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ISS Vanguard is live (ISS Vanguard gameplay overview)

Update: ISS Vanguard has launched on Gamefound and the campaign will run for 20 days. You may back just the Core box or combine it with the Close Encounters (miniatures) expansion.

Our preview post below was published on November 27.


Awaken Realms is getting ready to launch their cooperative sci-fi exploration game ISS Vanguard possibly sometime in December. They recently released two videos in which the designer, Marcin Swierkot, explained the basic gameplay mechanisms, and this article is a summary of the information he relayed. All pictures are screenshots taken from the ON TABLE Board Games YouTube Channel.

The game comes with a binder (your ship), a map book (the planets) and a logbook (the story). Characters are asymmetric, and have their own decks of cards they can use to boost their actions. When your ship is ready to send a lander on a planet, you will open the map book to the relevant pages. Each planet has specific points of interest. Some points of interest are already illustrated on the map, others are shown on cards that you will place on the map yourself. There are different things you can discover when you explore it, and some of them are procedurally generated, meaning that you will discover something else the next time you play the game.

When you place your crew in a planet location, you will be able to perform specific actions. For example, to do the Explore action, you will need to roll a number of dice and, depending on the result, you may draw a card that shows what you find there, or read a paragraph in the logbook if you fail. Moving from one spot to another requires you to roll one or more dice (you choose how many you wish to spend from your pool). If you roll a success, you move. If you roll an X, you have to draw a Hazard card and pass a test -if you fail the test, you get injured. The dice your spent can be regained by having your character rest.

When you explore a planet, your goal is to gather certain 'leads': information on the minerals, organic life or technology you find there. These will give you science points or other bonuses. If your character gets injured, you receive an injury card and an injury die that you have to roll every time you do a test. If you get more than 3 injuries, the character becomes disabled: you lay down the mini, and another character has to go there and bring them back. If all your crew members are disabled, you have to follow the instructions of the logbook and call a rescue team to come and save them.

The ship itself -ISS Vanguard- is represented by a binder. Everything you discover will be kept in the binder, and it will serve as a way to keep track of the campaign. The ship has resource trackers that will show you e.g. how much energy you have. The ship has an Engineering, a Science, a Recon and a Security section, and, before landing on a planet, you will be choosing cards from a section that a crew member is responsible for. When you finish a planet mission, you will store your findings in the appropriate slots in the binder.

You can place your injured crew members in the Medbay section to heal them but if they are critically injured, they may die: you have to roll a die that determines if they survive or not. Dead character cards are stored in the Memorial Wall section. The Bridge section allows you to manage your resources and spend energy to scan a planet before you land on it. You may also Manufacture armor and modules, as well as extra ships. Crew members can be trained in the Barracks section. There is no separate rulebook in the game, as each section in the binder explains how it is used.

Whenever a planet spot instructs you to read a paragraph and you don't like flipping through the logbook, you can access the script via the accompanying app. The logbook will also be your save-sheet: each chapter in the campaign will give you a way to mark your progress and save it for next time.

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