Vast: The Mysterious Manor

Vast: The Mysterious Manor

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The manor has sat in the shady part of the valley abandoned for generations. The spider having escaped her abyssal prison is now seeking to return to her terrible glory, while the skeletal guards of this estate continue to stir in the darkness. The paladin has come to the manor, seeking atonement from the gods he must destroy the spider. Return to the world of Vast in a whole new ad…
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The manor has sat in the shady part of the valley abandoned for generations. The spider having escaped her abyssal prison is now seeking to return to her terrible glory, while the skeletal guards of this estate continue to stir in the darkness.

The paladin has come to the manor, seeking atonement from the gods he must destroy the spider.

Return to the world of Vast in a whole new adventure Vast: The Mysterious Manor.

Vast takes you and your friends on an adventure in a haunted house, built on total asymmetry. There is no merry band of travelers here fighting evil. In Vast you take control of any part of the story.

Play as the pious Paladin, the murderous Skeletons, the awesome Spider, or the Manor itself. In addition there is the Enchanter, come to this world to rule the minds of the others. Each role has its own powers, pieces, and paths to victory...and there can be only one winner.

As the ultimate asymmetric board game, Vast: The Mysterious Manor provides a limitless adventure, playable again and again as you and your friends explore the five different roles in different combinations.

Leder Games will present the entire game with solo modes, many combinations of characters, and full games. For the first time Vast will come with a board, to hold the tiles that form the Manor. In addition Vast: The Mysterious Manor will be compatible with Vast: The Crystal Caverns and Vast: The Fearsome Foes.'

A Vast Solo Adventure

If you’ve ever played Vast: the Mysterious Manor, you know the undertaking you’re committing to when you do it. From the physical constraint of needing a generously sized surface to lay all pieces on, to the intimidating task of explaining the rules of each of the 5 remarkably asymmetric characters, the Vast fan community often shares their difficulty in getting the game on the table.

Lucky for us, the Mysterious Manor can be enjoyed in solo as well, and it addresses a lot of the issues that make the game tough to get going in a group. Off the bat, only the Paladin and the Skeletons are present, so you can make this work in a cosier setting. Complexity is severely reduced, as you’re looking at 2 characters out of 5, and they are already arguably the most straightforward two to begin with, with the Skeletons being even easier to control in their bot form. But most importantly, it is actually quite fun.

Vast 101

If you’ve never played Vast before, here are some formal introductions: this is an extremely ambitious game by the makers of Root, and a new iteration of their 2016 game, Vast: the Crystal Caverns. Like its predecessor, you can choose one of 5 characters to play as, with some ability to even swap some of them around between the two games, as the tropes they represent are interchangeable. For example, there is a monster in each of them: the Dragon in Crystal Caverns and the Spider in the Mysterious Manor. Likewise, there are minion factions in both of them, so where you had the Goblins now you have the Skeletons.

The board here is a manor whose space you will be populating with tiles that figures can then move to and interact with. Those tiles can have treasure, blood, enemies, among others, and each character interacts with them in their own way. Characters also have unique decks and components no other character will use and their winning conditions are entirely different, ranging from defeating a specific opponent to terrorizing the manor and escaping it.

Someone Needs To Be The Good Guy

In the solo mode of Vast: The Mysterious Manor, named The Paladin’s Journey, your role has been assigned for you: you’re the Paladin. This is an appropriate introduction to the game, as the Paladin has very black and white conditions for victory and defeat in the multiplayer version and really plays like an RPG character. You want to kill the monsters, you die if you’re out of health, you gain experience – named grit in the game – and level up your stats. No form swapping to worry about (hey, Spider!) and none of the space puzzle solving you’re tackling as the Manor or the Warlock. Hit bad guys, don’t get hit, you win.

The most significant change from the Paladin gameplay in a multiplayer game is the fact that the Spider isn’t present. Seeing as killing her is exactly how the Paladin wins the game, what is the catch then? In a solo mode, he wins once he’s defeated a certain number of poltergeists, which are Manor residents that get in the way of almost all characters of the game. That’s not to say the Spider’s existence is completely unnoticed, after all blood tiles – her favorite – will be revealed regularly. The way this affects the game is that, when you’re playing by yourself, you will be controlling all three dials that come with the game: your grit, which is how you level up, the terror dial, which goes up once per turn and every time a blood tile is revealed and down whenever a blood token is removed, and the stability dial, which goes up when you reveal a pit and down when you reveal an armory. Terror in this mode will control the defence of poltergeists and make you discard favor cards or treasures at specific thresholds, while stability will determine the Skeletons’ movement, strength and how often they respawn.

