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Castellans of Valeria Preview, the newest Valeria game is going to be an area majority city builder!

Join me for a first look at Castellans of Valeria, the latest big box Valeria game, coming soon from Daily Magic Games.

This area majority game, set in the Valleria universe, is packed with awesome components including a ton of wooden buildings and some of the best two layered player boards I’ve ever seen.  

Disclosure:  Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases. This is an unpaid preview. The copy of the game provided to us by Daily Magic Games was a prototype that we have since passed on to another reviewer. No other compensation was provided.

Note that the images used in this review are all of a prototype version of the game. Component quality and rules could change by the time the game is published.

 

What is Castellans of Valeria?

The cover of Castellans of ValeriaCastellans of Valeria is being designed by Isaias Vallejo and features artwork from The Mico. It will be launching on Kickstarter on June 13th 2023. Once funded it will be published by Daily Magic Games. 

This is an area majority style board game that plays one to five players with games taking an hour or two depending on the player count and thinking time of players. I would call this a medium weight game that takes a bit to learn but flows very well once you start playing. 

In Castellans of Valeria, players compete to become the Castellan of the newly founded city of Kosk. They will be drafting dice, managing four resources and taking actions to add Manors, Temples, Citizens, Ships, Lighthouses, and more to the six districts of the city.

Along with this players will be buying and selling goods and trying to gain influence within the four Guilds of Valeria. At the end of each round Magistrates will visit different districts and rank everyone’s performance. After five rounds the player with the most victory points wins and is declared the new Castellan. 

Normally this is where I would point you to an unboxing video showing off what you get in the box for Castellans of Valeria, but since the copy we played was a prototype we didn’t record an unboxing video. As it stands now all of the pictures you see that I’ve shared here or on social media show components that will be changed in the final game.

Prototype player boards from Castellans of Valeria - note that the wooden pieces will be bigger in the final version.We know for a fact that in our prototype copy the wooden components are all smaller than intended. They fit very loosely on the player boards and are rather small and a bit hard to manipulate. We also know the design and layout of the rulebook is being completely revised and new player aids are being created. 

That said we do know that this game will come with fantastic dual layered player boards and a ton of wooden components. All of these bits of wood will be silk screened and really do look great as they start to fill the board. As an added bonus all of the shapes are unique which helps make the game more accessible. 

Honestly, except for the incomplete rulebook and guidebook, this could easily be mistaken for a completed game and I’m really looking forward to seeing the production copies which should be even more impressive. 

 

Castellans of Valeria Overview of Play 

All set up for a three player game of Castellans of ValeriaAt the start of a game of Castellans of Valeria, each player grabs a player board and wooden pieces in the colour of their choice. They then seed their player board with most of those pieces. Each piece has its own slot on the player board designed to hold only that shape. The resource markers also go on a track on the player board and start on the spots with dots on them. 

Players put their scoring marker on zero and place an influence token at the bottom of each of the four guild tracks. Then players, in reverse turn order, pick a Manor to build, place it into an empty district, and get the influence reward for that Manor. 

The board is set up by creating the Warf Deck and placing it on the bottom of the board, and shuffling and laying out two sets of citizen cards, one blue and one pink. Green, neutral player, towers are placed in any empty districts. The round tracker is placed on the one spot and the game is ready to start. 

The game is played over five rounds total, where each which represents one month of in game time. At the end of each month, there is a scoring round. In months one through four, three districts will score. At the end of the final month, all six districts will score.

Each round players will first draft dice and then spend those dice to take actions. 

Every round of Castellans of Valeria starts by rolling the dice.At the start of each round, a number of dice are rolled equal to the player count plus one times three. Then in turn order, players will draft one die each. 

When a player drafts a die they get what is shown on that die. This can include Influence or Gold or resources like Wood, Stone, Food, and Magic. 

When you gain influence this way you choose one of the four guild tracks of Holy, Shadow, Soldier or Worker and move your influence marker up one spot. You then collect any bonus earned for how far up the track you are. 

Once all of the players have drafted three dice, players begin taking actions. To take an action players “spend” one of the dice that they drafted, moving it from one spot on their player board to another.

The player boards list the various actions you can take in Castellans of ValeriaEach action has a specific die face associated with it and when using the matching die to take the action you earn a bonus.

Note you don’t have to use the specific die, any die can be used for any action. but if you use the matching die you get a bonus. 

Most of these actions have you placing things out into a single district on the board, with the cost being some of a resource plus an amount of gold equal to the number of the same piece type already existing in the district you’re placing it in.  Some actions also include sub actions that you can do after completing the main action. 

Similar to pretty much all other Valeria games, Magic is a wildcard resource that can be added to any other resource in order to pay a cost. The trick is that you have to have some of that resource to start with. You can’t pay for something with Magic alone. 

