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[Review] Lost Valley

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

The theme of exploration really appeals to me, which is why I enjoyed Sid Meyer’s Civilization, despite the enormous amount of time it takes to play that game. When I heard that Lost Valley (Kronberger Spiele, 2004 - Roland & Tobias Goslar) was to have this same theme, and was designed by the same person who made Cronberg, a terrific tile-laying game, I was fairly excited. But initial reports were dire, and several respected people gave the game a thumbs down; and I began to wonder. But as I waited, the good reports started to come in, and I again was eager to play the game.

When I opened the box, I was almost overwhelmed by not only the massive amount of components, but also how many different kinds there were. Indeed, the initial setup took a bit, because I had to sort many different types of tiles and tokens. On our initial play, there was some confusion, with players wondering what to do on their turn; the options were extreme. However, after a few turns, play began to move quickly; and soon we were all submersed in one of the most fun games I’ve played in a long time. The theme was tremendous, the game play was involving with little downtime, and the options for players were immense, which is something I really enjoy in a game.

A large tile with a trading post on it next to a waterfall is placed somewhere on the board, with a pawn from each player placed on it. Each player also receives a card showing their inventory, made up of three main sections. The backpack is made up of six squares and is where a player places all of their natural resources. The player also has a gear section, also made up of six squares, and a gold bag, where all gold markers are placed. Four random piles of markers are placed face down in piles: river gold, mountain gold, events, and animals. Three piles of raw materials are also gathered together: tools, food, and lumber. One lumber (which takes up two slots), one food, and three tools are placed in each prospector’s backpack. Nine piles of wares (whiskey, carts, boats, horses, rifles, axes, fishing rods, sieves, and dynamite) are placed near the board, as well as three piles of “works” (fish traps, mines, and sawmills). Two whisky tokens are added to each player’s gear. Three piles of tiles are stacked randomly in piles near the board - a pile of diamond-shaped land tiles, diamond-shaped river tiles, and triangle-shaped land tiles. The oldest player is chosen to go first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.

On a player’s turn, they move, with possible exploration, and then may perform one action. A pawn moves from intersection to intersection, moves one space on land, and one or two spaces when moving next to the river. Whenever a player moves to an intersection, they turn over diamond-shaped tiles to complete the intersection starting with the river tiles, if needed. Triangle tiles are only used when a space for them appears (which is quite rare). When a tile is turned over, if a green circle with a number is on it, that many river gold tiles are placed face down on the tile. Mountain gold tiles are laid on spaces with a gray circle, and event markers are placed on circles with a question mark on them. One animal marker is also placed on the matching symbol if it appears.

There are various actions that a player may do on their turn:
- Build a work: A player may discard a tool token to build a fish trap on any intersection next to a river or lake, a sawmill at an intersection next to a forest, or a mine at an intersection next to a mountain (a player must also discard one food and one timber).
- Build a canal - a player may place a lumber to connect water from a lake, river, or another canal to another tile.
- Cut down a tree - a player may add one lumber to their backpack if they are at an intersection bordering a forest, and two if there is a sawmill on their intersection.
- Fish - a player may take one food if they are either at an intersection with a fish trap, have a fishing rod and are next to water, or are at an intersection next to a fish icon. If they meet more than one of these conditions, they gain that much more food.
- Hunt - a player may attempt to “hunt” an animal token on the board. They roll a die, matching it with an opponent’s die, and if higher - turn the animal token over, discarding it and receiving the amount of food (1 -4) shown on the marker.
- Mine river gold - a player next to a river gold token may exchange one food for one river gold token (1-2 gold), placing the gold token face down in their bag. A player cannot mine river gold on a land tile, unless a canal is connected to that tile.
- Mine mountain gold - a player next to a mountain gold token may exchange one food and one lumber for one mountain gold token (3 - 4 gold), but can only do so if on a mine.
- Event - a player may exchange any two raw materials to take an event tile, which may be gold (which is placed in the gold bag), food, or a piece of gear that can be added to the gear section.

Whenever the player lands on the trading post, they may buy equipment (with no change given). The equipment allows the prospector to better move on the board.
- Cart - the player receives four extra spaces for their backpack.
- Boat - the player may move three spaces next to the river and can move across the river.
- Horse - the player may move two spaces across land.
- Rifle - the player may add three to their die roll when hunting animals.
- Axe - the player may cut down one more timber when harvesting lumber.
- Fishing rod - the player may take one more food when fishing.
- Sieve - the player may take one more river gold token when mining.
- Dynamite - the player may take one more mountain gold when mining.
- Whiskey - the player may use this on their turn to receive one more action or add one to their movement.

