Hope dangles on a string like slow-spinning redemption, winding in and winding out. The shine of it has caught my eye and roped me in. So mesmerizing, so hypnotizing. This is…
Vindication is a game that came out last year from designer Marc Neidlinger and published by Orange Nebula. In this 2-5 player game, you’ve been thrown off a ship for crimes unspecified and have washed ashore on a remote island. Now your resolve is strengthened as you strive to regain your honor.
Usually at this point, I give a semi-detailed breakdown of the components and set up, but I wonder how many people actually read that. That wall of text really gives no context of things, and for me, I think I’d rather just see it. So, here’s the image of setup from the rulebook:
Each player does begin the game with a random journey card, which lets you know your starting position, as well as the deck from which you will draw an initial companion. Each player also begins with a secret quest. After set up, players will draw two region tiles and place them adjacent to their starting position.
On your turn, you have three actions you can do, one time each and in any order: Activate, Move, and Visit a Region OR Rest.
ACTIVATE: Choose your character or a companion to activate (activating a companion takes one Influence, taken from your power board). The activated character or companion will provide attributes to you, and possibly a special ability.
MOVE: You must always move at least one space per turn, and up to the number of spaces as your speed (which starts the game at 2). You always move on the triangles between hexes, and cannot stop on a space occupied by another player. For each open space you pass during movement, draw a tile and put it into the open hex.
VISIT A REGION/REST: You can choose one of these actions. Resting is simply augmenting one power. Your power board will start with 8 cubes in the Potential space, 8 cubes in Influence, and 2 cubes in Conviction. To augment, you’ll bump a cube up to the next level – Potential to Influence, or Influence to Conviction. Influence is the primary way to do stuff in a game, but Conviction can be used for some powerful actions later. Potential is basically worthless until it is moved up to Influence.
Visiting a region means that you will take the action on an adjacent region tile. Some of the regions give you cards, which you draw from the appropriate stack. You can also choose to make an empowered draw – move one Conviction to the Influence sphere and draw four cards, choosing which one to keep. Cards will gain or lose you honor immediately, as well as give you an ability. They’ll also help you gain Mastery, which will help your Honor score at the end of the game.
There are some bonus actions you can do at any time during your turn:
CONVERT HEROIC ATTRIBUTES: When you gain an attribute, you move a cube from your Influence to one of the spheres around the board – Inspiration (yellow), Wisdom (green), Knowledge (blue), Vision (purple), Strength (red), and Courage (orange). Inspiration, Knowledge, and Strength are Common attributes, while Wisdom, Vision, and Courage are Heroic attributes. To help remember that, the primary colors are Common, the secondary colors are Heroic. Influence in these spheres can be used to take actions, then are moved back to your Influence pool.
To convert Common attributes to Heroic, you simply have to mix the colors. Inspiration and Knowledge can be combined to form Wisdom (yellow+blue=green), Knowledge and Strength combine to form Vision (blue+red=purple), and Strength goes with Inspiration to make Courage (red+yellow=orange). You must have one cube in each Common color to make the Heroic attribute. One cube goes in the Heroic sphere, while the other returns to your Influence pool.
ACQUIRE A PROFICIENCY: Attributes can also be used to acquire a Proficiency. Turn in three of the same attribute to gain the associate Proficiency tile if it’s available. This counts as two cards of that color, increasing your Mastery value.
GAIN CONTROL OVER A REGION: If you are visiting a region, and it is uncontrolled, you can take one Conviction and place it in that region. This gains you 2 Honor, and you will get 2 Honor whenever another player also visits that region. If you want to wrest control of a region from another player, you need to spend 2 Conviction – one to replace the cube in the region, and another to go back into Influence.
RECOVER INFLUENCE: Take a block back from anywhere in the game (except your Potential) and move it back to your Influence pool. If you take Influence off a companion, you get back all Influence and the companion is removed from the game.
VINDICATE: When you begin the game, you are Wretched, and your character card reflects that. If you have removed all Potential from that sphere and have attained 25 Honor, you may flip your character card over – you are now Vindicated. This increases attribute gains and gives you a one-time Honor bonus.
At the beginning of the game, two end game trigger cards are revealed. These tell you when the game will be over. There are also four spots on the scoring track that will reveal new triggers. When the conditions of one of these triggers is met, the current round is completed and one more round is played. Then players score: Honor for Mastery tiles, Honor for end-game bonuses, Honor for secret quests, and Honor for controlling regions. The player with the highest Honor is declared the winner.
This game was entirely off my radar until Tom Vasel started raving about it on The Dice Tower. Looking into it deeper, I found a lot of pretty positive buzz, and here we are now. And I have to say, I think this does indeed look like a pretty cool game. It looks and sounds like maybe it should be a high conflict game, but it looks more Euroish than that. You’re collecting resources, spreading influence, and generally staying out of other player’s way (unless you’re fighting over control of a region). The art looks great, and the game seems pretty fresh. The idea of variable end-game triggers intrigues me, and I think this is something I would enjoy playing.
This overview, by the way, has nothing to do with the current Kickstarter campaign running for another printing and expansion for the system. I mean, it’s a nice coincidence that I was planning on doing this write up at this time, but I have no stake in the game and no proof that Orange Nebula even knows I exist. I just wanted to explore the game a bit and try to help others decide if it’s something they want to check out.
That’ll do it for today. Thanks for reading!