The Skeleton themselves are in the manor with you, and they remain as invested in attacking you as they always have, although the variety of things they can do in their turn is slashed. You’re basically simulating a player who focuses exclusively on aggression. They don’t interact with tiles and cannot gear up, they will instead always attack when they can or move closer to and surround the Paladin when they cannot. Each time they successfully hit you, you lose 1 health point. If your health falls to 0, it’s game over as usual, but another huge threat here is the terror: your second lose condition is when it gets up to a certain level, depending on the difficulty you’re playing in.

How Holy Is This Crusade?

Once you’ve memorized what happens when you reveal a tile of each type, a solo game of Vast plays surprisingly quickly. You’ll be crusading a lot, which is the action of moving into a tile to reveal it and resolve it – possibly with a battle. Your pursuers are brainless piles of bones, so the variables are very limited, but there is a real rush and sense of danger because it’s likely you’ll get close to reaching your poltergeist quota at around the same time as the terror is nearing its maximum, which would cause you to lose immediately. You will usually be able to keep the Skeletons at bay if you’re doing some minimally responsible use of your Prepare action, which, by increasing your Defence temporarily, will force them to surround you heavily before they can hit, so at least you’re not losing more than 1 health per turn.

As a gaming experience, especially for someone’s initial steps in Vast, the simple fact of not having the Spider on the board makes the complexity plummet. Her gameplay is very dense in rules, and they shift just enough between each of her three forms that any distraction will cause you to miss something, so being able to set her aside makes the game more easily playable. Which really is something, because the designers recommend certain combinations of characters depending on the number of players you have, and the solo mode is the only one in which the Spider isn’t mandatory. Varying difficulty levels to choose from are a welcome addition too, as you want the game to remain challenging ever after you’ve become good at it.

Is It Better Than The Multiplayer Mode?

No. And yes. Vast is extraordinary if played by 4 or 5 people. You need enough players to at least get the Manor in there, because they bring a level of chaos and unpredictability to the board that no other character can. And their power to swap and move tiles can also lengthen the game, but in an excellent way. They really excel when monitoring player progress and making sure no one wins too quickly. But at 2 and 3 players, it’s significantly less fun. Still operational, but not as rich. With the solo mode, the cat and mouse play between the Paladin and the Skeletons works really smoothly, the setup is drastically reduced and you can get a game going and completed in a perfectly viable amount of time.

Replayability is enforced by the nature of how you populate this manor: as you’ll never be drawing the same tiles in any given game, you will interact with your surroundings differently each time. It would be phenomenal if they had come up with a way to play solo as the other characters as well, since they each really do play so uniquely, but alas, if that’s what you want, start convincing your friends.

From asymmetric game authority, Leder Games, the creators of the acclaimed Root and Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Vast: The Mysterious Manor is a competitive game in which you play as one of five severely different characters, each not only with their own mechanics, but their unique winning and losing conditions, in an attempt to come out with a much hard-earned victory. While this isn’t meant to explain how to play the game thoroughly, I’ll be going over each character briefly to give you an idea of the breadth of what this game has to offer.

The Premise

Four of the selectable characters, namely the Paladin, the Spider, the Skeletons and the Warlock, are in the title manor and trying to accomplish something, whether it is to escape it, to kill an enemy or to dominate the place. The fifth playable character is the Manor itself, which is personified in its own player token that can move around the board. The way the board works is there is an enclosed grid-like space that is the manor itself, surrounded by grounds, one door that it the only way out and, at the start of the game, mostly empty spaces called crypts. As you progress through the game, you will be filling those empty spaces with tiles, at which point they stop being crypts. This is how you slowly populate the board, and most characters can only walk through tiles, not crypts, so the playable space increases as time goes by. A tile also has two sides, an unlit and a lit side. Character movement is one of the things directly affected by whether a tile is lit on unlit, but other things are impacted by it as well.

