Published on April 4th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen1
How To Slay Monsters With 2D6
Valeria: Card Kingdoms
Valeria is a tableau-building game, designed by Isaias Vallejo and it’s currently on Kickstarter. Nicole first played Valeria last year at an UnPub event we held at Raygun Lounge and then again later at Mox Boarding with our friends Scott and Paul. She had nothing but good things to say about the game at that time, so I was looking forward to playing it.
My first encounter with Valeria was much more recent, after the Kickstarter had already launched. I had heard that Valeria was reminiscent of Kingsburg, which was good news to me as I find Kingsburg to be a fun “beer and pretzels” game to play. Both games are medieval European fantasy games with a focus on the dice as a primary mechanic. In truth, Valeria stands on its own merits by introducing compelling euro-style mechanics to a simple dice mechanic.
The premise of Valeria is actually rather simple and ingenious. Every turn the acting player will roll two six-sided dice, for each number that comes up, plus the sum of the two numbers you check your “tableau”, which all have numbers associated with them. If the numbers you’re checking for match a card you control, then activate that card’s ability. Cards do different actions, depending on whether it was your turn or someone else’s turn when the number comes up. This tactic makes every turn interesting for every player and you’re always excited when someone rolls the dice.
In the “board” is a set up that resembles a deck-building game like Dominion. This is where the “building” part of “tableau-building” comes in- after rolling on your turn, you use your accumulated resources (attack, gold and mana) to either attack monsters, hire people to join your cause or buy domains (that give you score multipliers). Mana can boost either your gold or attack but can’t be used on its own, which I found to be a simple design choice that worked surprisingly well.
What really drew me to Valeria is that it’s all about building a machine to process these different resources and then hoping that the dice come up right to properly feed that machine in the most efficient way possible. When that doesn’t happen you have to improvise, but in my experience the luck factor was extremely well balanced. I never felt like I was getting everything I wanted, but I also never felt like the dice were dooming my chances at winning (that was mostly my own doing- and a little bit of Scott’s doing). At first I thought that the dice would be my enemy, but the fact that you get resources based on other people’s rolls was the mechanic that made a dice-based euro game actually work well.
You start the game with a 5 and a 6 card, which gives you a great chance of getting some rolls immediately. I immediately went for the 7 and the 4, working my way down the number line. My strategy was to make sure I had all of the numbers on the base die, so I would always be getting a resource of some sort. This proved to be unnecessary, it ended up being easier for me to focus on 3s and 4s, using them to feed my 6s, 7s and 9s. Other players had other synergies they were building towards, and we were always ready for those dice to drop.
In addition to the version of the game that I played, Valeria also comes with additional versions of the cards. That is to say, while 3s were Mercenaries in the game that I played, we could have chosen one of the other 3 cards and had a different experience. At this time there are two full sets of cards that you can use to customize the modular tableau, one that focuses a little more on Attack and monsters and a variant that adds more Mana based cards. I would be very interested in seeing what sorts of cards make it into a hypothetical future expansion (though I want to play the base game a lot more too!).
I’m also going to gush a bit about the full bleed art, which is one of my favorite things. Just because Magic the Gathering did these little windows of art doesn’t mean that every game has to format their card art in the same way. Valeria’s full bleed art is great and makes the game that much more visually impressive. It doesn’t cost any more to have full bleed art than it does to have boxed up art, if your game doesn’t need differently colored frames then don’t add them- go for the full bleed.
Valeria still has a couple of days left in their Kickstarter, and they’re offering the game for $20 off of MSRP during the campaign, so now is the time to buy!