I printed out the demo of Death Valley and cut the cards last year. And now I I’ve finally actually laminated and trimmed the cards. My expectation were a fairly rudimentary push-your-luck game with pretty art and a good theme. And damned if it didn’t surprise me by being better than that.
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Very early impressions of Death Valley
Death Valley is an 18-card game that can be played by one to two people. In it, you are traveling through Death Valley National Park, occasionally pausing to journal about your experiences. I’ve never have actually been to Death Valley National Park but I have family that has.
And the cards are not just beautiful but also informative. Each one describes locations or other features of the park. Since I haven’t been there, I don’t know how accurate it is but I appreciate the effort if they’re fooling me.
Mechanically, there are three elements on the cards. Hazard symbols, along with a number of how many of that symbols are in the deck. Stars. And special powers.
In the game, you’re building up two lines of cards. The top line is the journey and the bottom line is the journal, made from cards moved down from the journey. If a hazard shows up three times between the two, you bust and your journey gets scrapped.
And, trust me, I’m leaving out a lot. Still, a core concept is choosing between drawing the face-up card or a blind draw from the deck.
And that’s what I thought the game was about. But when I actually tried it out, the special powers became a much, much bigger deal than I’d expected. The powers either give you ways to score points or special abilities. Their uses and interactions add a lot to the game.
Oh, and those stars? At the end of the game, you get points for them but ONLY if they are in your journey. The cards in your journal, the ones that won’t go away if you bust? Those stars are just pretty and worth nothing.
So, don’t underestimate the push your luck either.
I have barely started to try out the demo version of Death Valley but I’ve already printed out the finished version and the Panamint City expansion and cut the cards. I won’t wait nearly as long to finish the cards and give the game a proper write up.
Death Valley is an eighteen-card microgame. That is a niche that has become quite packed with games. (Buttonshy has helped that happen) I expected a decent game but Death Valley instead promises to be top notch.