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Vast: The Mysterious Manor Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Patrick Leder
Artist: Kyle Ferrin 
Publisher: Leder Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 60-120 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com.

tl;dr: Though seemingly more streamlined than its predecessor, Vast: The Mysterious Manor is going to take time to learn, and time to teach, but when you get through the growing pains of learning it and maybe a false start or two, you come out the other side knowing a game that is thematically rich and provides great replayability. In some ways it can feel like five games in one as players move from learning/playing one character to the next. The art and components are consistent to the other Vast titles and help when having characters cross over from one title to the next. It will inevitably draw comparison to another asymmetrical title from Leder Games, but in my opinion, Root may take the praise, but Vast: The Mysterious Manor is more likely to get my plays. 


The game:
You survived the cave, and now it's off to the Manor. If I were to layout the rules like in previous reviews, it would take 10,000 words and you'd probably just skip to the thoughts section. Though at its core, it is still players navigating round the modular board, and taking actions. So instead of getting lost in the minutia, I will describe the characters, their objective, their main enemy(ies), and why you should play this character. I would recommend watching some play-through videos to supplement the rules when your are first getting it to the table.

Vast: The Mysterious Manor with web figures and force walls from Vast: Haunted Hallways 

The Paladin:
You are looking to become a favored crusader and the best way to do that is to go into the Mysterious Manor and destroy the Spider.

Objective -- Kill the Spider by striking it five times.

Your main enemy -- The skeletons want to kill you. They're speedy and good at distracting you.

Other players -- The spider will avoid you, the manor is trying to seal you inside, and the warlock's interactions will be indirect.

Play the Paladin --  If you like the exploration feel of dungeon crawlers and want to hack and slash your way through the manor.

Paladin miniature

The Skeletons:
You're the undead and continue to live even if you are killed. Your defense is weak, but you're quick and can use your tactical skills to kill the Paladin.

Objective -- Kill the Paladin by striking them seven times.

Your main enemy -- The skeletons don't really have anyone out to directly kill them, but the Spider and Paladin wont mind taking you out if you're in their way.

Other players -- The manor is trying to seal you inside and  the warlock's interactions will be indirect.

Play the Skeletons --  If you like quick movement and tactical team strategy.

Skeletons: (F-B) Shooty, Casty, Stabby, Slashy, and Screamy

The Spider:
You're trapped in the house and are ready to get out. Gain terror and get out ASAP. This character does seem to have the most advanced rule set as you can take on three different forms--each with its own movement, traits, attacks, etc.

Objective -- Escape the manor

Your main enemy -- The Paladin wants to kill you and the Manor is trying to seal you inside. 

Other players -- The Skeletons are trying to kill the Paladin, so consider the old "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach.  The warlock's interactions will be indirect.

Play the Spider --  If you like striking a more balance offensive/defensive approach and like shape-shifting into other forms.

Spider and Spiderlings. The Spider can take one of three forms.

The Warlock:
You're just trying to use some magic to dominate five poltergeists and treasures. You don't have a direct enemy per se, but you have to carefully alter the gameplay by siphoning power from other players.

Objective -- Dominate any combination of five poltergeists and treasures

Your main enemy -- No one is going out to directly kill you, so you must balance your objective and make certain that other players aren't meeting theirs.

Other players -- The Paladin and Spider are eliminating the poltergeists that you need to dominate, and the Skeletons can raid the treasure. Both serve as an indirect obstacle to you achieving your goal. The Manor is trying to seal you in. 

Play the Warlock --  If you like going mostly unnoticed and calculating your opponents' moves.

Warlock, Wraith (form of the Manor), and Paladin miniatures.

The Manor:
The players have ventured in and now you cannot let them leave.

Objective -- Complete 14 seals and trap everyone inside forever.

Your main enemy -- The Spider is indirectly your biggest threat as it is the only one trying to escape the Manor.

Other players -- They are  preoccupied with each other more-so than you.

Play the Manor --  If you like spatial recognition and avoiding more combative roles. 

Manor player board

*Bonus - The Haunted Hallways Expansion

I also got to review the expansion, which comes with two new characters (as well as miniature that replace some of the standard components in the base game) that can be played in the Mysterious Manor. 

Inside the Vast: Haunted Hallways box

I really liked the addition of the Haunted Hallways expansion. Not only is it an upgrade to some of the Mysterious Manor components, but it also adds a variant hero and monster, as well as new skeleton figures, poltergeists, force walls, and treasure chest miniatures.

The Shadow Paladin:
Let the rage flow through you, fill the manor with ruin and escape. 

Objective -- Advance to the final space of your shadow track and escape the manor.

Your main enemy -- The Manor wants to seal you in.

Other players -- The spider can attack to gain terror, the Paladin (and Armored Knight) can hurt you, the Skeletons will most likely avoid you, and  the warlock's interactions will be indirect.

Play the Shadow Paladin --  Chaining combos and deciding whether to go on the offensive or gain more power.  

The Armored Knight:
You're out of the cave and into the manor. Kill the Spider to win.

Objective -- Kill the Spider by striking it five times.

Your main enemy -- Like Paladin, the skeletons want to kill you.

