Tag Archives: Floodgate Games

Glory Box – Vault Wars review

Vault Wars cover

I don’t watch that much TV – most of the time Netflix is babbling away in the background with some strange movie or other – but I do have something of a weakness for a little show called Storage Wars. The premise is simple: people bid on abandoned storage lockers in immense warehouses, having only had a cursory glance at the contents inside. Whatever they find inside is theirs to do with as they please, but most sell what they discover and many of the people on the show seem to make a reasonable living out of it, even is what turns up most of the time is crap.

The main thrust of the show, of course, is when something is found that is collectable or valuable – of if the buyer’s really lucky, both. A good score can set them up for ages, and in an industry where hundreds of dollars can be thrown away on a few crates of nothing on a seemingly regular basis, that’s very useful indeed. The show even spawned a not-very-good game of its own but Floodgate Games have taken the theme and amped it up somewhat. Vault Wars is currently on Kickstarter, and it’s one of the finest auction games I’ve played in a long time.

A thematic sequel to their also excellent Epic Resort, Vault Wars is all about what happens when fantasy heroes go off to battle monsters… but don’t come back. There’s a lot of stuff hidden away in their lockers and if there’s no-one to claim them, the island’s denizens throw them open for anyone to buy – as long as you’ve got the funds, you could pick yourself up some rather interesting items. There’s also the risk of buying a lot of junk, true, but you’ll have a bit of information before you put your money down.

Up to sixteen different vaults are available, and before play begins there’s a drafting round where players choose the ones that will be used in the game. You also start with a bit of money, of course, and a couple of ‘Aspiring Hero’ cards – you get a bonus at the end of the whole game, but only for one of them. Think of them looking to get hold of some useful gear so they can go on their own adventures, only at a bargain rate. If they manage to turn up a fistful of jewels in the meantime, even better!

At the start of a round, players choose one of the vaults from their hands. Each one of these will skew the way the auction for that round will work and some can even be claimed as items to add to your collection. In order from lowest to highest, players take turns being the Auction Master but before the fun starts we need to give out a little information about what’s in the current vault. The Auction Master pulls some cards from the Items deck, as decreed by the vault card, and gets to look at them all – they’re the one selling it, after all. You’ll then flip cards face up, the amount of which is also on the vault card, then pass the remaining ones around the other players. They get to randomly check out some of them so they have a little information about what they’re potentially going to buy… and then the battle begins.

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One of the 16 Vaults in the game – the red chest shows the contents, yellow how many get revealed, and blue is the Peek number. Rules for the auction are below!

The first bid is made by the Auction Master themselves, but after this they have no involvement in the round. Any rules on the vault card itself must be followed, but generally the normal bidding process is followed; you can either bid higher or choose to pass. Should everyone pass, the highest bidder hands their money over to the Auction Master; however, if they happen to win with their opening bid, the money goes to the bank. It’s pretty easy to run low on funds in Vault Wars, but thankfully at the end of a round you can sell some of the items you’ve picked up to get a bit more ready cash – but what kind of stuff can you find?

Mostly, you’ll pick Junk. Actual cards called Junk that will disappoint you greatly, these will fill up your pile of items that you claim from the vaults. I’ve managed to bid up some huge collections, take the cards, sure that I’m getting an handful of awesome… and get nothing but a stack of crap. Junk does have a use – you can use (a lot of) it to pay some rather hefty storage fees at the end of each round in lieu of gold, – but most of the time you’ll be looking for sets of armour that comes in Dwarven, Dragon and Elven flavours as well as different Gems. The more of a single Gem type you collect, the more points you will get at the end of a game. There are also Artifacts that bestow pretty useful abilities which will be fought over, especially in early rounds.

Of course, you may be broke but not want to get rid of your valuable items! Thankfully, payday loans are available on the island and a quick visit to the Loan Shark will get a bit more money in your pocket. The only trouble is that you must take a Corruption Token too, guaranteeing negative points when all is said and done. In a game where money can become quite scarce early on, choosing whether or not to bite the bullet and lose a fair chunk of points is a big decision – really, you should be looking to play carefully and conserve funds but all it takes is one person at your table to decide to play fast and loose with their cash… then the table can easily go full tilt (in a good way – after all, what’s an auction game without at least one round where things are bid far beyond their actual worth?).

