In this review I will be taking a look at the Rise of Titans expansion for the dice drafting, engine building, board game Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria. This expansion gives you four new modular add-ons for your game of Shadow Kingdoms, which can be mixed and matched.
Is this a must have expansion? Which modules do we now use every game? Read on to find out.
Disclosure: We were sent a Kickstarter copy of Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria with this Expansion included as thanks for doing a preview of Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with Rise of Titans for Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria.
Before I start diving into the Rise of Titans expansion, for those of you who don’t know the base game, check out my Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria Review to learn all about this worker placement, dice drafting Valeria game where you play the baddies instead of the heroes.
Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria: Rise of Titans was designed by Stan Kordonskiy the designer of the original game and features the awesome artwork of The Mico which blends in perfectly with the artwork of the base game. It was published in 2021 as part of the original Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria Kickstarter and is now available in retail as a separate product.
This expansion does not affect the player count, which stays at one to five players, but does make the game a bit longer as the new modules add more decision points and more weight to the game which can increase player thinking time.
This expansion has an MSRP of $25, a reasonable price for what you get in the box.
Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria: Rise of Titans presents four expansion modules that can be added to your game separately or in any combination. These expansions all work for both solo play and at all player counts.
The modules include: The Shrine of the Titans, where your most powerful troops are resurrected by a necromancer and can be purchased if you give him enough coin; The Great Battles, where troops from all factions fight together to defeat the Valerian forces; Ancient Spells, which add some new abilities and asymmetry to the game; and Wraith Dice, which are spectral forces that can be used in any battle but don’t take up any room in your army.
You can get a look at everything you get with this expansion in our Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria Unboxing Video on YouTube. In this video, I unbox everything that came with the Kickstarter including Rise of Titans. Jump to about the fourteen minute mark to see just the expansion.
Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria Rise of Titans comes in a much smaller box than the original game, a box which is small enough that it actually fits in the original box, which is a good way to keep the expansion contents separated from the core game should you choose to do so.
In that box you get a very clear set of rules, five purple Wraith dice, two additional dice in each colour from the core game, a punch board with hexagonal tokens in all the player colours, a deck of Ancient Spells, a deck of overside cards featuring The Great Battles, and a two sided Shrine of the Titans Tile.
The component quality here is excellent with card and cardboard quality matching the base game. I was particularly impressed by how well the Shrine of the Titians lines up with the artwork on the base game board.
The only real complaint I could see anyone having here is that despite the fact that the Rise of Titans box is smaller than the base game, there is still a lot of air in that box. I’m sure that was done for shelf presence but all these modules could easily have been in an even smaller box.
A look at each of the modules in Rise of Titans for Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria
Here I will give an overview of how to use each of the modules that come in Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria: Rise of Titans.
Shrine of the Titans
This module gives you a new shrine which is represented by a two sided tile that gets placed in the center of the board. This becomes a new worker placement spot that you can send your Warden to.
Unlike the other shrines, no dice are added to the Shrine of the Titans at the beginning of the game or when re-seeding the board. Due to this, no one can move to this shrine until it has dice on it.
Dice are added to the Shrine of the Titans every time a player completes a battle plan. When using this expansion after completing a battle, instead of being tossed back into the bag, your highest numbered die that took part in the battle gets placed on the Shrine of the Titans. Thematically this represents the necromancer raising the most powerful troops in battle to serve him.
Once there are dice on the shrine players can go there and purchase one, two, or three, dice for gold, with one die costing the least and three dice the most. Players must have enough room and enough gold to be able to purchase at least one die in order to move to this new Shrine.
The Shrine of the Titans tile is double-sided, presenting two different power levels for you to choose from. The difference is that the gold cost is lower on one side of the tile. With this, your group can decide how much of an impact they want this new shrine to make on their game.
The Great Battles
The Great Battles adds a new deck of oversized cards to the game. You draw two of these cards at the start of the game and place them to the side of the board. Between these a reference card is placed that shows the points earned when completing one of these battles. Each of these cards lists two army types and has five spots to place dice.
Similar to the Shrine of the Titans, this module has you do something with your dice after battle. After sending your toughest die to the Shrine of the Titans (if using that expansion) you then check to see if you can send a troop to one of the two Great Battles. To be eligible to take part at least one die you used in battle must match the die type listed on one of the battle cards. If you are eligible for both battles you must pick one to contribute to.
Once you’ve figured out what battle you are supporting, if any, you then place your lowest eligible die onto that battle and get the reward shown on the die slot you cover. These rewards include magic, gold, drafting dice, getting a free champion, etc.
After placing your die, you also place one of your hexagonal tokens on the card to show you took part in that battle. Note you can take part in a particular battle more than once but you are limited by the fact that you only have five tokens.
Now you check to see if the battle is complete. If all of the die slots are filled you resolve the battle. Total up the strength of all the dice on the battle card and reference the scoring card to see how many points each player who took part receives. Players score these points for each token they have on the battle.
The scoring card for The Great Battles is double sided. On one side it takes more strength to score points than on the other, so your group can modify how much impact this expansion will have on your game.
When using the Ancient Spells module each player is dealt three Ancient Spell cards at the start of the game. There are eight different spells and each card lists two of the eight different spells on it. Each card can be played once per game and when played the player picks which one of the two spells on the card to cast.
These spells feature a wide range of effects including increasing the strength of your troops, gaining gold and magic for rerolling one of your troops, getting gold for discarding an instant action champion, trading gems for gold and magic, and more.
This set of five new purple dice gets tossed into the bag at the beginning of the game and they come out onto the board just like the other dice.
