In my ongoing discovery of new and fascinating roll and write games, I continue to be surprised. I love the portability and depth of Railroad Ink. The simplicity of Cartographers makes teaching it to new players an absolute breeze. The depth of Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Writeoutshines the original core game that inspired it. Even Twilight Imperiumhas a roll and write version, Twilight Inscription. While I eagerly await my copy of Twilight Inscription, I instead chose to pick up the Vengeance spin-off, Vengeance: Roll & Fight. What I thought would just be a placeholder game to placate me turned out to be a surprise hit.
In 2018, publisher Mighty Boards released Vengeance, a pulpy Tarantino style board game about fighting hoards of mafia members in grungy rooms. The roll and write version, Vengeance: Roll & Fight, is an expedited version of the original game that effectively captures the same themes.
Vengeance Roll & Fight is can be played with up to four people in four full rounds of five short phases. If you’re not explaining the game to new players, a full game can easily be completed in about thirty minutes.
Players begin by selecting their characters and a player board before randomly drawing from a deck of boss cards and a set of double-sided maps. Once all players have done that, the game can begin.
Each round begins with the Flashback phase, where one set of three dice are rolled and shared between the entire group. Depending on the results of the roll, players can gain experience, spend experience on new skills, purchase item uses, restore health, or increase their maximum health. On the rare occasion, players will roll a star, which allows them to loot any rooms they’ve already visited and cleared of enemies.
The second part of the round is the rolling phase. The number of players determines the total number of dice available for each round. There are twenty-five dice in a two player game, thirty-five with three players, and forty-six with four. When all players are ready they all begin rolling their four starting dice at the same time. Any time a player has a set of dice that matches the symbols on one of their skills, they should place them on their personal board. Immediately refilling their dice back up to four from the shared supply. The phase ends when all players choose to stop rolling or the dice pool is too small to continue. .
In the Resolution phase, players simultaneously spend the die they saved on their player boards to move through the map and fight the mafia crew on the board. Once everyone has spent all their saved dice, the round moves into the Attack Phase.
At this time, all enemies present in the same room, or adjacent for gunmen, will attack the player, dealing one damage for each attack they receive.
Finally, in the Refresh Phase, players return all of their placed dice back by the shared pool, preparing for the next round. Roll & Fight continues this way for three more rounds before scoring.
Players total up their final score at the conclusion of the fourth round. Each player earns points for the amount of Loot collected, their total Experience gained, the amount of damage inflicted to the boss, and an additional five points if the boss was defeated. Players also gain points for any bonus Objectives they may have completed.
But here’s where the game really loses me. While players are rapidly rolling dice to reach their target boss, they must also be considering their escape route. For any enemy left alive between the player’s last location on the board and the entrance, players deduct one point from their score. Until this point in the game neither the rulebook, game mechanic, or decision space suggest these additional requirements, or the severe penalty that players would encounter. In a game that rewards the speed of the players’ decisions, it feels highly out of place to penalize them for sub-optimal moves. Vengeance: Roll & Fight challenges players with an ample number of objectives in just a few short rounds and to add such a harsh penalty feels unbalanced. After three or four games, we decided to create house rules and omit the escape route scoring. There are some games, like Galaxy Trucker, where grossly over estimating your success can be funny and enjoyable, but in Roll & Fight, it just feels bad.
I think the health system is fantastic. Players all start with three health. This can be increased during the Flashback Phase by spending a heart die to increase the maximum health by one instead of restoring two health.
If at any point a player loses all of their health points, they are knocked out. However, they are not eliminated from the game. Instead, the total number of dice the player starts with in the Rolling Phase is reduced by one, making it increasingly difficult to place dice on the board to take actions. But I strongly prefer this to quick player elimination. Only after several knock outs are players completely eliminated from the game and that doesn’t even happen until they’ve been knocked down to a single die.
What I really enjoy about Vengeance: Roll & Fight is the real-time element of it. It adds a fair amount of randomness to the game where I’d otherwise prefer a more strategic depth. All the decision making takes place during the Flashback and Resolve phases, determined by the randomness of the dice outcome. But it does add a sense of urgency and tension as players race each other for dice. Whomever placed the most dice in a round will be able to take the most actions, likely putting them ahead of their opponents in final scoring.
As much as I enjoy the real-time element, it’s also my greatest complaint. Most roll and write allot players the time to consider their actions and how it will impact their final score. In Vengeance: Roll & Fight, players are practically penalized for analyzing. During the rolling phase, the fastest player, arguably the one most familiar with game, will have such a significant advantage.
Vengeance: Roll & Fight offers very little variety. From game to game, the only variation between games is in the boss, character, and map. While that may sound like a lot of variations, even with three changing elements, the game always feels the same.
Each boss and character and slight rule variations, but they are never impactful enough to create a new experience. In my opinion, it has such a low impact on the game-to-game experience that the designers would have been better off creating a randomly assembled market of skills rather than character specific ones. At least in this instance, players would be able to prolong the sense of ongoing game discovery as they uncover new combinations of skills.
While I have my frustrations with Vengeance: Roll & Fight, I have to admit that it is for certainly one of the better produced roll and write games I’ve encountered. Instead of a pad of paper sheets, Vengeance provides four sturdy double-sided dry erase boards for the maps, each with its own unique art. There are four additional boards of equal durability for the player board were stats, skills, and inventory are managed. The playable characters are represented by color-coded acrylic discs with the close-ups of the character faces. It’s clear that aesthetics were a priority in designing Roll & Fight and the effort is tangible. One could argue that it’s slightly over-produced for a roll and write, however fans of this game can be confident that it will stand the test of time.
Vengeance: Roll & Fight comes in two varieties, an Episode 1 and Episode 2 box. The differences between the two are limited to different characters, maps, and bosses. The core experience is identical so unless you’re interested in playing a large eight person game, there’s no additional value in owning both unless you’re a collector. If you’re at all interested in getting Vengeance: Roll & Fight for yourself, I can only recommend it for a quick game before another activity or as a filler. There’s a lot of flair in these boxes, but not nearly as much punch as I’d expect from something with a Tarantino theme.
I’m a fan of real-time board game design, but it has to be done carefully. Project: ELITEdoes this perfectly. I sold my set to make room on the shelves, but very quickly discovery that I missed its controlled chaos. I do not expect I’ll feel the same way about Vengeance: Roll & Fight. Initially, I enjoyed the real-time dice rolling, but quickly noticed how much of a disadvantage it became for players who were learning how to play. The end result is that new players almost always lose as they attempt to reconcile their new understanding of the ruleset with the ever-changing board state. It leads to a bad experience and I found it very difficult to convince players to give it another try.
Number of Times Played:
Reviewed Player Counts:
One, two, and four players.
Supported Player Count:
One to four players, up to eight with both game seasons.
Thirty to forty minutes after rules explanation.
Light Route planning
Very easy to teach, but not very welcoming to new players who need to simultaneously wrestle with an unfamiliar ruleset with no time to ponder decisions.
I really love the gritty comic book art style and the acrylic player pieces. As far as roll and writes go, this is the most durable I’ve seen.
Very low replay value. After just a few short games, I feel I’ve seen all that it has to offer.