What’s In The Box? (All This For $99?)

Yeah, it really is $99.99 but we are supposed to think “$99” rather than “$100”, right?

So … just what will you be getting in the Core Box when it ships? I can show you what SHOULD be in the final edition that ships based on the Prototype 2 that I have. And it is A LOT! If I were to print this article on my printer it would be about 40 pages long!

NOTE: I updated this article on January 2, 2022

NOTE: you can click on any of the images to ZOOM in on it (ie, make it larger). You often can then click on THAT larger image to zoom in even more!

The Box Itself

Let’s start with the Box! It is a nice sized box! Compare it to my Pandemic Anniversary edition (which sells at the same $99.99 price point):

You can see from the photo that it is significantly bigger than the Pandemic Anniversary edition. (I stacked four dice in front of Pandemic and then had to add SIX MORE dice to get almost to the top of the ISS Vanguard box). Pandemic came with 7 miniature models. ISS Vanguard will come with 8 miniature models (two for each Section). You can see how they compare in the photo above as well. You can see the Pandemic minis are smaller and thinner.

8 Miniature Models of the Crewmembers

The ISS Vanguard minis actually have the ground under their feet included in the model. Here are some closer shots of them:

Remember that these minis are just prototypes and they have a sundrop effect.  They will be colored to match their sections colors in the final game.


UPDATE: some of the latest comments from Awaken Realms have noted that they will NOT be including the standees for the crewmembers (so my prototype 2 standees are now collector items… even with the very artistic coloring I added). Note to Awaken Realms: If you are reading this, please please please include the crewmember standees in the box game! I know that you as a company love miniatures … but there are MANY gamers who absolutely do NOT like them! Why force them to use miniatures when all they really want is a piece of cardboard stuck in a hard plastic stand?

You may (but likely not) also get standees for the crewmembers IN ADDITION TO the 8 miniatures!

There are a few plastic standee holders that you place standees in:

You can choose if you wish to play with the standees (if included) or with the miniatures.  Personally, I played one game with the miniatures and one game with the standees and I prefer the standees. My daughter (who also played the game) agrees. The only problem we had was remembering which standee was matched with which Section. We solved that (as you can see in the photo) with four sharpie markers:) [so much for the collector items status]


Awaken Realms wants us to remember that this is just a prototype! Right at the top of the cover of the Quick Start Guide is this note (click to zoom):

Their final bullet point reminds us that they are using “off the shelf” components! The final components should be at the level of excellence that we can expect from Awaken Realms!

Ship Book

So, with that said … here is an example of how wonderful even “off-the-shelf” is … the Ship Book binder:

Now this is a time to point out that Awaken Realms did NOT send a prototype to me. It takes a lot of time and effort to put together just ONE prototype so Awaken Realms was only sending 4 to reviewers in the United States:

  1. Adam at Rolling Solo (see => Setup video)
  2. Tom at Dice Tower (see => Tutorial #1)
  3. Alex and Jesse at Quackalope & BoardGameCo (see => Tutorial #2)
  4. Shea at Rahdo (see => Real Game)

However, Awaken Realms told me that if any of those four reviewers wished, they could pass along their prototype to me when they had finished their gameplay and reviews. And, fortunately one of them was willing to do just that (but wanted to play all the missions in the prototype before passing it over to me … which points to the fact that they really did like the game a lot).

So … I got the prototype second hand (so to speak)… and as you can see from the photo above … the three ring part of the binder had pulled off from the binder itself. Here is another view of it:

But this is a GOOD THING! This was an “off-the-shelf” binder and now Awaken Realms knows that the Ship Book binder in the final game needs to be more sturdy and heavy duty! So, we win! We can anticipate the Ship Book binder of the final game to be excellent heavy duty quality! And, just to keep this in perspective, I **DO** have some old heavy duty 3 ring binders here, so I took all the pages and put them in my own binder:

You can see how the pages are extending out the side of my binder … it seems that Awaken Realms is using a larger size page (or is that the European standard? We in the USA have to remember that the game and the prototype are being developed in Poland). However, once the binder is opened, the pages are just fine in my binder:

(well … they are just a little bit taller:)

Quick Start Guide

Next thing in the box is the Quick Start Guide, which is a very nice spiral bound book (just the right size to fit into the game box).

