Introduction to Fantasy Skirmish: [KoW] Vanguard

The following introduction have been copied from Mantic’s Blog.

What is Kings of War: Vanguard?

With the new Vanguard two-player starter set now in stores and available to order from the Mantic website, we thought this was a great opportunity to revisit the game and explain exactly why it’s such a great narrative and competitive experience.

Over the next week we are going to be delving deep into the world of Vanguard. We’ll be covering how to build your warband, power dice, special abilities, the different factions, campaigns, advanced spells… the list goes on. Basically, if you’ve got even the slightest bit of interest in Vanguard and Kings of War, make sure you keep coming back to the blog every day to get the latest info.

Of course, you can always jump straight into the free rules, which are available here. But if you want to learn more, then make sure you read on and keep coming back for an in-depth guide.

WHAT IS VANGUARD?

Well, that’s a good question, imaginary blog reader. Vanguard is a fantasy skirmish game that ties into our hugely popular Kings of War mass battle game. It’s set in the world of Pannithor – a fantasy realm that’s full of powerful magic, towering monsters, warring factions, brave heroes and wicked villains.

Of course, we know there are a number of skirmish games out there, so with Vanguard we tried to do something a little different. Rather than being set in a ruined city or specific location, Vanguard battles can take place anywhere across Pannithor. One minute your warband can be duking it out on the plains of the Mammoth Steppe, the next they’re in the shadows of the Forest of Galahir and then they’re heading to the Twilight Glades.

The reason for this is that Vanguard is focused around the elite troops sent ahead of the main army. These are the handpicked fighters that have been carefully selected to disrupt the enemy’s supply lines, light the warning beacons to show the way or even capture a particularly powerful giant that can be used in the war ahead. Each of these action-packed missions is told through the 12 scenarios included in the rulebook. Even better, each of these scenarios has its own hook to tie into larger Kings of War games… something we’ll cover in a future blog.

These are the brutal battles before the armies clash. The desperate struggles to gain the upper hand. If you can win these ruthless skirmishes, then victory will be yours. Ronnie compares them to black ops squads sent secretly behind enemy lines to try and complete the mission as quickly and effectively as possible.

Vanguard can be played in one-off games where you select your chosen units or you can play linked games in a campaign. If you fancy watching how the game plays, you can see Ash Barker playing through one of the Ice & Iron scenarios.

WHAT’S A WARBAND?

Oh, you’re back again Captain Questions. So, we realise that ‘skirmish’ is a term that can mean a wide range of game sizes. You’ve got something like Deadzone, which typically uses around 10 miniatures and is classed as a skirmish game. However, there are also games like Firefight that use about 30-50 miniatures but are also seen as skirmish games.

In Vanguard a 200 points warband will typically consist of around 9-12 miniatures, and is the standard size for games. You’ll have your leader, grunts (the low level troops), warriors and then a mix of support units, spellcasters and a large model or two. Once you’ve selected your troops, you can also give them different equipment to help boost their abilities.

This means it’s extremely easy to get a warband painted up in a short space of time – particularly when compared to the amount of time required to get a Kings of War army ready for battle. This was part of the reason for us making Vanguard in the first place. Since Kings of War has launched, the background has grown massively and so has the number of miniatures. We know that a lot of people are interested in playing fantasy games but the time required to paint an entire Kings of War can be off putting. Whereas the great thing about Vanguard is it’s super easy to get your warband up and running in next to no time.

However, if you’re planning to play in a campaign then you’ll have 400 points to create your ‘company’ of fighters. Then during games, you can draw from your larger company to choose the units and equipment you want to send into combat. By performing well, fighters will learn new abilities and you can even assign them special roles that will shape how they develop across the course of a campaign.

We’ll be covering campaigns in greater detail over the course of the next week.

CAN I USE MY KINGS OF WAR MINIATURES?

Yes, you most definitely can. Oh, you want a more thorough answer than that? Ok! When we were designing Vanguard we always knew that we wanted it to complement our existing Kings of War range and also bring entirely new units into the game. This is the sister game to Kings of War. Not only does it share the same miniature range, but it also has scenarios that directly tie into your larger games of KoW.

Since Vanguard originally launched in 2018, we’ve now introduced warband lists for every faction in Kings of War – even the ones in Uncharted Empires! Some are starter warband lists, which are a selection of units you’re likely to have from your Kings of War army, e.g. a spare hero or two. Then since launch, we’ve also got full warband releases for the following factions:

  • Basileans
  • Nightstalkers
  • Northern Alliance
  • Forces of the Abyss
  • Dwarfs
  • Goblins
  • Forces of Nature
  • Abyssal Dwarfs
  • Trident Realm
  • Undead

When we do a full warband release – like the launch releases of Nightstalkers, Basileans, Forces of the Abyss and Northern Alliance – we’ll introduce more model options to fill out that initial starter list. These will be supplied via warband cards in the faction sets and faction boosters. You can download ALL the warband lists from the Mantic websites, and we’ve even included the cards, so you can print them out at home. Download the warband lists here.

