Who'll Start the Bidding? A Review of Vault Wars | Casual Game Revolution

Who'll Start the Bidding? A Review of Vault Wars

Vault Wars

What happens to an adventuring hero’s loot and equipment when he dies? It goes up for auction of course, for aspiring heroes to bid on.

Will you get the gear you need to start a life of adventuring? Or will the paladin on your left outbid you?


Each player starts the game by being dealt two aspiring hero cards which they keep secret until the end of the game. Each aspiring hero awards bonus points at the end for collecting certain items — but you can only score points for one of them, so based on which items you collect, you will have to choose with of the aspiring heroes to score at the end of the game.

Next, each player is given twenty gold and dealt a certain number of vault cards determined by player count. Players choose one vault card and pass the rest to the player on their left. Players keep selecting a vault card and passing the rest until all vault cards have been drafted. The first round of the game then begins.

Each player selects one of their vault cards, which are then revealed simultaneously. These vaults will be put up for auction in increasing order of their vault priority number.

When your vault goes up for auction, you become the auction master. Each vault lists the number of items held in it and how many are visible to all players, as well as how many cards players will peek at. The auction master draws the appropriate number of item cards, looks at them, and selects the appropriate number of items to play face up on the table. The remaining cards are shuffled and passed around to the other players face down. When the cards are handed to a player, he peeks at the appropriate number of cards, shuffles the cards, and hands them to the next player. Once all players have peeked, the auction begins.

When an auction starts, the auction master announces his starting bid. This is the only time the auction master gets to bid. If no other players bid, he pays his bid to the bank and takes the items. Otherwise all other players can take turns raising the bid or passing. You can place another bid after you’ve already passed if another player raises the bid after you. The player with the highest bid wins the vault, takes the item cards, and keeps them face down in front of herself.

After each player has auctioned off their vault card, you move on to the next phase of the round. Items have two values: gold and victory points. Some items can be equipped, in which case you may use their special abilities during the game. However, these items cannot be unequipped and will be worth no points at the end of the game and cannot be sold.

You may also sell items at this point, discarding them and taking their gold value. If you have less than twelve gold you can also visit the loan shark to take twelve gold from the bank, but you will earn a corruption token. The more corruption tokens you have at game end, the more victory points you lose. Finally, you have to pay storage for any items you keep. Each item costs one gold to keep, unless it is a junk item and you reveal it to the other players as such. Junk items are worth no victory points (unless you have a particular aspiring hero) and cannot be sold for gold (though they can be trashed). You can pay one gold to store three junk items.

The round ends and a new one begins. You play as many rounds as players have vault cards. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game is the winner.

Vault Wars Components


Vault Wars has a really creative theme that’s quite fun and fits the mechanics of the game well. If you’ve ever watched a storage bidding reality show, you recognize where some of the mechanics come from, such as players not knowing everything that is in the vault, different people making out different objects with the peeking, and having to bid blindly on occasion and hope for the best.

There are a lot of different factors to keep track of throughout the game. Some vault cards have special rules when up for auction while some item cards are worth more points at the end of the game if combined together. There’s also a wide range of things your aspiring heroes might be hoping to accomplish, so trying to decide which one to score while also trying to guess at other players’ goals is a fun challenge. However, if you make some poor choices at the start of the game, the loan shark can always keep you in funds and in the running.

While the auction master has little to do once the bidding starts, bidding is a fast process, and there’s a lot of weight behind the choice of which items the auction master reveals and what price he starts the bidding at.

The artwork and production quality of the game is excellent, and all the layers of strategy and decision making results in an extremely engaging auction game. However, auction mechanics aren’t for everyone, and since Vault Wars is so exclusively an auction game, there is little here to win over players who aren’t typically fans of the genre.

If you enjoy outbidding opponents and collecting cards to maximize your victory points, Vault Wars is layered and strategic, with a lot to offer.

Pros: Richly thematic, loan shark keeps all players in the running, strategically layered choices

Cons: Little to offer players who do not enjoy bidding mechanics

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.