Designer Tom Cleaver has kindly provided us with a look into the creation and development of Valley of the Kings: Afterlife.
After the success of Valley of the Kings (VotK), AEG asked me for a sequel. I thought they would want an expansion – new set cards to combine with the original cards, offering a large variety of ways to play. AEG surprised me by asking for a stand-alone game, but one that could be combined with the original for expanded play. They explained that this offered more possibilities and would reach a wider audience.
I had plenty of additional actions for new cards, but what could I do about the artifacts? I’d already (as I thought) picked the low-hanging fruit: sarcophagi, canopic jars, amulets, books, and statues – the artifacts one traditionally associates with an Egyptian tomb. To address this issue, I imagined myself as an Egyptian noble preparing for my death and burial. I would hire an embalmer, who would use the tools of his trade (linen bandages, brain hook). To demonstrate my wealth in the netherworld, I would include some of my jewelry (ring, bracelet). I must arrange for my tomb to be built, and I would have the builder include a burial chamber, a serdab (store room), an offering chapel, and other traditional chambers. As I imagined myself as a warrior, my weapons must be included (spear, bow). No tomb would be complete without having the walls decorated with hieroglyphics and tomb art to praise the gods and document my achievements in life. And so it was – these new artifacts fit well into the Egyptian theme.
The starter cards in Valley of the Kings: Afterlife (VotKA) are identical to the starter cards in the original VotK. This allows those who have both versions of the game to play with 5 or 6 players. Although enough cards are included to play the game with up to 8 players, I am not sure how satisfying the game would be with so many players.
When picking the colors for the new sets in VotKA, many discussions (arguments?) broke out about whether the colors should be the same as those in VotK (so that substituting one set for another would be easy) or completely different (so that all sets from both games could be used together). We found an elegant solution: The set cards in VotKA are almost the same colors as their equivalent sets in VotK. This makes it possible to both create combined sets and to use sets independently. The ways of combining the two games are therefore astronomically high.
VotK has been well-received, but some comments on the game have brought up potential for improvement, and I have tried to address these in VotKA. There are only two cards in VotK (Chariot and Mummified Cat) that allow cards to be retrieved from the boneyard. In VotkA there are 3 (Dagger, Judgment, and Spear), and these 3 cause significantly more changes to the boneyard.
Some novice players of VotK fail to purchase high gold value cards early on. When Level III cards start to come out, they may not be able to afford them. VotKA adds some low-cost cards that can alleviate this situation.
VotK includes a lot of player interaction, and many players commented that they particularly enjoyed this feature – some noting that other deck-building games were like multiplayer solitaire. I took this to heart and included even more player interaction in VotKA. Of the 31 Level II and Level III card actions, 8 directly affect other players.
A strategy that some players use very successfully in VotK is to thin their hands down to 5 or so cards. This allows them to recycle their best cards quickly. Although I don’t want to discourage this strategy, I also don’t want it to be the only good strategy. Therefore, I have included some cards (Dagger, Goddess Nut, Harvest, Linen Bandages, Necklace, Offering Chapel) that favor larger decks.
Like VotK, VotKA is as historically accurate as I could make it, consistent with good game play. VotKA has identical rules and mechanics, so experienced players can get right into it. Also, I have tried to keep the tension of decision making with each turn: Should I keep that card for its great action, or entomb it for points?
Because cards from VotK and VotKA can be combined in so many ways, gamers may find endless variety well beyond what VotK alone could provide. And I’m counting on those gamers to give me feedback about the new ways they have found to play.
Tom Cleaver (left) demos Valley of the Kings for Max Battcher and Jeff Hunt at the Louisville Game Shop.
About the Designer
Dr. Cleaver is Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at the University of Louisville. During the day, he teaches engineering students about circuits, microprocessors, motors, and electrical safety. At night, he designs games. His published designs include Valley of the Kings, Sword Play, The Conquest of Space, Galaxy!, and Darkhorn.