Published on January 23rd, 2017 | by Luke Turpeinen0
It Takes A Village Of Valeria
– A review of Villages of Valeria, by Daily Magic Games
Daily Magic Games introduced the world of Valeria to the public last year with the card and dice game “Valeria: Card Kingdoms” and its “Frost & Flames” expansion. In Valeria: Card Kingdoms you played as nobility trying to fight off the hordes of monsters that destroyed the capital city and killed the King; the winner would become the new ruler of Valeria.
Villages of Valeria puts players in the role of rival nobility who are trying to build a new city in hopes of it becoming the new Capital of Valeria. It’s worth noting that unlike Card Kingdoms, Villages does NOT contain a dice element and the mechanics are substantially different, even though it exists in the same setting.
Villages of Valeria plays from 2-5 people and a game takes about 45 minutes after you know the rules. Villages of Valeria had a successful Kickstarter and is currently available for purchase at the publisher’s website in normal and deluxe versions. The version shown in pictures here is the Deluxe version, which is only available via the website
(In the interest of full disclosure, we have a current professional relationship with Daily Magic Games. We are volunteers in the Playtest NW organization, and they are publishing a game that Nicole and I have designed. We have done open playtesting of Villages of Valeria but were not part of its production. AcrossTheBoardGames does not take payment for reviews.)
In the game Villages of Valeria, your main objective is to gather resources in order to construct buildings, which allow you to recruit adventurers to your cause. Once a player has reached a predetermined amount of buildings plus adventurers, the game ends and victory point totals are tallied. Victory points come from buildings, adventurers and coins.
Buildings in Villages of Valeria often give you victory points, and may also give persistent or one-time bonuses. Adventurers also often give you victory points, and may also give persistent or one-time bonuses. The main difference is that buildings have a “suit” (Shadow, Holy, Worker, Military) while adventurers require that a specific combination of suits be in your tableau before you can recruit them.
Villages’ one-time effects let you draw extra cards or take coins, almost exclusively. The persistent effects typically modify one of your actions (eg: “+1 Coin when Taxing” or “+1 Stone when Building”) though they may also give extra bonus points (eg: “+1 Victory Point for every adventurer”).
The game ends when one player reaches the target number of Buildings plus Adventurers (10 or 12, depending on the number of players). A player must decide to either build a bunch of small buildings quickly, or dedicate resources to a longer game. If you can keep your momentum up, a fast paced strategy (a zerg-rush, if you will) can be very effective, but it’s not always possible to achieve.
Villages’ main mechanic is set collection, which it uses in a variety of ways. First, you need to collect resources in order to build the Buildings. Secondly, you need to collect buildings of the correct suit in order to recruit Adventurers. Finally, there are a decent amount of cards that give you bonus points for collecting certain types of cards.
Villages of Valeria is a straight forward game with a basic set of actions and simple goals. The rules are easy to learn, and most of the complexity of the game lies in the particular cards that you have in front of you at any given moment. This, coupled with the extensive card list, keeps Villages replayable.
I like Villages of Valeria’s use of a “follow the leader” mechanic, which has the active player choose an action which other players can elect to “follow”. The follow action is either more expensive or lacks some additional bonus that makes it less appealing, but its timing may make the opportunity to progress worthwhile.
Villages of Valeria doesn’t use tokens to represent hoarded resources, which was enjoyable. Instead, resources are dedicated by playing a building card in a different orientation than normal, which changes its function. When cards pull double duty in a game, it turns hand management into a much more interesting puzzle.
The one mechanic I was disappointed to not see in the base game was some sort of Turn 0 player incentive. In Card Kingdoms this was represented by the Duke cards, which all had secret goals that shaped how you were to play the game. In Villages there is no player-specific goal you are given at the start of the game, and the lack of direction can be disorienting the first time you play.
The manner in which you use resources in Villages strikes me as especially unique- you dedicate certain cards from your hand to represent the resource printed on it, then you can use coins to activate/generate that resource. Your opponents also have cards that represent resources, and you are free to put your gold on them to activate the resource- but they keep the gold. It’s a cross between a worker placement game and 7 Wonders, but a little more antagonistic.
The Deluxe Edition adds a couple of new physical components to the base game, but most notably includes three bonus expansion packs. I love the quality of the box, dividers and pads in the Deluxe edition, but I don’t favor wooden pieces over plastic or cardboard ones so the upgraded meeples don’t overly excite me personally.
The expansion packs mostly contain new buildings and new adventurers, which are welcome additions to the game after you’ve played the base Villages a number of times. Each expansion pack contains 12 playable cards and a reference card. Sold separately, the expansion packs are $5 a piece, or $15 total- which is the price difference between the normal and Deluxe editions of the game.
The Events and Monuments expansion packs both contain a new card type called (you guessed it) Events and Monuments, respectively. Events are cards that you add into the Building deck that have a moderate effect on the game when they come up. Monuments form an additional marketplace above Adventurers and give a new ability to most actions in the game.
The reference card suggests using only 4 event cards per game, but in two player games we went through so little of the deck we never saw more than one event card. I felt very comfortable just adding all of the event cards to the deck after a couple of play-throughs and I think that was the right choice.
Monuments seem to exist because advanced players were able to build such efficient villages that they wanted more advanced buildings to spend their resources on in the late game. Monuments give a bonus to players who go for a long term strategy, but if a short-game player is quick enough then going for a Monument card can be an enormous waste of time.
I’m torn on my feelings about the Monument cards, but I do know that I’d be more excited about them if they awarded something more interesting than victory points. For example, Monuments could award specific extra actions upon completion- which would allow some fun combo-chaining to occur.
Overall I was impressed with the additional elements of the Deluxe game, and I feel that between the box/insert and extra cards that come with the expansions it is definitely with the extra $15. For a final price of $40 I think that Villages of Valeria is a great addition to your game library- especially if you like fast-playing, set collection card games.