Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Dev Diary #13: Vanguard In-Depth

Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Dev Diary #13: Vanguard In-Depth

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Hi there, welcome to this week’s Planetfall Journal! This surely is the Vanguard’s week with the Vanguard Trailer and last Friday’s Gameplay reveal. To close off the Vanguard onslaught, this Dev Journal is packed with in-depth Vanguard info: their development process, background, campaign goals, newly unveiled units, mods, and operations.

To Recap: The Vanguard originate from the expeditionary forces sent out to claim new worlds beyond the Frontier of the Star Union and its Nexus hyperspace network. When an expedition arrived at their destination and built the Nexus Portal, they discovered a galactic cataclysm had taken place during their long journey in cryosleep. Now the Vanguard need all their combat and survival skills to prepare for the showdown with the forces that brought down the Union.

The Vanguard key perks:
  • Kinetic Weapons Group
  • Laser Weapons Group
  • Summon drones and troops directly into combat
  • War Economy allows for rapid construction of units
  • Powerful ranged units, weak melee capability
  • Disciplined: All cities start with an extra +2 happiness

Conceptualization. In the early days of development, the Vanguard faction started off as a Human/Terran faction, as early pre-production Planetfall didn’t have a premise centered on the shattered galactic empire. Back then, factions emerged from various unconnected home worlds. As pre-production continued, they were morphed into the Star Union’s expeditionary forces and had their unit roster and techs developed to reflect this. Here, you see some great concept art by Michal Kus with later additions made by Rich Burgess and Jordy Knoop. Some have WIP explorations not in the final game.

Concept1.jpg
Concept2.jpg
Concept3.jpg


The Vanguard Campaign: I don’t want to give away campaign material spoilers, it should be safe to say that the campaign missions involve Commanders discovering their faction’s (or their personal) roots.

The Vanguard ranks include many outcasts with little ties to society; so the effects of long interstellar travel in cryosleep and the resulting time dilation didn’t matter to them. Broken relationships and shattered reputations don’t follow you to the frontier – only the brute will to survive remains.

In the case of the Vanguard, their campaign mission starts as they awake from cryosleep making their way to the frontier transit world “Leave 6”, where the Union’s expeditionary forces were restocked and could take their leave in between missions. It is here that they will start figuring out what happened to the Star Union and will be confronted with ghosts from their past.

Leave6.jpg

Here is the Mission Briefing from the first Vanguard mission. Interesting fact: You can now choose to customize your Campaign Commander’s appearance and perks in Planetfall.

Vanguard Techs

Here are some excerpts from the Vanguard tech tree. You’ll see the Vanguard are big on rapid deployment and drones. The Vanguard are not all shock and awe though, as Vanguard Doctrines have some ways to pacify rivals in non-violent ways. Note: the designers are still balancing the tree so I removed exact stats from the individual techs.

  • Drone Deployment
    • Perimeter Patrols: Strategic Operation. Small drone patrol the colony, dealing thermal damage to invaders
    • Bunker Buster: Strategic Operation. Drone drops an anti-infrastructure bomb, damaging a random colony upgrade + damaging units on the target hex.
    • Emergency Recon: Strategic Op. Deploys an OWL drone
  • Smart Defense Systems
    • Improved Sensors. Unit gains 360-degree awareness and overwatch. Increases scanning range on world map.
    • Interlocking Armor. Increases armor and stagger resistance.
  • Rapid Maneuverability
    • Jet Pack: Module. Make an Infantry unit jump 7 hexes to target location. 1 Action Point Remains after the jump. Adds +1 Armor
    • Inferno Drop Pod: Drops Inferno Marines from orbit. Damages units with 7 hex AoE landing zone. The pod turns into a small defensives position (this was actually broken in the demo!)
  • Predator Conditioning
    • Direct Command. Tactical Op. Wires the target friendly unit directly to HQ, massively increasing Morale and Stagger Resistance.
    • Killing Machine. Module. Restores AP after a successful kill (once per turn). Increases Damage.
  • Force Concentration
    • Miniaturized Missile Array: Infantry only Module. Fires missiles causing massive impact, staggering units and reducing action points. Leaves a super heated gas cloud.
    • Reactive Armor: Whenever a unit is hit, it reflects a percentage of damage back to the attacker.
Vanguard Doctrines: (note: we specifically removed exact modifiers as designers are still working on them.) Doctrines are empire wide bonuses that require limited Doctrine Slots.

  • Frontier Policies
    • Frontier Survival: Extra food in colonies.
    • Colony Militia: Unit production cost reduction dependent on level of Garrison in colony.
  • Subjugation Protocols
    • Spear Head: Allows the Vanguard player to deploy Ops in Turn 1 of Combat; normally there is a minimum of 1 turn before Ops can be used.
    • Hearts and Minds: Increases Influence gain from quests, making it faster to absorb colonies.
  • Hegemony
    • Big Stick Diplomacy: Leverages military might to bring peace, removes reputation system from starting a war.
    • Planetary Conquest: Increases Popular Support for your wars.

Vanguard Units

We’ll close off this journal with some of the unit cards you have not yet seen from the Vanguard.


Engineer.jpg
LaserTank.jpg
Valkyrie.jpg


The Vanguard Tier IV unit - The Drone Carrier - and its drones we’re saving for a later day! :p
 

TheSpeaker

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Wait a minute - do those units have unique names? Ace, Salamander, Wildcard. It used to just say Vanguard before. Are those from the mods?
 