When all the land tiles are placed, including the “spring tile”, which forms the end of the river, an ice flow token is placed on the river. After each player’s turn, they roll a die, and on a “5” or “6” the ice flow is moved one space down river. The game ends in one of two ways, either when the ice flow reaches the waterfall, or when one player accumulates ten gold tokens AND returns to the trading post. In either case all players count up the gold nuggets on their tokens, and the player with the highest sum is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The game components are numerous, and fill the sturdy, square box. Sadly, there is no plastic insert, but I usually bag everything anyway; and with this game, I needed a lot of bags. The tokens are many, and it probably takes a good 5-10 minutes to set the game up even with everything bagged and tagged. The tokens are all small, but large enough to differentiate, and are of extremely good quality. The diamond-shaped tiles, seen in only a few other games, are very enjoyable to piece together and are an enjoyable break from the “Carcassonne” type tiles found in many games. The artwork is very reticent of a mountainous region in the western United States, and each tile is unique enough to form a very beautiful, nice map when they are all laid out. The boards are large, hold all the tokens they need easily, and are dual-sided - one side in English, the other in German. A help card is included with the game, showing the prices and actions of equipment. This help card was useful, so useful that it’s really a shame only one was included with the game. We passed ours around quite a bit. Aside from that; however, the components are an A+. You certainly get your money’s worth from the game.

2.) Rules: The rulebook was only four full-colored pages; something that surprised me with how complicated the game seems on the onset. But really, the rules are quite simple, and the only thing that is complicated is deciding what action to take. I found that because the theme was so strong, that players quickly picked up how to play and what strategy to follow.

3.) Theme: The game is brimming to the top with theme, and almost everything fits. There are a few strange details like, “How does one get a canoe across dry land?” - Do you just drag it? or “How can you carry lumber enough to build a mine in your backpack?” - but these are minor details. Players have some contact, but in reality, you feel like a lonely miner who has intruders marching across their land. Interaction can be high or low - player’s choice.

4.) Decisions: At first, the decisions seem overwhelming, and there may be a little downtime between turns in the beginning of the game for new players. But once a player has formulated a strategy, the game starts moving at a rapid pace. I move one space then pick up a lumber. Bob moves one space and builds a fishing trap. Jesse moves two spaces next to the river and fishes for some food. The speed of the game can go fairly quickly, and players are constantly thinking about what they will do next. The equipment allows for different strategies to make.

5.) Strategy: There are various strategies that players can choose from, and each requires a different combination of equipment and movement. Some players like to shoot up the river and mine as much river gold as they can, because even though it’s not worth much, they hope to win by sheer numbers. Others take time to build mines that they hope no one else uses and mine as much mountain gold as they can. Others do a mixture of the two, using different equipment to do it. None of the equipment seems overpowered, but it’s all extremely useful; and it’s often an agonizing decision for a player to take the time to trek back to the trading post and spend some of their precious gold to buy the things they need. I haven’t seen someone win without utilizing equipment, but it doesn’t make it any easier to go back and get it.

6.) Time and Fun Factor: The game ends fairly quickly, lasting only about an hour. Players can really determine the speed of the game; because if a player really wants to end the game, they can quickly get ten gold tokens and head back. This isn’t usually the best option, and the ice floe mechanic is there to seal the deal if needed. When the ice floe starts, the tension gets higher, and this adds a lot of fun to the game. My biggest enjoyment just came from exploring and making decisions; it felt like many computer games with the same mechanics. Everyone I’ve played the game with has enjoyed it, and each game plays a little differently.

7.) Triangles: The triangles add a lot to the game, but only one or two get placed during the game because the board usually only allows for that. Each triangle piece has some unique function - like a lake, or a mine, or a cave that produces constant animal supplies, or even another trading post. Because these pieces really change the game, it’s a good thing only a couple get on the board; but they insure that each game is different.

I really enjoy Lost Valley; it’s extremely fun, a tremendously theme-filled game, and the best exploration game I’ve played. It’s chock-full of high quality components, and game play is quick and fun. My only concern is that it only accommodates four players (I often have five or six), but it plays tremendously well even with only three players. I recommend this game to everyone; it’s fun, fast, and offers various strategies to victories. There’s a little “screwage” in that a player can mine gold from another player’s mine, but mostly the game has pleasant interaction, and a great exploration theme. If you haven’t explored this game yet, now is the time to do so.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
[Review] Lost Valley

Yet another game that I've been wanting to try. Now I can leap into the purchase without fear? Tom, any chance you will be reviewing Keythedral soon?

-Michael

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
[Review] Lost Valley

Don't wait for Tom's review of Keythedral: Darke, buy it now :-)
[Note: there does seem to be a minor issue with the new edition's tiles; this isn't a problem for those of us with the first edition, but that's hardly a helpful observation ;-) ]

Lost Valley is now back on my purchase list: like Tom and others, the bad early word-of-mouth didn't help matters but it seems to have got more positive recently and it seems like a good length too.

tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011
Keythedral

I've already reviewed Keythedral (firstt edition), giving it a glowing review - it's truly a great game!

You probably can find it in the BGG archives....

Tom

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