Saturday, August 29, 2015

A game review: Valley of the Kings

Number of players: 2-4
Time: 20-30 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding/set collection

Let's face it, I'm a sucker for deckbuilding games.  I also enjoy the various takes on deckbuilding. Valley of the Kings is a really interesting take on it and is not like any others that I've played so far. Like all deckbuilding games (that I'm aware of) you start off with the same cards as your opponent(s).  In this game, set in ancient Egypt, you have four shabti's, three urns, two boxes of food, and an offering table.  The goal of the game is to have a number of different objects in your tomb at the end of the game.  You score points based on squaring the different sets of objects that you have in your tomb at the end of the game.  For instance, for three different books in your tomb, you would score nine points.

The cards that you use can either be used for currency to be able to purchase cards or can be used for their various action texts on the card.  The market for the cards is a pyramid, in which you can only purchase cards from the bottom row.  There are various cards that allow you to manipulate the pyramid's bottom row to change which cards you can purchase.  The cards fall down the pyramid and the top card of the stock is added to the pyramid.

On your turn, you can play cards from your hand, use the cards in your hand as currency to purchase cards from the bottom row of the pyramid, or entombing a card from your hand (placing a card from your hand in your tomb).  Once you place a card in your tomb you're not able to use it, again (unless you happen to have a card that brings it back from the tomb).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is the scoring of the cards in your tomb.  You score points based on completing the sets (there's only two copies of each card) and only score points for cards that are actually in your tomb at the end of the game.  Start entombing cards too early and you won't be able to complete your set.  If you wait too long in the game to entomb your cards, you will end up woefully behind your opponent(s).

The game is a little more complex then it first lets on.  There's quite a bit of strategy of remembering what cards you have, your opponent has/needs, thinning your deck, and disrupting your opponent's chances of getting the cards that they need.  If each player is willing to make the game confrontational, it can get quite nasty.

Pros: Quick game which allows for a lot of decisions.  Each game is going to play differently due to the randomness of the cards.  Picking the right time in each game to go after entombing your cards as opposed to purchasing the more powerful cards is always going to be different which is part of the fun.  The game allows you to thin your deck quickly and allow for the best cards to be played, which of course, can be countered in this game, so another good thing.

Neutrals: Can be quite confrontational, as I mentioned above.  I've been known to destroy cards from the pyramid that my opponent needs with a shabti rendering a lot of their strategy useless.  Of course, that turns the game a little bit. At first, I thought the non-combining of the currency would be a con as I would have to separate out my coins to maximize the cards but I've really come around on this and think it's really great.

Cons: There are very few cons in this game, that I can think of.  I'm a little disappointed in myself for not playing this more, as it is a game I really enjoy.  Unfortunately, our favorite game is Dominion and Legendary is fairly close so we have a lot of deckbuilding games competing for our attention.  My only complaint is the Censer which only seems to be played when I purchase a card before my opponent can and they get it from me but I'm certain that it's a feature not a bug.

Overall: 81/100

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