QUESTS of VALERIA: Daily Magic Games
Designed by Isaias Vallejo with Illustrations beautifully fashioned by Mihajlo Dimitrievski
For 1 - 5 Players aged 14+ Games average 45 minutes after your first game (which with rules reading and learning the icons etc should be about 75 minutes)
If you were lucky/brave enough to back this as a Kickstarter you will have a limited edition copy that is worth quite a lot on the eBay and Amazon markets plus you'll have some additional cards that are not included in the retail edition; this review concerns the retail edition.
The game uses at least two fairly basic, well known, card collecting mechanics and one game twist. The first is the purchasing of cards from a line where the cost of the card depends upon where in the line it is positioned and the second is the completing of Quests by collecting cards from the line that have the necessary icons on them to match those required - as shown on the Quest cards. It is the third mechanic or game twist that makes QUESTS of VALERIA such a super, playable, fun game that will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a jolly good card game. Actually it's an exceptionally jolly good card game.
The players are Guild Masters in the Kingdom of Valeria and they have to hire Citizens for their Guild and then send them off to complete Quests to quash the petty squabbles of the local Nobles. There are several types of Quests, Adventure, Battle, Commerce and Subterfuge; each of the Guild Masters gains additional points for two of these types at the end of the game. It isn't mandatory to complete Quests of your Guild Masters liking but it can be advisable, it depends on the value of the Quests you can do - Guild Masters only add 1 point extra per Quest (of their favourite type) so it can be more profitable to complete a Quest with a higher value that isn't the requirement of your GM card.
The rules are easy to understand and setting up the game is simplicity itself. There are two decks of cards, the Quests and the Citizens, which are both shuffled independently of each other and then dealt out in a specific way. The players are each given a hand of three Citizen cards, the rest of this deck is put aside next to the line of six tiles numbered 0 - 3, (0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3) with one Citizen card then being placed face-up under each of these tiles - this is the display from which players can "Hire" cards.Six Quest cards are dealt face up from the Quest deck and these cards are placed above the Citizen row on the other side of the numbered tiles.
A player's turn is two Actions and can be simple, but it can also be a little complex, and therefore the designers have added two small tiles to the game, Turn 1 and Turn 2. When a player completes Turn 1 they hand that tile to the next player and then do the same with the Turn 2 tile once their second Turn is complete. This may sound unnecessary but believe me it saves a whole lot of confusion and is actually a very clever and thoughtful addition to the game.
There are four Actions the player can choose from for their Two Actions per turn, even doing the same Action twice, but depending on which they choose to do a single Action's consequences can expand that Action into many different actions; this is why you need the two Turn tiles.
Citizen cards that you hold in your hand are used as a currency to Hire the cards from the line, the cards laid in front of each player are used to complete Quests. If a player wishes to play one of the cards in their hand they have to discard two other cards from their hand at the same time.
Citizen cards have several components: There is the Role or Faction, top left icon, which represents either Worker, Soldier, Shadow or Holy. Under this will be one or more icons, Blue, Red or Yellow, representing the resources Magic, Gold and Strength, and there may be a number (value) within the icon. These resources are what you use to complete the Quests. At the bottom of the Citizen card there may be nothing, meaning this particular card has no Hire Power, but if there are pictograms then the card has a power and you use it the moment you Hire the Citizen and place them in front of you. The cards in the line have a cost in cards, that cost is the number on the tile above the card, thus the first card in the line costs zero to Hire, but it does cost you an Action. When you Hire a Citizen you place it face up in front of you and activate its power. If you are lucky the cards may be in such an order that the card you hire has the power to allow you to draw one or more cards from the Draw stack and Hire another Citizen. This drawing of cards and second hiring of a Citizen is all still part of the same turn; you do still have to pay the cost of the second Hire which is why it's often good to Hire a Citizen that costs one or more cards from your hand and then use the second Hire to take the free (0) card that is first in line. An Action can be to Complete a Quest (either one that's in front of you or one or one in Reserve) or Reserve a Quest card, place it in front of you. You may only have one on reserve but you may complete a Quest from the display if you also have a Reserved Quest. To complete a Quest you need to have the correct resources as shown on the Quest and also the required Role/Faction(s) - sometimes you may have to spend a card that has the right faction but not any of the needed resources.
When you complete a Quest you also get to activate its power before putting it to one side and that can give you more cards, another Quest or a new Hire so again expanding your Action. I cannot stress how useful the Turn Tiles have been for preventing any confusion as to whether a player has had one or two Turns. The First player tile is also useful because it reminds you who began the game as everyone has to have an equal number of turns. The other small tile is the reminder that you can discard two of the cards in your hand to bring another card from your hand into play. If you have a Warlord in front of you in your Guild it can be discarded to equal the number of resources that are the same as the Warlord on the cards you are discarding. Thus as an example if you have a Warlord with a Red (Strength) equals sign and you need 4 points of Strength to complete a Quest you can discard 2 points of Strength from cards in the Guild plus the Warlord which doubles (equals) the 2 points of Strength you are discarding.
We have had a lot of fun playing Quests of Valeria and have introduced several people to it. The games we have played have all ended with very close scores, usually with a spread of about 5-6 points. These games have been played between 3 and 4 players, experienced gamers and family. I haven't tried it with two players or even solo but to be honest I rarely play any boardgame solo (the occasional wargame perhaps) and in truth I am not really sure I would like this as a 1 player game, even though there are special rules for solitaire play, mainly because I enjoy the face to face challenge with other players. The rules booklet is brilliantly conceived, one of the best foreign translations of recent years, and has an excellent page of card clarifications - detailing exactly what each Citizen card's powers are and how to use them. Quests of Valeria is in a box a little too large for the average pocket but it will handily fit in a backpack should you be going to a games show and want to take something that is small but with substance along with you. I will just repeat a couple of things; the artwork is stunningly good, the game plays extremely well and is very entertaining. I am sure there are small histories behind the Citizens in the game but there is no flavour text on the cards about them. This is sort of a shame as they all look to be interesting, but it is also a boon because it means you are playing the cards for their values and not spending time reading their back-stories and making the game play for longer than it should.
Now that Quests of Valeria is available retail you should find it in your local store