There’s also a big cross over between Kings of War and Vanguard in terms of miniatures. Since Vanguard came out, it’s helped us introduce a load of cool new miniatures into Kings of War too, like the Warlock above or the goblin Banggit. Even better, we’ve extended the amount of Vanguard miniatures you can now buy separately if you just want them for your KoW army. Check those out here.

How to Build a Warband

Another important element is learning how to create your gang, so in this blog we’re going to discuss the ins and outs of creating a Vanguard warband. We wanted to make sure the process for creating your elite gang was as straight forward as possible, so there are only a few things to remember. You can also use the Easy Army website to make it even easier to compose your chosen group of fighters! The website contains all the factions and equipment – plus it’ll tell you if you’ve composed an illegal warband.

Firstly, let’s look at the different types of models:

COMMAND – well, you’re going to need someone to do all the shouting. Command units come in all shapes and sizes, from the massive Snow Troll Prime in the Northern Alliance list to the humble Stinggit in the goblin faction

GRUNT – these are the lowest of the low. Even in an elite warband, you need a little bit of chaff to throw at the enemy. However, when they’re not dying horribly, grunts are useful for claiming objectives. You can also give them one piece of common equipment, should you wish

WARRIORS – now we’re talking. Warriors are far more capable when it comes to getting stuck in and can choose two pieces of equipment from the full range of items. Plus, they’re a little harder to kill thanks to the Down and Out rule

SUPPORT – this is the catch-all name for a range of specialists that can add some extra oomph to your warband. Although some will be used to back-up your core troops, others (like the Forces of Abyss Hellequin) are ready to lead the charge when it comes to combat. Support units tend to have a special ability that can form the backbone of your squad

SPELLCASTER – as the name implies, these are your magic users. We’ll be covering magic in a future blog because Vanguard introduces some interesting new mechanics for the way magic works in Pannithor and each faction gets some unique spells! We’ll be covering that in a future blog

LARGE – Large models are the big guys in your warband. However, they don’t always just provide the muscle, because a large model can be a mix of types. This means you can have a Large Command unit (like the Snow Troll Prime), a Large Spellcaster (Forces of the Abyss Warlock) or Large Support (Ice Elemental)

Now, you can either read on to see an example warband, or take a look at the video below, in which the Weight of Fire crew take you through how to build a warband…

BUILDING YOUR WARBAND

So, now you’re up to speed on the unit types, let’s have a look at how to build a typical 200 points warband. Firstly, you must take a minimum of five Warriors and/or Grunt models and one Command model. To give you an example, we’re going to build a Forces of the Abyss list.

To start with, let’s choose the Grunts and Warriors:

2 x Flamebearers (Grunts – 9 points each)

2 x Lower Abyssals (Grunts – 8 points each)

2 x Abyssal Guards (Warriors – 14 points each)

The above comes to 62 points, which means we’ve got another 138 points to spend. This is when we can start to have some fun with the other types of units. You see, for every three Warriors/Grunts in our warband, we can take up to one Command, one Support and one Spellcaster model. What’s more, for every 150 points in the warband, we can take one Large unit – although some factions have special rules that allow them to take more.

In our Forces of the Abyss warband we’ve got six Warriors/Grunts, which means we can add up to two Command models, two Support models and two Spellcaster models.

We still need a Command unit, so let’s add that to our warband.

2 x Flamebearers (Grunts – 9 points each)

2 x Lower Abyssals (Grunts – 8 points each)

2 x Abyssal Guards (Warriors – 14 points each)

1 x Seductress (Command – 45 points)

We’re now sitting on 107 points, so we’re going to have to think carefully about what’s next in the warband. Well, we can take up to two support units (because we’ve got six Warriors/Grunts, remember), so let’s add a Gargoyle and Hellequin to the list. Now our warband looks like this:

2 x Flamebearers (Grunts – 9 points each)

2 x Lower Abyssals (Grunts – 8 points each)

2 x Abyssal Guards (Warriors – 14 points each)

1 x Seductress (Command – 45 points)

1 x Gargoyle (Support – 18 points)

1 x Hellequin (Support – 29 points)

We’ve now got the maximum number of support models for our warband, but we can still add one more Command model or two Spellcasters. The Forces of the Abyss only have the one spellcaster: the Warlock. As well as being a Spellcaster, the Warlock is also a Large model – thanks to the chubby cherub carrying our tormented magic user.

This means that if we want to include a Spellcaster in our Forces of the Abyss warband, it will come at the expense of the Despoiler, because that is also a Large model. Decisions, decisions. Well, in this case, we’re going for the Crushing Strength of the Despoiler to hopefully cause our opponent some problems.