I’ve found that many auction games are affected by the people you’re playing with, moreso than any other genre out there, but Vault Wars is certainly one of the best. Things are tempered by having each vault play out in a slightly different way, and having them come out randomly means that you really need to plan when they’re revealed at the start of a round. Players who want to blow through their money are discouraged from doing so with the joint risk of not only losing points but also potentially picking up a load of junk. It’s one of the most well balanced releases in the field of auction-based games, and certainly as enjoyable as my current favourite, For Sale.

However, where For Sale is a simple, straightforward affair, Vault Wars is a bit more complex and requires planning, forward thinking and no small amount of bluff. Designer Jon Gilmour – probably best known for his epic Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games – has scaled things back somewhat for this new game, but it’s no less entertaining and is tight as anything. The game also looks cool, using the same artists as its big brother Epic Resort, but even playing with the prototype version of the game has been a bloody wonderful experience. The end release can only be better, especially the deluxe version that comes with metal coins that are on the KS page.

Yes, it's a render, but it's a pretty render.

The Final Game (Yes, it’s a render, but it’s a pretty render.)

In short, Vault Wars is an absolute bloody pleasure. An hour of roaring at friends, accusing them of deception, while all the time you’ve been lying through your teeth as you scrabble for every coin and every point available to you. All this for a mere $20? It deserves a place in that bag that you always keep by the door, stocked with games for emergencies – everyone has one of those, yes? Just as long as when you get the game you don’t leave it in a vault on some paradise island. Throw your money down, now. You’ll have more fun with this than your First Season DVD of Storage Wars, that’s for certain.

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Happy Hour – Legacy: Gears of Time review

LegacyCOVER

The concept of causality can be hard enough to get your head around at the best of times; combine it with the notion of time travel and it may well make your eyes bleed. The idea of being able to travel back through the ages, tinkering about with things then returning to present day to see the reactions you have caused is a central tenet of many a science fiction author’s work, but attempts to transfer it into the medium of gaming have struggled somewhat. The best example to date is probably Chrononauts (and its recent remixed re-release, Back to the Future) but now there’s a new box on the block: Legacy – Gears of Time.

I think we can cut to the quick here. You may now chuck your copies of Chrononauts in the bin because Legacy wipes the floor with it. Rather than interminable games where players can get caught in nigh-on endless loops of flipping over cards, this new contender gives players four rounds to do as much as they can – after that, the game is done and if there’s some bases you’ve forgotten to cover…? Well, tough. This is a game of crossed t’s and dotted i’s, where you’ll need to make sure you’ve considered all the details if you’re going to have a chance of winning.

As Antiquitects (great name, that) you travel back through an ever extending timeline, placing technology cards in the timeframes you find yourself in. Many of these are fundamentals, stuff like Fire and The Wheel, the kinds of things you’d expect our ancestors from millennia ago to have developed. Of course, just like In Real Life, these basic technologies will lead to more complex developments that you’ll need to play later on in the timeline but – as you’d expect in a game where futzing about with time is a major part of play – nothing is that simple.

Each time a card is added to the timeline (and space is limited, though it does increase each time a round ends), you discard the cost in cards from your hand then place that same number of cubes on top of it from your Supply. This development is YOURS and no-one can take it from you! Actually, that’s a filthy lie – when it’s been added to the board everything is up for grabs as all players can add cubes of their own colour from their Influence Pool to cards you have placed, and whoever has the most there at the end of a round is considered to be in control of that technology.

The first round at least affords you a little protection as no-one has anything in their Pool to begin with; it’s only at the end of each round that some cubes are removed from cards to give you the power to influence other player’s creations or bolster your own. But why would you want to do so? Well, each card has a certain points value, and points mean winning. If you’re in control of a technology at the end of a round you score the points for it but there’s a twist (of course)!

