Review all the Things: Valley of the Kings

Today’s game is the first non-Kickstarter game that I’ve taken a look at, and one of my favorite takes on the deckbuilding genre of games for a while: Valley of the Kings!

imageValley of the Kings is a deckbuilding game where each player is a Pharaoh, trying to obtain the greatest collection of Egyptian artifacts to have buried with them in their tomb. Like many deckbuilding games such as Dominion and Ascension, the objective is to have the most victory points (VP) by the end of the game. VP is earned by purchasing cards from a common stock, which can either be used as currency to purchase more powerful and valuable cards, or used for a particular effect.

Although the general goal is the same, Valley of the Kings distinguishes itself in two major fashions:

1 – how purchasing is made from the common pile, and

2 – how VP is tallied and scored.

In most deckbuilding games, a player can purchase any card that is currently available for purchase if they have the funds to do so. Valley of the Kings, staying true to it’s Egyptian theme, instead has a pyramid design for purchasing cards:

image_1The pyramid design, however, is not solely for looks. Only cards at the base of the pyramid can be purchased. How then, does one purchase cards near the top? The simplest answer is through the crumble mechanic, where cards will crumble down to fill in spaces created by purchasing cards. An example is below:

image_4

The middle sarcophagus was purchased. This created a gap in the base of the pyramid, so a card has to crumble down from the second row…

After crumbling, a gap has now opened up in the second row, so the top card has to crumble down to the second row...

After crumbling, a gap has now opened up in the second row, so the top card has to crumble down to the second row…

Like so. Now, the amulet can be purchased, and the book can potentially be purchased if the amulet or the canopic jar are bought.

Like so. Now, the amulet can be purchased, and the book can potentially be purchased if the amulet or the canopic jar are bought.

Buying that many cards in a turn can be difficult, so there are card effects that can allow for swapping of card locations on the pyramid or destroying cards (forcing a crumble) as well as cards that allow for an automatic purchase to be made.

The scoring is semi-unique as well. In Ascension (which I keep using as my deckbuilding example because I’ve played a lot of it), the honor of all cards that you purchased into your deck will be summed up for the final score. In Valley of the Kings, you get zero points for any cards in your deck. How do you score, then? Remember what the goal of the game is?

As part of a turn, a player can entomb a card. This essentially removes the card from the game, putting it into your tomb to be buried with you:

An example of a tomb with some entombed cards.

An example of a tomb with some entombed cards.

At the end of the game – which occurs when the pyramid and pyramid stock are completely depleted – players will tally up their VP and determine a winner. Some cards (starter cards and Unique cards) have a set VP value, but the majority of the cards in the game are parts of a set (Books, Sarcophagi, Canopic Jars, Amulets, and Statues). If you only have one item in a set, you get one VP. However, if you have multiple items in a set (duplicates don’t count), then you’ll see exponential gains in the amount of VP you earn, ranging from 9 (collecting all 3 sarcophagi) to 49 (if you somehow managed to collect all seven statues).

The five different sets in the game.

The five different sets in the game.

With there only being 1-3 copies of each card in the game, however, it becomes more difficult to get full sets, and keeping an eye on what players are trying to collect what sets is a key to victory. However, you can only entomb one card per turn unless a card’s effect says otherwise. Therefore, you need to be constantly entombing cards (losing their effects) in order to keep up with the other players. It’s a delicate balancing act between keeping cards for their value, keeping cards for their effects, and entombing cards to lock in VP at the end of the game.

I’ve only gotten to play a few rounds of this game thus far, but it has a really fascinating premise and style of play, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes games in the deckbuilding genre!