Leder Games is in an odd place within the board game industry. Despite being independent and still pretty small, the wild success of their games Root and Vast on the board game market have put them (by head honcho Patrick Leder’s own admission…in a remark I hope he won’t be mad at me for quoting) somewhere in between a the tiny indie company they once were and a major player in the industry. Their booth at GenCon reflects this, being pretty large but focused on their only two titles, both of which are expansions to their core games. The first was the Underground Expansion to Root, which added two new factions and a whole new playing field to the game of woodland warfare. Root also has a tabletop RPG coming to Kickstarter this fall, and it was creating quite a buzz at the con.
Vast: The Crystal Caverns in many ways set the stage for everything that was to come for Leder. The depth and complexity of the game, as well as its clever approach to genre and fun art style, would all become trademarks of their work to come. It also displayed early on their commitment to asymmetric gameplay. Rather than having players unite to achieve a goal, or having each player compete to accomplish the same goal first; Vast instead gave each player their own goal and agenda to pursue. The Crystal Caverns turned the traditional dungeon crawl on its head, with players not just acting as the (opposed) adventurers but also the mooks (a goblin horde) and the “boss” (the dragon). One player could even play as the cave itself, angry at the intrusion and hoping to crush the others beneath its rocks.
The first expansion to Vast brought in three new playable characters: the telekinetic Ghost hoping to recover its mortal form, the evil Ghoul who lived only to hunt, and the Nightmare Unicorn, a fearsome steed trapped by the cave out to escape and punish its enemies.
The new game is not an expansion to Vast: The Crystal Caverns. Instead, it’s a spin-off of the game set in the world of Vast and using the same art and rules that made the first game such a success. But rather than playing with the fantasy genre like the first game, The Mysterious Manor instead tackles the darker and more gothic parts of the world. Gone is the dragon and goblin-filled dungeon, replaced by an immense haunted house full of warped floors, cobwebs…and the undead.
The Mysterious Manor adds five new “characters” to choose from, each with their own goals and abilities to help them win. The first is the Paladin, a stalwart champion of good, kindness, and very well-polished armor. They seek to atone in the eyes of their gods by killing a monstrous spider who has made it a home for herself and her ever-growing brood.
The Spider herself is perhaps the most complex and interesting character created for Vast yet. A recent escapee from her imprisonment in the abyss, the Spider craves to leave the manor and unleash her dark and terrible magic on the world. She comes in three forms: the swarming spiderlings (who lay webby traps all around), the lithe and magical “caster” form (who attacks with spells and tends to eggs), and finally the monstrous giant spider form (who hunts her foes down and “turns their blood to terror”). Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, and each challenge the other players in diverse and exciting ways. She will also have to defend her egg clutches that are scattered around the house, lest her brood be killed off for good at the hands of the Paladin.
The Skeletons are the undead guardians of the house, working to kill the Paladin who has awakened them before he reduces them to ashes. Much like the Goblin Horde, their strength is in numbers. However, they have to wait a bit for their numbers to get higher while they wake up. Each skeleton in the group has a fun name and identity that makes them feel a bit more like a team than the old Goblins did. New skeletons Singy, a bard, Smashy, a hammer toting hoss, and Shiny, who has a magic lamp, were all unlocked as stretch goals for the Kickstarter.
The Enchanter, meanwhile, is working to gain control over the minds of others with their subtle magics. Enchanters trap their enemies with tricks, charm them into weakness or strength, convince them to battle for them, and ultimately claim their minds forever. His goal is to complete The Grand Enchantment and beguile a huge swath of people in one fell swoop.
And, finally, there is The Manor itself. Long ago used to entrap an evil and powerful magic, The Manor must entrap the intruders and reseal itself before it is destroyed. It will do this by changing its rooms and corridors to confound its foes and send the terrifying Wraith out to scare its opponents away so it can complete its ritual.
All of these characters, including the expansion ones, are fully compatible with both The Crystal Caverns and Fearsome Foes.
There is also an expansion for the game announced, achieved thanks to the success of the Kickstarter and it hitting all of its goals. The Haunted Hallways will feature the three new skeletons (as well as the “skeleton” Sniffy, who’s really more of a wolf), and minis to replace the cardboard tokens used for things like webs, treasure, and poltergeists. It will also add in two new playable characters. The first is a returning character from The Crystal Caverns, The Knight, who is riding high off her recent slaying of a dragon as she continues her quest. The second is the Shadow Paladin, the dark and corrupted mirror to our pious hero. He hopes to free himself from his oaths and move on to the next life.
Not only can Vast: The Mysterious Manor be played way the asymmetric way with 2-7 players, it also features a solo mode and a “team mode” for four players wanting to try something a little more co-op.
You can currently pre-order Vast: The Mysterious Manor through Leder Games (US-only), where it will retail for $75.00. You can also pre-order The Haunted Hallways as well, which goes for $40.00. Both will ship early next month.
Root: Underworld is not out for pre-order yet, but you can ask Leder to notify you when it does. And we’ll be sure to give you the full rundown of Root when it opens, as well as the RPG as new details leak out while we approach that Kickstarter launch.
All images via Leder Games