Tutorial 1 Ruminations

We just finished playing the very first mission – Tutorial #1 – Eye of the Void.

We had two players each controlling two sections … so we took all four sections on the mission. One of us controlled Science and Engineering and the other controlled Recon and Security.

The game is VERY INTERESTING and EXTREMELY FUN because instead of running around shooting everything that moves, we were exploring and strategizing on how to accomplish the mission assigned to us.  And please note that on your first MISSION you actually end up doing THREE missions!

I watched three playthroughs of Tutorial #1 before playing it myself and I can say that having watched it played through before I started the mission myself did not really spoil much of anything because I was too immersed into the challenges ahead of us as we played. Actually, it was very helpful to have watched the game playthrough first because I had a feel for what a players turn was like. But good thing the game itself helps because our game was nothing like the three prior ones that I watched video playthroughs of. This seems to bode well for having the game be replayable!

Awaken Realms did an excellent job setting up this first game to help get you used to the way things work … getting you INTO the game! Several times we ended up in a sector and had no LOG to read! I got a little anxious wondering if we were stuck there or what?? Fear Not! Almost immediately something would happen that had an effect of placing a POI (Point Of Interest) card on the blank sector and all of a sudden I *DID* have something to do, and stuck I wasn’t!

It was fun to play and see how THE DICE were so important … let me rephrase that.  The SPECIFIC dice were so uniquely applicable to a specific sector or task. And not just choosing a RED die or a BLUE die … but WHICH red die!!! Watch the slideshow at the top of my Dice Symbols article to see just how many different “faces” there are to these dice! There are three symbols that can appear on all three dice colors. Then each color has it’s own unique three symbols. And then there are dice with TWO symbols on some of it’s faces. So my list of 12 dice symbols merely scratched the surface. There even is a DOUBLE WILD dice face (with two Vanguard Logos on it).

But the game adds a dice manipulation step to your dice roll (Awaken Realms calls this “modify the roll”). So, first you choose what dice you will roll (and if anyone else is in that sector with you, they choose if they wish to assist you with ONE die in the roll). Then you roll the dice (keeping dice from different sectors apart). Then you see if you accomplished what you hoped for. If not, next you check if there is a way to manipulate the dice (and actually, this step is something you should think about right from the start as you are choosing which specific dice to use). There are several possibilities for manipulating the dice.

The inward arrows symbol is what Awaken Realms calls a “blank” face of the die. Each and every crewmember has the ability to change one of those three colored “blank” faces into a specific symbol. Each crewmember has one specific symbol that they can convert into, so every time you use that crewmember to convert a die, it will always convert the same color “blank” into the same symbol (and note that the symbol is merely the symbol and does not have a “color” associated with it.) Here are the nine symbols that crewmembers can convert a “blank” into:

compass (scouting)
shield (defense)
pickax (gathering)
muscles (physical)
DNA (biology)
squid (xenology)
wrench (construction)
computer (technology)
atom (science)

We can get started with what to call these symbols (so we can talk about them with “words” and not have to keep pasting a copy of an image into our text). Looking at these nine symbols, here is what I will call them: compass, shield, pickax, muscles, DNA, squid, wrench, computer, atom. Awaken Realms refers to them by what they may typically help with using the words I put inside parentheses: scouting, defense, gathering, physical, biology, xenology, construction, technology, science.

When choosing your crewmember for the mission you might want to see what their convert symbol is … if you will be doing a lot of scouting, consider choosing a crew that has “scouting” as their die converter (ie, the compass).

Also note that these symbols have no “color” associated with them. Thus, when converting a blue “blank” it could end up being a “compass” even though a compass symbol only appears on green dice!

For the first mission (Tutorial #1) you do not have a choice on which crewmembers to take on the mission. Awaken Realms not only tells you what crewmembers to take, but also what sections to assign them to! It seems that these particular crewmembers have skills and abilities that Awaken Realms want you to discover and use during your first mission … so PAY ATTENTION to their skills and abilities! We paid close attention to them on our mission and that helped us A LOT … we ended up with SEVEN success tokens! (the end game had three “rankings” for how well you did … 6 or more success tokens was in the top tier).

With that said … let’s look at those four crewmembers that Awaken Realms thought were important to helping you understand the game:

Cho Jae-Yong

Look at the top of the card to see what her special converter ability is:

At first glance I notice the COLOR of the “blank” die that she can convert … BLUE. I also notice that Awaken Realms chose to place her in the Engineering Section … which just happens to favor BLUE dice (the max allowed for us at rank 1 is 5 where as only 2 green or 3 red allowed):

Awaken Realms also tells you which specific dice to start with for Engineering… and look at what they chose for you:

BLUE just happens to be one of the two colors Awaken Realms gave you the most of!

Cho can convert a BLUE “blank” into what typically is only found on a GREEN die … a compass (scouting)

So … right now it seems that you might need some “blue magic” from Cho during the mission!

But wait! There’s more!

