Monsters are running amok. The land of Valiera is under threat from a horde of deadly and dangerous monsters. You and your fellow Dukes have decided it is time to take action. You must recruit citizens, purchase domains, and build up your kingdom to be strong enough to face the monsters.
Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a 2016 release with a second edition released in 2021 and it is the second edition which I have picked up and been playing. Card kingdoms is a one to five player tableau building and dice rolling game. On a player’s turn they will roll two dice and activate various citizen cards with the corresponding pip values as well as the sum of the two pip values. These citizens will typically grant you money, magic, might. All other players activate their citizen cards as well. The active player will then perform two actions which include spending various resources to slay a monster, recruit a citizen, buy a domain or simply gain a single resource.
The game will progress in turn order in this fashion until the end game is triggered and the player with the most points is the winner.
Valeria: Card Kingdoms has been on my radar for a while now but I have never taken the jump to purchasing it. The second edition was the perfect opportunity I needed to grab myself a copy and I am glad I did.
The core gameplay is fairly straightforward as you can see from the above introduction. However, the game is not linear and you have many ways to score points as well as boosting the way you generate resources. I enjoy the simplicity of the gameplay as it lets you focus on the game itself rather than the rules. Resources are tracked on your personal player board and turns are pretty snappy. Roll some dice, gain resources and then spend them on various things. The great thing about Valeria is that you are involved even when it is not your turn as you get to activate the lesser power of the citizen cards that match your opponent's die roll. This does mean you generally have a bountiful supply of resources. The actions are fairly straightforward with respect to costs to recruit, slay or buy a domain and you have the option of using magic to top any missing resources.
The iconography is fairly straightforward and is the same iconography that runs through all of the Valeria games I have played. This made understanding the card actions/benefits fairly easy. Even if you have not played any Valeria games then understanding the icons is easy enough and the rulebook acts as a good reference if needed.
There is a decent amount of replayability in the box with two different versions of each citizen card for each pip value. You can mix and match and combine these as you please and they will keep the game feeling a little different each time. There are several expansions available (I have not tried them yet) to mix this up even further and add in new game play options. I am very excited to try these. Some cards do offer some player interaction with the ability to steal resources, but this is minor and only one set of cards. If this is not your thing you can simply not play with that set. Each player also has a Duke card which is in essence a different way to score points at the end of the game based on what you have collected.
There is a solo mode which works in a very similar way to the multiplayer, however you collect a second set of resources with the dice you rolled at the start of the turn using the lesser action. It in essence simulates other players around the table and works well. The value of your dice also removes cards from the display to give to your AI opponent. The one thing I will say about the AI is that there is no mechanism of tracking how well they are doing till the end. The Duke card given to the AI remains face down so they may score for a specific type of card at the end of the game but you have no way of knowing this. As such there is no mitigation regarding the cards you give they take during your turn. It is a shame as I would have liked to see a way that implemented this in a different format. I have had games where the AI scored hardly any points as they only scored for domains of which they did not gain that many. But this was due to the luck of the card and not by a strategy I had devised.
Overall, Valeria: Card Kingdoms is a hit for me. I enjoy the streamlined and light rules set yet the gameplay is compelling and enjoyable.