The Vale of Eternity Board Game Review

Ployhedron Collider Vale of Eternity Board Game Review

Don’t be fooled by the cutesy artwork.  Yes, that is an adorable griffon on a very lovely powder pink background, but focus, or this game will kick you where it hurts.  The Vale of Eternity is a grandiose name for this little tableau builder, and I don’t think there is a better example of “don’t judge a game by its box cover”...or card art…or components…or name even.

Vale of Eternity is pulling you in a lot of directions, and perhaps it doesn’t know what type of game it wants to be or what audience it is for (yes, I’m suggesting that this game is having an existential crisis), but don’t let that distract or detract: this game is nasty.  I mean, it’s just plain mean.  But it is also rather good.

Ployhedron Collider Vale of Eternity Board Game Review - Cute Art Griffon

This game is super simple to teach, very rules light yet each progressive turn gets more involved, more complicated and most importantly, more fun.

You take on the role of a monster hunter, and you’ll venture out into the great wide beyond in search of monsters and beasties from all corners of mythology, legend, folklore and stories.  Each round all players will perform this “hunting” phase of the game in a snake-draft from an open market of cards.  Starting with the first player, they’ll reserve one card with one of their tokens and so on until the last player gets to reserve one card before the turn order reverses.  Once each card has a marker on it, the first player starts making their choices.

Once you discover these creatures you are faced with two simple choices: Tame the creature (add the card to your hand) or Sell (...thematically I guess this would be to sell your information/ monster’s location) and get some Power Runes - the amount you can get for a monster is determined by its type; Water, Air, Fire, etc., not by the monster itself

Ployhedron Collider Vale of Eternity Board Game Review - Reserving A Card

Now that you have a Tamed monster a new action is available to you, Summoning it - play the card into your tableau, pay its cost in Power Runes and jobs a good’un.  If the Monster has an instinct effect, it triggers there and then, it may have a permanent ability - which also commences immediately, or, it will activate in the next phase of the game.

You can perform these actions in any order, and as many times as you are able, but with two simple caveats.  One, you can never have more summoned Monsters than the Round Number (so, one monster in Round One, five monsters in Round Five).  The Second caveat is one of the mean and Clever Things ™ about the Vale of Eternity, you don’t get change from Power Runes.  If your card costs four runes and you only have six, tough; either lose your “change” or don’t play the monster.

With all that being said and done, we are at the heart of the game.  The card interactions are everything in the Vale of Eternity, their synergies, parallels, and differences make the game what it is.  As such, each progressive monster you Summon adds to the mental gymnastics trying to work out how these pieces fit together.  Because they do.  And this is the delicious, well-designed and superbly well-balanced aspect of the game.  Each and every single card in this game is Good, your task is to find out how to make it Great.  

Ployhedron Collider Vale of Eternity Board Game Review - Hand of Cards

And when.  Playing the right card at the right time is also an important consideration.  With some of these Monsters, you’ll want to play as soon as possible, others are better later in the game.  Although there is no hand limit, you can only Sell a monster during the “hunting” phase, so every card you don't sell represents Power Runes not earned.  

Managing your Runes is also another Mean & Clever Thing™, as you can only ever have four of them, regardless of value.  Controlling the flow of the Runes is just another thing you’ll have to balance along with your hand, and continually adapting your tableau to work with the display and what your opponents are doing.  There is a lot going in such a small, cutesy-looking game.

Occasionally there is a little bit of player interaction: each suit has one card that allows you to frustrate your opponent.  When I first encountered these I was at the receiving end of this Dick Move - and I found it to be particularly nasty, it completely ruined the engine I had going.  The next time, I used it to do the same and felt no qualms about it.  With several plays under my belt, I now feel there simply aren’t enough of them. Hate Drafting will only get you so far, and when an opponent builds a point-generating engine, there is very little you can do to slow or disrupt it except for these relatively rare cards.

Ployhedron Collider Vale of Eternity Board Game Review - Game Board

I do have one grumble about this game, and that is the unnecessary cardboard in the box.  Namely, the pentagon/shuriken style board and the ridiculous standee  The board is used to denote how many Runes you’ll receive when Selling a monster.  However, since the cards fan out around this pentagon it means no matter where you sit around the table four-fifths of the cards will be at an angle that makes reading them very difficult.  But it isn’t just this reason that the board is poorly designed, it also represents poor future planning for expansions - and I’d love to think we’ll get some - but where are the new suits going to go?  They won’t.  So what does this mean for the (possible) expansion? Or will it not be supported any further?

And don’t get me started on that random standee.

Ployhedron Collider Vale of Eternity Board Game Review - Standee and Score Track

The Vale of Eternity is a cracking little game, despite the board, and the art that doesn’t match the style and type of game this is, it is fun, thought-provoking, and an interesting little game, even if it is a bit nasty.

We discuss this in more detail in Episode 146 of the Polyhedron Collider Podcast.

This review was made possible thanks to our show sponsor Kienda.  Using this link you can enjoy a discount on your first purchase when you sign up for an account.
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