Today we will be going in complete contrast to our last review which was the rule heavy, massively strategic, Zombicide: Black Plague and focusing on something a little lighter, scrub that, I mean a hell of a lot lighter. Today’s game can literally be learned in ten minutes but still incorporates enough strategy and intrigue to make it enjoyable and re-playable. That game is Daily Magic Cards’ newest edition to the fantasy world of Valeria and is aptly named Quests of Valeria.
Daily Magic Games released the Quests of Valeria Kickstarter campaign in the spring of 2016, and I can remember at the time reading through the page, watching the videos and loosely keeping up to date with the campaign. I was delighted when DMG smashed their funding total by raising more than ten times the pledge goal of $8,000, as they are exactly the type of company that should be looking to fund on Kickstarter, but let’s not get into that debate just now.
Quests of Valeria is essentially a fantasy card drafting game that allows players to take on the role of one of six Guild Masters who must find the right citizens with the correct attributes, hire them and send them on quests to earn victory points. Suitable for one to five players, all this takes place in the gloriously named Gutrot Tavern that obviously attracts the best and worst of what Valeria has to offer. Suitable for one to five players, it will take roughly thirty to sixty minutes from start to finish, with DMG suggesting it is suitable for players 14+, although I think that age guide is a little high. I played this game with my ten and eight-year-old children with few issues. We will obviously talk more about the game itself later, but first we’ll look at the components.
To start with, the box, which is about eight inches long, is perfectly sized for its contents with little to no waste making it easy to store and carry. The inlay, although simply divided into three sections, does what is required by separating the main card types and the few tokens provided.
The art on the box is really nice showing several colourful characters crowded around a map, casting long shadows with scheming expressions on their faces. The title art looks like it’s bursting out through the box itself being overlaid on such a dark, shadowy background. The back of the box gives players a brief intro into the game as well as showing some of the citizen and quest cards.
The rule book offers the same artwork as the box which is pretty standard, whether being published by one of the big boys or an independent Kickstarter publisher. My disappointment, however, came as soon as I opened it to the first page; for the most part it is just black text over a white background making it look a little cheap and slapdash, which is a shame because the actual content of the book is quite good. The iconography is bold, colourful and clear. It breaks down the three main card types with diagrams, explaining what each does and what each symbol means. It also has a diagram of set up and runs through the gameplay from phase to phase in a clear and concise manner. There is a guide at the rear detailing each citizens’ abilities and also a quick-play reference on the back page to aid players.
The tokens that are included are of really good quality, whilst the art work is limited to the requirements of the components; it is printed on nice, thick chip board making them easy to use as well as durable. These include seven card cost tokens, one first player token and two action tokens, which before I played the game seemed unnecessary and a little gimmicky. My opinion somewhat changed once I began to play, and I will explain why later. First, I will talk about the three main card types.
Citizen cards make up the bulk of the card count with eighty four included and detail a number of citizens, including the Mage, Knight, Bard and Champion, as well as many more. Apart from the name and artwork, each citizen has three other pieces of information on their card. The first is the citizen role which will be anyone of four, for example a worker or soldier. The second is the resource type and number which that citizen offers. There are three resource types in the game which are gold, strength and magic. The final piece of information is the citizen’s hire power which basically means what abilities that citizen can perform once they are hired. These can vary from being able to draw another card, activate a quest or even discard cards from another player’s hand.
There are six Guild Master Cards, one of which will be randomly given to each player during set up. These cards don’t actually come into the game until victory points are added at the end but will give players a focal point to aim for when deciding which quests to attempt. These four quest types are battle, commerce, subterfuge and adventure and are detailed in the quest cards. For example, Ni’Kal the Assassin gives additional victory points for completed battle and subterfuge quests.
Speaking of quest cards, there are thirty two included with each giving details of a specific quest requiring a variety of resources to claim the rewards. Each card has its own piece of artwork covering the left hand side of these landscape arranged cards. The right hand side gives the name of the quest plus a sentence or two about it.
