This review was written by Jeremy Pike.
The Valiant Throne is empty.
As one of the few remaining lords of Valiance, it is your duty to reestablish order. Valiant Wars is a battle between the lords of the former kingdom of Valiance to retake control and restore the lands.
Valiant Wars is a deckbuilding game designed by Quinn Washburn and published by Strange Machine Games. It’s for 2-5 players and takes 30-60 minutes..
During Valiant Wars, players battle for a series of locations, one at a time, from the location deck. Each location is worth victory points, and the amount of victory points needed to win depends on the player count.
Each player starts with the same ten card deck: five treasure cards, two soldier cards, and three Dark Omen cards.
In Valiant Wars, instead of playing cards from a hand, players will simultaneously draw the top card of their deck and play it. After each draw, all players individually decide whether to continue. Play continues until all players have either chosen to stop or have busted. Since players may draw as many cards as they want each round, Valiant Wars becomes a ‘press your luck” game – two Dark Omen cards cancel out the whole round and that player gets nothing.
At the end of each round, the player with the most swords wins the current location and the corresponding Victory Points. If this causes the player to reach a three, six, or nine point threshold, they add another Dark Omen card to their deck.
Finally, players may purchase new cards – if they didn’t bust. The first player to have stopped drawing cards purchases first. These may be any combination of treasure (one gold), soldiers (free), or a champion from the market of five face-up champions.
Champions belong to one of three factions: Royal, Rogue, or Mystic, and range in cost from 1-6 coins.
Some get bonuses for specific factions played, while other Champions simply have stacking bonuses for swords. There are also Champions that can force immediate effects on opponents (and occasionally also on the owning player). This adds a major element of player interaction and further ratchets up the tension of changing sword counts unexpectedly, causing players to potentially bust. But once a player has chosen to stop drawing, they cannot be targeted for the rest of the round.
Locations add more tension to the game. Each time a player wins a Location, they take the indicated Victory Points and add the Location to their deck. Location cards have a negative effect, causing players to lose Swords, Treasure, or both. In addition, crossing certain Victory Point thresholds causes players to add Dark Omen cards, which makes busting more likely.
If no player is able to amass a winning number of Victory Points by the time the game reaches the last Location card in the deck, the players vie for the Valiant Throne. This final round is a winner-takes-all situation, which means even the player with the fewest Victory Points might win the entire game! We had a game where this exact scenario happened.
The expansion for Valiant Wars was a nice addition, but it isn’t a necessary one. The base game already has a good variety of champions, and the game is enjoyable at all player counts.
It does pack quite a punch for its size. We like the fabric bag with wooden stars for a tactile Victory Point token upgrade. It includes new champions with new combos to seek out. No need to carve out more room on your shelf, though – it all fits inside the base game box.
I’ve played a number of deck builders, and Valiant Wars is a unique take on the genre. It’s got the satisfaction of adding more powerful Champion cards along with the tension of Dark Omens lurking in your deck. The tension goes through the roof when the first Dark Omen comes out and you weigh the positives and negatives of continuing to flip cards.
We have a variety of tastes in our family, and different parts of the game appealed to different family members. Our youngest was entranced with the wonderful card art and the rush of card flipping. Our oldest enjoyed the tension of pressing his luck. Combining this with deck building completely sold him on the game.
Mom and Dad love the included dividers for organization. It makes setup and packing up easy. You don’t have to sort cards before you play, and everyone can sort cards into piles while cleaning up.
The game balances well. Players who are ahead have more omens and the negative effects of the locations in their deck; and the final location is winner take all. This is already fun with player vs player dueling, but the inclusion of champions that affect multiple players keeps the game balanced even at a higher player count.
If you and your family are not into press-your-luck style games, Valiant Wars may not be for you. It may also be risky to play with younger children; we tried to avoid targeting our youngest with the “take that” powers to keep her having fun. But with our older children, it’s game on.
If you are ready to fight for the Valiant Throne, find Valiant Wars at Strange Machine Games.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Valiant Wars and Valiant Wars Champions Expansion from Strange Machine Games for this review.
Age Range: 12+ (we say 8+)
Number of Players: 2-5
Playtime: 30-60 minutes