2 x Flamebearers (Grunts – 9 points each)

2 x Lower Abyssals (Grunts – 8 points each)

2 x Abyssal Guards (Warriors – 14 points each)

1 x Seductress (Command – 45 points)

1 x Gargoyle (Support – 18 points)

1 x Hellequin (Support – 29 points)

1 x Despoiler (Large – 37 points)

With the addition of the Despoiler, our total goes to 191 points, which leaves us 9 points spare. This could be spend on an extra Flamebearer or Lower Abyssal, or we can add some equipment to our warband to boost the existing units. Check out a future blog when we’ll run through the various options for giving your warband new equipment.

As you can see from the example above, you’re going to have to choose carefully when it comes to creating your warband because you’re not going to be able to cram everything in. Of course, when making your Company for a Campaign you’ll have 400 points to play around with, but you’ll still be forced to choose a 200 points list when heading into combat.

What are Power Dice?

In this blog we’re exploring one of key game mechanics: Power Dice. During the course of the brutal skirmishes between the small warbands, commanders will need to change their tactics on the fly. Battle strategies tend to get disrupted when a Despoiler is charging straight towards you! And so, to give players the option of adapting their best laid plans, we created the Power Dice.

These special dice come in three flavours (not literally, so please don’t eat them): red, white and blue. The red dice are the basic ones, giving you a maximum of two points of power to spend in a round, white also have a maximum of two points but you’ve got more chance of rolling a two and blue dice have a maximum of three points. At the start of each round you’ll automatically generate three red dice to spend during the course of that round. However, extra dice can be generated by the commanders, support and even spellcaster models in your warband, as you can see on the card below.

HOW TO SPEND ‘POWER’

Right, so you’ve rolled your Power Dice but what can you spend them on? Well, with the Power Dice we wanted to give Vanguard players the opportunity to increase their attacks, activate special abilities, use powerful Group Actions and lots more. In fact, there are eight different ways to spend your power during a turn. Take a look below:

  • +1 Model Activation – catch your opponent off-guard by immediately activating another model in the same turn. This is great if you want to try and secure the first turn in the following round because the player that finishes a round first will get the first turn in the subsequent round.
  • +1 Die – want to make sure your Basilean Sisterhood makes that all-important shot against the Nightstalker Spectre? Well, by using the Power Dice you can add 1 bonus die to any of your Shoot, Cast, Armour Save or Melee rolls.
  • Forced Fatigue Action – Fatigue is something we’ll cover in detail in a future blog, but basically Fatigue allows you to give an extra ‘short’ action to a model that’s already been activated in a round
  • Clear Fatigue – remove Fatigue from a model. Again, we’ll cover this in a future blog
  • Group Defence (up to 3 models) – Group Actions will be covered in our next blog
  • Group Shoot (up to 3 models) – see above
  • Group Assault (up to 3 models) – patience!
  • Warband or Model Special Abilities – these are another of the really exciting elements of Vanguard so we’ll go into this a little bit more below…

WARBAND ABILITIES

Right from the start of development on Vanguard we knew that we wanted warbands and units to have their own range of special abilities. After all, these are meant to be the elite troops sent roving across the countryside of Mantica, so it’s likely they’ve picked up a trick or two along the way.

Special abilities cost power to use and the more powerful an ability is, the more Power you’ll need to spend in order to trigger it. The Warband Special Ability can be used by multiple models in a particular faction and are unique to that faction. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples below:

UNDEAD

As you can see, most warbands have a number of special abilities that can be used or activated during a game. Some, like Deathless Bond, are always switched whereas others, like Surge, have a number after them. In this case the number is the amount of Power you’ll need to activate that ability.

GOBLINS

In keeping with the cowardly nature of Goblins, they can elect to Flee when an enemy charges into them. This is a great tactic for luring the enemy out of cover or into charging distance of another unit. To Flee you’ll need to spend 1 Power.

UNIT ABILITIES

Along with the Warband Abilities that can be used by various units in a warband, you’ve also got the option to spend Power on Special Abilities that are unique to particular units. These can be anything from increasing the range of magic spells to extra attacks or defensive moves to avoid blows.

We won’t be able to go through them all here, but we can give a couple of examples…

GOBLIN STINGGIT

Sticking with the goblins, above you can see the Goblin Stinggit. This is one of the command options for your warband and the Stinggit has a number of abilities that can be triggered with Power. For example, if you spend one Power before making a ranged attack with the Throwing Knives, you’ll get Piercing (1) – this means your opponent will find it tougher to defend against the attack. The Stinggit also brings one White Power dice to the table too, which should help generate some Power to trigger these abilities.

GOBLIN BANGGIT

For some units, their use of Power is a little more complicated. Take the Banggit, for example, it can make the strength of its grenades more powerful (but more likely to explode) by adding more and more Power.

As you can see, Power plays a huge role in the game and can often be the key to victory. Come back later Fanguards (still a hard pass on that one, ok) for our next blog when we explain how Power can be used to trigger Group Actions.

