Villages of Valeria is the second of three games designed by Isaias Vallejo in the kingdom of Valeria. Published by Daily Magic Games, this Valeria game is co-designed by Rick Holzgrafe. It plays with one to five players in about 45 minutes.
In Villages of Valeria, players aim to construct new buildings in their village and recruit adventurers. To construct buildings you must pay to use developed resources. This concept sounds simple enough, but the implementation allows for a variety of interesting strategic choices. Resources and buildings are on one card, forcing you to choose between using it for the resource or saving the building to construct. When building cards, the resource cost is not paid back to the bank but rather is temporarily “spent” on resource cards. You can pay the resource cost using your resources and your opponents. After the active player selects an action, all other players have the chance to follow by taken the same action in a less advantageous way. If the player leading build has plenty of gold they could pay to use opponent’s resources, effectively preventing their opponent from using that resource when following (but giving the player an extra gold piece). I enjoyed this unique player interaction mechanism. The other interesting mechanism that added more strategy and player interaction was discarding. Villages of Valeria is largely about hand management, choosing how to use the cards in your hand and which to discard when developing resources. The interesting part about discarding is that the cards are placed on top of the available building supply piles. Players can use this to block cards that are desired by an opponent, but it may also mean you need to expose a building from your hand which you want to keep.
Villages of Valeria can be boiled down to a tableau building game like Roll for the Galaxy or 7 Wonders. You are constructing buildings that are worth points, but also add special abilities. The special abilities can help you build faster, draw extra cards, get more gold, or score additional points at the end of the game. Build the buildings that complement each other well and you’ll be able to outmaneuver your opponent to win and have your village named the capital city of Valeria.
Deluxe Edition and Expansions
The real value of the deluxe edition is the box and getting all expansions cheaper. I really liked the box insert that fits sleeved cards and included dividers. The dividers keep the cards sorted to speed up setup time and prevents having to remove expansion cards from the piles before games.
The deluxe edition also included three expansions: Guild Halls, Events, and Monuments. While some expansions are better than others, at the very least they all add a little more diversity to the game.
Monuments is by far the best expansion. It adds eight monuments (basically higher value buildings) which take six resources to build (as opposed to one to five resources for buildings). What I really liked was it added a new way to use your cards for their resources and gave different options for the recruit, develop, and build actions. When recruiting, you can pay an additional gold to also take a monument. Acquired monuments are placed sideways to show that they are under construction. In a develop action, you can choose to dedicate a card to the monument and the resource at the bottom will count towards its construction. Since this doesn’t require discarding cards as normal in a develop action, if you have one card in hand when a develop action is selected you have the possibility to follow the action instead of doing nothing. When building, you can construct the monument using the dedicated resources and paying gold for resources or using special powers (as in the normal build action). Since monuments don’t count towards the end game condition of 10 or 12 buildings and adventurers, games played with Monuments can last longer and be higher scoring. This expansion also adds four new adventurers, three of which can be used independent of the Monuments expansion.
Guild Halls is a pretty good expansion that adds more scoring possibilities and some diversity with new cards. There are four new adventurers in Guild Halls which allow players to recruit sooner in the game, since they all have one requirement (the standard adventurers have two or more). There are four new buildings, one of each type. These buildings earn three points for having the most of the specified building type, which can alter your building strategy. There are also four event cards included. All these cards can be used independent of each other or all together.
The Events expansion adds the least to the game. There are four adventurers added, that can be used independently. The other eight cards are events which cause something to happen when drawn. To play with event cards, 12 buildings are removed from the deck and four events (selected randomly or otherwise) are shuffled into the deck. The 12 removed buildings are placed back on top of the deck. Most often only 2 event cards are ever revealed and they don’t alter the game much. This can be increased if you enjoy randomness by adding more events or shuffling them in just the top half of the deck. The four events that affect all players equally make little to no difference in the game. The events I did like were the ones that affected the player with the least or most gold or cards. When an event is drawn, it gets revealed to all players and then activates before passing the active player token. Since it activates at the end of a round, a revealed event can change what players intended to do that turn. For example, if both players currently have four gold. The active player recruits Archer (or Necromancer) and while drawing cards reveals the Rabunhod event (the player with the least gold, gains a gold). Now with three gold, the active player stands to gain a gold. Originally, the other player did not plan to recruit as that would cost them two gold and prevent them from building on their next turn. With the event revealed, they can now choose to spend two gold to recruit a different adventurer. This leaves them with the least gold now and they gain a gold because of the event and can still build on their next turn. Similarly, since gold “spent” on resources are protected, a player could choose to follow on a build action to construct a building they don’t need just to prevent losing gold.
The deluxe edition is not available in retail stores, but can be purchased while available from Daily Magic Games. If you can get the deluxe version, I absolutely recommend it. The additional cards add more diversity to the game and the deluxe box is an excellent organizer. If you are purchasing the standard version, I recommend at the very least getting the Monuments expansion. Guild Halls is also worth getting, but you aren’t missing much by not having the Events expansion.
