WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Mighty Boards
Vengeance came out in 2018 and received mixed reviews. It was essentially the board game version of living in a Quentin Tarantino inspired film. Kill Bill the board game! Some people loved it but others criticised the ruleset and said it may suit a roll-and-write style game more. Interestingly, it seems the designer Gordon Calleja may have listened to this because he then teamed up with Noralie Lubbers and Dávid Turczi and created Vengeance Roll & Fight a roll-and-write version of the game. Cleaning up the rules. Simplifying the game play. And adding in what others felt was missing. Let's set it up and see how it plays.
Each player must take a player board and random den board, choosing one side to play on, along with a erasable marker. Then lay out 24, 35, or 46 dice depending on if there are two, three, or four players at the table. Each player will then choose from one of the four hero's to play as, and take the eight ability tiles, four items, the one hero trait card, and hero piece of their chosen character. They will play the hero piece on the start space on their den board, and lay the items on their player board with the ability tiles alongside it.
Then shuffle the nine boss cards, and deal one to each player. Each person will then mark the health for their selected boss on their den board. Finally place the three flashback dice onto the flashback tile, and place this in the middle of the table for all to see. Play is ready to begin.
How to Play
The games works in four phases. The first is the flashback phase. This is where the three flashback dice are rolled and placed onto the flashback board. Players can then take the three flashback dice benefits, as well as adding one final benefit of their choice.
This will allow players to either purchase a new ability to replace one of the four on their board. Or, players can increase their training or loot by marking of two or one space on the respective track. Alternatively, you could heal two injuries previously incurred or improve your total health by one. Or finally, 'recon' one ability, meaning you can mark it, to use it in phase three without having to assign dice to activate it in phase two.
Increasing your training will allow you to add more advance abilities in later rounds. There are also points available at the end of the game if you reach the later stages of the training track. Purchasing allows you to activate one of your items to use in a later phase three. Looting is all about end game points, and getting as far up the track as possible.
When all players have made their choices and upgraded as many abilities as they want to, phase two begins. All players will take four dice from the pool, and when all players are ready, begin rolling them, over and over, in real-time. There is no turn order here, and players can re-roll as many dice, as often as they want. Players are looking to match the symbols on their active abilities, so they can use them in phase three. All players begin with the same basic four abilities, but can upgrade them in phase one as discussed.
In order to ready an ability to use in phase three, such as the DASH action, you need to roll two SPRINTS symbols, now in phase two. If you do, you can move those two dice close to your board so show it has been activated, then take two more dice from the pool so you have four again, and then start trying to roll dice to match another ability.
Players can keep rolling like this until one of three things happen. Either players will roll all the dice needed for all four of their active abilities. Or the dice pool runs out, and you cannot draft back up to four again. Hence, players wanting to roll as quickly as possible so other players do not take all the dice first. Or, finally, players could roll too many blood symbols.
When you roll a blood symbol, that dice cannot be used again. So, you will be down to three dice. However, if you ever roll more than one blood symbol at once, you can place one of them onto your health tracker on your board and get all the other dice back. This will force you to loose one health at the end of this phase, but keeps your rolling options alive to meet the requirement for any abilities that need two or three dice.
When you match dice to an ability, you can then also take back any blood dice not placed onto your health tracker. So, this is how you can roll blood but then later try and achieve abilities that need four dice. This also shows how dice can be cycled through quickly and the group pool can run out. So, you better roll quick!
When the rolling round is over, players will then use any abilities they activated in phase two, or any abilities they were able to activate in phase one with the RECON ability, now in phase three on the Den Board. Players are looking to move through rooms, clearing out any Minions, completing the Objectives, collecting loot, and finally reaching and defeating the end-of-level boss.
Players will be doing this by moving, hitting, shooting, and other upgraded skills they acquire to get through the Den as efficiently as possible. There are multiple rooms and only four rounds to do this in. For your first few games, you will wonder how this is possible! But after learning the mechanics of this game, you will see how to become more organised and methodical with your actions. It comes together quickly.
