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  • Writer's pictureJW

Was ISS ist

Zwei Dinge sind unendlich Die Dummheit und das All

Well, in my infinite stupidity I bought a copy of ISS Vanguard. I hate narrative games. I hate reading storybooks. I hate apps. I hate games that are bigger than my table. I feel like I'm far in outer space, way out of my comfort zone.


Now I didn’t back this back when it was being crowdfunded, so my craziness has recently progressed. The thing is, I kept thinking about it. I love SF and space opera. My favourite computer game is Mass Effect, and I hope to find a board game equivalent one day. Even if it doesn’t have alien sideboobs. A board game in space, in which you slowly unravel a mystery, with lots of discoveries to be made and choices that have consequences later on in the story. I think ISS Vanguard may give me some of these things. Also: a large part of gameplay is about resolving dice rolls. Sounds perfect to me.

Mass Effect books
How deep my love goes

Hell is a tutorial

When ISS Vanguard became available in shops I decided to take a gamble. And because I knew there would be some obstacles to overcome, I put it on the table immediately. Unboxing was smooth: I don’t have extra boxes with minis, there are not many tokens to punch, all cards are already sorted and only needed to be put in the right trays - great. Time to read the rules.


Well…


There were no rules to read. What we had instead, was a tutorial. The first few phases of gameplay completely written out (with the outcome of dice rolls and all) – learn while you play along. But my mind doesn’t work that way! I don’t mind going through a learn-to-play book, it’s just that I want to read a good rulebook first, it gives me a better idea of the game's about. About what’s coming. But nope. So I began “playing” the tutorial. Imitating everything they’d written out, with my own components.


Next problem. The tutorial also introduced you to the storybook. So you’d reenact a paragraph in the “rulebook”, then you’d look up a paragraph in the “logbook”, which would refer you back to the page in the tutorial and so on. It was infuriating. Because, for those of you who have been kindly sheltered from storybooks: all paragraphs in the logbook are numbered and printed in a completely random order. After 1,5 hours I was close to crying. But wait, there’s an app.


Several people had recommended the companion app to me, because of the great voice acting and atmosphere and because it takes care of some of the bookkeeping for you. Well, I was struggling anyway, so why not. I listened to the app for the most part of the tutorial that I’d played so far. After a while I had to turn the music off as it was driving me crazy. Not that it’s bad music, it’s just that I always play my games in silence. Then I got frustrated that I had to type in all paragraph numbers for the logbook in the app by hand. Also, I kind of need to see my progression in front of me. I rather have notes of decisions I made and I really want these in physical form. Not invisibly registered in an app. Back to the paper tutorial. Oh well. I will make the crew voices in my head - a few more won't make a difference. And I can do pretty good sound effects.


I must be a train

I spent hours on rails. There are two distinct phases in gameplay, and the tutorial is split in two as well. Except that the second part of the tutorial basically has you playing the two game phases, so it would be more precise to say it has three parts. I took a break after every part as they each took 1,5 frustrating hours and I would be exhausted at the end. Here’s a picture taken at a point where I am close to the end of part two. Just ten more minutes to go, taking decks out of a tray and putting them down and figuring out how to make the most of my table space. And yeah, I had already piled up stuff instead of spreading it out.


First contact

The dice rolling mechanism is good – except perhaps a bit punishing, but I’ll know better once I’ve played more. The timers for your missions are good to keep the pressure on and ship management is fine as well. I think most of the time in this game you won’t be able to do everything you’d like to do and that’s a positive thing for me. There are like 500 crew members included so I am afraid I won’t grow too attached to any of them, though I did buy the Personnel Files expansion which may give them a bit of character.


I had an extremely rough start with this game. Way worse than I ever imagined. But, it can only get better now, right? Let’s keep an open mind. Anything is still possible.


Was ist ist Was nicht ist ist möglich Was ist ist Was nicht ist ist möglich

Sing!

Einstürzende Neubauten - Was Ist Ist (live)

Nur was nicht ist ist möglich

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10 Kommentare


Gloomknight
Gloomknight
25. Aug. 2023

I just discovered this post a little late. The game itself mildly interested me so I passed. Moving along…. So you like Mass Effect, JW? I purchased the Legendary edition last year and made it partway through the original game with the goal of eventually completing all three. The first game captured my attention years ago but I didn’t complete it then either. I always found it enjoyable but for some reason could never get past the exploration segment of the game. I enjoy freedom but in this game the opening hours were so tight-on-the-rails with deep storytelling that by the time they just dropped me in the normandy with complete freedom I was a little off. I suppose its…

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Derek
Derek
11. Juni 2023

Oh my! @JW I'm anxious to hear further thoughts on this one as you move further into the game. At the hefty price tag, you're making me wonder if it should drop further down my wishlist.

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JW
JW
11. Juni 2023
Antwort an

Sure. It had to make room for other games last week, but I'll return to it soon.

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SnowDragonka
SnowDragonka
01. Juni 2023

So much to say about this, but I'll try to keep it short. I was following ISS Vanguard ever since first snippets more than a year before the campaign. The things they showed were comics in the line with Mass Effect, I was so into it, love Mass Effect. But when the campaign came I lost all interest, cause similar to you, I hate spoon fed narrative, apps, storybooks, large footprints and a bonus one that's just me, dice rolling (dice hate me and I them). That was the end for me.


But with the tutorial you reminded me of a complaint I have. I'm excited we have tutorials for people that want them to help learning, but my brain…


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This game has me frustrated and it has nothing to do with gameplay or rulebooks. After one wave shipping on two other Awaken Realms games, Nemesis and Tainted Grail, where I had to wait two years after everyone else to get my games, I decided I'd be smart this time and just order the Core Game. No expansions, no add ons.


What I didn't realize was Stretch Goals were counted as Wave 2 material and hadn't even been finished. So now, once again, everyone will have been playing their copy a couple years before I get mine and every time I walk into my local FLGS, I have to see it sitting there on the shelf mocking me.


The timing…

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JW
JW
01. Juni 2023
Antwort an

That sucks. I have no idea what the stretch goals were, I hope they're worth the wait. Still, it always feels a bit unfair when you get to play a game that you backed only after everybody else.

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Zerbique
Zerbique
31. Mai 2023

An interesting First Contact!


Let's see how it unfolds further on. I'm really curious to hear more about your impressions.

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Zerbique
Zerbique
31. Mai 2023
Antwort an

Yes, I would enjoy very much a spoiler-full post on it!

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