However, unlike the normal dice, these dice don’t have a troop type, instead, they are counted as wild and can be used as any type of troop (this includes sending them to The Great Battles, when using that module).
Wraiths are also incorporeal so don’t take up a slot on your board when drafted, but they are hard to control so you can only have one wraith die at a time.
The disadvantage of wraths is that they aren’t very strong. These dice feature values that rangw from only one to three. While this hurts during battle it does make them good for drafting for discounts.
What did we think of each of the modules in Rise of Titans, is this a must have expansion?
Each of the modules in Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria: Rise of Titans adds something new to Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria. We found each module to be interesting and all of them gave you something new to consider when playing Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria, without changing the overall feel of the game. We enjoyed each of the four modules and didn’t find any we would never use again, which is a good thing.
That said, there were definitely some modules in Rise of Titans that we enjoyed more than others and at this point, if I was the one setting up the game there are two I would use every time, one I may or may not toss in, and one I would probably leave in the box. However, if someone wanted to use that fourth module I wouldn’t say no.
The first module, the one I would use in every game, is The Great Battles. I really liked the impact this had on the game. One of the things we found with the original game is that it can feel somewhat samey. My favourite part of this module is that it gives you a new way to save points. Along with that it also gives you a potential reason to use some lower numbered dice in a battle just so you can send them on to a Great Battle.
We also found that this module encouraged players to complete their battles more quickly, with players completing battles with lower trooper requirements so that they can get in on a soon to end Great Battle, instead of holding out for bigger battles with bigger troops.
I also liked the thematic aspect of different factions contributing to large battles that are also going on while everyone is working on their own battle plans.
Due to how much we like how this impacts the game we usually choose to play with the lower strength side of the point card, this way The Great Battles are more worth taking part in.
The next module I will be using in every Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria game is The Shrine of the Titans. The big thing this module adds to Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria is some randomness mitigation.
Having this shrine in play means that high value dice will remain in play after a battle so that they can be drafted by other players. This can really help out everyone when the board is filled with low value dice, especially since many players will up the value of these dice just before battle bu using magic or gems.
I also just like the fact that this new board section gives players another option and another way to spend gold. We’ve had some games of Shadow Kingdoms where players have more gold than they knew what to do with and it’s nice to have a new spot to spend it.
I particularly like using The Shrine of the Titans alongside the Great Battles. There’s something about your troops going on to be used in additional ways after a battle that just feels good, even if it may not be you that gets to rehire a troop that’s resurrected. Using these two modules together also reduces the randomness of the dice draw during a refresh as they both cause dice to be collected out on the board instead of being tossed back into the bag.
Speaking of dice, my next module of choice from Rise of Titans would be the Wraith dice. We thought these purple wild dice were pretty cool. They are great at reducing the randomness of which troop colours are available and should help players complete battles earlier in the game, when they have yet to unlock things like their faction’s wildcard ability.
I also dig the fact they are low numbered dice, meaning that they are great for discounts but don’t make a huge difference in a battle. Though it’s possible that one to three strength die may be just what you need to push you into a higher scoring category.
While I can’t pick out a specific aspect of the Wraith dice I didn’t like, I just felt like I could take them or leave them. They are a fine addition but I don’t feel I’m missing them when playing without them.
The final module in Rise of Titans for Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria is my least favourite and that’s the Ancient Spells. I find this ironic actually, due to the fact that my main complaint with the base game is its lack of asymmetry and that’s exactly what this specific module was meant to add. However, it’s not the right kind of asymmetry to me.
I wanted each of the five factions in the game to feel different, and that’s not what these spells do. Instead, they give each player a few new ways to break the rules and earn some resources during the game, which isn’t tied to the faction they are playing at all. Where this really fell down for me is the fact that there is only a total of eight possible spells. Each player gets three cards and each card has two spells on it, but there is a lot of repetition and a player may end up with a total of just three or four possible spells.
Every time I’ve used this module my hand has consisted of at max four different spells and lots of duplication. Everyone else’s hands have ended up similar and there’s often a lot of overlap. Due to only having eight spell types the end result isn’t actually all that asymmetric, especially at the higher player counts.
Now the spells themselves are very useful. I mean, who doesn’t like getting more stuff during an engine building game? I especially like that many of the spells key off of things that you build up during play, which makes you want to hold on to them as long as possible to get the biggest bonus.
Personally, I wanted more out of these new spell cards. I don’t feel like they really add much to the game and the fact that everyone gets them made the general effect feel like a bit of a wash. I tend to leave these in the box while playing Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria. That said, if someone else wants to use them I’ll happily toss them in.
Overall I think Rise of Titans is an excellent expansion for Shadow Kingdoms of Valeria. Unlike some other module based expansions (like the Trade & Intrigue Expansion for Orleans) we ended up liking all four of the modules presented. Of those four there were two we really enjoyed and will be using pretty much every game going forward (Great Battles and Shrine of the Titans), there was one module we may or may not use (Wraith dice), and one we will probably just leave in the box for most games (Ancient Spells).
I feel like the impact those first two modules have on the game pushes this expansion into the must have category. Just barely though.
The reason I say this is that I will still happily play the base game without any modules. There was nothing in this expansion that fixed a problem with the base game.
The base game is still a great dice drafting, engine building, worker placement game. This expansion doesn’t fix it but does make it better. Better enough that I think it’s worth picking up for pretty much every group who enjoys the original.
What’s a must have expansion for you and your group? Do you have a game you now refuse to play without its expansion(s)? Tell us about it in the comments below.