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Vengeance: the board game



Vengeance is a revenge movie turned board game. You play a hero that has been beaten and bruised by gangs, out to exact revenge. You win by developing your hero, tracking down those who wronged you and bursting into their dens to lay your furious vengeance in action-packed fight sequences. Use your abilities to manipulate your dice into kick-arse combos to wipe out your nemesis, and possibly, their whole crew. Vengeance is a competitive game for 1 to 4 players.

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Vengeance: Director's Cut


The Vengeful Seed

The initial idea for making Vengeance hit me like a raging bull at a bowling alley. I was going down the 300-year-old spiral staircase in my house when a thought came to me: revenge narratives have been with us through time, yet there’s no revenge themed board game. I did a bit of research and sure enough there didn’t seem to be a board game that had revenge at its thematic and mechanical core. My brain raced and I quickly settled upon two core aspects of the game: it would follow the visual style, feel and structure of revenge movies I loved so much and it will feature the players being wronged by gang types that will reduce their capabilities the more they bashed them while increasing the satisfaction (victory points) they attain from exacting revenge on them, and this choice needed to be done by the player themselves.

The Vengeful Look

Right from the outset I had a specific idea of what the game should look like. The bosses that wrong you need to feel real – they need to feel like hateful bastards players will yearn to beat to pulp. But I did not want a hyper-realistic art style that might make the game look cheesy. I was after a gritty, graphic novel art-style that echoes the look of my favourite revenge movies, namely Chan Wook Park’s revenge trilogy. This started a three month hunt for an artist. I trawled Art Station, Deviant Art and got in ouch with illustrator agencies. I locked down three artists at the end of that process and asked for them to do trials on two characters each. One of the three candidates was Axel Torvenius. When I opened Torvenius’ illustration of Daed I was floored. It was exactly the image I had in mind for him. That sealed it for me: Torvenius would be the perfect artist for Vengeance. It will be a darker and grittier art style than the board game world is used to, but it was the perfect fit in my eyes.

Vengeful First Step

The first iteration of Vengeance was structured in three separate phases: the Wronging, the Montage and the Fight. There would be one of each of these. The first round of internal testing sent this idea straight to the bin. The most exciting part of the game, the Fight, was happening only once. This made no sense. The next iteration had one Wronging and the rest of the game consisted of players deciding whether to go out and assault gang dens or stay holed up in their apartment and heal, train and recon baddies (Montage). This was the structure for many months of testing, until we hit a major problem: game length was dependent on how cautious players were. If we got a group of hyper cautious players that would want to heal all their damage cubes before heading out for a Fight, the game lasted anywhere between 3 to 4 hours. That was too much and no amount of tweaking would fix this problem. Aside from this players who were out fighting were having a blast while the players who opted for montage on a given turn got bored watching the rest fight.

Fight Heaven

The Fight came together rather seamlessly from day one. I wanted a system that was more dice based puzzle than dungeon crawl simulation, while still conjuring images of exciting action-packed cinematic fights in the minds of the players. The current system where each die-face represents a simple action that can be translated into another action through the use of upgrade abilities was there from the very first iteration. As time passed I refined the system and added more possibilities for players to chain several upgrade ability combos together for a narrow, deep strategy or focus on a wider luck-mitigation strategy that gave them more flexibility. The core idea then would be to have a simple fight system with no book-keeping or addition necessary, that is, where one hit kills off an enemy, a shot result kills an enemy in an adjacent room but not the one the hero is in, and so on. Enemies would be activated by some of the results on the same dice, but the player is allowed to arrange the results as they like with the enemy activation coming at the end of the sequences. The player would be given three rolls to complete and a three minute timer for those that want to implement it. The latter goes a long way to create the action-movie feel and keep the action going rather than getting bogged down in maximising the best possible outcome over multiple fast-forward, rewind sequences.

Montage Hell

The Montage did not come so easy as the Fight. As I mentioned initially players were allowed to choose whether they would do a Fight or Montage turn. Throughout this part of development and for a good few iterations after the Montage consisted of players rolling a number of Montage dice (similar to what there is now) into a common pool and drafting these one by one. While this worked it created situations were there was just too few of a needed action (heal, upgrade, recon) which left some players unable to go out and fight, making the game longer. When we switched to the current system with set round types in three acts, the Monage dice draft became unusable. We could not have a round where no heals came up in the dice as it would make it impossible for some heroes to go out and fight again. We thus decided (and I say we because this decision came from myself and David Chircop, who had by now joined the project as a developer) to scrap the current system and re-do it from scratch. David came up with the card-based system that is currently in the game and I added a modified version of the dice draft to make the Montage less predictable. This all came together after a solid six months of iteration. The Montage was, by far, the toughest part of the game to develop simply because the Fight was so exciting that everything that detracted time from I was just seen negatively by testers – and they were right. If it wasn’t for the revenge theme that I needed to communicate through the Wronging/Montage/Fight combo I would have simply scrapped everything apart from the Fight and built the rest of the systems to supplement the Fight as lightly as possible.

But it doesn’t work that way when you want to cultivate a particular theme and reflect that theme through the mechanics in a fluid manner. The integration of theme and mechanics (as well as aesthetics) is done well when you develop each in small increments, tightening one element a bit and then another a bit more – then going back to the former and so on. And I believe that the strongest aspect of Vengeance is exactly that: it manages to capture the core emotions and feel of revenge movies convincingly and without too much rule-plodding. It also communicates that sense of satisfaction you feel when you see the downtrodden fight back and triumph, only it does in a more powerful way than literature or movies manage, simply because YOU are the one getting your revenge. You are the one that rights the wrongs done to you and those you love. You are the bloody hand of Vengeance, striking down with furious anger those that dare to take advantage of the weak and unprotected. But bide your time, Vengeful one. As the saying goes: The axe forgets… but the tree remembers.


Vengeance raised $182,000 on Kickstarter and was translated into French, German and Spanish and co-published by Asmodee in Europe, Greenbrier Games in the US and CMON in Asia and Australasia. 9000 copies of the game were printed and disseminated over Kickstarter and distribution.

Vengeance received solid praise from players and reviewers alike, particularly for its thematic and artistic originality, and the ability of its mechanics to evoke a sense of being in the revenge movie it depicts.

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