Theme and What is it?
The land of Valeria is under siege. The dukes must band together and defeat these infiltrating monsters. Players roll dice to activate abilities for all players each turn. They then spend these resources to recruit new citizens, buy domains, or defeat monsters. The duke who can do the most to build up and defend their lands will be victorious.
Valeria is a dice driven engine building game. At the start of each player’s turn, they roll the dice. Then every player activates the powers on their citizen cards corresponding to each individual die and the sum of the dice. The active player usually has more powerful abilities that activate than the other passive players. These citizens usually collect resources such as gold to buy things, military power to kill things, and magic to supplement their military.
After collecting resources, the active player takes two actions. These actions choose from a list of options: take a resource, buy a citizen, purchase a domain, or slay a monster. The citizens increase the players income steps during all dice rolling phases. Domains have a variety of powers that range from passive bonuses to one time benefits. The monsters are one of the primary sources of victory points and defeating the more powerful monsters deeper in the same stack can be highly rewarding.
Upon first setup, Valeria looked a little like a static deck builder such as Dominion. But upon playing it, I realized it has more similarities to Kingsburg and Space base with how the dice resolving steps work. It doesn’t say the phrase engine builder on the Card Kingdoms Board Game Geek entry and that is a shame. Because this game is absolutely an engine builder not a deck builder. You do not shuffle, you do not draw, you just increase what benefits you gain when certain dice results come up.
Game Build Quality
The game insert has nice trays for holding the resources ready. It also has great dividers for the cards and includes their cost / type breakdown right on the divider card to make it easier to pick a fair market for the game. The dice are some of the nicest standard 6-sided type I have seen in a board game. Daily Magic Games never disappoints me with their build quality and insert designs.
Mihajlo Dimitrievski is a famous and popular artist in the board game community at this point. His art is very recognizable even just from the box itself. It was a very nice surprise to find that he had worked on this game. There will be plenty of sales of Valeria: Card Kingdoms just for the excellent artwork. Thankfully those coming for the aesthetics will find a great game to stay for.
At the start of Valeria, players have very few resources to work with and need to get more. The decisions they make for early citizen purchases and the dice odds to get rewards from them will be a huge part of success. It is very satisfying to see the numbers you benefit most from pouring in the benefits to you late in the game. Just remember, it isn’t about having the most resource generation. It is about doing the most beneficial things to turn those resources into points. Eventually the domains and monsters will be more critical to winning than more citizens.
Age Range & Weight
13+ is a reasonable rating if a bit high. The complexity of the game is fairly low. Buy cards, roll dice, do what the cards say that match the dice, buy more cards. Pretty standard stuff that is easy to understand. The thematic monster slaying might be a reason for the 13 rating. Otherwise, I can totally see 10 year olds loving this game.
Valeria: Card Kingdoms is an excellent middle length card driven engine builder. It typically takes us around an hour to play a full game after setup. The various different setups and domain cards give a great depth of replay value. Each game has a great deal of focus on how the dice rolls go, but given the probability of the cards activating and their respective rewards players usually get near what they expect for their investments. This doesn’t mean that their purchasing decisions don’t matter at all, but it does mean that dice luck is not a crippling failure for the game.
Valeria finds a nice balance as an engine building game. It offers more satisfying decisions than the easiest games such as Gizmos while still being more accessible than the slightly more complex Space Base.
It is a significant expansion and if your children love My Little......