Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings. AEG, 2014. $20. Designed by Tom Cleaver, art by Banu Andaru. Deck building card game. 96 Artifact cards, 4 Tomb cards, 4 Reference cards, and rulebook. 2-4 players. 45-60 minutes. Ages 14+.

Each player starts with the same 10 cards, a Tomb card (where you bury cards taking them out of play but storing them for victory points at the end), and a Reference card. The Artifact cards are divided into 3 groups (levels) with each being shuffled and then stacked one on top of the other in order. This allows less expensive cards to enter the purchase area (Pyramid) before more expensive cards. At the start 6 cards create a pyramid (3-2-1) of cards available to purchase. You can only buy from the “base” (bottom row) of the pyramid. Cards above “crumble” and drop to the lower levels refilling any gaps.

For a small card game, Valley of the Kings offers a lot of decision making. Each turn you have to decide how to use each card in your hand (usually 5), either buying new cards, executing its action, or “entombing” the card (an action you can only take once per turn, taking them out of play but only entombed cards count toward victory points at the end. There are many actions on the various cards. It’s often challenging to know whether it’s best to use a given card’s action, to use its gold to buy new cards, or to entomb the card for victory points.

At its heart, the game is mostly set collecting as that’s where the greatest victory points are and after several plays the multiple copies of some cards in this small card game begin to feel repetitive. As with most deck building card games there is a bit of luck as to which cards are available for purchase during your turn and how much purchasing power (gold) you have in your hand at the time.

Honestly, for such a small card game it actually provides a lot of good game play. The actions on the various cards can really enhance your (or hamper your opponent’s) plans. The hardest choices come toward end game when you have powerful cards but may need to entomb them for victory points. This game actually has more fun and replay value than the size of the box and reasonable cost would suggest.

This review was written based on a privately purchased copy. No previous relationship with the game publisher nor compensation was involved.

c2014 by Richard A. Edwards

Forgotten Souls

Forgotten Souls. FFG, 2014. $14.95. Design by Jonathan E. Bove. Graphic Design by Chris Beck. Cooperative expansion for Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition). 32 cards and 1 Tracking sheet. Warning: rules not included (must be downloaded from FFG website). 2-4 players. 3-4 hours. Ages 14+.

First of a series of cooperative adventures released for Organized Play events, Forgotten Souls provides Descent players with a fully cooperative (no one plays the Overlord) experience. The Track Sheet is marked with Fate and Doom tokens that march toward each other as bad things happen and when heroes get defeated. If too many things go wrong, the markers will meet and the players lose. Three numbered “main encounter” cards are stacked in order with random cards to create a semi-random exploration deck that also provides a story line for this adventure. When doors are opened a new area is explored and an Exploration card is drawn and new tiles and challenges are set up and described.

The Overlord phase works really well to provide a great challenge. First, the active Exploration card directs an action based on the location. Then, if there is no active Exploration, Fate advances and a Peril card throws a random nasty event at the group. Finally monsters activate based on special Activation cards that in our experience play really well. The result is a fast paced adventure full of surprises. And all without one player having to take on an adversarial role.

A printed copy of the rules not being included and not mentioned on the outside of the packaging was a shock, but easily remedied by printing them out from FFG’s website. While the first play through is exciting and new, after several plays the adventure and cards are well known and begin to seem repetitive. This adventure is also very challenging, so expect to lose the first time or two while figuring out the best approach to the challenges.

Forgotten Souls is a wonderful, inexpensive addition to Descent. Only the core Descent game is needed to play. The experience is fully cooperative and the system created for running the Overlord phase works amazingly well. The adventure can feel like a bit more like a race than an adventure due to trying to avoid Despair cards by keeping moving. In truth, Forgotten Souls simply makes me wish for more of this type of cooperative adventure.

Though I believe this review to be fair and objective, I feel obligated to provide the following information. This review was written based on a privately purchased copy. I have a long standing relationship with Fantasy Flight Games as a freelance contractor including as a play tester and paid editor for Descent expansions. No compensation for this review was involved.

c2014 by Richard A. Edwards