What are Group Actions?

We’re exploring the rules in detail and giving you an overview of why it’s so bloody brilliant.

And the great thing is that we’re only getting started. We’ve got a load of great Vanguard content planned for you, detailing the advanced spell list, combat, campaigns, etc. Anyway, before we get ahead of ourselves, what have we got in this blog? Well, following the previous description of Power Dice, now we’re talking about Group Actions.

“WHAT ARE GROUP ACTIONS?”

Oh, it’s the return of the quizzical blog reader! Hello again. Put simply Group Actions are activations that cost power to use, but allow you to activate multiple models at once. Going back to the early days of Vanguard, we always knew that alongside the powerful commanders and support units, there would be Grunts ready to do some dirty work.

However, to give the Grunts a little bit of a tactical advantage, sometimes they need to work together to overpower an enemy. This is where Group Actions come into play. Let’s see what the rulebook has to say about them:

Using Power, you can activate a group of models together. All models in the group must not have already been activated this Round. This is called a Group Action and all models are considered to be performing a long action for the Turn. Once the Group Action is complete, all models in the group are marked as activated.

To make a Group Action, nominate a model and then up to 2 more models within 3” of the first model. The selected models form the group. Some models have Special Abilities that are also Group Actions. The model with the Special Ability must be the nominated model of the group in order to use the ability.

Participating in a Group Action replaces a model’s normal activation for the Turn. You cannot activate a single model, move it to join a group and then attempt a Group Action involving that model, for example.

There are three different Group Actions to perform:

Group Defence – the members of the group each make a Walk and then a Brace action. Brace increases a model’s armour value by 1.

Group Shoot – the group members may all either Walk then Shoot, or Shoot then Walk. Models can then choose to all Shoot at the same target, or choose different enemies within 3” of each other. Group Shoot is particularly useful for some units, like the Dwarf Ironwatch, that actually gain a bonus when performing a Group Shoot action. So it’s important to keep them together.

Group Assault – the group members all make a Run action and Engage an enemy model. This is perfect for overwhelming an enemy with multiple attacks and also gaining a bonus for having friendly models involved in the same action. This will be particularly powerful when combined with the Swarm ability, which grants attackers two bonus dice for the outnumbering bonus, rather than the standard one.

Group Actions give you more tactical options when planning your actions. Do you commit to outnumbering the enemy with Group Actions, or spread out across the battlefield with your various units? It’s definitely worth bearing this tactic in mind when creating your faction list.

What is Fatigue?

After introducing some of the basic gameplay elements in our previous, we’re now moving on through more elements like combat, terrain, etc. Today we’re starting with another of Vanguard’s key concepts: Fatigue. A concept we may all be familiar with if you’ve had late nights trying to finish painting an army :stuck_out_tongue:

As we’ve discussed previously, the core concept of Vanguard is based around small teams of elite fighters doing whatever it takes to get the job done. With this is mind we always liked the idea that individuals would push themselves to go above and beyond to take out that all-important enemy or grab an objective. This led to creation of Fatigue.

A little like Deadzone, when a model is activated it can be given two short actions (e.g. walk and shoot) or one long action (e.g. run). However, following either their two short actions or the long action, they can immediately be given another short action. For example, you could run (long action) and then shoot (short action). The restriction is that you cannot repeat an action already made during the activation, which means you couldn’t walk, shoot and then shoot again.

However, this extra short action comes at a cost and will Fatigue the model. In the following Round, a Fatigued model will have to spend a short action clearing the Fatigue before it can do anything else. As such, Fatiguing a model is a potential gamble because it limits their future options and could leave them open to attack – so you’ve got to make that extra action count!

Not all is lost though. Cast your mind back to our blog about Power Dice – or read it here – and you’ll recall that Power can be used to clear Fatigue at the end of the Round. Of course, the sacrifice here is that you’ll have to keep some Power in reserve, which means you can’t use all those sweet Group Actions or special abilities we talked about previously. Decisions, decisions.

FORCED FATIGUE

Talking of Power, you can also do something called a ‘Forced Fatigue’ action. Normally the extra Fatigue action is performed at the end of a model’s normal activation. However, you can also spend Power to re-activate a model that’s previously been activated that Round (and isn’t already Fatigued) to give it an extra Short action. This will then mark the model as Fatigued, like normal.

This is a very powerful move, as it allows you to give an action to a model your opponent thinks they no longer need to worry about. For example, you may activate a dwarf Ironwatch to walk and shoot during its normal activation. With the dwarf now appearing to be out of actions, your opponent could move one of their models from behind cover and into the open. Now with a clear line of sight, you could play a Forced Fatigue action on the Ironwatch and take a shot at the enemy unit.

Ah yes, another great benefit of Forced Fatigue is that – unlike a normal Fatigue action – you can use it to perform any short action, it doesn’t matter if you’ve used the same action that round. For ranged units, it could be another Shoot action, for a fighter it could be another melee action or for Spellcasters they could even cast another spell.