Book of instructions for using the Prototype 2 Demo

This was a very handy book! It had a glossary as well as a few pages of charts that explained what all the icons mean (see for example => Event Type symbols).

The final game will have a rule book in addition to the Ship Book, but may or may not also have a Quick Start Guide. We know there will be an additional rulebook because the almost final Ship Book refers to it on page 24:


The Planetopedia book was the same size as the Quick Start Guide.

When opened it provides the two page game maps for planetary exploration missions:

System Maps (Galactopedia)

While playing the Ship Phase part of the game, you choose where to travel to for your next mission. The System Maps book (formerly called the Galactopedia) is what you use for this:

Each page in this spiral bound book is your reference and information point for all the available systems. There will be A LOT in the final game, but even in the prototype there are ten. (See => What planets/systems are in the prototype). For example, here is the reference information page for TOI-2:

Prologue (16 page Graphic Novel)

This small booklet (kind of a comic book) actually is an introduction into the WORLD of ISS Vanguard!

It tells the story of how the ISS Vanguard Mission came about through words and pictures (lots of pictures)… the booklet starts like this:

The entire booklet is available online (thank you Awaken Realms) and there also is a text only version. Both are included in this article => Prelude to ISS Vanguard


And if that wasn’t enough books … you also get a Logbook! This book is your guide through the planetary exploration missions. It includes dialog between the Away Team (which will be YOU on the mission) and the ISS Vanguard mother ship which stays in orbit while the Away Team takes a Lander to do their exploration.

The logbook has some instructions and directions that you must follow as you play through your mission. It works well with the things that happen on the game board pages from the Planetopedia and the many events and Points of Interest. Here is how the Logbook starts:

And the following two pages:

The yellow highlighting actually is PART OF the Logbook … it seems that Awaken Realms wants to be sure you actually DO read these parts!


While the app is not actually IN the box, it is INCLUDED with the game! This gives you the option to play the game using the Logbook (see above) or using the APP. The app is a professionally narrated version of the Logbook. So if you don’t want to keep flipping back and forth through the logbook, you can use the app (which will do all that for you). You just can’t switch from the Logbook to the App or vice versa. You pick one and stick with it throughout your campaign!

Ship Status Panel

NOTE: these dials have been removed from the game which now will use command tokens instead!

An integral part of the Ship Phase of the game is the Ship Status Panel with the five dials (four actually have a smaller dial overlaying the larger dial (kind of a matched set):

These dials keep track of your energy as well as the morale of your crew. They also are used to go through the research and manufacturing portions of the Ship Phase.


In the Core game you get standees for all your landers. I have four of them in the prototype:

Your lander typically is used to leave the ISS Vanguard and land on the planet you wish to explore. However, it can be used as part of a mission as well. You land your lander on the “landing sector” and that sector is important because in most missions, once you have completed all the objectives you are NOT finished! You still have to get all your crew back to the sector where the lander is and then Lift Off. And, yes, the more crew you take on the mission (up to 4, one for each section) the more crew have to get back to that sector so you can Lift Off to end the mission!

UPDATE: Within one day of posting this article someone (our fearless leader Jorg) pointed out that the Lander CAN be used on the planet and pointed me to this section in Gamefound update #14:

The Landers in ISS Vanguard are your main tool for accessing planets and other explorable objects. On your way to the mission area, you will have to contend with threats such as micrometeorites, asteroid fields, ancient orbital defenses, energy storms, hurricane winds, and many more. The Log Book contains dozens of action-packed landing scenes related to these threats. And the only thing that stands between these dangers and your crew is a good, well-prepared ship. 
However, since the three starting planets we’ve shown in the prototype were relatively simple and had only one landing zone, many players who watched the reviews wondered why do we need lander models and standees at all, if most interactions happen between the mods and attributes of the Lander Tray and the Log Book that presents the landing scenes. 
That’s why we wanted to shed more light on five important aspects of gameplay that require you to have some representation of the Lander on the planet board. 
1) There are planets where using your Lander is the only way to get to some sectors or move between separate parts of the planet board (think: objects in space, floating rocks, ocean installations). 
2) As the game progresses, we introduce planets with more than one possible landing zone, offering you more than one approach to exploring the planet. 
3) Once you fully explore some Sectors of the planet, you will sometimes reveal new Landing Zones to avoid retreading the same areas on your second Planetary Exploration.
4) Some landers can move between the Sectors, picking up the dying Crew, helping you with evacuation, or even providing close fire support.
5) Some special scenarios introduced in the Log Book and on the Mission cards use Lander representations in other ways – but we can’t write too much about them as they’re related to secret parts of the core box campaign :)
As you can see, lander standees and models are quite useful in their own right. That’s why we hope you will be glad to hear we’re adding two more of them via the Stretch Goals! 

Lander Cards and Trays

The standee (or mini) for your lander is not that important … but the lander card and tray ARE important! In the prototype we have four different landers (should be at least 6 in the final game). By default you start with the Space Ranger. In order to use the other landers you have to actually build them (during the Ship Phase).

These are the four landers available in the Prototype Demo

The lander trays seen in the photo above are what you take on your mission. Which ever lander you use, it’s tray will be on the table while you are playing that mission. It tracks your supplies and collects your success tokens and discoveries. There also are smaller lander cards that slot into a page in the Hangar section of the Ship Book:

The smaller cards for the landers

Each lander has its own levels for armor, sensors and agility, as well different storage space for supplies and equipment for the mission and for the discoveries that you want to bring back with you.

Four Different Size Cards

Now that I’ve mentioned cards, I should point out that with ISS Vanguard, the phrase “one size fits all” does not apply. That phrase ties in well with what is referred to as a “standard” size card (which ISS Vanguard has plenty of). But I think the game benefits from having different sized cards! Here are four card sizes in ISS Vanguard:

Mini Cards

It is nice to use these smaller mini cards, both during the Ship Phase and during the Planet Exploration phase. However … there are A LOT of them, even in the prototype (just wait till you see how many you get in the final game!). And that means you need a way to store them! And storing them in a typical storage area designed for “standard” cards does NOT work well at all (and that is what the prototype used by default and even the final game insert appears to be designed to hold the mini cards in standard sized storage areas.) A few photos may show what I mean:

Note that most standard size card storage bins do NOT have that nice indented area on the sides that I have in my Gamegenic card tray, which almost makes it usable for mini cards (but not quite). Two more photos may help:

That photo shows the main types of mini cards for the Planetary Exploration phase. They have GREEN divider cards! Next I try to pull those cards back a bit so you can see the cards with the BLUE divider cards that are used during the Ship Phase:

During the Ship Phase you will be using the cards in the sections with blue dividers:

  1. Blueprints (build your own lander:)
  2. Ship Upgrades (get a better ship)
  3. Systems & Objectives (deciding where to travel to next)

Then during the Planetary Exploration phase, there are a variety of mini cards that are used:

  1. Rank Ups (requirements to meet to rank up)
  2. Injuries (a wide variety of injury types)
  3. Events (usually these are not good for you)
  4. Discoveries (five types of discoveries)
  5. Unique Discoveries (special discoveries unique to this planet)

Large Cards

From the minis let’s go to the biggies. Well, not as big as the Lander Trays, but the biggest of the cards in the game! There are two main types of these cards and there are not many of them in the prototype (the final game may have lots more). There are two main types:

  1. Lander cards (specs on each lander)
  2. Threat cards (there were only four in the prototype)

I mentioned the lander cards already … so here are the four threat cards that are included in the prototype:

and the flip side:

I have yet to encounter them during game play, but look forward to it … it looks like they can be exciting during the game! There also are standees for some of the threats (minis are in the Close Encounters box of the final game), but I have not encountered them in the game yet so I am not sure how they are used:

Square Cards

The equipment cards are square (and rather thick as well). This odd size might actually be helpful to recognize them during the game.