Every time a tile is lit – or revealed – you will see any of its four sides can have an opening. For any side that does so, you’re prompted to retrieve another tile from the box and place it unlit side up adjacent to that open pathway. That’s how you uncover new rooms and ways to navigate the manor. The tiles can be of a handful of different types as well: there are blood tiles, treasure tiles, poltergeists, armouries, pits, and more. They each cause a different effect and not all of them are significant to all characters. There aren’t too many types, so that won’t overwhelm the players too much.

Poltergeists are inhabitants of the manor. No one can play as them, they mostly serve as obstacles, preventing movement and forcing battle. They are particularly disruptive to whoever is playing as the Manor, since the Manor has no way of removing poltergeist but does require free spaces to reach its objectives. The concept of battle is important to the Paladin, Spider and Skeletons. Combat happens when one player token moves into a tile that has another player or poltergeist in it. At that point, the attacking player must have an attack power greater than the defence of the defending player. If they do, the attack is successful. Otherwise, the attack fails, and the attacking player moves back to the tile they were in just before initiating the confrontation. Attack is usually mandatory whenever these encounters happen, but in Vast, every single rule has exceptions.

The straight-forward characters

No character is necessarily easy to play as, but the Paladin and Skeletons are straight-forward enough, as they’re combat oriented. The Paladin wins the game if it kills the Spider, whereas the Skeletons secure victory by killing the Paladin. Their game is one of cat and mouse. The Paladin plays very much like an RPG character, buffing up his attack and defence, gaining power ups and trying to become strong enough to kill his enemy while defending himself from those bags of bones. The Skeletons are essentially weak, but there are five of them and the player will be controlling all in each of their turn. Whenever defeated, a Skeleton will simply respawn, so they are relentless. They are also the only faction that can walk in the grounds around the manor, which makes them more mobile than other characters.

The Beast

The Spide is arguably the most difficult character to grasp. In a game with five characters with such distinct set of rules each, the Spider herself has three forms, and they’re considerably different from one another. She can be the Giant Spider, the Sorceress or the Spiderlings. Each form moves, casts spells and attacks in a particular way, so it can be very challenging to strategize properly with her, because other players will likely have come out the other side of their learning curve before the Spider player does. Her goal is to raise terror in the manor and escape. She raises terror by spreading blood, web and egg tokens around the board and, as the terror rises, she becomes more resilient and resourceful.

The weird ones

The Warlock and the Manor cannot engage in combat, either as attackers or defenders, so they’re great choices for players who are less combative (kind of like the Vagabond or the Otters in Root). The Manor is trying to trap all players inside it, and it does so by completing Seal rituals. These are basically patterns of movement it needs to be able to trace on the tiles as long as they have no obstacles on them. This is why, as the poltergeist population increases, the Manor becomes so crippled. It is a very fun character to play as, because while it can’t be offensive, it can hinder other players by swapping tiles around, rotating them, moving them, raising walls, etc. It is the agent of chaos in the game.

The Warlock is also a very sneaky character. Non-combatant, he runs away when anyone even passes by the tile he’s on. He wants nothing to do with any of the action happening around him, he only cares about dominating poltergeists and treasures in the manor (I suppose that’s the way to world domination?). Once he’s dominated enough of them, he wins. He is the most prolific character in spawning poltergeists and treasures, which serves him well, and that is what makes him and the Manor arch nemesis of each other, as one wants the manor as busy as possible, while the other wants its halls free and available to move around.

The Verdict

I adore heavy complex games, but I believe there is such a thing as too complex. Having played Vast: TMM enough times, I get the feeling that it walks so that Root can run. I’ve read arguments that, despite Root being considered the current standard for asymmetric games by many, it isn’t that asymmetric, because all characters share the same deck, most scoring methods and win the same way. However, while that isn’t the case for Vast: TMM, I’m not convinced that is a good thing. In order to extract real value from the game, you have to have played it enough times with the same group of people to enable everyone to confidently know what they’re doing. The rule book is so full of errors and oversights, that the official errata online end up being more of an authority on it than the book shipped with the game itself, and, 5 years since launch, there are still discussions active on certain corner cases. It is an enjoyable game, it is very fun once you get the hang of it, but for me it is overly ambitious and, hard as it is to play, it’s even harder to get it on the table, as most people find it a chore. And while it claims to be playable by 1-5 players, it really only starts to shine at 4, when you get the Manor or Warlock going, so unless you have a hardcore group of gamer friends, you may face the same difficulty I do with this one.