Doug's Dungeon - Valeria: Card Kingdoms
Dice games, am I right?
Half the time I’m pitching a game to my wife (y’know… so she will accept the idea of me buying it) and I’ll say ‘contains dice’. That usually kills the sales pitch. She says “NO DICE”, both meanings. And I fully understand that line in the sand. What kind of board game needs to be driven by dice? IN 2017? I mean guys. It. is. 20. 17. We have far more eloquent systems for randomization. We have decks of cards. Bluff mechanics. COMPANION APPS. It is with great humility then that I introduce Valeria: Card Kingdoms. The dice-driven game that swaggered in, kicked me square in the junk, and told me to re-evaluate my conceptions of older game mechanics.
Valeria is a game about building your kingdom. Said kingdom is made of cards. Card kingdoms. In Valeria. Valeria: Card kingdoms. We good? Okay, we good. Your kingdom is made up of citizens and domains. Oh, and there’s a bunch of monsters hanging around. Killing them grants you victory points, for winning the game. But that is not the only path to glory in Valeria, no no. Allow me to show you how the game is set up and we will dive in.
Up top of the starting board you’ll see the 5 stacks of monsters. Below them, the citizens available for purchase. And at the bottom row, the domains. These cards are what players will buy (or in the monster row, kill) throughout the game. As these stacks deplete, ‘exhaust’ cards take their place. Once that happens so many times, the game ends. A tally is done, and a winner declared! But how do we go about any of this?
I’ll tell ya how. Let’s take a look at what you start with. A peasant, and a knight. Note the numbers in the top left corner. They relate to the 2 six-sided dice you’ll roll on your turn. THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN! DICE! Okay, calm down, calm down. Let me explain. When you start your turn, you do roll the dice. Then, any citizens whose number matches the rolls ‘triggers’. For ALL players. So if I roll a 5 and a 6 on my turn, everyone’s knight AND everyone’s peasant will trigger. Peasants give you a gold piece. Knights, a ‘strength’ shield. Well I say shield but it looks like a duck’s foot. If I roll double 5s, everyone’s peasant will trigger twice. Simple enough. The tricky part though is cards will trigger if the sum of the dice match their number as well. Let’s look deeper, shall we?
During the game you will acquire more citizens. Each different citizen triggers from a different dice roll. Now I hear you say “But Doug, what if we all buy different citizens, and the dice rolls favour one guy the whole game? Isn’t that busted?” and I can see that point. If certain players are receiving more resources, they are more likely to win. But the counterpoint is that if a player has no citizens trigger on a given turn, they get to choose 1 resource of their choice. If a given player has a wide spread of citizens, they are likely to be told what resources they are getting instead. Players who focus on stacking up multiple of the same guys are being high rollers for sure, but they will have freedom of choice outside their preferred roll numbers. You need to make sure that when your numbers come up, they are yielding more than the base-line.
Next, you have to decide what to do with these resources. You can earn gold(circles), strength(duck feet), or magic(viagra). These are used across the two actions you can make on your turn. Fight is spent to kill the top card in any monster stack for a reward. The further down a stack you go, the tougher the monsters get. Gold is used to buy more citizens and domains. Magic viagra pills can be used as fight or gold buuuuuut, you can’t do anything with magic alone. Buying a citizen, for example, must be achieved with at least one gold piece. The rest can be gold or magic. Same with combat. If you need that extra boost, you can also spend an action for an extra resource of your choice.
Look at you now, all spoiled for choice. “What even do I do?” you say in that shrill tone (that we honestly need to have a discussion about later). As the game manual says, look to your “Duke”. Yes sir, at the start of the game you take on the identity of a duke. Each duke card is kept secret, as you all have your own motives to win. Each duke offers victory points at the end of the game based on performing specific actions. Be it acquiring many ‘religious’ citizens, killing swathes of monsters, or just having generally good hygiene (that last one isn’t a victory condition in the game, but certainly is in real life. #lifeprotips). Serve your duke’s purpose well and you stand to be rewarded come the game’s end.
And that about does it for the gameplay. To me, Valeria stands as a successor to games like Settlers of Catan, where resources earned are tied to dice rolls. While the dice do make players bound to the whims of fate, the limit on things-you-can-do-per-turn really serves it well. As such, dice preferring one player over another doesn’t quite allow them to run away with the game. Large expenditures, like domains and boss monsters, are gated behind needing specific citizens and smaller monsters respectively. Valeria: Card kingdoms was a game I enjoyed so much on the first play, I had to grab it. The core box comes with different citizens per dice value, allowing you to change the experience each game. To say nothing of course about the numerous expansions. Two words.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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