Alaria: Valor & Company Review
Stats at a glance
Welcome to the land of Alaria, a fantastical realm filled with magic and adventure that’s only limited by your imagination.
Brief Overview of Alaria: Valor & Company
Alaria: Valor & Company is a new tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) designed by indie developer Alex Abrahams. It’s currently in beta, but it’s complete enough that it plays as a complete gaming experience.
Alaria: Valor & Company is designed to be a brand new RPG system akin to Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons with Alaria as the setting and Valor & Company as the overarching game system.
It was designed to be fast, scalable, and flexible, and is partially inspired by the XCOM series of video games.
What makes Alaria Different?
When thinking of fantasy tabletop roleplaying games, you might think of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. While that’s fine, it’s important to remember that there are so many other alternatives out there, and each one uses a completely different gaming system.
Today, we’re looking at the world of Alaria, specifically the Valor & Company ruleset that sets out to achieve several goals.
First, it attempts large-scale battles. Players can potentially control 5+ characters each and run into battle. This offers a lot of options for gameplay that aren’t easily replicated in big games like DnD or Pathfinder.
Along with those big battles, Valor & Company attempts to streamline combat and ability checks. There’s no point in setting up massive battles if it takes an hour per turn, right?
Valor & Company introduces big-picture-style gameplay that lets players focus on individual characters as well as larger groups as a whole.
What this means is that a particular player may have just 1 character under their control or they might have a squad of 5. Valor & Company’s system was inspired by games like XCOM where players take control of a whole squad of players and can outfit them with the squad’s shared items and equipment.
Valor & Company uses this same system where your various characters work under a particular banner or company and can use the shared resources of the group.
It’s an interesting system that I haven’t seen before and it allows players to easily keep track of multiple characters at once.
Alaria doesn’t use dice. That alone is enough to raise some eyebrows, but the more I played and experienced the diceless system, the more I came to really appreciate it.
Instead of a dice-off to settle checks or combat, Alaria uses cards. A regular set of playing cards is all you need. Decisions are not settled simply by having the higher value win the check. It’s actually all about the suit.
To get an idea of how the system works, we’ll take a look at a stealth check.
Let’s say I’m controlling a party of 4 characters, Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde. My characters have found the postern gate through a wall, and are trying to sneak past a guard.
My entire crew of characters would draw cards as their passive stealth check.
Clyde isn’t very stealthy, so he would only get 1 card, but Inky and Blinky have higher sneak stats and get 2 cards. Pinky, on the other hand, is both good at stealth and has a magic item that turns him invisible, so he would get 3 cards.
As a player, I would only draw 3 cards total in this situation. All of the cards are shared throughout the check.
If I drew, ♥️ ♥️ ♠️ for my passive stealth, all of my characters would be able to use the same three cards if necessary.
- Clyde would only use the first ♥️ since he has a stealth of 1.
- Inky & Blinky would use the first two cards giving them a hand of ♥️ ♥️.
- Finally Pinky would use all 3 cards for their passive stealth check, ♥️ ♥️ ♠️
Now our 4 characters are trying to be as silent as ghosts getting through the postern gate, and there’s an alert guard. Now we get to see the opposed check system in action.
The alert guard has a high enough stealth to draw 2 cards for the check, and they draw ♠️ ♥️.
In this situation, only Clyde fails the stealth check. Let’s take a look individually.
Clyde (♥️) VS. Alert Guard (♠️ ♥️)
The guard did draw a heart, and therefore Clyde fails. If you do all the math, it comes out with an (approximately) 45% chance of success for Clyde, and unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut.
Inky & Blinky (♥️ ♥️) VS. Alert Guard (♠️ ♥️)
Inky and Blinky would pass. Since Inky and Blinky were able to use 2 cards for their passive stealth, the guard has to match both cards. Since the guard only drew 1 ♥️, Inky and Blinky succeed. This is approximately a 75% chance of success for Inky & Blinky.
Pinky (♥️ ♥️ ♠️) Alert Guard (♠️ ♥️)
Since Pinky is so stealthy, they were able to draw 3 cards, while the Alert Guard only had 2. There’s no way he can match 3 cards with only 2, therefore Pinky has a 100% success rate.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually rather intuitive once you understand the rules. You can get through skill checks and combat rolls extremely quickly because your character(s)’ passive skill draw DOESN’T change.
Using that same example of our 4 characters, if they rounded another corner and had to make another stealth check, their passive stealth would still be:
- Clyde (♥️)
- Inky & Blinky (♥️ ♥️)
- Pinky (♥️ ♥️ ♠️)
All the GM has to do is draw cards for the new guards’ skill check, quickly resolve it in their head, and then move on with the roleplaying. This brings me to the next big selling point of Valor & Company.
Valor & Company is designed to be streamlined, and it really is.
The card system used to resolve checks and combat is quick and can be done in seconds. There’s a surprising amount of shifting statistics and math involved that gives each check quite a nice percentile spread.