Each crewmember also has a special skill that is revealed at the bottom of their card. Some of these skills are always available to you. Other require you to spend 1 “charge” to use them, and those cases, the card also has a large black on white number that tells you how many charge tokens this crewmember gets at the start of the mission. Cho will spend one charge each time she uses her special skill … and she can do this four times during the mission. Start her off with four blue charge markers in the “charges” slot on the left side of her player tray. Remove one charge marker each time she uses her skill. She cannot use her skill when there are no charge markers available to her!

While playing the game you roll dice. Each time you roll the dice they are considered “spent”. You can only choose dice to roll from your available dice pool. The “spent” dice pool is not available to roll. However, you can get those dice back into your available dice pool! Awaken Realms refers to this as “refreshing” the dice! One way to refresh your dice is by choosing “rest” as one of your two actions for your turn. When you “rest” you get back HALF of your total dice (rounded up … so since Cho has 5 dice, the “rest” action typically will always refresh 3 dice of her choice from the spent dice pool into her available dice pool.) However … notice that Cho has a cool skill … she can refresh FOUR dice when resting (1 more than the normal 3). But, she can only do this four times during the mission (as noted by the number of “charges” she starts with.

When we get the final game we also will have the option of getting a “personal file” for Cho (via the Personal Files expansion). I am anxious to get a fuller view of each crewmember via this expansion (which *IS* coming in Wave 1).

Next, let’s look at the crewmember Awaken Realms assigned to the Recon Section for us:

Joppe Ulrich

Wondering if she is from Netherlands (anxious for the Personal Files expansion to find out!)? Look at the top of the card to see what her special converter ability is:

Her converter ability is to convert a GREEN “blank” into a muscles symbol (which is found only on red dice … but note that she does not convert the green die into a red die – only into the muscles symbol).

So far it is looking like Joppe is going to be on the mean green team … and, yes, look at what color dice the Recon Section favors:

Yep … green is the favored dice color for Recon which allows up to 5 green dice even before ranking up (and then you are allowed 6)! Let’s see if the GREEN look to Joppe continues with the five dice that Awaken Realms assigned for her to use in the mission:

Yep … Awaken Realms gave more green and red dice! This definitely is looking really green! Also notice that Joppe was given a red dice with the “muscles” symbol … which also happens to be what she can convert a green “blank’ into! So … even though she is looking a bit “green” she also will able to supply some “muscle” to the mission!

Finally … let’s look into her special skill as noted at the bottom of her card:

Now this is quite an interesting skill. Rolling the Danger Die during the game CAN injure you! And if you are ALREADY injured, it can get BAD fast. Joppe to the rescue! Three times during this mission she can protect OTHERS from being injured by a bad Danger Die roll… but at a cost! She takes the injury herself! I want her for my buddy already!

Next, let’s look at the crewmember that Awaken Realms assigned to our Security Section:

Riku Hashimura

Riku definitely is on the red team, starting with the color die that he can convert:

He can convert a RED “blank” into a wrench, which is found only on blue dice. Note that he is not changing the color of the die, just it’s symbol. This redness continues looking at the way color dice are allocated to the Security Section:

Yep … more red slots than any of the other colors. But then look at the dice that Awaken Realms assigned for Riku to use:

You get ONE guess which color dice is favored by Riku in this mission! No, it’s not blue like Cho nor green like Joppe. Yes, you got it … RED! Seems that Awaken Realms is giving us a crew with diverse abilities!

Finally … look at the skill that Riku has:

Wow … not only is RED his converter color, and not only does his Section allocate more red dice slots, and not only allocated, but he is starting with 3 red dice! Now we find out that twice in the game he can refresh ALL his red dice! He seems like a Security Section Powerhouse!

Finally, let’s look at the crewmember Awaken Realms assigned to the Science Section for us:

Amir Zaynab

Looking at his converter ability we see that it also is BLUE, just like Cho! However, he coverts the blue “blank” into the atom symbol (science) which only appears on blue dice (so he is looking pretty “blue” already):

But combine that “blueness” with the dice that Awaken Realms assigns to his player card:

But the Science Section tray itself is an interesting look into how Awaken Realms is still working on tweaking the game to make it the best possible… to hit the bar of excellence! look carefully at the green and blue dice slots, especially the very last slots:

I hope you can see how the player tray is a double layer tray with the slot where the dice go cut out from the top layer. The places that are NOT available for dice are not cut out nor colored (look at the bottom two slots in the red column). However, I think we have the privilege of seeing Awaken Realms tweaking in action! It looks like they switched which of the three dice colors would have the most dice allocation slots! It looks like originally BLUE had all six slots available, then it was switched over to green. But the 6th dice spot for blue is in limbo! It still is colored in as available but it is not cut out from the top layer! Interesting! The other three Sections each specialized in a certain dice color … Engineering favoring blue dice, Recon favoring green and Security favoring red. There are only three colors of dice, but four sections … so it seems the Science is wavering and may land favoring green dice (just like Recon, but Recon has red as the 2nd favored color while Science has blue as the 2nd favored color).

After that long side note, we finally should look at Amir’s special skill:


I don’t think that we used his skill in the tutorial game we just played because our crew seemed to always be maxed out at their limit of 3 Section Cards!