Notice that some equipment can only be used by a specific Section (ie, they are trained in its use). This Jetpack can only be used by the crewmember in the Recon Section. You can tell if it is restricted to a certain Section by the color stripe at the top (rose for Recon in this example) as well as the Section logo in the top right corner. Later in the game you will get a Jetpack that can be used by all crewmembers :) Also notice in the top left corner an icon that will indicate if this equipment is personal or mission (the final game will also have a canister icon – I’m not sure what it stands for). Each crewmember can carry as much personal equipment as they wish, but can only carry ONE mission equipment (which typically is heavy).

Standard Cards

As with the mini cards, there are a variety of types of the standard cards and like the mini cards, the divider cards are green for planetary mission cards and blue for those used during the ship phase.

During the ship phase you will use these standard sized cards:

  1. Production Projects
  2. Research Projects
  3. Available Situations (you have to handle a variety of situations that arise on the ship)
  4. Recruits (crewmembers available to add to your section)

During the planetary exploration mission you will be using these standards sized cards:

  1. Points of Interest (POI)
  2. Landing cards (to use in the scanner)
  3. Global Conditions (change the “cost” for moving to another sector and more)
  4. Mission cards – during your “mission” you will be assigned other “missions” (maybe we should call them submissions… but no, that is another word entirely:)
  5. Saved Planets (cards to save the details of a planet you are leaving) [the final game may do this differently]

Tokens and Markers

The prototype came with a pile of small acrylic blue cubes:

You use these to mark your progress for POI cards that allow you to achieve something (such as gaining a lead or discovery). They also are used as “charge” cubes for your crewmember tray.

The Time Tracker markers are similar, but instead of tracking your progress in dice rolling, they track the passage of time!

These were really hard to actually use (but then again, this is only a prototype … the final may have something better). There are some POI cards as well as Global Condition cards and even equipment cards that use the passage of time in order to progress to the goal (and note that the goal is not always a positive one). I have a photo of a POI card with a time track at the bottom … and a time track token already on the card in the 4th time slot with three more to go (you have to count that final long box as well as each individual time track slot). It was hard to move these small time tokens on the cards because the cards would move as I tried to move the token on the card.

Success Tokens

The success tokens are important! They are one of the requirements for a crewmember to rank up. They also can be used during the Ship Phase as well as in certain instances during your planetary exploration mission.

If you are doing well on the mission and acquiring a lot of success tokens, you can trade in 3 of the 1 value tokens for a 3 value token … or trade in 5 for a 5 value token. The values and size and color of these tokens have no real meaning … it is merely a way of counting how many you have, just like you might have pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to use for purchasing something in a store (if any of us are still using cash).

Leads (to Discoveries)

If you find enough “leads” you can earn yourself a “discovery”. But Awaken Realms changed this process in prototype 2 from how it was in prototype 1. Instead of lead cards we find lead tokens. After you gain enough “leads” (ie, leads points valued at 3 or more) you gain a random discovery. The tokens are kept in  a good sized black bag.

When you find a “lead” you reach in the bag and pull out a lead token at random and put it on top of one of the five discovery decks:

Some leads grant you stuff (see the top row) like a free Section Card or an added charge marker for your crewmember or even a totally free discovery! Some leads don’t actually get you anywhere (2nd row) and are worth zero (0) lead points. The third and fourth rows show a leads worth 1 point and the bottom row are the 2 point leads. The two curved arrows around the 0 (and some of the 1’s) mean to just put it back into the bag after you earn your discovery card in that deck.

Note: the flimsy cardboard lead tokens were hard to use and not very elegant at all … see this article that explains how to turn them into “chips” => Transform Your Lead Tokens Into Chips


Some missions may allow you to bring along one P.E.T. There is a standee included for this, but you don’t actually put it in the standee holder – you lay it flat on the playing board because it has a spot where it holds one die:

There is a miniature model of this P.E.T. in the Close Encounters miniatures pack, and also a set of four different P.E.T. minis (one for each Section) available as an add-on. Having a miniature does not add anything to the game play, but it does look nice with that die being held up high over the game board :)


Before starting your mission, you can spend some energy points to scan the planet you are planning on going to. This will give you hints on how to plan for the mission (ie, which die icons will be most useful to you during this specific mission). The scanner itself looks drab, but the way you use it is cool.

