Clerics & Archers & Owlbears, Oh My! A Double-Take Review of Valeria: Card Kingdoms

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If You've been around you've seen our reviews of Villages of Valeria, and Quests of Valeria. Well welcome back to Valeria with the game that started it all! Today we're reviewing Valeria: Card Kingdoms, a tableau/engine-building game for 1-5 players that plays in 30-45 minutes (closer to 45). Players will be guild masters hoping to clear Valeria of a bunch of baddies by way of adding some do-gooder Citizens to their squad, and controlling a few Domains along the way.   

Is Valeria a kingdom that can stand on its own? Or is it just a house of cards? Let's find out!


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Resources

The Components

Valeria: Card Kingdoms is comprised most of, well, cards.  

 Dukes

Dukes

  • 108 Citizen cards 
  • 48 Monster Cards
  • 24 Domain Cards
  • 10 Duke cards
  • 10 Starter cards, 10 Exhausted cards, and 5 Reference cards
  • 2 D6
  • A sweet insert with dividers, for all of the different cards plus plenty of room for all of the expansions
  • Lots of resource tokens! (Money, Magic and Attack!)

The GamePlay

 Citizens

Citizens

The goal of the game is to score more victory points than the other players. You do that (mainly) by killing off Monsters. You also can score points by collecting certain icons on Citizen, Monster and Domain cards. And you can earn a few extra points if you have some leftover resource tokens.

The Setup

Valeria: Card Kingdoms sets up a lot like a deck-builder. There are sets of Monster cards, 10 different stacks of Citizen types, and some stacks of Domain cards.
Jeremiah--The cool thing is there are multiples of each of these different types of cards, so you can swap out different combinations of cards every game, which really ratchets up the replay value!

Each player gets a few resources to start with, as well as two starter Citizen cards. Each will also pick a Duke card, which gives end-game VPs, much like the Lords of Waterdeep. 

Lets talk for a minute about these cards!

  • Citizen cards--These have a numeric value, a cost, and resources gained/abilities listed on them. When someone rolls a number that matches the Citizen's numeric value, that triggers his or her activation, which gets you cool stuff. 
  • Domain cards--These are a lot like Citizen cards except there's not a numeric value, just a cost (which is usually pretty steep) and a special bonus (which can be pretty powerful!).
  • Monsters--These cards have a strength, which is how many attack tokens it takes to defeat them, and then you get (you guessed it!) a special bonus, and victory points!

Gameplay is quite simple. On a player's turn they do these phases in this order:

 Monsters

Monsters

  • Roll phase--The current player... wait for it... rolls the two d6 dice! 
  • Harvest phase--The current player gathers resources depending on what was rolled and what cards are in their tableau. If they rolled a 7 (a 5 and a 2, say) they would check to see if they have the Citizens with a 7, a 5, and a 2., and then collect the resources off of any of those matching cards (including duplicates, stack those bad boys up!). SO DOES EVERY OTHER PLAYER! When it's your turn you get more for matching numeric values, BUT, even when it's not your turn you get to collect resources from matching cards (it's just not as much). There might be other cards that trigger, too, such as a Domain. 
  • Action Phase--The current or active player gets to do 2 actions: Kill a Monster, recruit a Citizen, buy a Domain, or take one of any resource token.
  • End Phase--The current player passes the dice to the next player!

That's IT! You build your tableau to create a resource-producing engine so you can go kill Monsters and gain VPs. Once a certain number of stacks are depleted the game ends and a winner is declared!


 Domains

Domains

The Verdict

Jeremiah--First of all, Valeria is a really cool realm. Cool fantasy characters, locations and monsters! Daily Magic has used it to create a couple spin-offs (Villages and Quests of Valeria). In my opinion Card Kingdoms is the best of the series, but I don't think we've seen the end of the Valeria series of games, and as far as I'm concerned, that's great! I love the Valeria realm and can't wait to go back!

Firestone--Yeah, it's an interesting idea to create a world, and then a bunch of games within that world, all of which play very differently.  

Jeremiah--We always like to mention components and artwork, and it's worth noting that they are exceptional! Colorful imagery, beautiful artwork, and 175 WOODEN resource tokens! All of that put into a really well-designed insert that has plenty of room for the expansions that have already hit the market!

Firestone--I love the colorful artwork in this. And the wooden tokens are varied and colorful, too. The ONLY downside for me is that setup can take a while. But it's not a big deal, and the rest of the game is fast enough that it makes up for it. 

Jeremiah--Valeria: Card Kingdoms really hits a ton of sweet spots for me. I love games that keep players engaged during every player's turn. It's a great way to keep the game moving and it just makes it a more interesting experience. It's also the sweet spot for depth and complexity; I can teach this game to ANYONE, yet there are so many different strategies to be explored, so even my most serious of gamer friends find this to be interesting and fun! 

Firestone--It's definitely in a sweet spot. Not too long. Interesting decisions. Some luck. Beautiful artwork. It ticks a lot of boxes! My youngest has always loved Machi Koro, but Valeria: Card Kingdoms fired Machi Koro for him, and me. It's not as if Machi Koro is suddenly a bad game, but there are so many more interesting things to do here!  Sometimes engine-building games can get bogged down, but this one moves along at a brisk pace. And that's helped by the fact that you have the chance to get resources even on other people's turns. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--I can't say it enough: I love this game! Definitely one of my favorite games to hit the table in the last couple years. I highly recommend this one to anyone. Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a GREAT game!

Firestone's Final Verdict--I liked Villages of Valeria quite a bit, but Card Kingdoms is even better. The variability, accessibility, and fun gameplay have made this a staple in my game box for months now. And the expansion that just wrapped up on Kickstarter has me excited all over again. Daily Magic is one of the most underrated publishers out there, but games such as Valeria: Card Kingdoms are why they should be on everyone's radar. Thumbs up from me. 

Have you played Valeria: Card Kingdoms? Let us know what you think of it in the comments. And thanks for reading!

Theology of Games would like to thank Daily Magic Games for providing review copies of Valeria: Card Kingdoms. This in no way affected our opinions of the game. 


If you'd like to hear more about Valeria: Card Kingdoms check out Episode 71 of That's How I Roll! Jeremiah does his Double-Take Review of the game for your listening enjoyment!