Other players -- The spider will avoid you, the manor is trying to seal you inside, and the warlock's interactions will be indirect.

Play the Armored Knight --  If you like the playing as the Paladin, but like more powerful equipment.

Artwork and Components:
The artwork follows the same aesthetic as the previous Vast titles, which helps when having character crossover from one title to the other (more on that below). I like the art style (even more so than Root *cue the gasps*) and like how the continuity between the titles give them consistent branding and instant recognition.

The components are all high quality and will hold up over multiple plays. It did come with both standees and miniatures so that players can choose which they prefer. I am usually not swayed by the inclusion of miniatures in a game, but when compared the to the standees, the miniature seem to add a more thematic presence to the game making it feel as if it is "coming alive" during play.

Stat trackers for the Spider, Skeletons, and Paladin

I was also a big fan of the additional miniatures and game pieces that cam with the Vast: The Haunted Hallways expansion. Being able to replace some of the components to miniature pieces added to the experience and, if you can swing it, I would recommend getting the expansion--especially if you think this is going to frequently hit your table.   

The house watches every move you make - Maybe it's because I am writing this review around Halloween, or maybe it's because I just finished re-watching The Haunting of Hill House, but either way, when considering this against other asymmetrical titles (including Vast: The Crystal Caverns), I really liked the thematic elements of Vast: The Mysterious Manor more-so than comparable titles. If someone new to this game genre were to ask my opinion on which they should go with, and all their thematic preferences were equal, I'm pointing them to Vast: The Mysterious Manor. The thematic elements (e.g. characters and their stories) work really well in the setting and with the mechanisms.

The enemy of my enemy... - One thing that I thought the game did very well was balance--not only with the character powers, but also the balance of moving towards your victory condition, while making certain that others aren't getting too close to theirs. This requires you to indirectly (and some sometimes directly) help your opponent so that another doesn't meet their victory condition. You can't be completely on the offensive or defensive, nor can you become so focused on your character and goals that you lose site of your opponents progress. For as much that can be going on in this game, I found it to be really well balanced.

When it clicks, it clicks - This game takes some time to learn and there's a good chance that somebody is going to misinterpret a rule or miss a restriction that goes unnoticed for the first few rounds of play. But stick with it as I found this to be one of those games that all of sudden clicks for everyone, and when it does, it doesn't take as long to knock out a play and it starts to find its way to the table more frequently.

Mix and Match - As stated above, along with The Mysterious Manor, I also got to play with the characters from Vast: The Haunted Hallways. Those characters, can be played with The Mysterious Manor and all of the characters can be mixed and played with other Vast titles. So not only is there replayability with the the new title, but it also breathes new life into the other games in the Vast universe.

The paradox of choice - If you are not playing at the maximum player count, the players will need to leave one of the characters in the box. The instructions do give the best character selections/options at each player count to help with deciding which characters to play at each player count. 

Here I go again on my own - Games--especially deeper, heavier titles that have solo modes--get bonus points from me and this one has a good solo variant. So even if I can't find a time to play with a group that already knows how to play a character, or if another group doesn't want to try to learn and play it on game night, I can still get my fix in the meantime with the solo mode.

Three Spider player boards -- one for each form the Spider can take.

Want to learn a new game? - It’s not an exaggeration to say that playing through the different characters has the feel of playing of different game. The difference between the powers and winning conditions of each character is enough to make each of them feel like a unique gaming experience. If you are starting to feel fatigued playing as the Paladin, playing as the spider or manor makes the game feel new again. 

My main criticism of the game, and the main criticism that I have heard from others that played with me, is the time between reading the rules and starting to play. It plays much simpler (but no less strategic) once you've had the chance to familiarize yourself with a character over several plays, but reaching that several plays mark can be paved with frustration for both the teacher and new players. When you teach it, it's like you are teaching 3-4 different games. And, if you maximize the player count, you may be teaching a character that you haven't played before, so in a sense you are learning (or at least refreshing) and teaching at the same time.

That being said, I don't think that my teaching/learning skills are due to a flaw of the game per se. I may have been tired when reading a rule set, or skipped a line, or simply failed to comprehend a rule and none of that is the fault of the game or rule book. But even if we assumed perfect rules and comprehension, it is still 5 different sets of rules, 5 different actions phase, 5 different winning conditions. It can be a lot for you to take in and then spit out to new players.

To its credit, the game does come with individual reference cards that are specific to each character to aid in game play and this, coupled with the rule book, make learning the game a little simpler than its predecessor.  

Final Thoughts:
Overall, there were several aspects of the game that I really enjoyed and the only critique is the time from opening it up and actually starting to play. If you and your group are aware of what you're getting into when you bring it to the table and prepared to spend some time learning the different rule sets, you are in for a treat whenever it all starts to click. 

Players Who Like: Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Root

Check out Vast: The Mysterious Manor on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/252399/vast-mysterious-manor   https://ledergames.com/   https://www.facebook.com/LederBoardGames/   https://twitter.com/LederGames?lang=en   https://www.instagram.com/ledergames/   

Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
Vast: The Mysterious Manor Review Vast: The Mysterious Manor Review Reviewed by Nick Shipley on October 16, 2019 Rating: 5

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