(25) Count Down – Crew Skills part 2

Victoria Romano was in a real chopping mood as Jia Seok walked in.

Hi VR! What’s cooking!?

Hiya Jees. What’s painting?

Yeah… VR and JS (fondly called Jees) were buddies before the starship launched.  Jees tells everyone that VR is the best chef that she’s ever met (but then adds that she is the ONLY chef that she has ever met:). And of course, Victoria returns the favor telling the rest of the crew how just prior to launching, Jia was able to cover a whole section of the hull of the starship with gorgeous graffiti of an alien world that Jia had seen in her dreams without anyone catching her (well, almost). And there was no time for anyone to “erase” or “white out” her spontaneous art before the starship launched. And so starship ISS Vanguard was now hurtling through space with a huge fantastical scene emblazoned on its side (what will the aliens think when they see that!?)

VR nods at Jia! Well, our feast is nearly ready so you better go get Levi to pray his blessing over the …

And then a booming voice from heaven interrupts her. Well, actually it was just Levi on the system wide speaker system throughout the starship (so everyone could hear him this time).

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Testing. Testing. 1-2-3. Can you hear me? Should I tell a joke? Knock knock!

<loud burst of static as the Captain grabs the mic from Levi>

Attention all crew. This is the Captain. Our feast is nearly ready. The universally renowned chef Victoria Romano has created a meal fit for kings! So head over to the mess hall now. But first, a few words from our illustrious chaplain, Levi O’Connor.

Lord, I ask that you bless this special feast that Victoria has carefully prepared for us today. And I bless all of us aboard this special starship with a full measure of grace and peace so that wherever we go we may reflect God’s true nature. Amen. LET’S EAT!

See Levi’s full blessing here=> Vanguard Blessing 6 (full blessing – printable PDF with clickable links)

For today’s Count Down article we will take a look at the skills* of the crew. As we saw in yesterday’s article, each crewmember has one of 33 different skills! Here is the PDF list of all the crew and their skills sorted by skills=> Crewmembers Skill Order v2

* Note that previously I called converting a basic die a “skill” but actually the rulebook refers to it as an ability (and the crewmembers “skill” is at the bottom of their crewmember card). Each crew has an ABILITY that can convert a specific color basic die into another die icon (see top left of crew card and page 32 of the rulebook). They also have one of 33 different SKILLS (see bottom left of crew card as seen in the long listing in yesterday’s article). As I write my articles, I might confuse these two terms again – let me know if you see me mess up in this please.

It is important to realize that a crewmember must spend one “charge” in order to use their skill, and they have a very limited number of these charges! When you set up the crew board at the start of your planetary exploration mission, you place a crewmember card onto the crew board and the section dice that they are bringing with them on the mission in the slots to the left of the crew card. But you also must look at the number in the bottom right corner of the crew card which specifies how many charges they start with. Place that number of charges just below the crew card in the cutout “Charges” area.

NOTE: the number of charges a crewmember starts with is NOT the maximum they are allowed. Charges can be added, swapped or lost during game play. (see rulebook page 37 which confirms that what I experienced playing Prototype 2 is still in the final game)

NOTE 2: page 28 of the rulebook waives the use of charges during the Tutorial, so they don’t come into play until after the Tutorial is completed (unless you skip playing the Tutorial and just watch the Tutorial video instead, as noted on page 10 of the rulebook).

It is unfortunate that all the images of crew boards in the rulebook neglected to include the charges (cubes) that the crewmember had … the charges area under the crew card were always “empty”. When starting a planetary exploration mission, remember to place the appropriate number of cubes in the charges slot of each crew board.

After over a year of playtesting, the 33 crew skills should be balanced out for game play. However, your style of playing the game might skew you to favor some of those skills over others. In this article I will first tell you about the skills that I favor :)

First of all, please note that I like playing “SAFE” and tend to not take risks. I also didn’t want to start my planetary exploration with missing supplies (which CAN happen if you have a bumpy or crash landing). So I wanted one (or more) of my Away Team crew to be able to mitigate the roll of a danger die. Yes … before you even get to the planet you likely will be rolling a danger die at least once, and often several times! And a bad result can cost you! So, reviewing webpage of my previous count down article, I did a search [CTRL+F] for “danger” and found this skill that would help my lander get through any difficulties that arose during landing:


Next I looked in the PDF list of crewmembers sorted by Skill and found these crewmembers listed with the ALERTNESS skill:

So … I definitely wanted either Adrien, Mark or Raven (or all three) as part of my starting crew (perfect for a risk averse player).

