Publisher: Daily Magic Games
Player Count: 2-6 Players
Game Length: 30-40 Minutes
Thrones of Valeria places players in the fantasy world of Valeria for the popular game of Thrones, a trick-taking game that brings together the Nobel Houses and different guilds of the land in this strategic, cutthroat card game.
In this spin on the trick-taking genre, players will not only be attempting to win tricks, but will intentionally manipulate the value of a suit throughout the round by activating unique card actions. Careful planning and a little luck can maximize your return, successfully put obstacles in the way of opponents or earn you valuable loot without even winning the hand. See if Thrones of Valeria from Daily Magic Games is the next must-play trick taking game in our review below:
ON YOUR TURN
On the surface, Thrones of Valeria follows a familiar trick-taking pattern: The lead player plays a suit, others must follow in that suit and the card with the highest value wins the trick.
Thrones introduces a more fluid and chaotic approach by adding a number of variables typically triggered by specific actions on each card. The winner isn’t necessarily the player who wins the most tricks, it’s the player who comes away with the most coins.
Play begins by dealing players a set number of cards and randomly drawing “house” tiles to determine each suit’s value on the house standing board. The house standing value determines the monetary prize you receive when you win a trick in that suit… but they are anything but set in stone. The top spot on the house standing guarantees the winner of the trick using that suit 5 coins. The next spot earns you 3, then 1. The final 2 spots lose you 1 and 3 coins respectively. So while winning is typically the goal, winning a trick with a suit in the basement of the house standing will actually cost you 3 coins.
So I’m stuck with a hand of cards with low valued suits. What’s a Valerian to do? I’m glad you asked!
The lead player begins the traditional trick-taking song and dance by playing a card and the other players follow suit if they can. In Thrones, each card carries with it a special action/ability that activates the moment the card is played. This will allow you to gain/steal extra coins, draw new cards and most importantly, manipulate the order of the house standings. Each of the 5 suits contain 9 different numbers and each number has its own action.
Each card action corresponds to its Valerian counterpart. The Assassin can immediately move a house tile to the lowest spot on the house standing. The Thief allows you to take 2 silver from an opponent, the Rogue allows you to swap 2 adjacent house tiles while the Matriarch allows you to move a house up 2 spaces. Of course there are other actions you can take, but they all center around gaining coins, drawing new cards or manipulating the house standing.
If you don’t happen to have a card in the played suit, you can play any card from your hand. If that card sits higher on the house standing at the end of the trick, you receive the reward, not the lead suit. This can lead to some aggressive shuffling of house tiles as everyone is jockeying to adjust the standings in their favor.
Additionally, there are 3 special cards in the deck that will trump any suit, but require payment to play. The game lasts 2 rounds through the deck and the player with the most coins at the end is the winner.
ARTWORK & COMPONENTS
Thrones of Valeria has its own unique art style. Illustrated by Mihajlo Dimitrievski, the cards have a fun, sketched look that presents each card number/type in a fun, stylized way. The house tiles are similar to something out of Azul and the central game board is small, but effective. Overall, the production feels right for the weight of the game. My biggest complaint by far was the silver and yellow colored suits were really hard to see… the only major flaw in the design.
PROS & CONS
➕ Unique twist on trick-taking
➕ Fun theme
➕ Quick setup and gameplay
➕ Interesting decisions
➕ Nice mix of strategy and luck
➕ Multiple gameplay modes for 2 players and team play.
➖ While I like the luck factor, luck can dictate success or failure
➖ Certain card colors are difficult to read
➖ Despite good iconography, it will take a few games to become comfortable with the card abilities
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
Fans of trick-taking games are going to enjoy this new spin on the genre. While it’s not 100% necessary to enjoy the game, fans of fantasy themes and even the Valerian series are going to get a little extra out of this. Thrones brings a more think-y element with the added card actions creating a more strategic experience than the casual trick-taking game.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS GAME?
The best thing is the wild chaotic nature of the game. While you can plan ahead, things never go exactly as they should. Someone always has that card that puts a wrench in your plans. That’s not to say you’re helpless to the whims of chance. It’s particularly satisfying when you win with a sub-par hand, carefully manipulating the game just enough to limit your opponents victories and maximize your attack.
Trick taking games feel like a dime a dozen, but Thrones of Valeria really stands out. This is a really good design that is both lean and unexpected, celebrating the genre with an entertaining, think-y new twist.
I am a huge fan of the house standings where winning doesn’t always mean winning. Unless you’re actively managing the positions of this standings, you can turn a good hand of cards into little to no return. Realizing when to strike to maximize your plunder requires both offense and defensive planning. There are a number of cards that will earn you coins in a losing cause and knowing when to play these is the kind of strategic opportunities that make this game exciting—it’s allowing you to layup, but still see a positive outcome. Winning a trick with the lowly 6 card bypasses the house standing earning you 6 coins… This could be a big win and I love the challenge of making this happen.
The card actions provide that extra layer of flavor bringing a strategic personality elevating Thrones to the next level. I love the juicy actions and there seems to be just the right amount to keep things interesting without overwhelming the player. It might take 2 or 3 games to get the iconography down, but it soon becomes second nature.
If you’re not a fan of mixing a little luck in your game, Thrones of Valeria probably isn’t for you. The card actions bring a lot of strategy into the gameplay, but you will feel nature is working against you from time to time. There will also be turns that feel completely random and frustrating at times, but on the flip side, orchestrating 2 or 3 consecutive turns to perfection will put you on top of the world. So there is a balance of strategy and chance, but it feels right to me.
I am so impressed with Thrones of Valeria. It’s fun and fresh and doesn’t overstay its welcome. There is a think-y element that keeps your brain processing and players engaged, but it’s not overwhelming or heavy. The rulebook isn’t the most intuitive, but learning the game is simple and despite the various card actions, is pretty easy to teach. Each player gets a reference card that clarifies all the card actions bridging that gap nicely.
Thrones of Valeria works as a family-style game as well as for more serious games. The player count provides plenty of flexibility for couples or larger groups and the experience doesn’t waver for one or the other. If you’re looking for a trick taking game with a nice twist, Thrones of Valeria is a great choice. It definitely has a place in my collection.