Adding an extra card or removing a card on a skill check is the equivalent of adding or removing 5 to a skill check in the d20 system, but the number of cards already drawn adds or subtracts to the various pass/fail percentages.
This again allows the GM to make multiple checks using the same cards — and it’s done almost instantaneously.
Combat in Alaria
Combat in TTRPGs is extremely important. Unfortunately, TTRPG combat can feel like a drag. DnD 3.5 took an average of 2 hours for a combat encounter and the updated DnD 5e has streamlined it to take about an hour per encounter.
Valor & Company offers players the option of controlling multiple characters and it’s still faster than your average round of combat in DnD 5e.
Using the same card concept, multiple checks and attacks can be made using the same hand of cards and players can simply decide what actions they want to take. The GM will be able to instantly see the results of their action by drawing a few cards and can dynamically make decisions that keep the game moving at a quick pace.
In addition to that, there is no initiative. There are simply turns. As I mentioned earlier, one of the main inspirations for combat was the XCOM series of video games. These games are known for their squad-based tactical combat, and importantly have a player movement/action phase and an enemy movement/action phase.
In another effort to streamline and cut out tedious gameplay, you don’t have to keep track of an intricate turn order every time combat begins. Instead, similar to the XCOM games, players will have a turn to complete all of their actions and enemies will have a turn to complete all of their actions.
This is much easier to deal with, both as a GM and a player.
Valor & Company has 2 different ways to create your character.
- Step Method
- Concept Method
The Step Method basically walks you through the steps necessary to create your character and by the time you’re done, you’ll have a few abilities, stats, and equipment needed to run a character.
The Concept Method is the more interesting way, in my opinion. Instead of starting with stats, you start with an idea.
Think of any fantasy character archetype or trope and go from there. You can then match abilities and attributes to create your concept of the character within the Valor & Company ruleset.
Both work perfectly fine, it’s just a matter of where you start: stats or concept.
What I’m Excited For
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been dying to get a tabletop RPG or board game that captured the same feel as Battle Brothers. I wanted to make a mercenary company simulator game that went out and hunted big monsters like in the Monster Hunter franchise.
This is all very niche and very specific to my interest in gaming, so I was thrilled that the Valor & Company system let me do that.
Getting rid of initiative and having turn-based combat works. It really does speed things up and is a great answer for players who become disengaged during combat or those who simply zone out, waiting for their turn.
The card-based check system is also really cool. I’m really happy with it and although I’m a big fan of dice, I could easily see myself using this system. It lets you quickly run through several different skill checks without your players knowing what’s happening.
This is great for players that just want to play. They already know their stats and abilities and can just jump into the game and focus on roleplaying.
I’m also really excited for another TTRPG on the market that isn’t based on the d20 system. Designer Alex Abraham took the time to sit down and walk me through some of this game and his passion for this project was readily apparent.
He was able to run me through the game and after our conversation, he already had new updates up and running on his site.
Valor & Company has amazing potential and is fully playable in its current state but I’m really excited to see what the final product looks like. I’m anticipating a really unique system that can be easily adapted for any setting.
What Could be Better
The system is cool, and it can let players control and run dozens of characters at a time, but…
There’s always a catch, and for Valor & Company, it’s one that many players and gaming groups run into constantly.
You need a rules lawyer.
There’s a lot of information, different skills, combat rules, character creation, and a ton of other nitty gritty bits. When it all comes together, it’s fast and intuitive. Getting to that point, however, requires a bit of front loading.
Players that have a better understanding of the rules and stat systems will still be able to min/max to their heart’s content, but players new to the system won’t be able to jump right in without the help of an experienced GM.
This can also be said for every single game out there but since it’s a new ruleset, it feels especially true.
Alaria: Valor & Company is a great system. There’s plenty of mileage to be had with it and the idea of easily playing multiple characters without having combat take hours for a single encounter is intriguing.
Essentially, players don’t really need to know anything about the game other than having the desire to roleplay.
Personally, I have been playing around with the idea of getting an RPG game going that revolves around the theme of a mercenary company. Something like Battle Brothers meets Monster Hunter. It’s a daunting task and a huge time commitment but after meeting with Alex and checking out Valor & Company, I was intrigued and more motivated than ever.
The card-based system really does allow for quick decisions and puts more of the focus on player decisions and roleplaying. The system is still in the beta stages, which makes it all the more impressive in my mind. There are a lot of things I really like about the system and Alex, the creator has a lot of great ideas.
I think the more he works on Valor & Company, the more refined it’ll become and the better it’ll be in the long run.
Alaria: Valor & Company comes at the perfect time for TTRPG fans. With Wizard of the Coast losing a lot of fans and favor with the community, it’s the perfect time for RPG players to flex their imaginations and come up with DnD alternatives and their own gaming systems.
I think Alex has done an amazing job, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do with the system.
If you’re interested in testing it out yourself and want to learn more, you can check out his page on itch.io or his Kickstarter page.