Fatigue and Forced Fatigue really help to make battles in Vanguard feel extremely fluid. You’ve got to keep thinking one step ahead of your opponent, and you should never take a unit for granted, until you see that all your opponent’s Power Dice have been used.

Will you be pushing your warband to the limit, or playing it safe?

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Combat Basics

Across the next couple of blogs we’re going to be talking about combat. This means we’ll have pretty much covered all the basics and next week we can start looking at some of the more advanced elements, like campaigns, the spellbook and the ties with Kings of War. So far we have covered:

Now the focus is on combat! Unlike Kings of War, Vanguard uses D8s for standard tests. The reason for this is that you’ll typically be rolling less dice than you would in Kings of War, but the D8 keeps us a little more scope to create a range of weak, average and powerful characters. Think of it a little like future proofing the game, so we’re able to create new units with a range of stats in the future. Also D8 are cool! Just ask any self-respecting Deadzone player.

If we look at an example stat card again, you’ll see that underneath all the various stats for wounds, movement, etc. there’s a line showing ranged and melee. As you might have guessed, the number before the D8 tells you how many dice you have to roll in combat. In this case, the Flamebearer rolls 2 D8s when making a ranged attack and 1 D8 when making a close combat attack.

After you’ve checked how many dice you need to roll, it’s then a case of consulting either the Ra or Me stat. Going back to our little fiery friend, the Flamebearer needs to roll 5+ for a ranged attack or 7+ for a melee attack. Each success will then count as a hit. However, there’s always the chance to do a little extra damage because Vanguard has an exploding 8s mechanic. Each time you roll an 8, not only does it count as a success, but it also allows you to roll an extra dice. As a result, once you board the Eight Train, even the lowest Grunt has the capability of taking down a stronger unit. Choo, choooooo – all abbbbbbbbboard!

If you’ve played Deadzone or DreadBall, you’ll be familiar with this exploding dice mechanic. We absolutely love the system because it creates some very cinematic moments when – against all odds – the dice just keep exploding and suddenly an attack has a bucket load of hits. Or you make an incredible armour save when really your warrior should have been a smear of bloody paste on the battlefield.

‘TIS BUT A SCRATCH

Once you’ve hit the target, it’s time for the defending player to try and keep their model alive. The owner of the target model then rolls 1 die for each hit scored. Going back to our Flamebearer, let’s say he scored two hits in a melee attack (thanks to a lucky exploding 8) against the Ice Naiad below.

With two hits from the Flamebearer, that means the Ice Naiad needs to roll two dice. Each roll that equals or betters the Ice Naiad’s Ar stat of 6+ counts as a save. So, if the Ice Naiad rolled a 6 and a 2, that would mean she has blocked one attack, but the other hit gets through and causes one wound. Exploding 8s are also in effect when making an armour check too.

Of course, just like Kings of War, there are modifiers for particularly powerful units. If a unit has Piercing (n) or Crushing Strength (n), this increases the target model’s Ar stat. For example, instead of a melee attack, the Flamebearer opts for a ranged Firebolt, which has Piercing (1) and scores two hits again… lucky old Flamebearer. Now the Ice Naiad needs to score 7+ in order to block the shot. Unfortunately, the Ice Naiad rolls 5 and 4, which causes two wounds. With only two wounds as standard, that means the Ice Naiad is dead… or is she!?! DRAMATIC PLOT TWIST!

IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL THE ICE NAIAD SINGS

In Vanguard, when you’re reduced to zero wounds, it doesn’t necessarily mean a model is instantly killed. You see, unless you’re a Grunt – which are removed from the table instantly – a model on zero or fewer wounds must take a Nerve test. The reason for it being ‘fewer wounds’ is that if the model has taken more wounds than it had remaining, the difference is used to modify the model’s Nerve stat. If the Nerve test is passed, the model survives with 1 wound remaining but is marked as fatigued (if not already) and is Knocked-down. If the Nerve test is failed, the model is removed from play.

Going back to our epic battle between the Flamebearer and the Ice Naiad, our chilly chum has been reduced to zero wounds. However, because she’s a Warrior, she’s not immediately removed from the table – instead we need to check her Nerve. She needs to score 5+ on a D8 to stay alive. The Ice Naiad grabs a die and drum roll please scores a 6. HOORAY! The Ice Naiad lives to fight another day, or until she gets stomped by a Despoiler.

The reason for including this last gasp mechanic is that we’ve all had that terrible moment when a favourite commander or wizard gets taken out by a rogue arrow or lucky blow from a plucky goblin. This is particularly galling in a campaign when you’ve been building up a character’s XP and they’re taken out turn one. With the Down But Not Out rule, it gives them a second chance to recover and make it back to safety.

