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