Family Game Night: Valeria Card Kingdoms: Shadowvale

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A lot of gamers like to do Top 10 lists … frequently. They make an overall Top 10, a yearly Top 10, a cooperative Top 10, a competitive Top 10, and so on. I have never considered doing this, as I have a lot of games and the game I want to play depends on my mood, how much time I have to play, and who I am playing with. However, there is one game I love and will play with anyone at anytime, and that game is Valeria Card Kingdoms (aka VCK).

VCK is a simple game to learn, keeps every player engaged every turn, and has amazing artwork to boot! At the end of 2016, they launched their first big expansion on Kickstarter, called Flames and Frost. This year they are releasing the second big expansion on Kickstarter, called Shadowvale. For those unfamiliar with the base game, it is a game for 1 to 5 players, ages 14+. It takes approximately 30 minutes to play and is currently on Amazon for $31 (a steal of a price). The latest expansion can be acquired for a pledge of $24 plus shipping.

Overview and Game Play

The King of Valeria has grown weak in his old age, and his kingdom is under siege by monsters of every shape and size. You and your fellow Dukes sense an opportunity to rally the Citizens, purchase Domains, and repel these vile Monsters from the Kingdom. Whoever manages to do this most successfully will be in prime position to seize the throne of the failing king!

After setting up a game with five stacks of Monsters, ten unique numbered Citizens, and five stacks of Domains. Each player draws a Duke card that they keep secret for end game scoring. Game play is as simple as rolling a pair of dice, activating your Citizens that match the numbers rolled (For example, a 1 and 6 activate citizens with a value of 1, 6, and 7) and taking two actions. Your two actions in the base game were hire a citizen, kill a monster, or buy a domain. The game ends when card stacks equal to twice the number of players have been exhausted. Most victory points is the winner!

What’s New In The Expansion:

1. New Citizens – From an Exorcist to an Inventor, there’s a lot of interesting Citizens introduced.

2. New Monsters – Spawning from the Sewers, Necropolis, Woods, Den, and Crypt, these horrific beings include rats, vampires, werewolves, and even zombies!

3. New Domains – Some interesting additions here have mutually beneficial player interactions, where you can give a resource to a neighbor to gain a victory point.

4. New Dukes – Nothing earth-shattering here, but they are allowing you the opportunity to get your face in the game, like they did with the base game.

5. Relics – This mini-expansion gives you an additional card at the beginning of the game that gives you a special action that only you can perform.

Positives:

1. More of Everything – More Citizens, More Monsters, More Dukes. This adds a ton of replay value and setup variability to the base game.

2. Same Great Art – Mico once again delivers quality art. I mean look at the Blood Moon Palace. Gorgeous!

3. Relics – This little game changer is truly awesome and gives you a little power that only you can use. It’s not enough to win you the game, but it can certainly turn a bad/mediocre turn into a good turn.

Neutral:

1. Monsters – The horror theme isn’t one I am particularly drawn to in media (books, movies, or games). My wife isn’t a fan either. I can see myself adding one of these monsters to the mix one playing, but would never play with only Shadowvale monsters.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to expansions, there are generally three approaches to take:

1. Add more of what you’re used to with the base game to increase replay value and variability.

2. Add something new to keep the game fresh and introduce new strategies.

3. Add something that completely changes how the game is played.

VCK has predominantly stuck with the first two options, which I applaud. In following this strategy, we have been introduced to new Citizens of Valeria (both venerable and questionable), seen the borders of the Kingdom expand with new Domains to purchase, and unearthed Monsters we hoped we’d never encounter. (That’s not to say we didn’t rise to the occasion and deal them a sound defeat!) The amount of unique combinations you can now make when setting up this game has increased exponentially, and it has made a world that is visually rich and appealing.

In terms of adding new things, VCK has been careful to add to the game and enhance it rather than change it. With the Flames and Frost Kickstarter, we were introduced a mini-expansion called Agents which gave us a different action to take (Hire an Agent) that stayed true to the spirit of the game, while expanding our options. Shadowvale Kickstarter is taking a similar approach by introducing Relics. This mini-expansion also gives you another action you can take, but it is an action only you can take. Think of it as a variable starting power that not only adds variety, but gives you a specialty you can focus your strategy on for the game.

Valeria Card Kingdoms is a game I will continue to visit and play over and over again. It’s beautifully simple in its game play and simply beautiful in its artwork. They could make 100 expansions for this game, and I would gladly own all of them, though I’d probably need a bigger box! If you own VCK, this is the easiest decision for a Kickstarter you’ll have all year. If you don’t own VCK … why not?! Go buy a copy, experience its greatness, and then pledge for this Kickstarter!

See all our Family Game Night articles here.


Copyright 2018 Stuart Dunn
Your purchase of the resources mentioned here through Amazon affiliate links benefits the author of this article.

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About Author

Stuart Dunn was born and raised in Mobile, AL and received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Alabama. Stuart primarily does accounting and logistics at the Port of Mobile. He married his wife, Mary Katherine, in 2011 and welcomed their first child into the world in 2013. Stuart reviews all things Catholic including adult books, children’s books, Bible Study series, Catholic Courses, CDs, and DVDs in addition to board games at his blog Stuart’s Study at StuartsStudy.blogspot.com.

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