In our next blog, we’ll look at some other elements of combat, including the option to Retaliate and the benefits from being near terrain.

Combat Part Two

In today’s blog, we’re going to go through some of the extra things to consider when you’re charging headfirst into a scrap or launching a desperate last shot from your bow.

ALL ABOUT THE BASE

Let’s start with rear and front arcs, which also requires a little chat about bases. Vanguard uses (mostly) the same size bases as Kings of War, e.g. small units come on a 20mm square base, cavalry on a 25mm x 50mm, large infantry on a 40mm, etc. Now, we realise that a large portion of skirmish games use circular basis, so this might seem a little unusual.

However, just remember for a moment that one of the key design philosophies behind Vanguard is that the miniatures work in both Vanguard and Kings of War. Obviously, this means that they had to use the same bases, so your Goblin Wiz can be used as part of your warband AND your KoW army. Having some on circular bases and others on square bases simply wouldn’t be cricket*.

“But what about my multibased units?!” Screams our imaginary blog reader at the screen. Fear not friend. A lot of the models in Vanguard tend to be the Hero units from Kings of War, so they’ll easily cross over. However, if you want to add some more Grunts to your warband – which do tend to be the troops in KoW – then there are a range of sprues available on the website, so you can just pick up the units you need without having to buy an entire regiment box. Of course, with the Preferred Model Count (PMC) in Kings of War, it’s often likely you’ll have a few spare because you don’t need to put the full amount on the unit.

Anyway – going back to our original point about arcs – having square bases does make it extremely easy to tell what attacks are in the front and what are in the rear. As you can see in the diagram below, anything behind the back line of the base is considered to be in the rear.

In combat, if you make a ranged or close combat attack in the rear arc the attacking model gains/or increases their attack by Piercing (1) or Crushing Strength (1). What’s more, if a model has the Sneaky ability, instead of just having the normal exploding 8s, their dice will explode on 7s too. As such, it definitely pays to make a note of where the enemy is when positioning your model.

NEVER TOO LATE TO RETALIATE

Another design philosophy we had in mind when creating Vanguard is that we always wanted both players to feel like they were part of the action – instead of just sitting back and watching as their models get ripped to bits!

This led to us adding the option to Retaliate when being attacked in close combat. A model that has been attacked in a Melee, and has survived, has the opportunity to Retaliate and attack back. This must be declared after the attack is resolved. A model that is Knocked-down or that is already both Activated and Fatigued cannot Retaliate.

After declaring the model wants to Retaliate, it is turned so the target is in its front arc. The attack is resolved as normal, then the player must check the following conditions and ONLY use the first that applies:

  1. If the retaliating model is not already marked as Fatigued, it must be marked as Fatigued
  2. If the retaliating model has not already been marked as Activated this round, it should be marked as Activated

It is important you only apply one of the above conditions and not both. The reason for this is that if a model is Fatigued but not Activated, it can still Activate in its own Turn and perform one short action – which could potentially be a melee attack or walk (if it isn’t still engaged).

If the model was already Fatigued when it Retaliated it is marked as Activated AND Fatigued, which means it cannot do anything else for the rest of that Round. We wanted to make sure that models were marked as Fatigued first, rather than activated, so that they were still able to perform a short action during the Round. Otherwise if a model was immediately marked as Activated after they had Retaliated they could play no further part in the Round, unless the player spent a power to Force Fatigue the model. Read about Forge Fatigue here.

Of course, you’ve still got to be careful when choosing the correct moment to Retaliate. Perform it too early in the Round and you’ll limit your actions by being Fatigued. But leave it too late and you may be overwhelmed by the enemy.

YOU’VE GOT A NERVE

Finally, we wanted to quickly cover Nerve tests. In yesterday’s blog we mentioned that Nerve tests are used to see if a model survives a particularly vicious attack. However, Nerve is also used as a measure of your warband’s overall morale. Seeing your best mate explode in a fireball or watching as your commander is ripped apart by a marauding Direfang is likely to cause some serious mental issues.

If you have less than half of your warband left at the start of a Round, then your Warband Morale is broken. This means that before a model can be activated they must take a Nerve test. Pass the test and they can activate as normal. But if they fail, the model will immediately Fallback, i.e. it will Run towards its own table edge and is then marked as activated. Falling back can obviously scupper your plans and we’ve had some occasions when a model has run away from an objective because it failed a Nerve test.

While we’re on the subject of Nerve tests – some units, particularly those in the Nightstalker faction can prey on the Nerve of their enemies. Take a look at the Shade card below. By using the Cause Fear ability, it can actually Fatigue its foes… which is particularly powerful when you want to stop them Retaliating, as we’ve already discussed.

How to Equip Items

In this blog we’re talking about the equipment you can give to your models to help beef them up… or keep them alive for a little bit longer.

