(Note: This setup and game play will be for the base game and expansion and cover 2-4 players. The one for 5 players is slightly different, so you need to remove any cards with the 5-player icon.)
1. Pick five groups of Monsters and arrange them face-up in five columns. Each stack of monsters must be sorted from lowest to highest Strength.
2. Pick one of each type of Citizen for based on their activation number and deal out their group face-up in two rows of five columns. (For example, in the base game, your 3 activation card could be an Alchemist or a Mercenary, and the expansion adds the option of a Sorceress.)
3. Shuffle all the Domain cards together. Deal two face-down and one-face-up in each of the five columns.
4. Shuffle all the Agent cards together. Put the stack face-down over the top-left Monster stack. Then, deal out one card face-up over each other Monster stack.
5. Take two Exhausted cards per player and place them next to the Agent stack.
6. Give each player one Starter Peasant, one Starter Knight, and one Reference Card.
7. Also give each player two Gold tokens and one Magic token. (Note: This along with the Strength tokens are the currency for all actions in the game.)
8. Lastly, shuffle all the Duke cards, and give each player one randomly. This is their own personal secret goal.
Game Play - The game is played in a series of turns, divided into the following four phases:
1. Roll Phase - The Active Player rolls the dice.
2. Harvest Phase - All players receive Resources (Gold, Strength, or Magic) based on what was rolled and the cards they have. For example, if you roll a 3 and 4, if you have a Citizen card with a 3, 4, or 7, you collect Resources. Active players gets the Resources on the left of the card. All other players get Resources on the right of the card.
3. Action Phase - The Active Player may perform any two of the four actions, including the same action twice:
a. Slay a Monster.
b. Recruit a Citizen.
c. Gain a Resource of their choice.
d. Build a Domain.
4. End Phase - The Active Player passes the dice to their left.
The game ends if all the Monsters are slain, all the Domains are built, or all the Exhausted cards are placed. (Note: Whenever you empty any stack (Monsters, Citizens, or Domains), you place an Exhausted card in place of that stack.) Add up your Victory Points achieved from tokens, killing Monsters, building Domains, and your secret Duke card.
Valeria Card Kingdoms (VCK) is already a great game. For starters, the art is fantastic. The Mico has a very distinct and recognizable illustration style, and I am glad that two of my favorite game series use his art. Secondly, the game play is engaging with little down time for any player. Lastly, the game is just plain fun! If there were no other content ever added to this game, it would be a solid 9 out of 10, and be a game that I would play as often as I could. However, the expansion, Flames and Frost (VCK:FF), and other added booster packs crank this game to an 11! How you ask? Two things - Replay Value and Choice.
The Replay Value was already pretty high for VCK with the amount of Dukes, Citizens, Monsters, and Domains. VCK:FF adds five new Dukes, eight new Citizen stacks, five new Monster areas, and fifteen new domains for an exponentially larger amount of replay. There is also a new booster pack, which add Agents to the game. Two big knocks against the base game is that you accumulated more Resources than you could ever use and there wasn't enough player interaction. Agents give you the ability to convert Resources to Victory Points or to hit your opponent with a "take that" action. Problems fixed!
As for the concept of Choice, the new cards introduce Wild resources (where you choose what you need and aren't handcuffed into a resource you have more than enough of) and the option of taking Victory Points as a reward, in lieu of Resources. This presents the interesting decision of do I take the Points now or get more Resources to build a stronger tableau and eventually get the points then? You'll have to figure out that balance for yourself. I really am loving this new expansion, and I can't imagine ever playing the game without it.