What: A complex but fun game that generates high fantasy anecdotes
Time: 60-180 minutes
People: For the patient and willing to learn this is unlike anything you’ve played before
Available: Kickstart it’s 2nd print here
Why we recommend it
Vast: the Crystal Caverns. Just like the name implies, it’s a mighty big game. Thankfully, it has somehow been packed tightly into a normal size box.
We don’t make any money here, so we’re not beholden to advertisers or some kind of parent company with the games we review. It’s just whatever we damn well please.
We don’t even bother writing bad reviews, even for the crappy ancient games we sometimes get hold of.
That’s why, for the most part, we only recommend our absolute favorites. Games we’ve played dozens of times and know for sure are great.
So what about Vast? Well, I’ve only played it once. That isn’t enough time to be able to guarantee a Best Play Recommends but my first time was so special I wanted to share it anyway. Bollocks to the system.
It’s a game in which one of you will be playing as a literal fucking cave. The kind of precarious and fantastical cave of treasures you’ve seen in countless films and games.
You win by growing. Growing into the big cave your mother always said you could be. Before you collapse.
Collapse into your triumph. Because you see it is only in our collapse that we can truly be free. Well, that’s what the rule book seems to imply. Typical bloody caves, eh?
So that’s the cave. But what about the other players?
One of you is a knight and you want to kill a dragon (stop me if you’ve heard this before).
Killing that dragon means you win. The thing is, that dragon is one of your other mates. The dragon just wants to wake up and escape the cave.
Then there’s some goblins and they want to kill the knight. If you are brave enough (and popular enough) to play with five players then there is also a thief, but we’ll leave that for another day.
It’s like a super duper rock paper scissors.
Goblins beat knight, knight beats dragon, dragon escape cave, cave wants to crush them all.
So far it might not sound that different or weird, other than one of you is an actual cave. But the trick is that each of you has a whole game to yourself. Everyone is in the same space, everyone interacts with each other but you are literally playing entirely different games, each with their own rule book and unique bag of things.
Goblins with tribes, monsters and secrets jumping in and out of the darkness.
A dragon with street fighter-like combos and a “sloth” meter.
Knights that level up, complete quests and find treasure.
And, of course, a cave that gets to lay out the actual ground beneath your feet, creating a unique world every time you play. That is, before they decide to reshape it with all of the other players inside it.
That might sound complex. It unavoidably is. I’m afraid this probably isn’t for your mother (huge props to all the mothers that love Vast), but if there is a decent group of you and you have a little bit of patience, everything will fall into place pretty quickly.
This isn’t the most complex game you can play, but it can still feel a bit daunting at first.
I don’t want to dig into the rules because that isn’t why this game might be a true great. The real strength of Vast is in its unique way you will each play the game, which creates a fantastic set of dynamic stories. It’s a fantasy anecdote creator with each of you as its actors.
I’d like to tell you about just one of the many scenes that played out in our game.
The goblins had been leaping out of the shadows turn after turn and the knight was almost dead. With the goblins primed for their victory, the cave decided to intervene. It twisted and turned the corridors, blocking the goblins in the process and presented the knight with some treasure. Treasure to heal her and allow the cave to grow larger.
It was at this point that everyone started to realise that it might not have been the goblins who were about to win after all.
The thief had all the treasure he needed and was sprinting to the exit. The cave, having now twisted perfectly for his escape. There was no way to get to him in time with the dragon, thief and knight all walled off from one another.
Except … maybe they weren’t?
The goblins had a trick they had been saving for the knight. A great underworm that they rode under the ground, past all of the walls and came smashing up into the thief. This, unsurprisingly, killed him instantly and left behind a very large pile of loot.
Several turns later the knight would stumble across this spontaneously created mega-treasure room, helping herself to all manner of magical boots and bows.
This wild scenario sums up what makes this game so special. The stories that you get to create. We had dragons smashing entire parts of the cave away. Goblins were summoning flame giants and the cave itself giving out bounties and barriers.
The power dynamics can all change in a heartbeat and the players will naturally tend to self-regulate. It’s this push and pull that keeps everyone within touching distance of winning right up until one of you manages to stumble over the line. And it will be a stumble. There is no easy win here.
If you love new ideas; if you love creating stories and anecdotes; and you are willing to invest a small amount of time, then Vast might very well be the game for you.
You can currently Kickstart the second printing of Vast here and it comes with all sorts of extra goodies.