I'm quite fond of Daily Magic Games' various Valeria titles. The games all share a world and artstyle, but, most importantly, they share a designer and an underlying philosophy that gives you a sense of satisfaction while you play because you are always making progress every turn. There's always something to be gained in the various Valeria titles with each and every action that you take, and the same holds true for the newest game set in this world: Margraves of Valeria. We were sent a preview copy of Margraves of Valeria, and, even with early prototype components and unfinished art, it manages to give the same sense of progress and gain while simultaneously feeling unique from the other games that share its setting.
All components shown are pre-production prototypes and don't represent the final product.
Margraves of Valeria is an action-selection/hand-building hybrid Euro game full of familiar mechanics stitched together in a unique way. You'll be competing against your opponents for, what else, the most victory points at the end of the game. Here's the description from the rules themselves:
You are a Margrave, a field lord charged with defending the borders of Valeria and building Ward Towers to strengthen the realm. You command knights and citizens to collect resources and slay monsters in an effort to gain Influence over the 4 Guilds: Worker, Solider, Shadow, and Holy.There is a lot of iconography and moving parts in Margraves of Valeria, but if you've played any of the other games set in this world, the various symbols will be immediately familiar. If you haven't played any of these games before, you'll need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the various symbols and their meanings, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be moving your Margrave around the countryside, gathering resources, and fighting back monsters like a pro.
Influence over the Guilds will determine how many Victory Points you'll receive for collecting citizens and building Ward Towers in locations tied to those Guilds.
The heart of Margraves of Valeria are the citizen cards that form each player's hand and determine exactly what you can do on a turn. While taking a turn involves simply playing a citizen card from your hand, the options that each and every citizen give you mean that you can choose to pursue the ever-desirable Victory Points via your own desired path.
Each and every citizen card gives you two separate options of actions to take, and you can also use the citizens to build Ward Towers, or to recover all of the cards that you've played previously. On top of that, you'll be gaining new citizen cards throughout the game, further expanding your slate of options, and every choice that you make results in progress. The core gameplay loop in Margraves of Valeria is option-rich, constantly expanding, and continues to feel satisfying from the start of the game through the end.
Regardless of the method of approach, you'll need to pay attention to which guilds you want to focus on in each game because the guilds are the key to scoring a large amount of victory points. Each citizen belongs to one of the four guilds, and the cities around the board, in which you can build your Ward Towers, are dedicated to one or two guilds as well so you'll often be best situated if you focus on one or two of the guilds.
On top of the need to keep your citizens and Ward Towers inside of your chosen guild, you'll also have the option throughout the game of increasing your influence with the guilds. As your influence with a particular guild rises so too does the number of points that you'll gain at the end of the game for each citizen you have and each city with that guild's influence mark that contains one of your towers.
Margraves of Valeria doesn't have any directly competitive aspects, although there are ways that players can interfere with each other. The resources needed to build Ward Towers are limited by the number of people playing, and it can be possible to horde resources to make them harder for other players to come by, although every player is limited to only holding 12 total resources. So unless one player wants to cripple their progress along with the other players, it's usually smarter to do so in a key moment near the end of the game when being able to prolong the game by a single turn might net you a chunk of points.
You may also want to pay attention to the guilds that your opponents are focusing on. It's possible to remove citizens from the game before anyone can get them, and while you can't play a true citizen-deny strategy, as there are simply too many, you can pay attention to what you think might be most helpful to your opponents when your time comes to remove a citizen and strategically target one based on it's powers or guild.
Game end is triggered in one of three ways, although all three are obvious and every player gets to take the same number of turns. In every single game that we've played each player has felt that there was just a little bit more that they wanted to do, which is always a good sign. Often even the player who ended the game still felt like they had more that they could do, but ending the game felt like the right strategic move even if it wasn't and someone else manages to snatch victory away. Once you get a feel for the game you can start to get a feel for when the game is about to end and adjust your strategy accordingly and, with the sheer volume of options and strategies that you can use while playing you'll play many games before you've tried them all.
If you are already a fan of any of the Valeria games then you'll almost certainly like Margraves of Valeria. If you've never played a Valeria game before but you like medium-length Euro games that are light on player conflict but heavy on player choice then you'll want to give it a look as well. Options abound in this game, on each and every turn, and every choice that you make moves your forward. There aren't any wasted actions to be had here, and your slate of options only grows more robust as you move through the game. While you do need to focus on the guilds, there are a ton of strategies that you can employ as you move through the game, although the sheer volume of expanding options means that if you play with people who are prone to analysis paralysis this game might last a little bit longer than you'd like.
If you are interested in picking up a copy of Margraves of Valeria Daily Magic Games plans to launch the Kickstarter campaign for the game on July 15th, 2019.
The pre-production copy of Margraves of Valeria used for this preview was provided by Daily Magic Games.