As mentioned in one of our earlier blogs about how to build your warband, the standard points value for one-off games is 200pts, while a campaign will see you creating a company worth 400pts. However, not all these points need to spent on characters, and you can give equipment to your warband members. What’s more, in campaigns you can earn new equipment to give to your warband.

Apart from Grunts, models can be equipped with a maximum of two different pieces of equipment, in addition to any already listed on their cards. Grunts can only equip one piece of Common equipment, which will come to in a minute. Beasts cannot be given any equipment… so no bandages for your Goblin Mawbeast :frowning:

TYPES OF EQUIPMENT

There are three different types of equipment:

COMMON – these can be equipped by anyone (apart from Beasts, of course) in your warband and you can repeat the same item for different models, e.g. two Lower Abyssals could be given the Heavy Weapon item

RARE – these cannot be equipped by Grunts or Beasts. Plus, you cannot duplicate them

UNIQUE – these cannot be equipped by Grunts or Beasts, plus they can only be used in a campaign and cannot be duplicated

So, what sort of equipment can you expect to find in Vanguard? Well, you’ll discover a mix of single-use and permanent items. For example, in the common items you can equip someone with Bandages. This is a single use item that potentially heals one wound. Whereas a Spear is a permanent weapon upgrade that grants an outnumbering bonus if the user is within 2” of an enemy.

Some, like the Lucky Charm, are merely notes on your warband roster but others provide a great opportunity for modelling. For example, you could equip one of your Grunts or Warriors with the Large Shield item and then use a model that features an actual shield. Likewise, if you want a heavy weapon, you could swap out the standard weapon and replace it with a hammer or club.

MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE

As well as equipment like swords and bandages, you can also give your warband members a mount! In fact, every member of your warband can be given a mount – so you could have an entirely mounted warband. What a fantastic hobby opportunity. In the Common Items you’ll find a Common Mount, the Rare items have a Rare Mount and the Unique items have a – you guessed it – Battle Mount (ha! We got you with that one). Of course, the better the mount is, the more expensive it will be but the more benefits you will gain.

When you equip a model with a mount, its base size will change to 25mm x 50mm, which is the standard base size for cavalry units in Kings of War. This means, you’re not limited to only using the cavalry units listed in the warband lists. Fancy a Fleabag Rider for your Goblins? Be our guest. Want to use your Revenant Cavalry in your Undead warband? Go ahead.

However, even better the type of mount isn’t specified in the rules, so you can get creative. A zombie giving a skeleton a piggy back? Sounds like a mount to us. Orclings riding a Gore? Well, it might happen. A Northern Alliance Thegn hopping aboard a snow fox? No, that would be ridiculous. In fact, you could have an entirely mounted warband by duplicating the Common Mount, so you’ll end up with something like you can see above.

So, as you can see, equipment opens up some very exciting opportunities in Vanguard. Not only from a stats point of view, but also from a modelling point of view.

Running a Campaign Part One

Right from the beginning, we knew that we wanted Vanguard to:

  1. Be great fun to play in around an hour for one-off games (tick)
  2. Be fun for tournament play and give players tactical options for creating a warband (tick)
  3. Have a great that campaign system that would see units develop across games (read on…)

The latter is certainly one of the most exciting elements of Vanguard – and is one of the reasons we chose the tagline: ‘Your Warband, Your Story’. After all, these are the guys/gals/monsters/animals/weird floaty things that materialise from nowhere that you’ve handpicked and you’ll watch as their story progresses across games. You’ll no doubt give them all names (Barry the weird floaty thing that materialises from nowhere), cheer when they do well and burst into tears when they get wounded. Playing a campaign is an emotional rollercoaster.

Just imagine watching in horror as your favourite Northern Alliance Huscarl (Geoff) gets taken out by a rogue orc.

STARTING A CAMPAIGN

A campaign begins by creating a Company. Unlike a one-off game, which has a recommended points limit of 200, when you create a Company you’ll have 400pts to spend on models, equipment and spells. Then when you play a campaign game, you’ll create a warband that costs 200pts. This ensures you can tailor your warband to the mission ahead.

You begin creating your Company by selecting a Leader. The Leader can be selected from any Command model class in a faction list, e.g. a Biggit in the goblin list or Abbess in the Basilean list. The model that is assigned as the Leader brings the following benefits to your Company:

  1. +1 Red Power die while the Leader model is in play
  2. Bonus XP for the number of Warrior and Grunt models that survive each mission
  3. Bonus XP for completing mission objectives

RETINUE

However, the Leader isn’t the only role you can give to your characters. Vanguard allows you to create a Retinue – these are the elite members of your squad, the second in command. You’ll need to decide whether you want to have a large Retinue, which will cost cash, or a hardened few to lead the troops.