To use it, insert your lander card fully into the scanner. Then on the front you will see an energy cost to scan the first time. Pay that energy price and slide the lander card up a bit and look at the back of the card to see what advice the scanner has for you.

Then as you pay the required energy cost, you can do 1, 2 or 3 scans (depending up on the planet … some may not allow more than 1 or 2 scans). There is a full article with more details of what kind of hints and advice you can receive => Planetary Information Scanner

Turn Available Token

Each crewmember is allowed two actions for each round of the mission. Once they have taken their two actions their token is flipped over to the “turn passed” side (which also requires them to draw one event card).

During our first two games we had a hard time remembering if a crewmember had taken both their actions or just one. So we came up with our own way of keeping track of this. When a crewmember takes their first action we put the Turn Available token ON TOP OF their crew card in their tray. Then when they take the second action we flip it over to Turn Passed.

Other Tokens

There are a few other tokens in the prototype (and the final game will also have Command Tokens that I’m not sure how to use):

The first player token is used to indicate who is the first player for the current round. The Mission Failed token is given to your crew if they do not succeed in the mission. And the four hex tokens are used during the Ship Phase if you have more than one player playing the game (if you wish… they are optional and merely divvy up the tasks and choices between the players).

Section Dice

I saved the DICE for the end (I knew you’d keep reading until you got here:)

In the prototype there are a variety of dice. The ones that you will be using the most are the red, green and blue Section dice (20 of each color, but most of them are unique with few duplicates).

Main dice for the game

During each Ship Phase you will have the opportunity to “purchase” more dice for your Sections (and the more dice the better). However, each color dice has its own unique available symbols in addition to the three symbols found in all three colors. To see what each symbol on the dice means (as well as which colors have which unique icons) see=> Dice Symbols

Injury Dice

During your missions you try to avoid being injured, but sometimes it happens (well, actually every mission I have been on so far has had injuries). When a crew member is injured, each time they roll their Section dice they must also roll their injury dice (one per injury). And, as you may have guessed, those injury dice can have some bad effects! Sometimes you will have to lose one of the Section dice in your roll (place it into the spent pool without using it). Sometimes it can require you to change any Vanguard logo (wild) into the exclamation point (bad). And some types of injuries can also have serious results of removing one of your die from the planetary exploration mission altogether (ie, you can’t use that die again until after the next Ship Phase):

Notice the use of symbols that tell you how to determine the result of rolling your injury die for this injury. There are six sides to each Injury Die (all injury dice are the same):

Notice that there are only four symbols! Two of them occur twice. For the Exhaustion Injury, there is a 1 chance in 6 that the three drops symbol will result. Any of the other five die faces means “nothing happens”. Each type of injury has its own “rules” for determining the consequences for the injury die results.

Danger Dice

The Danger Dice are used at the start of your mission during landing as well as during travel from one Sector to another if the danger die symbol appears on the travel path! A Danger Die has 8 sides and they are explained in this article => Danger Die

Rolling a Danger Die is, well, dangerous! But there are a variety of dangerous situations during the game, so there are different ways to interpret the consequences for the symbol rolled. For example, landing on a planet requires rolling the danger die, but each planet has its own chart that you use to determine the results of your roll. Other times the Danger Die Help card is used. It has TEN categories of “danger”. Each category has its own list of consequences for the roll result. This card is shown in the article linked above.

D10 Die

I have not needed to use the D10 die yet… so I can’t report on what it is used for. [note: it was used to determine which landing sector to land in as one example]


Yes .. the amount and variety of what is included in just the Core box is amazing. But what is even more amazing is that after playing through 3 Tutorials I haven’t lost any of the tokens, markers, dice or cards! But I only have a smidgen of the amount that will be in the final game! Even just the Core box with nothing else added is going to be amazingly EPIC!

Click => Full 3 Column Site

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