Type: Race / Dungeon Crawl

Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: ?? minutes)

Best played with: 5 Player (1 – 5 Players)

Five players with five different rule sets and five different objectives. Sounds complicated? Well it is and it isn’t. Imagine playing crazy golf, but you are all playing different holes – you take it in turns, but even though you can see your opponents move, it’s hard to know what shot they are going to take next!

Vast is an asymmetrical dungeon crawl with players taking on the different fantastic roles of the traditional dungeon exploration game – the knight, the goblins, the dragon, the cave and perhaps a bit more questionably the thief. These tropes of the genre make for fun and light hearted characters.

I won’t spend long on the character’s individual skills / goals – in fact I will focus on that in my strategy tips. For the purposes of this review I am interested in how the game plays in its totality and how you might evaluate whether the game is for you.

The game then, is a puzzle played out through the actions of all the players and requiring each player to always understand their own path to success and the total game state. This is interesting, because it makes you feel the local impacts to your player and the global impacts of your actions. If the knight explores, the cave grows bigger. If the dragon eats, the goblins get weaker. The thief steals treasure which would help many others!

Why do you need to know this game state? Well the game self balances. The reason the five asymmetric powers of this game are so well tuned is that the players have the power to balance things out between them. The cave can actively make things easier or harder for the knight, the thief, the dragon and the goblin – all these actors can make things easier or harder for each other and for that cave player. You all need to be keeping each other in check, pulling the leader back or even directly helping his opponent!

This game is also comparable to rock, paper, scissors – each player beats another that is sat around the table (or has the most effect on the player). The other players are much harder for you to effect. Knowing what you can do, what is your role in the game is important. If you are the rock, you need to dodge the paper and find the scissors.

However, this combination of different roles with different rules is incredibly difficult to teach and in fact I am not sure there is a single easy way to teach it. Above I have just put ?? as I think it’s probably best to use the second edition of the game where you get hints for each character. These rule sheets and hints will help you through your first game and probably a few more there after. I refer to these every game – they are great.

The one thing you can do at the start is to explain which character is best to attack / avoid which other characters and how the cave plays. The cave is important here; whether a player or a draw-pile this mechanic matters to those who explore and in your early games the cave may win if other players just struggle to get their win conditions. In essence the cave is the clock.

Now, would this game be for you? Well it’s quite complex and there’s lots to experience / try out in this game, but at the same time you may feel like it’s a bit of a random walk some times. Why? Well some of these characters can lose the game in the early turns – one vicious attack will stop the thief in his tracks, whilst one round of doing nothing will really set back the knight or the dragon. It’s all very situational; and sometimes it’s more determined by the other players’ actions.

Get through this risk of a bad start, and you have a battle of your own aspiration and the need to reel in other players. You want to build for your goal, but rush to achieve your goal. This feeling of a race is important – it drives the game. That can be a fun aspect to this game. Racing to the close will the game collapses in around you.

However, I think this game can frustrate you if you want to build up an engine or take more strategic control of your destiny. It’s also a game that can frustrate you if you are close to winning and get clawed back in by the other players. If either of these are issues with games then watch out and trial this first.

Last notes;

  • If you like games with exploration and a race to the finish – definitely check this out
  • If you don’t like having to pull other players back or getting close only to be denied, then the core mechanics may be frustrating
  • If you win, swap roles and try again