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Vindication Review

Vindication Review

Vindication Review

Welcome to our review of the fabulous game Vindication from Orange Nebula. This is another of the Kickstarters we backed during the pandemic. The version of this game we got is called the Archive edition. This includes the core game, the Guilds & Monuments expansion, the Chronicles expansion, the Treachery expansion, and the Myths and Wonders expansion, amongst others. We will focus our review on the core game and touch on the other expansions as appropriate.

Vindication is a 1-4 player game for ages 14 and up, and it will take you 90- 180 to play, depending on how many players you have. Are you ready to become the wretched and see if you are on the path to vindication? Let’s find out!

Game Overview

In Vindication, the aim is to obtain honor by defeating monsters, acquiring power, and combining attributes. If you have enough honor, you can become Vindicated, but the requirements to win each game differs as it uses an “End Game Trigger” set of cards from which the players choose two at the beginning. The game ends after the next round if either of the two cards’ conditions is met.

Each player has a power board that allows them to move power from and to either potential, influence, or conviction. Most of the time, players will spend power to enhance one of three base attributes – inspiration (yellow), knowledge (blue), or strength (red) by placing their power token in the appropriate location on the board. There are three other attributes on the board as well, Wisdom (green), Courage (orange), and Vision (purple). These are equally important and are gained by combining the corresponding color attributes, i.e., yellow and red make orange, so inspiration and strength make courage. Whereas inspiration and knowledge make wisdom, and finally, knowledge and strength make Vision.

The base attributes can be spent to gain an additional companion who grants honor and helps with ongoing abilities throughout the game. These can be paid primarily when a player visits an Inn.

The advanced attributes are used at the Ancient Tomb (Wisdom), where you gain an ongoing trait; Arcane Tower (Vision), where you earn a Relic; and the Gaping Maw (Courage), where you battle monsters to achieve additional honor.

Along with these ways to gain honor, each player starts with a secret quest that they can complete

Game Components

As mentioned, this was a Kickstarter, and our components may differ from your copy. Our game came with a neoprene play mat (which seems to be all the rage now!) along with a cardboard board. The playing space comprises 19 hexagonal spaces with triangles in between. The board itself is also hexagonal, and around the outside, there are six sections, one for each attribute denoted by color, and the border is a series of spaces where the players keep track of their accumulated honor throughout the game.

There are multiple decks of cards, one for each attribute, some secret quests, and end-game triggers. Each player in our Kickstarter edition had a personal gametrayz for their character. It held all the power tokens, tracking markers, and metal player tokens that came with the game.

A gametrayz tray held all the hexagonal location tiles, the proficiency and Mastery tiles, and the tokens to play the base game.

Our edition also had gametrayz to hold all the additional expansions we got. We even got some fantastic Monument Miniatures just waiting to be painted!

Game Setup

Initially, it’s a bit of a bear of a game to set up, but once you get the hang of it, repeated setups are much more accessible. Selecting 19 tiles to play could have been more explicit because some tiles had specific requirements or additional game pieces we needed to find and pull out. The mercenary camp is an excellent example of this. We couldn’t find the two mercenaries in the box. Eventually, we did locate them. Someone put them away correctly, but not with the base components.

Speaking of putting things away, the instruction manual we got with the archive edition has instructions on where all the components live in the gametrayz. This was a big hurdle because we had to figure out the pieces. There are so many of them.

The game setup was a breeze as we handed each player their gametrayz, laid out the attribute-specific cards, and compiled the 19 location tiles into the scumbag – yes, that’s the name. Every player then gets a Journey card that identifies what type of companion rescued them and where on the board they start.

Gameplay

Vindication is made up of rounds, and on a player’s turn, they can perform three actions in any order.

Activate

This allows you to gain the unique ability of one of your companions for the round. This usually means you gain attributes that you can place from your influence area of the player board onto the corresponding attribute section of the board.