 

Going across the player board top to bottom and left to right the actions include:

Shipping in Castellans of Valeria is done at the WarfShip lets you buy and sell goods based on the currently face up Warf Card. You have to spend crates to do this. You start the game with two crates and can unlock a third during play. After buying and selling you can then optionally build a Ship, these cost wood and potentially gold and are placed into the water section of a district. Finally, you can pay two gold to move one of your ships already in play to a different district. 

If you use an influence die to do the ship action you also get the bonus of going up one on the guild track of your choice. 

Ships will count for one control point in their district during scoring. 

You use the Harvest action to get the resources currently shown on your dice (whether the dice are used or not). You also get to go up one on the guild track of your choice. If you use a magic die to Harvest you will also gain one additional resource of your choice. 

After harvesting you have the option to build a windmill. Windmills cost two food plus, based on how many other windmills are in play in the area you place them, possibly gold. Windmills are placed between districts and count as 1/2 a control point for each district they are adjacent to. 

The board near the end of a two player game of Castellans of ValeriaThe Manor action lets you place a manor on the board. This costs wood and potentially gold. When building a manor (including the one built at the start of the game) you get to pick which wooden manor piece to remove from your player board. As each manor gets played it unlocks an ability that will be in play for the remainder of the game. Many of these abilities boost existing actions but there is one spot that unlocks your third shipping crate and makes your gold track longer, and there is also a lighthouse manor that gives you points for any ships in the same district it is placed in. 

When you place a Manor onto the board you also get to go up by one on two guild tracks, based on the district you placed it in.

If you use a Wood Die when taking the Manor action you gain a bonus of one wood before making any payments. 

Manors each count as one control point in their district when scoring. 

The Temple action lets you place a temple on the board. Temples cost two stone and potentially some gold. When a temple is placed you go up on both of the guild tracks in their district by two. 

When you use a Stone die to take the Temple action you gain a bonus of one stone before paying any costs. 

Temples count as one control point each in their districts when scoring. 

Citizen cards in Castellans of ValeriaRecruit is the final action available and it lets you hire citizens. You pay a cost in food, based on where on the track the citizen card you want to take is located. You then gain one influence in the guild shown on that citizen card. You also take a citizen token from your board, place it in the district of your choice, and go up by one on one of the two guild tracks for that district. This may or may not match the guild on the citizen card. 

If you use a food die when taking the Recruit action you gain one food before paying any costs. Citizen tokens count as one control point each during district scoring. In addition, each citizen breaks the rules in some way. They do things like let you manipulate the dice when drafting them or spending them, or give you additional resources when you spend dice of certain types or take certain actions. 

 

In addition to spending a die to take an action, on a player’s turn, they can also choose to build a monument. These cost gold, and only gold, to build. Players start with one each of three types of monuments. Monuments give you an immediate guild influence boost, plus they give points during each scoring round based on what exists in the districts they are built in.

Monuments in Castellans of Valeria score points every round.For example, the statue monument gives its owner one point per temple in that district while the Gate gives points based on the number of citizens in two adjacent districts. There can only be one of each monument type in each district. 

One thing to watch for when taking these actions is the powers you have unlocked with your Manors and from the Citizens you have purchased. Powers from both of these can modify the rules and are easy to forget when you are in the middle of taking a turn. 

Once all players have taken three actions the round ends and scoring begins. 

The spot the round marker is on indicates which districts will score. You go through each district, one by one, awarding victory points based on majorities. Basically, players count one control point per thing of their colour in that district, then the player with the most control points gets six victory points for having the majority, while the player with the second most gets four and the player with the third most gets two. 

Monuments don’t count towards the area majority and Windmills only provide half a point, but otherwise, you just add up how many things of each colour there are in the district and give out points based on that. 

The green towers represent a neutral non-player in Castellans of ValeriaNext, you score the wharf by comparing how many cargo crates from each player are there, with points awarded for first, second, and third most.

After district scoring you then award victory points for any Lighthouses or Monuments on the board, regardless of what district they are in as these score every round. 

Finish off the round by passing the first player marker clockwise, flipping over a new wharf card, adding a green neutral building to a random district, and refreshing the citizen tracks. 

After the fifth round there is one final thing you need to do, score the four guild influence tracks. First place on each track gets six victory points, second gets four and third gets two. 

After this, the player with the most victory points wins and is declared the new Castellan of Kosk.

 

Thoughts on Castellans of Valeria 

About to start a two player game of Castellans of ValeriaThere is a lot going on in this game. It starts off being very overwhelming. This is especially true when first learning the game and during the initial teach. The player boards are busy and filled with stuff and tokens and icons and none of it is really clear until you learn what it all means. 

