Vast: The Crystal Caverns, by Patrick Leder & David Somerville, Produced by Leder Games

Photo: Vast Box

Vast: The Crystal Caverns, by Patrick Leder & David Somerville,

Produced by Leder Games,

Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions


What are the recommendations for this game?

Number of players: 1-5 (You can play the part of the Knight, the Thief, the Dragon, the Goblins, or the Cave)

Time of game: 60 – 90 minutes (this can vary due to players learning the game)

Age recommendation: 10 and up

The back story: There is a Dragon, who has been asleep for a long time, in a cave. This cave has changed over time, and in that time, has been filled with Goblins and other strange creatures. Rumors have spread that the very Cave is alive somehow, and changes whenever it wants. There are stories far and wide of great treasure and mystic crystals calling the Cave home, because everyone knows, where there is a great Dragon, there is great Treasure!

Word has spread that a Knight is en route to the Cave, and that a Thief pursues. The Goblins will surely go on the ready when they know they are not alone. The Dragon will surely wake and defend itself. The Cave, well, you will find out what the Cave will do!
This is a game where only one player can win! Which force will you represent? Will you be the one to survive as everyone seeks to achieve victory? Will you save the Kingdom? Will you be the only one with the riches? Will you defend your Cave? Will you be crushed? Will you escape in time?

Grab this game and FIND OUT!!!

What comes in the game? (Retail Copy)

1 Rule Book
5 very thorough Rule Sheets (front and back) for each player part (Knight, Thief, Dragon, Goblin, and Cave)

For the Knight:
1 Knight Board
3 Bomb Tokens
7 Yellow Hero Cubes
10 Sidequest Cards
1 Knight Piece (stand up)
1 Knight Piece (wooden)
2 Red Health and Grit markers

For the Dragon:
1 Dragon Board
1 Shriek Token
1 Flamewall Token (stand up)
1 Flamewall Token (wood)
1 Dragon Die
18 Power Cards
2 Dragon Pieces (Slumbering/Awakened) (stand ups)
2 Dragon Pieces (Slumbering/Awakened) (wood)
14 Dark Red Sloth Cubes
1 Green Eaten Goblins Marker
1 Red Health Marker
3 Dragon Gem Tokens

For the Goblins:
1 Goblin Board
12 Green Goblin Discs
4 Red Strength Discs
2 Monster Tokens
10 War Cards
10 Monster Cards
10 Secrets Cards
3 Goblin Tribe Pieces (stand ups)
3 Goblin Tribe Pieces (wood)
1 Rage Token

For the Cave:
1 Cave Board
45 Cave Tiles
36 Omen Tokens
1 Draw Bag
9 Crystal Tokens
12 Treasure Tokens (stand ups)
12 Treasure Tokens (wood)
3 Rockslide Tokens (stand ups)
3 Rockslide Tokens (wood)
10 Event Tokens
15 Event Cards
7 Treasurer Cards
1 Cave Reference Card

For the Thief:
1 Thief Board
3 Stat Tokens
1 Action Die
6 Vault Tokens (stand ups)
6 Vault Tokens (wood)
5 Action Cubes
1 Thief Piece (stand up)
1 Thief Piece (wood)
1 Loot Drop Token

8 Terrain Tiles
5 Role Variant Cards
25 Difficulty Variant Cards
2 Printed Out Promos from Leder Games website (Silver Gauntlet & Treasure Trove)


What is the end game objective? What am I striving for?

You want to complete your personal mission at all costs! The Knight will want to kill the Dragon. If the Dragon is not in the game, then you will smash 5 Mystic Crystals and get out before being killed. If you are the Dragon, then you must wake up and escape the Cave. You must go through waking up, and then surviving until you escape. If you are the Goblins, then you want to kill the Knight. If there isn’t a Knight, then you want to destroy 5 Mystic Crystals to win. If you are the Thief, you must steal and stash 6 Treasure and/or Dragon Gems to break your curse (Undying). If you are the Cave, you want the Cave to collapse on everything. To do this you will need to completely build the Cave, and as you are taking Cave pieces back, you will want to collect 5 Mystic Crystals, which causes the Cave to swallow everything.

You may, at moments, need to assist another player to keep someone else from winning. You may have several turns in a row where you are dealing with one player, and then out of nowhere have to turn your attention to another. This is a game where the situation will truly change each turn, and you must not only navigate your way to victory, but do so first, with the other players actively or inactively seeking to thwart your efforts.

I assure you that each game is going to be truly different on some or many levels, and you should be mentally prepared for that. This game is highly malleable, as what each player does on their turn changes the situation you are up against. You will be making many decisions and taking risks, as you will be watching yourself on many fronts to achieve your personal goal.

How do I set the game up? What all do I need?
With so many different ways to play, you will need to follow the possible variants if you don’t have 5 players. With 5 players every role is filled, and you can get to set up. If you have less, then you are directed to Page 15 in the book to cover the different possibilities (depending not only on the number of players, but what role each player is choosing.

