Valletta is a two- to four-player game of resource management and deck building. Players attempt to complete building projects and gain help from historical characters in the city of Valletta in the year 1566. Score the most points to win.
The core part of the game is the use of cards to perform a variety of actions. As a matter of fact, the only "board" in this game is a long, thin street track that shows the movement of Jean Parisot de Valette. Cards will be played above and below this track throughout the game. Barrel tokens also cover the street track and are uncovered each time Jean Parisot moves along the track.
A unique aspect to the game is the creation of the rows of five building and character cards above and below the street track. The buildings are placed on the table and then a smaller matching character card is also placed on top of that card. When a building is built, the character card is added to a player's hand and can be used throughout the game. This is how a player's deck becomes more powerful.
To start, each player is given a player board and the same hand of eight character cards in their color. These cards are shuffled and each player draws five of the eight. On a turn, a player will play three of their cards one after the other. They then draw back up to five cards for the next turn.
Player cards have a variety of effects, and a separate card reference booklet is included so players can refer to it throughout the game. For example, a player may play a card that gives them resources such as gold, wood, stone and brick. But cards can also match other actions, affect buildings, earn points and even move our friend Jean Parisot along the street track.
When Jean Parisot moves a space on the street track, he will uncover a barrel. On the bottom of each barrel is a mystery resource, and whoever moved Jean Parisot on the street track gets the resource under the barrel that was uncovered.
The main card action in the game is playing a builder card. This allows a player to build an available building above and below the street track. But a player must also have the right resources. This might include stone or brick, along with gold to pay for the land. The building is tagged with a player's cool wooden house token to show possession, and the accompanying character is added to that player's hand. Buildings are worth a variety of points in the game.
Timing is a crucial strategic element in the game. By playing the right cards at the right time, a player can grab the right resources and buildings to maximize their score. Yes, it does matter the order a player uses the three cards each turn.
The final round in the game is triggered when a player reaches 25 points on the street track, Jean Parisot reaches the end of the street track or a player purchases eight buildings. Then all the cards players have accumulated are shuffled into one final deck and play resumes. When all players have played all their cards, the game ends. Points are scored for buildings and resources. The most points wins.
What makes this game shine is the elegant and simple rule set. There are five pages of rules with little text, tons of visual examples and detailed setup instructions. A separate guide showing all the cards in the game and their various effects is also included. Gamers could literally buy this game, sit down with it, learn it and play it within 90 minutes.
Valletta is a well-designed strategy game for thinkers and planners. There are a ton of town-building games from the Middle Ages on the market, so the theme doesn't factor heavily in the game. The focus in Valletta is on the game mechanisms, which are fun and unique and make the game truly shine. It ranks above average compared with other similar games out there. Find out more about Valletta to see if it is right for your gaming group.