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In the context of planetary exploration in ISS Vanguard, the recon section player selects a crew member to receive the start token. Subsequently, each round begins with the crew member holding the start token, and players take turns clockwise. On a turn, players perform two actions and then flip their turn tokens facedown, drawing and resolving one event card at the end of the turn. The round concludes when all turn tokens are flipped. Planetary exploration continues until certain conditions are met: a crew member performs the lift-off action, a crew member receives a fourth injury card, or a log or mission card dictates the end.

Exertion, not counted as an action, allows sacrificing a die to refresh section dice. Discarding one charge at any time enables the use of a crew member's skill. Actions during turns include Travel, Prepare, Rest, and Lift-Off. Special actions visible on the planet board, in the sector, on a POI card, global condition card, threat card, mission card, lander mod, or rank-up card can be performed.

Dice checks involve choosing dice, adding injury and danger dice, rolling, modifying results, checking for dice combinations, resolving injuries and danger dice, and activating special effects. Section dice types, such as Vanguard, Basic, and Accident, are integral to the game. Missions, discoveries, leads, threats, injuries, and icons contribute to the complexity of gameplay. The plan for the planetary exploration, including the management of discoveries and leads, is outlined. Special effects, section dice, and icons provide additional nuances to the gameplay experience.

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