So … after reviewing our four crewmembers, we can see how not only were their dice different, but their ability to convert a blank die face was different as well. We enjoyed how pairing certain crew up seemed more advantageous than pairing them with the other crewmembers.

And there is yet one more way to “adjust” the dice you roll. Awaken Realms calls this “modify the results”.  We have already talked about how each crewmember can convert a “blank” die. There is yet another way to make adjustments! Section Cards! You start the game with two Section Cards … and, yes, each Section has their own deck of cards that are tailored to that particular sections job descriptions! Any time you choose to “rest” as one of your actions, you get to draw another Section Card (however, you can only have three at any one time… if you draw a fourth card, you then must discard one of the four to be back at the 3 card maximum.)

Each Section only had three cards in their Section Card deck for this first mission. Here is a sampling of what we could do with some of them:

  • During a roll: Reroll 1 die
  • During a roll: Turn 1 red die to any symbol you wish
  • During a roll: Discard 2 of the dice from the roll and replace them with 1 die from your available pool setting it to be WILD
  • Turn the Danger Die to any side
  • During a roll: Turn 1 blue die to any symbol you wish
Example of the three Security Section Cards

While we did seem to have excellent dice rolls (I won’t refer back to one of the reviewers whose dice rolling was not quite as good:)… one of our crewmembers DID get injured. This meant that we had to roll an INJURY DIE every time we rolled his dice! And, yes, I think it was Amir that got injured. Near the end of the game there was a sort of lull and we decided that 3 of our crew could handle the Control Room and Convex Panels in sectors 6 and 7. That meant that Amir could head over to Sector 2 (our crash site) where our supplies had been recovered … rolling a green die and a blue die while in that sector allowed Amir to discard his one injury!

Amir was able to get to Sector 2 safely and cleared his injury before the game ended. Phew! Good thing … because after the game ended we found out that the game was grading us on a point system that deducted points for injured crewmembers!

We found travelling between sectors interesting in that we didn’t just pop out of one sector and drop into the other … there was a path that we followed, and there were COSTS to travelling each path! This was interesting because these costs were NOT always the same!

You start the mission with NO TRAVEL ALLOWED. Yes, that is how Awaken Realms wanted us to learn about this travel stuff. If you see the “no travel allowed” icon in the top right corner of the Sector where you are, you can’t move to another sector (yet).

Of course there are ways for you to “clear” that restriction! Once you can travel it is almost like there are different MODES of travel. Just like I might consider driving, flying or taking the bus as different modes of travelling in my world, in the ISS Vanguard world, you can travel via Global Conditions setting, spending a die or by rolling the Danger Die.

First, we need to be clear about the Global Conditions setting! It changes! This icon on the travel path lets you know that you will be travelling via Global Conditions:

(notice in this example we are travelling from the left page to the right page going across the spiral binding of the planetopedia book)

When you see this travel icon, it means that you must look at the CURRENT Global Conditions setting found in the lower right corner of the Planetopedia page. In this game, the Global Condition changed once for us! The starting travel condition was:

With this condition we had two options. We could either spend one die of our choice … or we could roll the Danger Die. The symbol used to tell you to spend one die is this:

Notice the three colors on the sides of the die in the symbol. At times during the game you may be told spend a RED die … and in that case all three sides would be red.

The other option in the Global Conditions setting told you to roll the Danger Die and use Category 10 to resolve it:

These are the possible rolls for the D8 Danger Die (remember the 10 in the symbol does NOT mean it is 10 sided … it is an 8 sided die):

  • one side is blank
  • one side is a circle
  • one side is a pentagon
  • two sides are a square
  • three sides are a triangle

Category 10 resolves your roll with two possible bad outcomes:

  1. a pentagon => spend one die (which you would have done anyway if you chose the other option)
  2. a circle => get a “just a scratch” injury

Since there is only one side that is a circle (get an injury), you have a 7 out of 8 chance of doing just as good or better than the option to just spend one die. You just decide if you want to risk getting injured or not:)

Then in mid game the Global Conditions changed to this:

The lights are on now (mostly) so it is a bit safer travelling about … so the Global Condition changed to actually give a chance at a POSITIVE outcome! If you roll a compass (scouting) you can refresh one die (and remember to use those crewmember skills as well as Section Cards). In any case, even the “fail” result takes you to the new sector unscathed!

Another way to travel is via spending a die (which also was one of the possible results from rolling a Danger Die):

You recognize the symbol that means “spend one die of your choice”. If you travel on this path you MUST spend one die. (Actually, there is a rule that if you are required to spend a die that is NOT in your available dice pool, you discard (sacrifice) one die instead … this means you choose one die to set aside and no longer use for the rest of this mission).

Finally, you can travel via Danger Die:

And, you already know about rolling the Danger Die for travel! It is the ONLY way to travel on this path!

Well … that’s it for ruminating over my first mission (all 26 pages if printed on my printer!). For the record, we ended the mission at Log 204 which had our “clean up” instructions!

Hope you enjoyed the ride … I sure did! I had just as much fun telling you about it as playing it!  Get ready for an excellent exciting game!

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