Kick Picks – Valley of the Kings, Arcana of the Ancients, Critical Core

We’re back with a curated look at some of the games to check out that are on Kickstarter right now. Today’s picks include a premium version of a trilogy of excellent deckbuilding games and two different variations on D&D 5th edition (one science-fantasy and the other a leaner version for kids on the autism spectrum).

Valley of the Kings Premium – From 2014-16, AEG published Tom Cleaver‘s Valley of the Kings, VotK: Afterlife, and VotK: Last Rites, a trilogy of small-box deck-building games based on the theme of, as I like to put it, “they who dies with the most toys, wins.” Each player is collecting funerary-related items in ancient Egypt, using those cards for either actions or purchasing power, and eventually ‘entombing’ cards. The tension between wanting to keep cards in your deck, and needing to entomb cards to they’re actually worth victory points, plus a unique endgame, made Valley of the Kings really distinctive in the deck-building field. I love Valley of the Kings (apparently I’ve talked about it on nine different podcast episodes). It was criminally underrated, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I learned that AEG was bringing Valley of the Kings back in a premium edition with all three versions of the game, plus some new goodies, plus upgraded components. Unless you’re a retailer, there’s just the one $50 pledge level for the whole thing. If deck-building games are at all a thing you’re interested in, I highly recommend checking it out. The project is already funded, and the campaign runs through April 16, 2019.

Arcana of the Ancients – Have you ever wondered what you’d get if you took elements of Numenera into a Dungeons & Dragons 5E game? Well, apparently the folks at Monte Cook Games have as well, and the result is Arcana of the Ancients. The ‘core’ Arcana of the Ancients book has adventures, ‘magic’ items (ancient technology), creatures, and player options that represent the drawn-from-Numenera concept of ancient civilizations that rose and fell before the current array of elves and dwarves and such came onto the scene. With one of the stretch goals (only a few bucks away as I write this), there will also be an entire separate book that’s just a 5E conversion of the Numenera Campaign Setting (the Ninth World). There are just a lot of really great things colliding in Arcana of the Ancients – 5E itself is great, Numenera is great, and we’ve even seen that taking a traditionally pure-fantasy D&D-based RPG and making a science-fantasy version of it can work very well. Standard pledge options range from $20 for a PDF to $50 for the hardcover, to $150 because this is a MCG Kickstarter and you can pledge for ‘all the books we add through stretch goals’ (including the deluxe version of Arcana of the Ancients). The project is fully funded, and the campaign ends on April 12, 2019.

Critical Core – Enjoying roleplaying games and having kids, I’m generally on the lookout for RPGs that can be played with kids (Critical Core is specifically pitched as a helpful tool for kids on the autism spectrum, it can be used with neurotypical kids as well). And due to my own history, I have some experience with roleplaying games as an outlet for socialization. Critical Core runs on a stripped-down version of 5E, presenting a longer adventure in 90-minute chapters, with encounters and story designed to focus on things like working together, emotionally connecting, problem solving, and making logical connections. I really like the skill/adventure design ideas presented in the campaign. I admit that I am not so enthused about the lack of detail presented about the particulars of how the game plays – in part because there is some history of non-gamer organization producing ‘learning games’ that are just bad games. However, Shanna Germain (of Monte Cook Games) and Jerry Holkins (Penny Arcade) are involved (they’re each writing modules for the game), and that gives me enough confidence to include Critical Core in the my picks this time around. A Critical Core starter set (which includes guidebooks, modules, dice, cards, tokens, and a map) is $50. The project is fully funded, and the campaign runs through April 26, 2019.

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