There will be a clockwise order to seating, going Knight, Goblins, Dragon, Cave, and then Thief. You will each need your boards and components, and everything is laid out in pictured, listed detail on page 3 of the book. Something to remember, even if you don’t have someone playing the Cave, you will still use the Event and Treasure decks.

Photo: Vast 1

The Cave player needs to do some set up next. They start by placing the entrance tile out in the center of the board. They will need to set aside their 6 Vault tiles, and their 9 Mystic Crystal tiles (if no one is playing the Thief, then return the Vault tiles). The Cave player then builds off of the entrance with four tiles that will help start the exploration.

Special Note: Tiles will be light side up (being seen) on one side, and dark side up (being hidden) on the other side. When a tile goes out it is hidden unless noted (the entrance is visible from the beginning).
The Cave will need to divide the remaining tiles evenly into 3 piles, and then they will place within each pile 3 Mystic Crystal tiles and 2 Vault tiles (if there is a Thief playing), and then create one big stack of tiles. Pull out and place the Cave Reference card for everyone to see (one side is The Cave Grows… and the other side is The Cave Is Collapsing!).

If you are not sure what you should grab for each player, go back up to the Inventory list.

Special Notes: Even if there isn’t a Cave player, the Cave can still collapse, causing all players to lose!

The Knight will set up their Health and Grit (7 and 0 respectively). Health is what keeps you alive, if it gets to zero then you are out. Grit is your action cubes, the higher you go, the more cubes you get to use for your abilities and stats, so you really need them! They grab their 3 bombs. They place their figure on the entrance tile. Draw 3 random Sidequest cards to try and accomplish for more Grit (keep them hidden). You will start with 2 spare cubes to assign (as you will have used a cube for Health, a cube for Grit, and cubes for the Grit positions 5,11,18,26, and 35 ( you can earn these, but if your Grit falls below then you must return them).

Photo: Vast 2

The Goblins will place their 3 Goblin Tribes tokens on their board. Place the Goblin and Monster discs near your board. Place a red Strength disc on the Fangs Tribe space on your board. You will need to shuffle the War, Monster, and Secrets decks separately and have them near you. Finally, set your Rage to 1.

The Dragon will place their Sloth cubes in their boxes on their board. Then place the Eaten Goblins marker on its track at 0. Health for the Dragon should be set at 5. Draw 3 Power cards after they have been shuffled. Make sure you have the Awakened Dragon near you. You will start Underground with the Sleeping Dragon piece on the Entrance tile with the Knight (unless no one is playing the Knight).

Photo: Vast 3

The Cave will ignore the Treasure cards, Event cards, and Event tokens in the box if no one is playing the Knight. You will place the Omen tokens in the draw bag, and place 10 Treasure tokens on your Cave board. If the Thief is being played, make it 12 instead of 10. Have the Crystal, Event, and Rockslide tokens near you. You will need to shuffle the Treasure deck and the Event deck and have them near you. Draw a hand of 3 Cave tiles from your stack to be ready.

The Thief will have the Action Die, Action cubes, and Stat tokens (light grey side showing) nearby. You need to place your Loot Drop token on its chart at 3. The Thief should go on the Entrance tile. Finally, have the Vault tokens near you.

Now to play:
When you are playing the game, you will have different Turn Summaries, depending on who you are playing. Also, there is a sample turn played out in the rule book.


Photo: Vast 5
The Knight has:
Pick up your Hero cubes, because these will be what you will use to activate special abilities, equipment, and boost your stats.

Move and Act, you will move into a tile(s) and resolve encounters there. You will Reveal and Resolve tiles, Resolve Attacks, and Take Treasure.

You will be able to Reveal hidden tiles, attack the Goblins, attack the Dragon, attack the Thief, smash Crystals, and collect Treasure and Gems.

Special Note: Make sure you pay attention to your Sidequests to gain Grit, and to accurately keep track of said Grit, so that you can get more Hero cubes!

The Goblins have:
Choose War Card, this is where the Goblins increase their numbers to battle the Knight.

Populate Tribes, here you will be adding Goblin discs from the increases you have chosen. You want to avoid overpopulating because you will lose Goblins.

Assign Monsters, this will help those Tribes with their stats, and get them ready for battle.

Draw Secrets, this will help grant Special abilities, sometimes with penalties, to allow for extra frustration against the other players.

Perform Actions, this is where each tribe will be able to perform one of the following: Move, Attack, Plunder, Explore, Reveal, or Hide.

Special Note: You will need to consider Rage (higher values allow you to go on the attack), Malaise (lack of Rage, and you suffer penalties), and Scattering (when you lose Goblins, from scoring a hit, or over populating, etc).

The Dragon has the following:
Move and Use Powers (getting yourself into position, and using some of your abilities).