Usually, I find the iconography in Valeria games to be very clear but this felt like a Race for the Galaxy level of confusion when I was first learning the game. Thankfully the designer did reach out and provide everyone who had a preview copy with some great reference sheets that I’m pleased to say will be in the final version of the game.

I have to say though, once we actually sat down and started playing, everything fell into place rather quickly. What looks overwhelming actually flows very well and what looks like too many decision points didn’t even lead to that much AP (analysis paralysis). 

By the end of the first game, after seeing the in game value of the various actions and why you would want to take them, everyone at the table fully understood not only how everything worked mechanically but also how it all worked strategically. this led to people wanting to play a second game “now that they got it”.

There's a lot of moving parts in Castellans of ValeriaIn general, this is a good thing but it also means that to really enjoy Castellans of Valeria you need to play it twice. Once in a learning game and then, once you grok it, you can actually play to win. 

After I had everything down I found that I really enjoyed this game.

It’s a medium weight game that requires a lot of strategy and planning ahead for your actions, while also rewarding tactical play and adjusting those plans based on what the other players are doing.

Unlike other medium weight Euros, Castellans in no way felt like multiplayer solitaire. Every action you take is going to affect the other players in some way. Whether that’s drafting a die they needed, hiring a citizen they wanted, building in a district they were controlling, moving boats, and more. It all matters. 

 

A side effect of this is that it keeps players engaged even when it’s not their turn. Between planning your own moves and watching what everyone else is doing, you find yourself constantly analysing the board and looking for opportunities and trying to outsmart your opponents. 

The downside to all of this is that Castellans of Valeria is, to me at least, the driest of the Valeria Games. This game is very mechanical and there isn’t a lot here that says Valeria. Except for one of the resources being called Magic, it doesn’t even feel like you are in a fantasy setting. This feels much more like a medieval city builder than an epic race to finish a city before enemies attack. 

That’s not to say that is doesn’t look or feel like a Valeria game. The use of Mico’s artwork, the inclusion of the four main guilds that carry over across multiple Valiera games, the similar icons and token shapes, all of this makes Castellans look like a Valeria game. In a way, I’m glad to see the licence branch out, as it did with Thrones of Valeria, but I also feel that this game could be better tied into it. 

I get a bit of a folk on a map area majority feel when playing Castellans of Valeria. It reminds me of the all time classic area majority game El Grande. The difference though is that in Castellans the things you are putting out onto the map are buildings and not troops. You also don’t get all of the movement you usually see in wargames, but you do get that ebb and flow as control shifts between players in each district. 

Showing off Castellans of Valeria at a public play event.Overall I was really impressed by the prototype copy of Castellans of Valeria that Daily Magic Games sent us to check out.

While it was a bit rough to learn and the iconography can be overwhelming it didn’t take long for the people I played with to pick everything up and then the game started to flow very well. The component quality here is top notch and you get a lot of stuff in the box. While there were some issues with our prototype copy I fully expect every single one of these to be fixed in the production copy. 

As things stand now I can strongly recommend most groups check out Castellans of Valeria whether on Kickstarter or once it funds and is available in retail. This is a really solid area majority game and seems like a perfect medium weight game that a wide variety of groups will enjoy.

It features a nice balance of perfect information and randomness that is really going to appeal to Euro fans who will also love the strategic and tactical depth. You need to plan out your actions carefully but also have to be able to adapt on the fly based on what the other players are doing. 

Part way through a three player game of Castellans of ValeriaWhat you aren’t going to find here is a thematic fantasy game. There’s no feeling of adventure here and except for the fact that one of the resources is called magic, this could be a historic game and not a fantasy one. It also doesn’t really have that Valeria feel, at least not to me, though it’s getting harder to say exactly what that means with the variety of game styles that now fall under that name. 

Personally, I can’t wait to see how the Kickstarter Campaign for Castellans of Valeria goes. I’ll be watching to see the production improvements and can’t wait to check out the new combined rulebook and reference sheets. I’m also really curious to see if they add anything new to the game. While Daily Magic isn’t known for a dearth of stretch goals with their crowdfunding campaigns, they usually have a few Kickstarter exclusive incentives tossed in. 

 

If you haven’t noticed we’re Valeria fanboys around here and have been since first trying Valeria Card Kingdoms at the Daily Magic Booth at Origins back in 2016. Since then I haven’t played a Valeria game I didn’t like. 

That said there are some that I like more than others, and based on this prototype, Castellans of Valeria is up there with the ones I enjoy the most. I can see this game getting a lot of play and I’m sad I had to send our prototype copy on to someone else. 

Now I need to sit patiently and wait for the Kickstarter, which I’m sure will fund, and then find out just how much better this game can get once it’s had a final polish.

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