You see, remember where I said that fundamentals can lead to further developments? Getting your head around this is vital, as you’ll score every time you’ve contributed to something further down the timeline. Manage to have the most influence on a decent variety of these basic technologies and you could well be scoring multiple times for each of them. However, you’ll need to make sure you’re in control of the (much) higher scoring later technologies if you’re going to come out on top.

You’ll get points at the end of each round, assuming that the cards you control are actually allowed to remain on the table. If they don’t have the necessary prior cards they could well end up being removed, meaning that precious actions have been wasted in a game where each decision needs to be considered and measured.

Click to embiggenify, revealing the tech tree needed for The Internet!

Click to embiggenify, revealing the tech tree needed for The Internet!

As an example, the card representing The Internet is one of the high scoring technologies. In order for you to be able to score the ten points it will give you, many other cards need to be in place before it in the timeline, a bit like this:

–          Analytical Engine and Radio cards have to be in play. These will also give the players who control them bonus points.

–          For Analytical Engine to work, Electricity, Logic and the Printing Press need to be on the board too. Printing Press can’t exist without Writing, by the way.

–          Radio requires the Electricity card too, but just one on the table is enough,

Sound confusing? Well, it is a little – but it does all end up making sense pretty quickly. Everything in Legacy is quite obvious; after all, why would the Printing Press exist if no-one had developed writing skills before? Technologies only need to be on the board once so duplicates are removed at the end of each round, as are any that have no influence cubes on them at all. Again, why would they exist if there was no-one there to invent them? It’s a clever but straightforward system that works really well, giving you and your fellow Antiquitects a real feeling of tinkering with history.

There are other elements; a handful of Fate Cards allow for some further manipulation of the rules while characters handed out at the start of play grant the chance for some bonus point action. However, the main meat of the game is in the time travel, laying out the technologies, gazumping those developed by your opponents and grabbing as many points as possible – especially from supporting later cards. I think that the rulebook could’ve done with a little bit of further tweaking to clarify some points (the difference between the Influence Pool and Supply, for example, as well as a little bit more detail on the Fate Cards) but these are small issues that have been dealt with on Legacy’s boardgamegeek page.

For a first time at publishing, Floodgate Games have done a great job on Legacy: Gears of Time. There are always bumps in the road with the production of any game but designer Ben Harkins has done his very best to smooth the vast majority of them out – anything remaining will be dealt with in an eventual second printing, I’d hope, but in all honesty this is a fantastic package that offers a challenging experience every time you play. Best of all, you could end up with a society that is capable of Space Flight but has no concept of Sanitation – what more could you ask for?

Legacy: Gears of Time was first released by Floodgate Games in 2012. Designed by Ben Harkins, between two and four people can play (though I’ve found that more is better) and games normally take around an hour. Copies are available in the UK exclusively from Gameslore (complete with limited edition card sleeves!) for £39.99. Grab one before time runs out!

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Episode 51 – Future Time

And we’re back! This time around we’re dabbling in a little fun with Time, looking both to the future and the past…

First up, journalist Will Freeman joins me to discuss the state of board gaming from a wider perspective. Will is responsible for games coverage in The Observer, one of the UK’s leading broadsheet newspapers, and has begun writing reviews of the kind of games we know and love. Will this help bring gaming to the masses? What will happen in 2013? And could there be a negative effect brought on by opening up the hobby to a much wider audience?

I then have the pleasure of speaking to Ben Harkins, designer of Legacy: Gears of Time and owner of Floodgate Games. The concept of Time Travel is tricky enough to get your head around, but making it work in a streamlined fashion on your tabletop can prove nearly impossible. How does Ben manage to make it work without destroying the universe and still keep it an entertaining experience?

Oh look: links!

Direct Download of Episode 51 – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/nna98w/LMD_Episode51.mp3

Will Freeman’s original Observer article – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/dec/09/board-games-comeback-freeman

Will’s Twitter feed – https://twitter.com/spadgy_OTA

Floodgate Games’ site – http://floodgategames.com/

Floodgate Games on Twitter – https://twitter.com/FloodgateGames

Legacy: Gears of Time on BGG – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/119781/legacy-gears-of-time

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