Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday, 15 December 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Vast: The Mysterious Manor

Game: Vast: The Mysterious Manor

Publisher: Leder Games

Designer: Patrick Leder

Year: 2019

If you're looking for asymmetric games, then Vast would be the first game that comes to mind for me. We never approached the original Vast because the huge amounts of asymmetry and steep learning curve I anticipated. Leder Games followed Vast with Root - with a cute appearance masking an asymmetric war game that also made us wary of whether we'd enjoy it. In the meantime, we explored the simpler end of the asymmetric market with Villainous, before taking a closer look at Vast: The Mysterious Manor.

Vast: The Mysterious Manor is a streamlined game in which each of the factions feels very accessible. With rules and combinations for 1-5 players, there's a lot of different game experiences to enjoy in the box to explore.

Gameplay

Vast: The Mysterious Manor tasks you with taking control of one of five factions and bringing them to their unique victory condition. Each faction has their own special rules that let them achieve this goal. The spider wants to generate enough terror and leave the mansion. The paladin wants to slay the fearsome spider while the skeletons want to hunt the paladin down. The warlock wants to hide away and curse everything and the mansion wants everyone to respect its personal space, also it wants to complete rituals. Depending on the number of players different combinations of factions are possible, but at least the spider must always be present


Each faction plays very differently, so it's hard to provide a brief summary of the gameplay. Typically you will have a character (or multiple) that you can move through the rooms of the mansion. Usually you will be beholden to the layout of the rooms. Rooms are formed of tiles with up to 4 exits that let you further explore the manor. Most characters cannot cross walls, some are able to smash walls open or create walls where there previously were none.

Usually if you enter another character's space you will begin combat. Every character has a defence value and if you can get your attack value higher than their defence then you will win the fight and Mostly this lets you, at least temporarily, remove that figure from the game. You can also collect various goodies, from blood (needed by the spider) to gear (for the skeletons) and treasure (which the paladin likes). On top of all these basic interactions there is a huge amount of inter-factional player interaction in the game. The warlock for example gets weakened if they share a room with someone else. Chasing the warlock might be needed to weaken that player, but often this will come at the cost of you being in an advantageous position. The spider wants to run way from the paladin so is it worth them going after the warlock at risk of being hit by the paladin. Well the paladin is fleeing the skeletons so perhaps. But it might all be for moot when the mansion player alters the available pathways through the manor anyway! Ultimately only one player can win, knowing when to push your own goals and when to slow down your opponents is key to doing so.


Amy’s Final Thoughts 

Vast: The Mysterious Manor is an incredibly ambitious game. The amount of player interaction is fantastic and the way the different factions can change the flow of the other factions gameplay is incredibly elegant. Every side plays so fantastically different that you can play the game 5 times and feel like you've played five different games. That comes with an obvious cost though. Learning and teaching Vast is not unlike undergoing major dental surgery and the manual is hardly adequate anesthetic. Actually that's unfair, it may well send you to sleep! There is something undeniably painful about reading a rulebook that has a section on generic rules and then immediately moves onto the first character and the multitude of ways they break them. While technically learning your own character is enough, once your start playing it's clear that you also need to have a good knowledge of what everyone else is capable of if you want to succeed. You aren't learning one game, you're learning five!

While there are indeed five factions, here we tend to look at games from a two player perspective, so from our point of view 2/5ths of the box is filled with pointless content. When playing two player you must use the spider with either the paladin or the skeletons hunting her. While a disappointing lack of choice the reasons behind it are solid and there is no denying that Vast makes for a good two player game. You lose some of the intricacies that appear when a larger number of factions are involved, but the remaining game of cat and mouse is highly enjoyable. At two players turns go relatively fast and huge amounts can change from one round to the next.

This is where things start to hurt at higher player counts. Suddenly the gaps between turns become longer, so you are doing less. But the changers on the board between each turn become huge! It's possible to feel that you aren't able to make a long term plan and instead must play very reactionary as your next turn feels a long way away. But with time and a committed group it would be possible to speed up the game and get to a point where you are able to fully enjoy the nuances of Vast's gameplay. There is no doubt in my mind that Vast is an ingenious bit of game design, it's extremely clever. Unfortunately that hasn't quite managed to filter down into fun for me. Between learning the asymmetrical rule set and the slow learning curve Vast: The Mysterious Manor is a game that requires more investment than I'm able to give most games these days. While this means that the game is not for me, for some people this should be taken as high praise!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Vast: The Mysterious Manor is a fascinating game design. It's the first heavier asymmetric game we've tried and I can't help but marvel at the intricate balance of the characters that can create some very exciting experiences. With two-players it's a shame that we only got to try three of the factions, but the spiders, paladin and skeletons gave me a great flavour of the game, whilst Amy got the chance to play with more players too. Having a whole different set of rules for every faction certainly adds some complexity to the game and I was pretty intimidated by the spiders in particular, because you essentially have three different forms you can take, all with different rules.

Getting your head into each characters rules until it becomes intuitive is definitely the way to enjoy the game. Our first couple of games ended up pretty one sided as one player forged ahead based on a single small mistake from another. It's not a forgiving game and so I can't see myself introducing it to all but experienced gamers, even though those with less experience could understand and play it.


Vast: The Mysterious Manor definitely doesn't look like my kind of game on paper, but it won me over for a couple of reasons. Firstly, with two players it was surprisingly fast, playing in just 45-60 minutes. Secondly, the gameplay is extremely simple, once you know your character. The moving an flipping up tiles around the dungeon actually feels like quite a familiar, if not slightly dated, mechanism. There's a learning curve here with the characters and if I was introducing it to new players, I'd definitely start them with the paladin. If you have an audience who aren't willing to take on board rules and really figure it out in the first game, then it will fall flat.

The limitation of Vast: The Mysterious Manor for me is the experience with two players. You only get to play with half of the game's content and you get a smaller experience with less cool interactions. Playing with the Paladin you have a deck of cards, half of which don't even do anything if you're in a two-player game against spiders - it does feel like an oversight. For groups of 3 or 4 who really want an interesting dungeon crawl experience I love the idea of Vast: The Mysterious Manor, it just needs the right group.


You Might Like...
  • Vast: The Mysterious Manor is a hugely admirable game design.
  • The game creates really interesting, interconnected situations for all of the characters on the board.
  • There' enough variety for many different game setups at higher player counts, and it's a learning curve that rewards repeat plays.
You Might Not Like...
  • There can be a lot of downtime at higher player counts.
  • The two player experience feels very limited since there's only a chance to play 2 characters from the box.

The Verdict
7/10 Vast: The Mysterious Manor is not the style of game we would expect to enjoy, especially for two players. However, the way that the game develops is extremely satisfying to watch and figuring out your best move in the interconnected world is a terrific puzzle. For us, it's a shame that the game is very limited with two players and seems to shine with more.
 

Vast: The Mysterious Manor was a review copy kindly provided to us by Leder Games.

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