Valeria: Card Kingdoms by Daily Magic Games
Recruit citizens from your kingdom to fight monsters and acquire domains for your secret duke character in this family friendly, fast paced game of tableau building and dice rolling from Daily Magic games by Isaac Vallejo.
Plays 1-5 in about 45 minutes total.
Daily Magic Games has come up with a very clever formula: get inspired by other titles and tweak the gameplay around just a little bit to come up with really fun to play games. In the case of Card Kingdoms, you are going to be strongly reminded of Machi Koro. If there were some things you didn’t like about Machi Koro (such as the length, the take that, and the punishing dice rolls) there’s a pleasant surprise waiting for you in the kingdom of Valeria. Even if you do like MK, this game is different enough to own both. The Valeria Card Kingdoms mechanic requires amassing a personal tableau of cards purchased from a center display, and then acting on the benefits of those cards depending on dice rolls by each player.
The game is a bit of a table hog, as you do need room to put out monsters, domains, and citizens, which are the cards that correspond to dice rolls and will make up your tableau. During the game, each player will roll two dice (very nice, hefty dice with big numbers) and take resources based on the individual two numbers and the sum of both dice – three opportunities to gain a resource, not just two. Every player gets a resource or action on dice rolls – not just the player who rolled them this turn. The rewards vary, with the best reward usually going to the player whose turn it is, but sometimes everyone gets an equal payout on a dice roll. By mid-game, you are rolling in resources. The strategy comes from how you are going use your riches in magic, fight strength and gold to gain victory points. Victory points are also gained through your personal hidden goals from your duke character, chosen at the beginning of the game.
The game is given good depth by categorizing citizens and others with class icons (healer, mystic, warrior, merchant, shown on the top right of the cards) and the need to match those icons to acquire domains and fulfill hidden goal requirements.
The decisions on your turn are straightforward. Will you fight monsters? Recruit more citizens to help you gain more resources? Buy up a domain, which gives special effects and powers? There are a good variety of decisions to be made in two actions each player has per turn, without the frustration of never having enough to spend. Even the currency, magic and gold, are interchangeable in most cases. There’s little downtime since no one is going to agonize too long over a decision.
Due to the excess of resources, the game goes quickly, since the end is determined when a number of card stacks are empty. Fought all the monsters? Game’s over. Bought all the domains? Game’s over. Bought up a player count-determined number of citizens? Game’s over. Add up your points, all done.
Change up the citizens in the center display for replayability. There is one small expansion, available at this time on BGG’s Store, and a funded kickstarter for a larger expansion that will be available this summer.
The artwork is excellent. The illustrations are gorgeous, on nice thick card stock. The box has a well designed insert with card dividers, a must for these types of games.
All of the Valeria games have the same characters, artwork, and similar themes, which works to tie in the brand and makes it easier to learn other titles in the series (also based on other games). Nothing new here, but that’s ok, because the fun factor is all there.
With quick turns, lots to do, and a moderate strategy demand, play is enjoyable. There is very little player aggression – a couple of cards take resources, probably just enough to satisfy those who want a little take that, but not enough for players who like conflict every turn. There’s no need to track what everyone else is doing, particularly, although it will be obvious that some players are collecting certain resources and a clever person could buy up what they needed to block point generation. My opinion is why bother, but it certainly could be played that way.
This game is in the sweet spot for families. It plays up to five and it does well at all player counts (including a solo mode!). The rules are easy to grasp and there’s no complicated decision making required to play, but you can play strategically to maximize your score. With something for everyone on a turn, no one feels left out and it requires engagement on someone else’s turn. The theme holds up and is integrated well.
Luck Factor: Quite a bit. If you don’t like being at the mercy of dice rolls, you may not like this one. However, it’s certainly mitigated by the numerous opportunities you have to score from the dice rolls.
Decision making: moderate
Player Interaction: optional, with a minimal amount of take that, but it’s there
Math skills: there is a bit of adding of lots of small numbers at the end when scoring.
Strategy (long term planning): moderate
Tactics (reacting to the game state): moderate