Pick Up Treasure, this will help you with your Greed requirement, and when enough has been met, you wake up.

Place Dragon Gem, these have powers for the Dragon, and the Knight, Thief, and Goblins can seek them out.

Replace Hand, where you discard remaining cards in your hand, shuffle all the Power cards, and draw a number equal to your spirit.

Special Note: Some of the Dragon’s powers will have you revealing tiles, or using the Dragon die. Just make sure you follow the direction for each, and you can consult page 9 of the book if needed.

The Cave has the following:
Collect Omen tokens, these are ways to affect what is going on in the Cave, and allow you options for hindering the other players.

Shape The Cave, this is where you are getting tiles out (dark side up), and giving the Cave its form. Once you have placed the last tile you can start collapsing the Cave to try and win!

Place Treasure, where you can guide the unsuspecting characters towards false ends!

Special Note: You will want to use Treasures, Events, and Rockslides to their best ability. Speaking from firsthand experience, they can truly hinder the other players, especially the Knight and the Goblins!

The Thief has the following:
Assign Stat Tokens, this will allow the Thief to prop up their Movement, Stealth, and Thievery for their turn.

Move and Take Actions, where you move yourself into position, and act on things like Looting, Climbing, Pickpocketing, Pick Locks, Backstabbing, and Hiding your Loot.

Special Note: You will need to consider limitations that go with Carrying and Stashing, Upgrades, and Dying. You will be trying to get Treasure back to the Entrance Tile, while your Stealth is reducing, and if you die all your Treasure and Dragon Gems drop right on the spot.

Photo: Vast 4
Are there any variations for this game?
There are tons of variations to mention. You have Terrain, Role, Speed, Campaign, and Difficulty variants.

You will be able to add a Canyon, Lake, Magma, Mushroom Forest, River, and Pits to your game. Add to your heart’s content!

This will cover the number of players and what roles are being filled.
5 players is every role being filled.

4 players has:
Knight vs Goblins vs Dragon vs Cave
Any 3 roles vs Thief

3 players has:
Knight vs Goblins vs Dragon
Knight vs Goblins vs Cave
Knight vs Dragon vs Cave
Goblins vs Dragon vs Cave

2 players has:
Any 2 roles vs Thief
Knight vs Goblins
Knight vs Dragon
Knight vs Thief
Goblins vs Dragon
Goblins vs Cave
Goblins vs Thief
Dragon vs Cave
Dragon vs Thief
Cave vs Thief

1 player/Solo play has:
Knight solo
Goblins solo
Dragon solo
Thief solo

The Difficulty variants allow each role to have an Expert, Hard, Standard, Easy, and Easiest version to be played.

The Game rules highlight how to make for a faster or shorter game.

The Game rules show how to play out a campaign to earn the Title “Your Vastness”.

Some game results:
Our games had people truly engaged in a new game experience. My friend Hailey normally puts games into either clearly like this game or clearly don’t. She early on in the game mentioned that she loved playing as the Cave (she ending up winning). I managed as a Knight to get 3 out of 5 crystals in a run (no Dragon), but didn’t get further. It was amazing to see frustration and fun so intermingled.

Every single player wanted to play again, and as I have explained this game to other players, they have all mentioned how interesting it sounds, and I would say this game has been the highest in piquing curiosity in gamers wanting to get the game to the table. We found that once the game was out and being played, that it didn’t let anyone down on being a wonderful gaming experience!

We have had Goblins blocked, Goblins dispersed, the Knight taking hits left and right. The Knight had to use bombs on more than one occasion. The Dragon woke up quickly to everyone else’s dismay. The Cave came down on everyone. It has been a serious run on fun!

Final Thoughts:
Wow, is all I can say to start! Leder Games hit a home run with this game. A game where there are smaller games within it, allowing people to truly decide when they are working solely for their own end, or those agonizing moments when they have to do something that will help another player, to stall someone from achieving victory. It is a game where every time I have played I have found myself pushing my risk/reward limit harder and harder. You truly find out what decisions you are willing to make to gain a victory with this one!

Even with this detailed review, I feel like I am not doing this game justice. Everyone talked about it going into GenCon 2016, and it was in every game conversation during that time (or very close). This is a rare experience where a game not only lived up to a huge amount of hype, but came through in such a way to exceed it. I know that this will be a game to come out for many years to come, and not lose any of its charm!

I will be closely watching Leder Games, because they will have a daunting task of games to come, when they opened with truly one of the best gaming experiences I have had in 2016. This is a game that you won’t forget, that you will want to come back to play again, whether harder or easier, and with changes, because of all the things you can do to create a truly unique experience.

A salute to Leder Games, as they have made a game near and dear to our gaming hearts!

Thanks for reading my review of:

Vast: The Crystal Caverns, by Patrick Leder & David Somerville, Produced by Leder Games

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RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)