Draxynnic

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Ah, so that's how the Vanguard "returned" - if I'm interpreting things right, hyperspace is a gate-to-gate transport, requiring that a gate either be constructed at or brought to the destination. Meaning that new systems could only be colonised by sending a colonisation fleet across at STL speeds to establish a new gate at the destination.

So what's happened is that the Vanguard arrived at a new system, rose from cryostasis, set up their Nexus gate, and then came back to the Star Union to report on their success and for a bit of leave: expecting that they'd find themselves far enough in the future that whatever made them join the Vanguard in the first place was no longer an issue, but that the Star Union would be there. Instead, they find... ruins.
 

Quark02

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The engineer looks ready to topple over. Surprised it isn't extra vulnerable to stagger.

I like that unit morale and party morale are sort of different. Blue and green. Not sure which is higher though.

Valkyrie Flashbang doing fire damage is a curiosity. Either that or the resistance-check icon (like we had in AoW3) is not ready yet.
 

Jean-Luc

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Not much to say, just beautiful. I do wish the Valkyrie had some sort of head protection. I know you want the face to be visible so the unit stands out from other Vanguard troops but an open faced "pilot helmet" of some sort could work or something similar to her concept art.
 

Fenraellis

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Thank you very much. Now we're only missing the Gunship, Naval units and the Drone Carrier.

I won't lie, I prefer most of the Concept Art versions of the units more, but it's mostly due to the sheer detail that would be largely wasted on the in-game models due to the scale they are most frequently viewed at. At least the Valkyrie looks mostly the same, even if it's a shame she lost that rather interesting face-piece for just an eye-piece.

Mini Launcher Turret will potentially be quite the force multiplier for groups of low-tier Troopers and Engineers, giving all of them access to an aoe massive impact damage source, which leaves a cloud. High-tier mod, though, so it comes at a premium. It probably also can't fire the turn it's deployed, to give the other player time to possibly react against a swarm of turrets. Improved Sensors allows any unit to Overwatch and can't be Flanked, along with better Strategic vision. Thorns armor, always fun. Spearhead let's them bypass the 1-turn restriction. Heck, combined with Big Stick Diplomacy and Improved Sensors, they seem like a faction that likes to break the established rules.

It makes me excited to see what special tricks the other factions have up their sleeves to tweak or break the game rules in their own ways. Fourth (Specialty) Mod Slot? Could easily come from Assembly, Kir'Ko or Amazon, by mechanics or genetics.

Can't say much about the Engineer, aside from the fact that it appears to have its purpose as a more offense and Mech-oriented semi-Support (Repair and Targeting Calibration), compared to the other T2 Support, the PUG. Better Damage and Defenses, compared to Nanite, Smoke and ability reset of the PUG.

Laser Tank is kicking around what looks like a multi-shot and a high-powered single-shot(over double-damage, and probably other properties like Stagger and penetration), along with Smoke deployment. Slow, though, and strangely less Armored than I expected, having the same Armor rating as an Assault Bike(if they still have 4, since we haven't seen one in a while). I suppose their purpose is higher tier ranged single-target power, though, since they do more single-target than the more expensive Walker unit.

Valkyrie has some hefty multi-hit damage once she gets into melee, and the mobility to make it there(I called the Jetpack, although I wasn't quite expecting Assault Jump, but rather hoping they would have a version of Lesser Flying). You can see her unit icon has her with Floating, though, compared to OWL's Flying, so at least she has that. Very squishy(it's the lack of headgear and gloves, I tells ya!) once she gets there, but she'll definitely beat a Lancer, for what that's worth, albeit losing to a fellow T3, the Kir'Ko Ravenous, most likely. Different units for different purposes, of course, including their purpose within a faction's lineup.

Drone Carrier is amphibious, it seems, although that could technically come from a Mod we don't see.

Final observation, though. -10% Upkeep Perk, or a system-wide adjustment to unit upkeep costs? I see 7/14 for T2/3, which intrigues me.
 

TheDungen

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Those are some damn fine units.

Could have done without the lightsaber though.
 

Booo

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I'm wildly bemused by the engineer being more armored than the tank. Perhaps that's because of the mods? It isn't possible to tell what those do from here, some iconography connected to the unit mod cards wouldn't be unwelcome.

The engineer's weapon is interesting, it certainly doesn't look like a shotgun.

Not much to say, just beautiful. I do wish the Valkyrie had some sort of head protection. I know you want the face to be visible so the unit stands out from other Vanguard troops but an open faced "pilot helmet" of some sort could work or something similar to her concept art.
An advantage of helmets is that they also help immersion by explaining why all units would look the same. It can be a bit off-putting if every unit is identical otherwise.
 
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Dr_K

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Looking good! Liking the valkyrie. Hope it got flying?
Not currently. It has Floating/Hovering (not sure if they are going to differentiate them) judging by the movement icon. The Transcendent had the same icon and had Floating. Also, the OWL has the Flying movement icon.

asdf.PNG
 

Harry Easter

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Was critiqual at first, but the Vanguard actually look and read like a cool starter-faction. I just love this used Traveller-look. Time to recolonise the Union :D.

Will the Dvar the second faction next week?
 
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