In Vast: The Crystal Caverns, The Knight must kill the Dragon; the Goblins must kill the Knight; the Dragon must wake up and escape the Cave; the Cave must fully expand and then collapse to bury everyone; and the Thief must collect and stash treasures.
If you have 5 players playing Vast: The Crystal Caverns, play with all of the roles. If you have 4 players or fewer, choose a variant from page 15 of the rule book. Your first game, I recommend playing with all of the roles except the Thief.
Seat yourselves in the following clockwise order: Knight, Goblins, Dragon, Cave, Thief. You will play in this order. If there is no Cave player, you will still use its Event deck and Treasure deck. Set up your player boards and organize your other components as shown Below.
How to Play
The rulebook is available for download here, in case you want to see all of the details. As explaining Vast in its entirety would make for a long review.
In general, various creatures and/or heroes find themselves at odds inside a cave littered with crystals and treasures. Each side has a separate goal depending on which other sides are also in play. The general game structure is one of continuous rounds until one side fulfils their win condition.
Here is a brief description of each of the five-player roles:
- Knight: This character’s main goal is to slay the Dragon, which slumbers in a cavern level below the Cave’s main map. Using an action selection mechanism, the Knight’s operation is relatively straightforward. Move around, complete side quests, allocate some actions to attacking with bombs, and the Knight can eventually defeat the Dragon.
- Goblins: The main goal of these creatures is to slay the Knight. They can attack the Knight at various points by alternating activation of Goblin tribes which grow and shrink in size. The Goblin player uses cards to enhance their tribes on the map and grant them special abilities with monsters.
- Dragon: Being underground, the Dragon player has a dual-stage game. The first stage occurs while the Dragon is sleeping underground. During this period, the player is trying to activate abilities to harass the Knight and Goblins to increase the Dragon’s Wakefulness track. They do this through the playing of action cards. Used in certain combinations, they give the Dragon player different abilities. Once the Wakefulness track is full, the Dragon can escape the Cave and win the game.
- Thief: One of the more unique characters, the Thief has a more standard game similar to the Knight’s allocation of attribute tokens. Acquiring treasure and returning it to the Cave entrance progresses the Thief’s mission. As each treasure token is added to the Thief’s stashed treasure (on their player board), new abilities are gained and enhanced. The Thief wins by collecting 6 Dragon Gems and/or Treasure Tokens.
- Cave: The Cave is not the last player in turn order, but this player has the most unique objective. As other players search and discover items in the Cave, this player places out new tiles. In addition, they also get a turn drawing token from a bag which they spend on abilities. The more Treasure and Crystal Tiles that exist in the Cave at any one time increases the rate of Cave actions, including speeding up the expansion of the Cave. Once all tiles have been placed, the Cave player can then start the Collapse by removing tiles. If the Cave player manages to remove all the Cave tiles, they win.
Vast: The Crystal Caverns is an amazing game which feels like a Dungeon Crawler, but with a difference. It is a competitive Dungeon Crawler with a very unique gameplay. Each player is given a character to play, you have an objective, and someone else on the board has a counter objective. I have truly never played anything that utilises a cat and mouse mentality like this game.
I got together a group of friends that are euro gamers, as this game is not for the beginner. It took us a little under 2 hours to play our first game, which included reading and learning the rules. By our second and third game, we were finishing in a little over an hour.
We all loved this game. It’s a game of cat and mouse, yet sometimes you are the cat and other times you are the mouse. You seem to always be looking over your shoulder to see what is coming and yet focusing on keeping the pressure on to achieve your win condition.
Game one, we rolled to see who was player one. he would choose a role. She chose her role and the rest of got our roles depending on where we were sitting. I got the cave. Yes, I played as a cave. I was annoyed and expecting to do very little other than be a glorified game board. Yet I was wrong, so very, very wrong. I love playing that cave… Ok, those are words I thought I’d ever say.
In the first game, we played with only core box and the standee and cardboard character tokens. We all enjoyed the game but several people made comments that the standee was a bit of a miss. Everyone mentioned how they’d prefer miniatures or even meeples over the standee. I personally preferred the standees over meeples, but miniatures would have been amazing….. luckily for them I had been holding out.
Leder Games were nice enough to send me the miniature expansion, which takes the game up a notch. These miniatures add nothing but aesthetically; but the board and table present leaps of the table. It adds a much more finished, polished and professional look to the game.
Before reviewing Vast: The Crystal Caverns, I had seen several reviews for it, and many of my fellow reviewers sang its praises. To say my hopes were high would be an understatement. I expected big things and it delivered on all of it. To the point where the only real complaint I heard from the players were the standees; but had I not received the Miniature Expansion this wouldn’t have been an issue.
I must put this little warning in here, teaching this game is not for the faint-hearted. I chose to play with my Euro Gamer friends because of this. As every player has their own rules, their own win condition and play style. You have to be on your toes, as the game can get out of hand quite quickly. I recommend reading through the rules prior to the games night, even watching a how-to video. Then, sit the first match out and play the first match very slowly overlooking everything. We didn’t do this and yeah, the first game was a touch confusing, there were multiple re-read of the rulebook & several turns we replayed. and a steep learning curve.
That all being said, I loved Vast: the Crystal Caverns, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. Challenging, interesting and offers so many different play styles; you are bound to find a style that suits you.