I tend to lump board game expansions into three broad categories. There's the "more stuff" expansions that simply add more of what the game already has, which usually increases replayability without increasing complexity. The second kind is the "fix the broken stuff" mechanics that usually fill in some holes, and finally there is the type of expansion that truly expands the game, adding new mechanics and changing the way the game plays. The Flames & Frost expansion for Valeria Card Kingdoms is mostly the first type but sprinkles in a few tweaks from the last type without adding much complexity. All told, this is a very good expansion that you should pick up at your earliest convenience if you already have and enjoy Valeria Card Kingdoms.
First and foremost what you are getting with Flames & Frost is more stuff. More Monsters, more Domains, more Citizens and more Dukes. With the base game alone you had to choose from two Citizens per number when setting up the game. With Flames & Frost your choice jumps up to 3 Citizens per, and while adding a third choice may not seem that major up front, the fact that you are choosing 8 different Citizens means that the total number of combinations that you can play with each game increases exponentially. The same is true for the other new cards as well. All told, if you love Valeria Card Kingdoms and you want to inject some new life and variety into the game then look no further.
The new (to me anyway; there is another small expansion that I haven't played that previously added Events to the game) mechanic that Flames & Frost includes is a set of Event cards that get shuffled in to the Exhausted cards deck at the start of the game. The Exhausted deck still acts as the game's timer, telling you exactly when to end the game based on how many piles of cards are empty, but the Event cards cause some effect to trigger when they are drawn and played. Instead of simply existing as a form of bookkeeping for the players, the Exhausted deck now holds a bit of mystery and excitement. It's not a huge change, but it's a really neat one that makes what was essentially a completely mechanical, uninteresting part of the game more interesting and thematic.
All told, if you weren't a fan of Valeria Card Kingdoms there isn't anything here that will 'fix' the game for you, because for the most part the game feels very nearly the same to play with the exception of the added tension and excitement that the Events create. On the positive side, with all of the extra options added to the various decks and types of cards, the replayability and shelf life of the game has grown immensely. 'More stuff' can be a hindrance if a game is already clunky and bloated, but Valeria Card Kindoms is neither, and the new content fits in seamlessly while improving the game's value and replayability without adding clunk or complexity.
The bottom line:
Valeria: Card Kingdoms is already a great game, and Flames & Frost injects a huge amount of replayability, via new cards, into the game while simultaneously adding a bit of zest to a part of the game that was essentially just a time-keeping mechanism before. Whenever you exhaust a pile of cards, there's always a bit of tension and interest now as players hold their breath in case an Event shows up, which injects life into an aspect of the game that was just bookkeeping. That tiny change isn't going to make fans out of people who didn't enjoy the game before, but it's an very nice touch for those who did. All in all, the Event cards, coupled with the new Monsters, Domains, Citizens etc make this a must have expansion for extending the life of Valeria: Card Kingdoms.
The copy of Flames & Frost used for this review was provided by Daily Magic Games.
Flames & Frost is a very good expansion to the already great Valeria Card Kingdoms. While it doesn't do anything mind-blowing, it does fill in a few small gaps in the base game while simultaneously providing enough new content to greatly increase its shelf-life.