After all players have used all available actions, then the final Resolution phase begins. Here players will remove any Recon abilities they circled, and collect any Loot from new rooms they visited this round. When you enter a new room you will mark off that room on the board, and if that room has a white star in it, you can mark that off now, and also one loot on your player board for each star marked on your den board. Or, you can choose to take a loot flashback action, the available options in the first flashback phase.
Any henchmen or boss still alive in the room you are in, or any gunman in an adjacent room will force you to loose one health at this point. If you fill your health track, you can clear all your wounds, but you will now be forced to use one less dice in the next rolling phase. Do this again and you will be dead. It is rare that this will happen, but there are only four rounds to get through. So, if it does, you won't have too long to wait.
After the forth round, all players will score for how far they were able to advance in their loot and training tracks. They will score for all health taken from the boss, with a further five bonus points available if you were able to fully defeat the boss. Each completed room objective will score you additional points as shown on the Den board. Finally, players will loose one point for every enemy still alive in any room they visited. Work out your score, and the highest points total wins.
Is it Fun?
Vengeance Roll & Fight is a beautifully crafted game. The phases and rounds move incredibly smoothly and you will fly through each game in no time at all. We found that after a few games, after we were used to the rules and mechanics, we were taking between 20 and 25 minutes for each game. This felt perfect for a game like this because it feels so akin to a a video game, both in looks but also gameplay. You want a game like this to be fast, frantic, and full of fun. Vengeance Roll & Fight certainly delivers on all of that.
The different Dens do not feel that diverse, but offer some variety game to game. Each of the four playable characters has a nice little twist to their weaknesses though. This is where the main replayability, other than you own desire to get better comes in. This game is less about positive variable player powers and more about asymmetric negatives. Each hero character has a unique trait that makes fighting with them harder. As much as I like gaining benefits in games, having a negative characteristic in this way works well. Everyone has flaws right? Why not in games! it is a clever way to make playing as each character a unique puzzle to work out.
Each phase gives it's own individual sense of excitement to the game. Phase one is all about strategy and forward planning. It's nice to forward plan through all four rounds of the game. Thinking about how you best want to score this game. Phase two is all about thinking fast, getting lucky, and rolling quickly! Can you fulfil all four of your actions before the dice pool runs out, or you roll too many blood symbols.
Phase three is all about careful planning of your route, whilst thinking about how you can maximise your points. There are a lot more rooms than you can initially get through, so you need to decide which rooms will score the most for you with your available actions.
Each phase plays very different. But feel very connected. As you move from your main board to your player board, it's a little bit like moving from the save screen and sorting your items and character set up to the main action screen in a video game. So, as much as the two boards are separated, they do not feel disconnected.
What does feel a little disconnected though is your own game with the other players around the table. The only time you interreact with the other players is during the rolling phase, where it may be that they take dice that were initially available to you away from your grasp. I suppose it wouldn't work being on the same Den as players would take enemies and items away from other players, but a larger Den board, with more items and bad guys to fight, in a co-op seems like a very cool idea. However, there is an option there...
Having now played this game, I am very intrigued to try the original Vengeance but also, very keen to see how the recent kickstarter for Fateforge Chronicles of Kaan plays. Fateforge utilises some similar game mechanics to Vengeance Roll and Fight in a story-driven, co-operative, scenario based RPG, where all players are playing together on the same board.
I would also like to get the second season, a stand-alone game, which adds more characters, items, bosses, dens, abilities and the opportunity to play this game in an eight!
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys roll-and-write games, was a fan of 90's and noughties side scrolling video fighting games, but enjoys the process of absorbing themselves into the game, without relying too much on other players and interaction with other people around the table to enjoy their game time.
I very much enjoy the process of playing this game. It is very satisfying to develop my skills, and improve my score. Which is something that I have seen happen to most people who have played this. A few people will get this right away. But most will improve their skills and understanding of the mechanics over time, and will see a steady progression in their points game after game.
Vengeance Roll & Fight is one of my favourite roll-and-write games. I love the theme, and the integration between the gameplay, mechanics, and setting is seamless. I very much enjoy developing my understanding of this game, and scoring well is wildly satisfying. Every game ends with me wanting to play again, and in fact, that's exactly what I am going to do now!