Gamers are a little obsessive by nature. You’ve got to keep track of what’s going on in your game. You’ve got to sleeve all your cards. You’ve got to keep up with all a game’s expansions. You’ve got to organize all your games on your shelves. We can get pretty focused on things. Especially when a new game comes along and we get all wrapped up in it and want to play it over and over again. Which is what’s been happening lately.
The culprit has been Valeria: Card Kingdoms. We played it twice last Tuesday, once more last night, and I’ve been asked to bring it to at least two more upcoming game days. Safe to say people like it. In its basic concept, Valeria is akin to Machi Koro in that you start with two cards and roll dice to activate those cards in order to acquire more cards and eventually win the game. You do this by adding citizens to your kingdom (they’re the cards that activate when your roll the dice based on the number on them), slaying monsters (that get tougher as you get deeper into their stacks), and laying claim to various domains. Those last two are your main source of victory points, as well as a secret Duke card that provides you with extra end game scoring. Rather than Machi Koro‘s race to a set amount of money, Valeria plays out over an equal number of turns and whoever has the most points at the end wins.
Now we like Machi Koro, but it can be really frustrating; there are cards that force you to give your money away to other players, and very often you end up not being able to do anything on your turn except pass. Certain cards become almost useless as the game goes on and people start rolling two dice instead of one. And it’s a game that really needs its expansions to make it enjoyable (the base game is fine but a little predictable and therefore kind of solvable).
Valeria changes a lot of that up. First of all, there’s not a whole lot of “take that” here. There are cards that let you swipe from other players, but not in a turn-crippling way. Plus, you’re getting something on every turn, whether you’re the player rolling the dice or not. That’s because every card that activates has one effect for the active player and one for everybody else. So the occasional loss doesn’t sting nearly as much. And instead of a die roll only activating two cards, it activates three: the two numbers rolled and then the sum. So chances are pretty good that at least one of your cards will activate during a turn. And if somehow none of them do, you get a resource of your choice. Resources are so plentiful the game comes with 5x and 10x multiplier chits to account for how free it is with them. The challenge doesn’t come from acquiring the resources, but what to do with them.
Because there’s a limited number of each card available. Once a stack is gone, it’s gone, and that’s how the game begins its countdown. Kill all the monsters or claim all the domains, and the game ends. It’s also over if a number of stacks equal to double the number of players gets depleted. And since everyone has all the same cards available to choose from, there’s going to be competition for the good stuff. Plus if you go after the weaker monsters too hard, you make the harder, more valuable ones available for your opponents, so there’s some planning and timing involved too.
All in all, the consensus seems to be that Valeria has replaced Machi Koro. It’s got some nice variety in the sense that there are multiple sets of monsters and citizens to choose for set-up, and therefore different combinations that make it very replayable. Plus it’s a card game with expansions. I can obsess over this for a good long while.