NOTE: I deviate from the official rules here. On page 28 each player is instructed to draw three random crew cards and select two of them as their Section’s starting crew. Call me a rebel, but if I am going to play over 100 hours of a campaign game, I want to be playing with crewmembers that I ENJOY playing the game with! I think that there may be many others that would rebel with me in this … and so this article is for us rebels as we join forces to SELECT ANY CREWMEMBERS WE WANT from the stack of 86 available crewmembers! [Spoiler: all 90 crewmembers are included in the PDF listing even though 4 of them technically won’t be available until you reach the point in the campaign where you can open the Secret Envelope … I don’t know which four will be unavailable so I am including all 90 for now]

If you try to avoid risks like I do, you may appreciate a crewmember with the Alertness skill. Any time you have to roll a danger die during the game and get a terrible roll result, they can spend 1 charge to use their skill to IGNORE whatever you just rolled! This can be critically important as you travel between sectors on the game board. But also as your lander approaches the planet. Let me explain a bit.

As you play the game you will be able to construct / build various landers. You also will discover / manufacture mods for your landers. The storage space on the various landers will vary – some will allow you to carry more supplies and equipment. However, when landing that lander, there are three criteria of the lander that are considered (see rulebook page 47)

  • Lander Agility – how easy is it to maneuver the lander during landing to avoid debris or mitigate adverse weather conditions
  • Lander Sensors – how well can you detect those adverse weather conditions or identify debris you need to avoid hitting
  • Lander Armor – how will your lander be affected if you hit debris or land in a not so soft manner

Before launching your lander you usually have the option to spend some of your “energy” to SCAN the planet. This scan MIGHT warn you about landing conditions and which aspect(s) of your lander may be crucial to landing safely. Depending on those landing conditions AND how well your lander is equipped in each of the three lander criteria you will be instructed to roll a danger die. If the landing conditions are severe (and your ship’s criteria does not mitigate for it) you may have to roll a danger die multiple times.  The logbook / App will tell you the exact consequence from each roll of the Danger die. If the roll has a terrible consequence, I (personally) would like to be able to “ignore it” :) And Adrien, Mark and Raven have the “Alertness” skill that can do just that! And they each can do this THREE TIMES (using one of their starting three charges each time). I don’t know how often Danger die may need to be rolled during landing in the final game, but with Prototype 2 a basic lander without many mods had me rolling the danger die over and over and over again! So, if one of the crewmembers in the lander has the Alertness skill, I could choose to ignore a Danger die result if I wished. And since they started with 3 charges, I could ignore a Danger die result up to three times!

And so, one of these would be high in my crew selection list:

One more thing to take note of when looking at a crewmember’s skill. They might not be able to use their skill Anytime (like with the Alertness skill). Some crew skills are limited in various ways, such as:

  • Before or After an Action
  • During a Dice Check
  • When Assisting
  • When Resting
  • Anytime, not during exertion

We know that there is no limit as to when we can use the skill to ignore a Danger die because it states “Anytime:”

Next there are two skills that you might not understand or consider very useful – Loader and Trump Card.


Both of these skills are unique in that they let you retrieve something from the main ship that you did NOT bring with you in the lander! I’m not sure why Awaken Realms included this type of “skill” but I would like to take advantage of it. I have not seen the Small Equipment or Personal Equipment, so I can’t say when it would be handy to just “take” one of them off the main ship at Anytime! But here are the crewmembers who have this Skill:

Personally, I am MUCH more interested in the Trump Card skill because I know that there are some fantastic Section Cards that are only available to high ranking crewmembers. The Trump Card skill not only lets me take an extra Section Card at some point in the game (actually ANYTIME) but it also allows a Rank 1 crewmember use a Section Card that is usually only available to Rank 2 or Rank 3 crewmembers!

WOW! I want these people on my Away Team! You already met Jia at the start of this article, but here is Carles:

And with that … I am anxious to see what the best Section cards are for each of the four Sections… because these Trump Card crewmembers can just grab any one of them ANYTIME (if needed)!

However… I assume the final game will make it just as hard to actually USE that fantastic Section card as Prototype 2 did. I remember having to plan out a way to get to use one of the great Section cards because it took an extensive dice combination to activate it! Some required 4 or even 5 specific dice icons to activate, so I needed lots of dice to be rolled (which I think then involved multiple other Sections assisting!). This is to remind you that just HAVING a great card is only the first step. ISS Vanguard is extremely well designed with the many aspects of the game nicely interwoven. You can look forward to an article about the Section cards. I’m sure I will get to them, but for now I haven’t even started the next article about other crew skills that I need to post in less than 24 hours.

While it may have taken you less than six minutes to read this article, it took me several hours to write it. But if you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I consider it a success!

Join with me tomorrow as I continue this walk through the skills that our crewmembers have! Same bat time! Same bat channel!

Previous Count Down article=> Crew Skills
Next Count Down article=> Crew Dice Skills Part 3

Click => Full 3 Column Site

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