Move

Each player can move up to their speed value (which starts at two and can go up to 5) by moving to an adjacent triangle. They must move a minimum of one space. They pass along the way for any empty spaces, have the player draw that many tiles from the scumbag, and place them face up.

Visit/Rest

Finally, any time a player is next, they can visit and perform the actions on the tile. Some activities allow you to spend attributes to gain a card, some will enable you to move a power token up from potential to influence, and others will allow you to recruit companions!

The aspect of this we enjoyed was moving around the board and performing activities during the Visit action. Each tile is different too. Some tiles allow you to augment (move a cube from potential to inspiration to corruption), while others will enable you to recruit additional companions, fight monsters or learn traits. Our only complaint was this felt light on the theme. Strategy was the only reason to do these things to reach your goal. That said, there is a Chronicles expansion that we have part of (The Kickstarter was shipped with an incomplete set of cards to play the expansion), and we will dive into it when we get the rest.

Power

One of the main activities you will do in the game is to move your power (represented by cubes) around the power board from potential to influence to conviction. Vindication, by its very name, aims for you to become vindicated, which requires you to move all your power from potential to at least influence and reach 25 on the honor track.

Various tiles and cards allow you to “augment power,” which means moving up one on the power board. The opposite is called “dilute power.”Most of the time, you will need more than power in the potential area. Power in influence is what you use to place in the six attributes on the board. Finally, power in conviction can be spent to control a tile on the board. Whenever any other player visits the tile you control, your honor increases.

Locations

Every game you play will have a different combination of tiles based on your group’s selection at the start. Most games include an Inn, an Ancient Tomb, Arcane Tower, Gaping Maw, and a Command Post.

  • The Inn – allows you to select a new companion and pay its cost
  • The Ancient Tomb – will enable you to take a trait card which gives you an ongoing skill to work to your advantage
  • Arcane Tower – will allow you to gain and recharge ancient relics, which provide special skills
  • Gaping Maw – yes, it looks like a giant mouth. This is where you go to battle a monster using one of your companions.
    • We found this a bit weird, but the instructions say that you always win; what happens instead is whether your companion dies or becomes fatigued. We are so used to games where the enemies each have hit points, and you have to fight through them.
  • Command Post – This is where you go to increase your speed which equates to the number of spaces you move on a turn.

Besides these, you add several other tiles to your draw bag up to 19, one tile for each space on the board.

In addition to the Chronicles expansion, our box was “all-in” on Kickstarter, which meant we got every other expansion. We have yet to play any of these expansions. We are excited about the Chronicles expansion, which creates a narrative around the game. The Myths & Wonders expansion involves Ronak, the dragon, and Tuuk-Tuuk – the golem. The other elegant expansion is the Guilds & Monuments expansion, with players joining guilds to fortify tile locations. These all look neat. We still need to get it jumped on.

Overall Impressions

Overall, we liked this Vindication. There is a wide variety of things to do in the game, which provides many ways to gain honor and ultimately win the game. By randomly placing specific tiles in the bag, so you never know which will appear in any given playthrough, it keeps the board fresh. We love the idea of putting power cubes on the six attributes to either gain mastery of the attribute or combine them into another attribute and make for a stronger character later. The variety makes this game quite strategic.

That said, this game is weird concerning how you fight enemies and how you gain honor. Fighting enemies ends in an automatic success, and the only decision is how damaged you come out of the fight after one roll of the dice. We prefer enemies to have ‘hit-point’ values that we must whittle away at to get them to zero. All the while, we have the ability to defend against their damage. Neither of those concepts plays into the core game version of Vindication. Gaining honor is better, but tracking your opponent’s progress throughout the game is hard. That can be a benefit, don’t get us wrong; we just found it hard to track our progress.

At the end of the day, we recommend this for a group of 3-4 people, as that is the perfect number for more balanced gameplay. A two-player game, while good, makes it too easy to determine who is in the lead throughout the game.

Unfortunately, we have yet to offer this game in our store. We don’t know when Orange Nebula plans to release the Vindication/Archive Expansion, but we’ll watch for it!