I'd like to start this review with a disclaimer. I'm a huge fan of revenge movies. Park Chan-wook is one of my favorite directors. Kill Bill, John Wick—anything related to the Punisher—all rate highly for me and have a place in my cold cold heart. So I immediately judged Vengeance by its cover and I was a fan. The artwork throughout is incredible and really emphasizes the theme and the box art leaves you in no doubt as to what this game is about. That's not to say that people who aren't fans of revenge movies won't enjoy the game, far from it, but if you're like me, then pick up your weapon of choice and buckle in, because this is about to get real.
The Vengeance board-game started life as a Kickstarter in September 2016 and was funded in just over two days. Pledgers received their copies in the last few months of 2017 and on the 17 January 2018, it smashed into a full commercial release. Vengeance is published by Mighty Boards and designed by Gordon Calleja, whose previous title was the well designed Posthuman. The models, which are great, are made by Titan Forge Games and the character artwork by Axel Torvenius, whose work you might recognize from The Darkness and Wolfenstein: New Order video games which he was also lead artist on.
To start, players select one of the five available heroes, each with their own distinct characteristics and ability, and begin the set up round, known as 'The Wronging'. Players in this round draft cards from the vengeance deck, by drawing a hand, taking one card from it and then handing their remaining cards to the player to their left, selecting another card and repeating until there are no cards left. Vengeance cards detail one of the many enemies in the game, along with a type of beating which deals one of three types of damage to a player, and simultaneously gives the player a target they need to aim for to get victory points. Players select three of the cards from their drafted hand to create the wronging and immediately take that damage to their character.
Once the play area is set up with the gang dens, a set of detailed boards that show the different areas players will try to take out gang members in, and the huge assortment of cards, counters and dice, the game fires in to the game phases. There are three acts, each of two types of phases, montage and combat. During the montage phase players draw cards and draft dice that can be used to heal damage, buy equipment, or scout areas. During the combat phase players enter the gang den boards and attempt to take out as many gang members as possible, or gun straight for the gang boss, taking damage from any remaining enemies when their turn ends. Combat is dealt with by rolling a selection of special dice that detail ranged attacks, close combat, movement, or gang member attacks. Combo's using purchased abilities or the characters special abilities can be used here, with different combinations of dice.
Victory points are earned throughout the combat rounds, and the winner is the player at the end with the most. The core set allows up to four players to play head to head against the four gangs included and it is almost a solo game, even with other players. You can steal other player's victory points by tactically building your speed in the montage rounds, so you can jump on their vengeance targets, but there isn't much player to player interaction, outside of the drafts. The game is about one player's vengeance against the gang that wronged them, and it can feel slightly offset from the other players at points depending on your group. If everyone really gets into the game, which the game calls out for, then you'll love your opponents stories as much as your own and that's what I love so much about Vengeance. If you've read any of my other reviews, you'll know how much I love theme in cards games, and Vengeance rocks so much theme that you'll have to lock away your household appliances for a while after playing, just in case someone wrongs you.
The product itself is well designed, the cards, models, boards and counters are of a solid quality (although some of the slimmer swords can get bent easily, and Mighty Boards offer a very solid parts replacement service just in case), but there are a lot of pieces and the investment required before your first game is substantial. It's not a game that can be played without reading the rules and understanding the components. One player will have to sit down with the rules and components and go through them thoroughly before the first play through. It's not a slog, but the investment should be noted. The game also takes up a considerable amount of space during play, especially if you have four players, so be aware if you don't have a large gaming space.
Vengeance is listed as taking 30 mins per player, and it's pretty accurate after your first game.
My only real criticism of the game, is that the montage cards only have symbols, and not the thematic details the rest of the game has. The vengeance cards give details of the wounds your characters take, along with the type of damage, but the montage cards don't. When you see how much space the game takes up, you'll understand why the game doesn't need bigger cards, but if felt like the only part of the game that didn't jump out at me as packed with details.
The game can be played solo and the rules for this are provided in the core set along with details of each character's solo vengeance story. Solo play is still rewarding, but obviously not as much as taking a huge amount of damage, just to screw up an opponents chance at taking out the boss that wronged them. Although I mentioned above that the game can feel at times like a solo game, when playing solo, you really do miss the other players and their interactions.
The game as a lot of re-playability, and Mighty Boards have plans for expansions. The Rosari Clan Gang Pack expansion was released the same day and takes the available players up to five. See below for a mini-review for the Rosari Clan Gang Pack.
The Bottom Line:
Mighty Boards have a real winner with Vengeance. Sure, it takes up a lot of space, requires a solid read through and understanding of the components and if you simply play it without feeling it, it could be a grind of dice and numbers, but if you love this theme, or can get behind it, or simply love a detailed, enjoyable board game, then give Vengeance a try. The starting price isn't cheap, but you're getting a big product and Mighty Boards have some plans for expansions that will see this grow.
Get this game if:
You love any type of revenge story.
You get involved and hyped by thematic settings.
You want a punchy, gritty, detailed board game.
You enjoy a quality game with solid products.
Avoid this game if:
You don't want a game with lots of components.
You don't have space for the game set up.
You don't want a head-to-head style board-game.
Rosari Clan Gang Pack Expansion Review
This copy of Vengeance and the Rosari Clan Expansion used for this review were provided by Asmodee UK (previously Esdevium Games).
Did you fund Vengeance through Kickstarter? Have you played it? What do you think of it? If you haven't played it, are you interested? Let us know in the comments below, or via our Social Media channels.
A solid release from Mighty Games, might not be to everyone's taste, but if you can get behind the theme or the detail of the product, then you'll have a punchy fun filled ride. Requires some space to play, has a meaty price tag and takes some setting up/reading up for your first game, but you'll be rewarded with an enjoyable, extremely thematic experience.