When creating your warband, the Leader is a free role to assign and you get a second retinue role for free too. If you want to assign any more than that, you have to pay 3 campaign gold per role. But what are the roles? Well, let’s have a look…

  1. Leader – we’ve already covered this
  2. Quartermaster – this is only available for Warrior models. The Quartermaster is useful when it comes to finding equipment after a campaign game
  3. Arcanist – this is only available for Spellcasters. They gain a new spell called Nullify, which can stop enemy Spellcasters using spells. What’s more, they’ll gain an additional spell slot at Rank 5
  4. Mauler – this is only available for Large models They will get a new ability called Thump! and they get an extra melee die at rank 4… nasty stuff
  5. Master Scout – this is only available for models with the Scout rule. These models can gain the Very Inspiring role and gain extra XP if they successfully survive a mission
  6. Healer – any model class can be given this role and you can have two Healers in a Retinue. This allows you to re-roll on the casualty table following a campaign game
  7. Hunter – this is for Support or Warrior models only. They gain the Pound and Marksman abilities, plus they’ll also get a Ranged stat boost at rank 4

As you can see, the Retinue gives you some great options when it comes to creating your initial warband. If one of your Retinue members is unfortunate enough to die, then you can promote another member of your Company into the vacant role. You can even demote Retinue members if you feel they’re not pulling their weight in battle.

GAINING EXPERIENCE

As we’ve mentioned models gaining experience and going up in rank, it’s worth quickly going through how this works in campaigns. Models (apart from Grunts) can gain XP in a variety of ways, e.g. surviving a mission (it’s harder than you think), killing an enemy model, retinue-specific bonuses, etc. Progressing up a rank will then ‘cost’ XP. For example, progressing from 0-1 only costs 3XP, but going from rank 3 to rank 4 requires 9XP.

Once you’ve gone up a rank you have a few options. For example, you can choose a core stat upgrade, a new special rule, power dice upgrade, etc. With regards to the new special rules, these are dictated by the model’s class. Command, Large, Spellcasters and Support can all learn from four new abilities, while Warriors can learn from eight different abilities – which makes them one of the most versatile options for a warband.

Thanks to the experience system, your characters are going to be very different at the end of the campaign, compared to when they started out. You’ll remember that time Geoff the Huscarl levelled up enough to earn the Headstrong ability, or Alan the Arcanist unlocked that all-important new spell.

In our next blog we’ll look at some more campaign elements, like equipment, casualties and exploration.

CAMPAIGN RULES ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE FREE RULEBOOK – FOR THAT YOU’LL NEED THE FULL RULES, JUST CHECK OUT THE LINKS BELOW.

Running a Campaign Part Two

Today we’re highlighting some of the other exciting aspects of a campaign. We’ll begin with casualties before talking about equipment and what happens between campaign games.

CASUALTIES

Let’s face the awful truth – occasionally your much-loved warband members are going to get injured on the battlefield. There’s no point crying over spilt blood, it’s going to happen, so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Any Grunts removed from play are immediately considered to be dead – poor things. However, everyone else – whether that’s a Commander, Spellcaster, Support model, etc. – may have been injured in the heat of a fight. Models that end the game having just taken a wound, or left the game because of a Fallback action, are considered to have received medical attention and will be ready for a scrap next time. It’s only those that were removed from the table as a ‘kill’ that you have to worry about.

Following a game, you need to roll on the Casualty Table to see what awful ailment they have suffered. There are 15 potential results for a model to roll on the table, ranging from dead (pretty significant) to being captured by the enemy. We won’t go through all 15 results here, but you can see a couple of sneak peeks below:

What’s more, if one of your retinue members is killed in battle, it opens up the option to promote a living member into that role. Likewise, if your Leader is killed, you’ll need to promote another Commander into the position. Any Grunts that are killed during a mission are replaced for free in between campaign games – although the replacement must be the same type of model. Any other recruits must be bought with gold earned during the course of a campaign.

FORAGING & EXPLORING

Once you’ve worked out who has survived to the next battle, it’s time to forage and explore. This is a chance for you to earn extra gold, find new equipment and even level up your heroes a little more. The first step is to roll a D8, which gives you an amount of gold earned while exploring – this is added to your overall stash of gold.

Next, you must roll a second D8 and use the two numbers to generate a result for the exploration table, e.g. if you rolled a 5 on the forage roll and a 6 on the exploration roll, that would be 56). You’ll then need to consult the exploration table to see what you’ve found!

There are 26 potential results on the exploration table, ranging from a Tavern where you can buy ale for your warband to improve their nerve in the next game or you uncover a nest of vipers you can use to add poison to your weapon. Again, just like the casualty table, we won’t reveal everything but here’s a preview of a couple of results…

The exciting thing is that this is only the standard Vanguard table. As the game grows and we launch new supplements or campaigns, we can have location specific exploration results/equipment to tie into a particular theme. For example, in the Ice & Iron supplement, there’s a whole new table for finding treasure in the frozen wastes of the Winterlands.

BLACKJACK LEGACY

You can watch Andy from Blackjack Legacy giving his thoughts on the campaign mode below:

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