The artwork on all three card types is of a very high standard and, in a way, reminded me of Dicemaster’s Dungeons & Dragons, although maybe slightly more cartoon-like. Each character appears to have their own personality and, to be honest, even without the name of the character such as Priestess or Rogue, you could probably name and distinguish each one just by the art. I personally like the Champion card above the rest who is pictured, seemingly, in the midst of battle with darts protruding from his armor and a wild battle cry look on his face.
Those are the components, so let’s look at the setup and gameplay, and for the purposes of the rest of this review we will be using the two – five player variant rather than the single-player rules. Well, setup literally takes five minutes with the table being set up as follows: The numbered card cost tokens are placed in a horizontal line in order 0 1 1 2 2 & 3 with the Hire from hand = 2 coming last. The citizen deck will be placed and drawn from under this last token. A citizen card is then drawn and placed under each card cost token which act as the citizens for hire at Gutrot Tavern. The numbers above each card simply mean the number of citizen cards that you must discard from your hand to hire that particular citizen. As the game progresses and citizens are hired, the remaining citizens will move down in value when new ones are added which stops the game becoming stagnant. Above these tokens six random quest cards are placed which are now the active quests, although these can easily be changed using one of a player’s actions. Three citizen cards are dealt to each player as a starting hand as well as a random Guild Master card that must be kept secret from other players. The game is now ready to begin.
The active player will receive two action tokens when they use their first action; one token is passed to the next player before doing likewise after the second action has been taken. The player can perform any two of four actions during their turn, although hiring citizens and completing quests can add to this number. The actions are: draw a random card from the citizen deck, hire a citizen from the tavern by paying the card cost, reserve a quest or discard all quests replacing with six new ones then reserve one and complete a quest using hired citizens. Essentially, the citizen cards in a player’s hand are only there to discard in order to hire citizens which once hired are placed in front of the player, face up and may now be used to complete a quest.
When a citizen is hired, the player can gain free actions due to that citizen’s ability, although not all citizens offer these. The Mercenary card allows players a free draw action, whereas the Warlord will give you a free hire action. This allows players to increase the number of actions on each turn, and if played right can form some very effective combinations, meaning players can complete a number of quests in one turn if they have enough hired citizens. This also explains the two action tokens provided as trying to play without them could become very confusing. It shows the game was adequately play tested before release, as I’m sure these wouldn’t have been included in the early prototypes.
A quest is completed as follows: The Raise the Dragon Hatchling card requires at least two citizen cards with the Holy citizen role; these cards must also have at least four of the magic resource. Once a player has hired enough citizens to cover the quest requirement, then they can complete it by gaining the victory points and rewards that are listed on the card. These are the same as the citizen abilities giving free actions, and in this case gives the player three victory points and allows them a free reserve action. The citizen cards used to complete the quest are now discarded and the quest card put to one side to be scored at the end of the game. A player can never end a turn with more than eight hired citizens or eight random citizens in hand, so they will need to draw down and discard if they exceed this. This prevents players from stacking so many of one type of resource or citizen role as to stop other players from competing. The game will continue in turn order until one player completes five quests which will trigger the final round. Once finished, players will add up the victory points on each quest plus any extra points gained through their Guild Master card.
Quests of Valeria is definitely a well thought-out and tested game which gives players a surprising amount of variety while playing for such a light game. The Guild Master cards add an extra dimension and make it effectively impossible for other players to accurately guess how many victory points a player has. The combinations through hiring citizens and completing quests can be extremely effective and gives that player a huge boost if played correctly; this adds to the strategic element of the game and in conjunction with the hire mechanic takes away the randomness of simply drawing card after card. Allowing players to have a direct affect on their opponent’s game is also a great idea through taking random cards from their hand into yours or by discarding all active quests and drawing six new ones. Although not a massive part of the game, it certainly adds to an extra element which can change the game environment.
One more point worth mentioning is the scoring system at the back of the rule book that ranks you from the lofty position of Minister of Quests all the way down to the Court Jester. This maybe just cosmetic but adds to the theme and will make the kids laugh despite the outcome of the game. DMG have a tutorial video which explains the game and its basic rules, so be sure to check that out below.
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Designer – Isaias Vallejo
Art – Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Publisher – Daily Magic Games, Esdevium Games
Expected Release Date – February 2017