A vanguard is described as “The foremost part of an advancing army or naval force.” in the Oxford Dictionary. This is exactly what Mantic Games have tried to create in their skirmish game Kings of War: Vanguard.
You may remember this from a very successful kickstarter earlier this year. Fortunately, we’ve managed to find time to dig into this system that clearly had a high level of demand. When I first got my hands on the rule book the first thing I noticed was the sublime artwork, followed very closely by the game’s tag line. “Your Warband, Your Story” and this really piqued my interest.
The tag reminded me of the skirmish games of the late ’00s that included a narrative element. The type of game that had you start with a small force and as you played your force grew in power and number. At the same time, their story evolved based in semi-random post-game elements. This line gives the game big boots to fill.
So, enough about the front cover and games of yesteryear, let’s look at Vanguard.
The rules make up the first section of the book and they read very easily. One thing that I think is essential to know about Vanguard is that it doesn’t use the standard d6 and instead, Mantic has opted to use d8s as the main die for this game. Looking at other games from Mantic such as Deadzone and Dreadball this is hardly a surprise. However, it is a welcome change in the current, highly populated, skirmish game market.
Each game of Vanguard is made up of a number of rounds where the players take it in turns to activate their troops. Play continues until the scenario’s victory requirements are met. When activating a miniature you can either use two short actions or one long action.
Actions? What actions?!
Movement is pretty straightforward, you can choose to take the Walk (short) or Run (long) action. Walk allows you to move your miniature up to their speed value while running allows you to move it up to double. However, we also get some more advanced concepts such as jumping and falling which are very well thought out.
Shoot (short) and Melee (short) follow a fairly standard format; roll to hit, roll to save. Additionally, in Vanguard we also get what is probably my favourite mechanic in any game – exploding 8’s! As long as you keep rolling 8’s you keep scoring successes and rolling the die. Both to hit rolls and armour saves are affected by this rule to even things out.
Each game round also allows both players to roll a number of Power Dice based on the troops they have selected. These power dice can then be used to ‘pay’ to activate special abilities.
You can actually get the rules for free here and I highly recommend giving them a read. The linked PDF covers the core rules and includes two scenarios. Mantic have done a great job of creating a tactically rewarding game that is simple to understand.
Well, what forces can I use?
I’m very glad you asked, the other side of this imaginary conversation. The core rules contain rules for fielding Basileans, Dwarfs, Elves, Northern Alliance, Forces of Nature, Ogres, The Trident Realms, Abyssal Dwarfs, Forces of the Abyss, Empire of Dust, Goblins, Night Stalkers, Orcs, and Undead.
Again, like with the core rules, Mantic offers a Free Starter Warbands PDF (available here) that also adds in Twilight Kin, League of Rhoria, Brotherhood, Kingdoms of Men, Varangur, Salamanders, The Herd, and Ratkin.
Each army list contains leaders, warriors, grunts and support troops. Both the core book and the free PDF also contain the rules for building a Warband. Very simply, all you require is a leader of some sort and then you can add in a support troop for every 3 or 4 grunt/warriors in your Warband. This system will not be unfamiliar to anyone who has played King of War.
Mantic are constantly releasing new items for Vanguard and other games. Check back regularly for news and updates as well as factions breakdowns, battle reports and painting guides for all thing Vanguard! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, too!