What I Enjoyed
Villages of Valeria looks gorgeous with colorful artwork from Mihajlo Dimitrievski. The cards and components are produced with high quality. The cards have a nice linen finish and all the token are made of wood.
The game felt very well balanced. There is no strategy that can be blindly followed to a guaranteed victory. I tried in several games to horde gold to prevent my opponents from building and then build until I end the game. In a two-player game, I had 10 of the 14 available gold pieces and it still didn’t completely stop my opponent from building. I lost some games sticking to this strategy, despite having way more gold (which is also worth victory points). Some argue that the Merchant adventurer is the most powerful card and unfair. It never solely guaranteed victory and is comparable to Butcher, Monk, and Knight. These three adventurers can be recruited easier (with two requirements) and give one point per Worker, Holy, and Soldier building respectively. In several games, I built as many as seven Worker buildings and recruited the Butcher. This makes the Butcher worth a total of eight points (base value plus point per building). An opponent would need to spend turns developing 7 resources to have an equal value with the Merchant, all the while I would be scoring the point value of the buildings I constructed to increase the value of the Butcher. In short, I didn’t feel any adventurer could assure you the win. The great thing is that if you disagree, you can swap out whatever adventurer you think is too strong for one from an expansion (or just remove it).
As mentioned previously, I liked the method of discarding. When I was first introduced to Villages of Valeria, one of the rules that was taught wrong was discarding. We played where cards were completely removed to a discard pile. Once I got my copy and read the rules, playing with the proper discard rule improved the game. It allowed you to try and block cards that you or other players want. It also let you try to discard cards you didn’t need immediately and draw them later, instead of choosing to discard and completely lose a card.
I like the ability to follow actions and trying to anticipate what your opponents plan to select on their turn. I might have a card I want to build, but also want to recruit. I can try to deduce if the next player is going to build, so that I can select recruit instead and follow on their build action.
The gold spending mechanism was a great feature. Spending gold on a build action locked that gold in until your next turn. This could prevent you having enough available gold to recruit an adventurer, but could also protect you from losing gold to Thief or an event that would cause you to lose gold. Since this mechanism also blocks resources you've used already, you have to make the choice between leaving the wild resource open for use with your other gold when following another player's build action or use your wild even when you have a needed resource to leave one of your resources open for other players to use (thus giving you gold).
As a two-player game, Villages of Valeria is very fun and maintains a lot of the strategy of three plus player game. However, if you intend to play this frequently as a two-player game it can get repetitive without the expansions. Just playing the standard version of the game with two players, there are enough duplicates of all the cards that you can repeat the same combinations every game. In three or more player games, the cards are more dispersed among players and more cards are being discarded, possibly burying a card you need. Unless I was specifically sticking to a different strategy (such as getting all the gold), I found we just built the same buildings in every two-player game and it became a race to recruit adventurers before other opponents. This issue is solved greatly with the expansions. Adding monuments, new buildings, or changing adventurers helps make each game different. Don’t get me wrong, the standard game is still a quality game worth adding to your collection, but it isn’t something you can play every day. I think this could be said of many immensely popular game though and might be my bias towards playing a variety of games rather than one game repeatedly.
As with any game involving shuffling and drawing cards, there is a small element of luck for which cards become available. This didn’t bother me, but may for those who only play games with zero luck. It doesn’t matter much for buildings because a large portion of the building deck is used in a game. However, if your strategy is hinged on one specific adventurer, they may never come into play. Although in my opinion, that is more of a comment on your foolish strategy and not a fault of the game.
Who Should Buy Villages of Valeria
If you enjoy games like 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy, or Citadels, you’ll love Villages of Valeria. It is an excellent tableau building and hand management game.
If you need a game that can accommodate one to five players while still being an enjoyable experience, Villages of Valeria plays well regardless of the number of players. Note the previously mentioned downsides of frequent two-player games. The solo play is adequate. It removes player interaction and focuses on the hand management aspect and becomes very mathy. The game ends after you draw through 35 building cards and you end up calculating the order of actions that will give you the most points before ending the game. If you are looking at Villages of Valeria for just it’s solo play and don’t enjoy this type of brain exercising gameplay, look at other solo games.
Villages of Valeria is great for new and advanced gamers. The concept of building and recruiting to earn points is easy to understand and the game is easy to learn or teach. At the same time, there are lots of choices in the game and different strategic approaches to satisfy the more advanced player. I would describe this as a light-medium weight game.
How about if you have another Valeria game? I haven’t played Valeria: Card Kingdoms or Quests of Valeria, but as far as I’ve seen they have different enough gameplay for you to enjoy all three games. If they are as good as Villages of Valeria, I look forward to playing those also.
Even from my first incorrectly taught play of Villages of Valeria, I was very impressed with how the game looked and played. It combined aspects of several games I really enjoy into one smooth, fast paced game. The player interaction is not about backstabbing and can even be mutually beneficial (such as giving a gold to another player to use their resource). It quickly became my most played game so far this year and is sure to continue to hit the table.