Lords of Waterdeep is one of my favorite games. It blends depth, playtime, and complexity near perfectly and adds in just enough theme to keep things interesting. It's great for new gamers and veterans alike, and I'm never disappointed when it hits the table. Quests of Valeria is a new set collection/tableau building game from designer Isaias Vallejo and Daily Magic Games that feels remarkably similar to Lords of Waterdeep while being almost entirely different mechanically. It doesn't quite reach the lofty heights that Lords of Waterdeep does, but if you are a fan of that game then you are almost sure to like Quests of Valeria.
Quests of Valeria is the newest game set in Daily Magic Games' Valeria universe and, courtesy of the stylish art and symbolism shared between the games, will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played Valeria: Card Kingdoms and/or Villages of Valeria. This time around, players take on the role of Guild Masters of Valeria competing for, the always sought after, victory points in order to win acclaim from King and country!
The Guild Master cards are dealt randomly to each player to begin the game and are kept secret from the other players. In essence, they are a personality that you are taking on in your quest to be the best, but in practice they just show you what types of quests you will score points for at the end of the game. So far, so Waterdeep. The quests themselves, as well as a line of Citizens, are laid on the table to represent the Gutrot Tavern, and it's up to each player to hire Citizens and complete more, and more valuable quests, than their opponents.
Completing quests is fairly straightforward; if you have Citizens in your Guild (read: your tableau in front of you on the table) that meet the requirements of a quest, you can discard them in order to complete the quest. Each player may also reserve a quest in their Guild in order to prevent the other players from completing it, or removing it from the board, and each quests has various rewards once completed, including some number of the ever desirable victory points.
The real meat of the game comes in how and when you choose to acquire Citizens, and when you choose to complete quests. The game ends when one player has completed 5 quests, so it may seem obvious that you'll want to complete quests as quickly as possible, but not all quests reward equal points, and some quests have other rewards, like giving you extra card draws or actions. Many Citizens also give you bonus actions when you hire them into your Guild, and if you time it right you can fire off powerful combos that let you take many more actions than the two you are normally allotted on your turn. For example; you might hire a Citizen that allows you to complete a quest, and the rewards of that quest might allow you to hire another Citizen, which then allows you to hire another Citizen, which may give you the resources to complete another quest. That's a fairly robust example, but there are enough possibilities for this type of play that smaller combinations will be fired off constantly during the game, and it's always satisfying to pull one off.
One downside to the game is that the board-state is so dynamic that it's hard to actually plan ahead. There are six Citizen cards available to hire directly from the table each turn, but even if you aren't playing at a full compliment of players, they tend to get hired up and shift positions so quickly that it's a mistake to plan to have them available to you when your turn comes back around. You can hire Citizens directly from your hand of cards, but the card draw is random, so you can't plan to take certain cards into your hand, and have to plan around what you get. Successful combinations in Quests of Valeria are less dependent upon planning them out than they are on a player's ability to recognize, and take advantage of the opportunity for one when it presents itself. This can be a turn-off for players who like to feel like they have tighter control, but it works really well for players who like to wing it.
Even with the possibility for organic combos, I haven't noticed any overtly powerful or obvious card combinations, and every game that I've played has had a tight score margin between all players. Experienced players will be able to spot potential combinations easier than newer players, especially considering just how much symbolism the game uses, but the game doesn't take long to learn, and since the playtime is usually in the 30 minute range, it's easy to bring people up to speed.
A note on “chrome”: Quests of Valeria has the same high production values that I've come to expect from Daily Magic Games. The cards and art are excellent, the cardboard components are extra-thick, and the rules are well laid out. Other than the fact that some of the pieces of art have been used in the other Valeria games I have zero complaints about the quality of this game, and even that is only the most minor of issues.
The bottom line:
Quests of Valeria is a fun set collection game that really does feel like Lords of Waterdeep was distilled into a card game, and is worth a look for players who like Lords of Waterdeep and for players who don't like certain aspects of that game. Quests of Valeria is doubly worth a look if you haven't played Lords of Waterdeep, because both games provide a satisfying sense of progression and gain. Like the other games set in the Valeria universe, Quests of Valeria's theme is fairly thin, although the art is consistent and stylish. The symbolism on the cards will be familiar to veterans of the other Valeria games, but can be a bit cumbersome to learn for new players. Once players have it down pat, it's fun to build your tableau of Citizens in order to complete quests, and even more fun when you manage to fire off a powerful combination of effects.
Get this game if:
You enjoy Lords of Waterdeep and want a game with a similar feel that takes up less space and is easily portable.
You like set collection games.
You like games that let you string together combos.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike set collection.
You prefer long term planning over making decisions on the fly.
The copy of Quests of Valeria used for this review was provided by Daily Magic Games.