Several PHD staff have already played Valeria and they all told me it was a game I’d really enjoy. Finally, at our PHD Florida Game Night, I had my chance to find out if they were correct!
As Mike and Chris explained the rules, I quickly grasped that this was indeed like one of my favorite games, Machi Koro. It involves, at its core, the rolling of dice and triggering card effects/resources. Sounds simple right? Not so.
Valeria Unboxing Video
Example Duke Card
Waryn: Lord of Rogues.
At the end of the game he scores 1 Victory point for each Worker and 2 for every Shadow citizen you recruit (top row). He also scores you 1 Victory point for every 3 gold, magic or strength token you have. You can’t mix and match they all have to be of the same type. (bottom row)
Monster Pile Regression
The game sets up with four rows of five cards. On the top are nasty beasties that inhabit the wilds. Next are two rows of citizen cards, the inhabitants of Valeria. Lastly, on the bottom row, are random Domains (locations). Yes, this is starting to sound like a card driven RPG but trust me, it isn’t.
As want-to-be rulers, you each start with a couple of loyal followers (1 x Peasant card and 1 x Knight card), some limited resources (2 x gold tokens, 1 x magic tokens), and a randomly determined Duke card. Your Duke is a sponsor of sorts, who will enhance your victory points if you collect certain things. Example: One Duke will give you extra Victory Point Tokens for each Citizen with the Soldier icon on it and each boss beastie you slay when totaling your Victory points at the end of the game. What a nasty surprise for the other players if they hadn’t stopped you from slaying all the wilderness critters.
On each Citizen card, there is a number in the top left corner. This is the number on the dice that triggers that card’s effects. Example: Your starting Knight has a 6 which means it triggers when a 6 is rolled. On the bottom of the card are the listed effects that trigger. Note, on the left is the effect if rolled on YOUR turn. On the right is the effect that triggers on ANYONE ELSES turn. What, I get resources on other players’ turns? YES! I love games that keep me engaged on other turns. WIN number two.
Another nice touch to Valeria are the monster piles. When you slay the top critter of a monster pile, the next is revealed. It is like you’re fighting your way through a dungeon. After a few minions, you start to find tougher lieutenants and finally a boss for that monster region. The tougher they are the more Strength Tokens they immediately reward you with and the more Victory Point Tokens awarded at the end of the game.
The Dice roll and Harvest Phase
On your turn, you roll two dice and card effects are triggered by each dice result (doubles trigger a card’s effect twice). PLUS you combine the dice results and trigger those card effects as well. Example: I’m going first and I roll a 2 and a 6. Since this is turn 1, I only have a Peasant (5) and a Knight (6). Therefore the 2 triggers nothing but the 6 triggers the Knight (6). I look at the bottom left portion of the Knight card and see what resource I gain from triggering it on my turn. I gain 1 Strength Token. Having gained my token each other player consults their Knight cards for what resources they gain when it’s NOT their turn. In this case they too get 1 Strength Token. Lastly I combine the dice totals, 8, and since nothing triggers, I move to my Action Phase.
The Action Phase
Armed with my starting resources and my newly harvested Strength Token, I can decide what citizen to buy (using Gold Tokens), battle a foul beast (using Strength Tokens) or simply save the resources in a bid to buy a Domain. In lieu of an Action I can take one resource of my choice. Having two Actions and that Magic token being able to be used as either a Gold or Strength Token I ponder my options having up to 3 Gold tokens and up to 2 Strength tokens. Or if I draw a resource with my first Action I could have 4 Gold or 3 Strength Tokens. Now I started to appreciate the depth of the game.
Monsters are slain and Citizens drafted
Play continued around the table as we bought Citizens that increase our dice spread, killed Monsters to reap us victory point tokens and Strength Tokens, and settled down on Domains that had some nice enhancing effects. As others grabbed cards or fought battles I tried hard to see patterns and guess their Duke’s abilities were. If I could limit them while keeping mine hidden I’d be in a stronger position come the end of the game.
How does the game end and who wins?
The game ends when all monsters are slain, or all Domains are built (bought), or the number of exhausted card piles (no cards left) is equal to twice the number of players. In our case the piles became exhausted.
We now all totaled our victory points and determine the winner. DARN YOU MIKE!
My concluding thoughts:
I have to say I really enjoyed this game. I was engaged in play constantly since I had to watch and deduce what players were striving towards with their Duke goals. Each player’s turn was fast and it quickly came back to me in our four player game. Of note, I really like the three ways you trigger resources each turn and I love the way the Monster piles really feel like you’re fighting a tribe or infestation of nasty beasties.
The art is awesome and the materials in the box make storage a dream. They even added foam inserts that cover the tokens to ensure they don’t fall out in transport.
Would I play this game again? YES! You’d never have to ask me twice.
Would I recommend this game to others? Yes! I can’t think of a single reason I would not recommend it to every gamer I know.