I didn’t realize this until just now, but I seem to have a thing for Ancient Egypt.
Nothing too untoward, don’t get me wrong. But with my love of the (soon to be reviewed) Imhotep and for Favor of the Pharaoh, and now this review for the wonderful deckbuilding card game Valley of the Kings: Afterlife, I might as well get my own Nemes.
But that’s very expensive, much more expensive than what this card game will set you back.
So why don’t we talk about that instead?
Valley of the Kings: Afterlife is another deckbuilding card game. Designed by Tom Cleaver (who is wonderfully responsive on Boardgame Geek for any issues regarding these games) with art by Banu Andaru and published by AEG, this game is simply phenomenal.
The game plays 2-4 players, and is very good with two. Scores will be lower in a 4-player game as the cards will be more spread around.
It has all the usual tropes of deckbuilding games: starting decks, buying more cards to make your deck better and more robust, trashing cards (“sacrificing” in this game) that you don’t want.
However, it adds something that is very cool.
The entombing mechanic is what makes this game very interesting.
You can “entomb” cards into your tomb that will remove them from play but score you points.
But let me go into how to play the game a bit to explain all that.
To set up, you create a pyramid of cards from the deck.
As with all other deckbuilders, you have a starting deck of cards (10 in this case) that consist of the below cards.
You have five cards in your hand, and you play them in three different ways:
When you buy a card, you pay the cost in gold that’s in the top right corner of the card. You put that card in your discard pile and collapse the pyramid so there are still three cards in the bottom row. You can buy multiple cards if you can afford them, but you never get change back from your gold. If you play two cards that both are worth 2 gold in order to buy a 3-cost card, you lose the extra gold.
Once you’ve completed your turn, you refill the pyramid. If you didn’t make any changes to the pyramid at all, you must choose any card in it to sacrifice. The pyramid must change on your turn somehow.
The tomb is what really makes Valley of the Kings: Afterlife exceptional.
Unlike many deckbuilder games, you don’t get any points for whats in your deck. The only points you get are for what is in your tomb.
Thus, there are some really interesting decisions as you figure out whether you really need the actions or gold value of that card or whether you should entomb it because the game is going to be ending soon. Once a card is entombed, it’s out of play and can’t be used anymore.
Once the “stock” (deck) runs out and the pyramid is fully empty, the game ends (everybody gets the same number of turns, so keep track of who is first player). Players total the points in their tombs and whoever has the most is the winner!
Points are scored in two different ways. Purple and starter cards are worth the number of points at the bottom of the cards. But there is a set collection mechanic as well in the game. As pictured in the tomb above, there are six green Weapon cards (the little number in parentheses).
You can only get points for each individual card in a set, so you couldn’t get points for two slings in the picture above. Duplicates get you no points for the second one.
However, the points you get for these sets are the number of cards of that set you have squared. So if you have all six Weapons in your tomb? That’s 36 points, baby! All five Chambers? 25 points!
Points can get really high if you get your sets right.
Is this a glorious Pharaoh’s Tomb or an unmarked grave in the desert?
I absolutely love Valley of the Kings: Afterlife (and the first game too, but I don’t have it anymore so can’t take pictures for it).
I love deckbuilders in general, but they can get a bit “oh, yeah, that mechanic.” So when I saw the tomb and scoring aspect of this game, I knew it was something special.
Nowadays, deckbuilders have to add something to make them stand out, and I think the pyramid aspect of only being able to buy certain cards, as well as the tomb which is the only way you can score points, just adds that much more to the game.
As I mentioned above, your decisions can be quite meaty, because some of the higher-level Age III cards have very interesting effects.
Since once a card is in play, you can’t do anything with it, that Victory effect is huge! But if you don’t entomb Victory, you could lose a lot of points (it could be the difference between 36 and 49 points if it’s the only blue card you don’t entomb).
The card quality is very good, so much so that I’m not even going to bother sleeving them. Sure, a lot of play will wear them out eventually, but the game doesn’t really cost that much. Sleeving them wouldn’t be cost-effective.
And they will last for quite a while (though you may want to rotate your starter decks if you don’t play with 4 players).
The footprint is pretty small too, though if you have the room it’s best to spread your tomb out a bit so you can see what cards are in there. And the box is small, meaning you can carry it with you anywhere you want to go.
There really isn’t anything negative I can say about Valley of the Kings: Afterlife other than that I don’t see any use for the Box of Food starter card other than entombing it right away.
Really, that card is useless.
Unless you absolutely hate card games or deckbuilders, this is a game that you should definitely check out.
(Review written after 8 plays)