – writing them into your backstory before embarking on a bloody crusade to even the score.
Each act has a montage sequence in which you acquire new deadly arts, scope out in which of the six locations your nemeses reside, and recover from damage. You also have the option to play more boss cards in front of you, each making you slower, foggier, less able to soak damage – but more able to score valuable Vengeance points.
There is a delicate tension between hunting points and hurting your ability to actually fight.
The montage is then followed by one or two combat rounds in which you have exactly three turns to kick the door in on a den of enemies, blast, slide, stab, and roll your way through them before sinking your blades into the final boss.
With this roll and these skills, it’s possible for your character (lower right) to kill all the enemies in this photo. Knives can only be used on targets in the same zone, pistols can only be used on targets in adjacent zones. The Run icon means you can move one zone. The black mask icon means you will take damage at the end of the turn. The boss (red base, top left) requires two hits to kill; everyone else just needs one.
Combat is a delicious dice puzzle of assigning hits and managing skills in order to clear your chosen hive of scum and villainy – transforming die faces into valuable move or damage icons to make your way deeper into the den (and hopefully, back out the other side)
Despite its hypermacho sheen, Vengeance is a game of weighing the risks, of finesse rather than brute force. Bad planning can leave you stuck with a worthless roll – a careless misplay can result in a world of pain, forcing a retreat and losing out on valuable points.
Repeat for three acts, sprinkle with some light missions and achievement cards, garnish with three possible expansion boxes, and serve cold.
Some of the game’s expansion content: a new gang and saboteur enemies that your opponents can sic on you.
Vengeance is the size of a cakebox and the experience of consuming both is similar – sinful, rich, dense with flavor. Dozens of locations, a ludicrous number of miniatures, cards, and dice – unique abilities for all the heroes, unique sculpts for the different gangs, several robust solo modes. But…
It is a dice game. And despite all the effort in the world by designer Gordon Calleja to infuse every ounce of cardboard with narrative heft and immersion, if you hate the idea of losing a game to a bad string of rolls, or because your opponent drew the perfect card on the last round, Vengeance may make you grimace more than grin. It’s a popcorn movie with the gas held down by a brick; a lever pushed to ‘awesome’ and broken off in the socket – but that’s all it is.
That said, it’s a svelte 30 minutes per player and light enough that you can play it tipsy at the end of a long game night – but with just enough depth that the best player will pretty much always win. It’s Zombicide for the modern era, a slick blood-soaked affair that just might take your breath away. One of the most fun and immersive gaming experiences I’ve had in years.
Published by BoardGamePrices.com