Gamers who were around when Vast: The Crystal Caverns hit the gaming scene will remember the hubbub. It was a dramatically new game with five different sides that sold an experience unlike anything else. That is still true, but the question still remains as to whether the expansion released with the second, updated printing is worthwhile.
Vast: The Fearsome Foes is an expansion that delivers three new characters for the asymmetric dungeon crawl. It definitely adds some difficulty and adds some playtime if it’s used to add a sixth player to the game.
The Fearsome Foes expansion presents players with three new characters which equates to six new combinations available to play due to the dual nature of each character. For example, the Unicorn character can be played as a new character using some of the Dragon components or it can be added as an NPC role. Each of the other two characters have a similar nature.
The Nightmare Unicorn character operates with a deck of action cards. Each turn, the character’s ability scores tracked on the player board determine the player’s hand size and number of cards they may play. The Unicorn moves quickly across the board and can reveal much of the cave in just a few turns. However, the Unicorn’s purpose is to reveal crystals and gain “radiance” from them to fuel enhancements and progress towards their end goal.
The Shadow Unicorn version of the character operates automatically and the movement is again determined by cards. This mode of play is optimal for players who want MORE chaos and change in the map from turn to turn.
The Ghost characters bring a new dimension to the fray. Their abilities in normal Ghost and Cave Ghost modes cause havoc by possessing other characters and taking actions for them. This aspect is intended for advanced players and comes with lots of caveats and modifications based on the number of players. Most often, the possession aspect of the Ghost play modes really serves to make progress towards a player’s goal more difficult. This gives the Ghost enough time to find specific tiles or the Cave Ghost enough time to collapse the cave.
Finally the Ghoul and Vile Ghoul sides are the most aggressive. Having goals similar to the goblins, the ghouls use a dice-as-action-points mechanism to move and attack. Each turn the ghoul attacks another player, they have the potential to raise their Fury value. If it reaches a certain value based on the number of players, the ghoul player wins. However, the Vile Ghoul is more closely related to the Goblins from the original game. The goal here is to kill the Knight or the Dragon.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
Usually a fan of expansions, this reviewer looks forward to extensions of favored games. However, with games that already have a dizzying array of options and caveats in their rules, new stuff can be intimidating. Such is the case with the Fearsome Foes for Vast: The Crystal Caverns. It’s not so much a “fun”, “more is good” expansion as it is a “more is more complicated” expansion.
The core struggle here with an expansion of this type is that it really assumes Vast is intimately familiar. The new mechanisms described are given lengthy sections in the rules, but they also assume players might want to add in these with any of the other characters. Well, this is of course correct, but therein lies the problem.
Just with Vast, there are 5 roles to balance. That’s 5 x 4 games to play to test all 2 player combinations and 5 x 4 x 3 to test 3 player combinations. Now add in one more character and the numbers increase by 1. It’s extremely difficult to say this is well tested and there are loads of options for modifying the difficulty of the different sides in the rules. So, the result is that players are meant to find their own balance between the characters. That may be alright for some players, but for those who enjoy Vast as a casual game, it’s too much to ask.
The other problem is that with the exception of the Ghost roles, the characters feel like just more action mechanisms layered on generic dungeon characters. With the Ghoul and the Unicorn there’s the distinct feeling of MORE and slightly different rather than NEW.
Ultimately, Vast feels like a good framework for ideas more than just a game. This expansion represents the bleeding edge for players looking for new ways to play. The balance between the sides, however, is optional.
As far as this reviewer is concerned, the replay value of Vast was already high. Truth be told, it doesn’t need an expansion to improve it. However, if a group are huge fans of Vast and have played every existing combination to exhaustion, the ideas in Fearsome Foes are fresh enough. However, this also comes with a warning. The combinations of new characters can feel imbalanced and even a casual play can show dramatic inequities in victory progress turn to turn. As such, only the hardest of core Vast players will find Vast: Fearsome Foes worthwhile.
• Lots of new options
• Raises the game from high replay value to insane replay value
• Lots of rules with complications
• Feels as if it unbalances Vast
• Overly complex with certain combinations