Jorge Zhang

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Vault Wars Review

March 3, 2019

Hey everybody! Today I wanted to share a review of a game I really enjoy that doesn’t get as much attention as I think it deserves: Vault Wars. I first published this review on Board Game Geek, which you can find here:

"Vault Wars is one of those games that is entirely group dependent. I have had games where Vault Wars fell completely flat, and others where it has been extremely popular with everyone at the table. What I’ve noticed is that Vault Wars works best when the players take their strategies a step beyond the lying and bluffing."


Unique Gameplay
Vault Wars is a bidding game with an economy. What that means is that players are purchasing Vaults from each-other instead of from a central bank: which means that when you buy a vault from someone you give them more money to use against you in the future. In addition, due to hidden roles and the set collection aspects of the game, each vault is not worth the same to every player. Finally, only the Auction Master tends to get complete information. Every other player gets to see only a few of the items in each vault. These aspects of Gameplay make Vault Wars create a very unique experience.

Beyond lying
In Vault Wars, you have to be extremely careful with giving certain players money. This is because the player with the most money can afford to buy any vault they want: which means that if a very valuable vault comes up they will be able to make a large profit. This effect magnifies when the wealth disparity becomes very large. One of the craziest moments in a game of Vault Wars was when a friend of mine basically rarely purchased a vault throughout the entire game and instead hoarded a fortune. He then was able to buy out the last 2-3 vaults in the game and no one was able to stop him because everyone was dirt poor. This made him get 2-3 vaults for way less than he should have paid for it. 

This brings me to my favorite dynamic in the game, which is the bidding between the Auction master and another player. The player wants this vault very badly, but they don’t want to pay a lot for it. On the other hand, the Auction Master wants to make as much money as possible, and to do that they need to over-bid the player to try and get them to go for a higher price. But if they go too high then they’ll have to buy the vault themselves: often at a loss.

Other cool things are how you can bid on a vault that you definitely don’t want because you know that this other player really, really wants it. I’ve done this several times to bankrupt other players to great effect, though when it backfires it can be devastating.

Who does not like this game?
Some people don’t like this kind of high social interaction and deduction experience. For Vault Wars, you have to be keeping track of small cues that tell you what everybody is looking for and what they want. Information is very powerful in this game, and knowing that gives one the advantage. However, these cues are easily missed by new players and people who are not invested into the game. That is why I would only recommend this game to people who will play Vault Wars multiple times and get accustomed to the game economy. 

One other downside is that occasionally one player can just get extremely lucky or unlucky. It kind of sucks to get dealt a pile of junk because it is really difficult to sell that to other players. If this happens repeatedly to the same player, they have very limited ability to catch up with players who get very lucky with their vaults.

I highly recommend Vault Wars, especially if you have a regular gaming group that comes back to the game every so often. I wouldn’t bring it out with new players if I am probably never going to see them again. Vault Wars fills a niche that no other auction/bidding games I have played fills. Thanks for reading!”

Do you have any games you really enjoy that you wish got more attention? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang