Valeros is another Pathfinder Adventure Card Game character that I hadn’t played much, mainly because I considered him simple, especially in his Rise of the Runelords form, where his main power was just to not discard. He’s become a bit more interesting over the years, and I love the fact that the new Core Set abstraction converts him into a sword and shield fighter.
As always, I suggest checking out the related Core Design article, which discusses how Valeros evolved in the Core Set.
Core Set Valeros
Best Skill: Strength (d10)
Character Type: Warrior, Melee
Skills. Valeros doesn’t have the Strength of Amiri, but d10 isn’t bad. Overall, it’s pretty easy to remember his strengths and weaknesses: physical stats are good, mental stats are bad. Valeros makes up for his d10 die with four different subskills. He can choose to fight hand-to-hand (Melee: Strength +2) or from afar (Ranged: Dexterity +1). Melee is on average two points better, but Ranged is a slight rarity, shared by just two other Core Set characters: Fumbus and Harsk. So Valeros might go in that direction just to have a protected niche. Otherwise, Valeros’ subskills are all common as dirt: Diplomacy, Fortitude, and Melee are shared by five different characters each!
Weaknesses. Valeros’s d4 is in Intelligence. He probably doesn’t care.
Cards. Valeros’s focus is obviously on combat, with weapons (4) and armors (3) taking up almost half of his card slots. Valeros also has a good count of allies (3) and blessings (3), which gives him plenty of opportunity to take additional turns. Besides his total lack of spells (0), Valeros is also somewhat limited in items (2), which gives him slightly less variability. Unlike some versions of Valeros, the Core Set character won’t get his hand clogged with weapons, as he can cycle them for local combat bonuses. Nonetheless, he’ll probably want to increase his counts of weapons, items, allies, and blessings in tandem, to remain a balanced character. Valeros is a great example of how to build a balanced character without a lot of complexity, which is what makes him (still) a simple character.
Allies. If you’re planning to pick the Compatriot role for Valeros, allies are especially important. Allies with local powers are especially complementary for Valeros, as he should be teaming up with other people, so take a look at cards like the Bodyguard, the Crow, or the Soldier. Compatriot Valeros will also be able to recover allies from the discard pile, so don’t be afraid of those scant allies that have discard-only abilities (like the Merchant in Curse of the Crimson Throne).
Armor. Because Valeros is proficient with armor, he’ll want the good stuff that requires proficiencies for full usage. Spiked Half-Plate gives some nice combat bonuses, while Chain Mail can be buried to fully resist damage (and maybe even recharged). There are many others. Though most characters don’t like shields because they have no display power and so tend to get stuck in the hand, that’s not a problem for Valeros since he can choose to recharge or reload one at the end of his turn. Something like the Covering Heavy Shield, which can be used to protect others, is particularly nice for a low-level Valeros (though a higher-level Valeros Compatriot can get a similar power on every shield).
Blessings. Valeros is sometimes a follower of Cayden Cailean, but he might also want blessings from Gorum (which tend to help physical combat), Torag (which tend to boost Strength and Constitution), or Lamashtu (for killing monsters).
Items. If you’re planning for the Drunken Avenger role, you might want to stock up on Liquids. This tends to mean Alchemical items, although there are a few exceptions, including Holy Water and Liquid Courage in Curse of the Crimson Throne. To hold on to these items, Valeros will have to take the Liquid proficiency power feat (which will also give him a 1d12 bonus to the various Craft or Divine roles needed to recharge).
Weapons. Valeros is a sword-and-board fighter, so he’ll want to grab all the Sword weapons, right? Not necessarily. In the Core Set, Sword weapons tend to activate their special powers when they reload, but since Valeros can recharge or reload weapons from his discard pile, he may want to consider grabbing more powerful non-Sword weapons that discard for their main ability, such as the Battleaxe or Mace, or even ranged weapons like the ever-popular Deathbane Light Crossbow. Obviously, Sword weapons that discard, like the Dogslicer, are great choices too. And since Valeros’ favored card is specifically Sword weapons, you may want to limit yourself to just one favorite one, ensuring you start every game with it in hand. (And that does suggest that all of this strategy goes against Valeros’ intended theming, but so be it: mechanics rule.) Just be sure not to grab Two-Handed weapons unless you’re explicitly avoiding shields.
The Power of Fighting
Valeros’ combat-focused feats are all pretty easy to use, but there’s nonetheless some subtlety in them too.
Stick with Your Fellows. Valeros has always been a team player, and that remains the case in his Core Set incarnation. Not only can he add to local combat checks by temporarily giving up his weapons and armor, but his roles have some additional team-up powers, and he’s also a cheap avenge (more on which momentarily). So, the simplest rule for Valeros is: hang with your buds. You might stay with another character who can support local characters (creating a synergistic relationship) or you might support someone who’s not a fighter. Of course, you could team up with someone who meets both of those criteria: Lem is a particularly great fellow for Valeros.
Clarification: What is a local check? Local means “at your location” (see page 6 of the Core Set rules), so a local check is a check by a character at your location—including yourself. The important thing to remember about Valeros’s ability to add a bonus to local combat checks is that he can help his friends or himself(!).
Use Swords (and Armor) as Damage. Because of Valeros’ ability to recharge discarded weapons and armor, you should discard those cards when you take damage, because you can put one back into his deck each turn. Make sure you don’t empty your hand of weapons, but if you have extras, you can toss them into the discards. Armor will more often be used to reduce damage than discarded as damage, but when an armor just doesn’t protect from the right sort of damage (or alternatively, when it might have to be buried or banished otherwise), then it should be thrown out, to later be recovered.
Clarification: Can you discard displayed armor as damage? No. When you display a card, it is “not part of [your] hand, deck, or discards” (see page 7 of the Core Set rules). But that also means that you get to keep your displayed armor, even when you empty your hand due to damage. There are times when you might make that decision!
Avenge Your Friends. One of the reasons that Valeros should stick with his friends is so that he can avenge them. For most characters, avenging is expensive, requiring them to bury a card), but Valeros can make the cost more bearable (by discarding, which he can recover if it’s a weapon or armor) or even cheap (if he buys the “recharge to avenge” feat). Though avenging doesn’t save the original character from the bad effects of losing an encounter, it usually saves an exploration’s worth of time (presuming that Valeros doesn’t expend a card that would otherwise give him another exploration) and it’s particularly helpful when fighting a villain that would otherwise escape.
Clarification: What can you avenge? A “local” character can avenge “an undefeated bane” (see page 10 of the Core Set rules). This typically means they can fight a monster or a barrier that a local character failed to beat. This can include a summoned bane, which can be used to good effect. (For example, a local character might have drawn a Warband barrier, which causes everyone to fight a monster. If the local character lost their own fight against the monster, Valeros could choose to avenge the original Warband card, which would cause everyone to fight again, but he’d do better to avenge the monster fight.) It can also include avenging a villain, because you are “ignoring steps and effects that would cause the bane to go anywhere.” Note, however, that you can’t avenge most location closing attempts, because they’re typically just die rolls, not banes. The exception, obviously, is when closing summons a bane that must be defeated!
Take Your Choice of Power Feats. Most characters have a power feat that goes straight to the heart of their character powers, and is thus a pretty obvious first choice. For Valeros, the closest is the ability to increase his local combat help from +1d4 to +1d6, an average of a +1 increase on every local combat roll. But his 4 hand size is brutally low, and should be increased to 5 quickly—especially since providing help requires him to have cards in his hand—so that’s another strong first choice. Finally, a Diplomacy scarcity in the party might cause him to go in that direction. (The ability to avenge with a recharge is perhaps the least compelling as a first power feat.)
The Power of Cycling
Valeros isn’t one of the legendary cyclers like Lem and Seoni, but in the Core Set, he can do a solid job of keeping his cards flowing.
Cycle Your Deck. Cycling your deck—drawing new cards into your hand and putting old cards back into your draw pile—is a particularly important aspect of the game. It ensures your hand doesn’t get clogged with cards you don’t use and it digs through your deck to the good stuff. Fortunately, Valeros has multiple ways to cycle. He can choose to either reload or recharge armors or weapons to grant combat bonuses, so he should do so in a way that spreads each type of card out over the entirety of his deck. Sometimes, Valeros will want to provide a bonus in combat even when the odds are already pretty good, just to clear his hand. And don’t forget about his power to recharge at the end of the turn: though the best use is to recharge a card from Valeros’s discard pile (providing a bit of healing), you can also recharge from Valeros’s hand to help clear it, especially if he didn’t have a combat encounter on his turn.
Clarification: Can you reload or recharge a displayed armor? No, because it’s not in your hand. Valeros’ end-of-the-turn recharge power clearly says that the card has to be in his hand or discard. His help-a-local power isn’t as specific, but the rules (see page 8) clarify this situation: “If you are instructed to play, reveal, display, reload, discard, recharge, bury, banish, or otherwise manipulate a card, that card must come from your hand unless you are activating a power on a displayed card.” So, if you want to be able to use one of Valeros’ armors to help someone out, don’t display it. (Usually, this means you should display your armor just before you draw cards, to have it available up to that minute.)
The Valeros Roles
Valeros’ two roles are clearly segregated: the Compatriot is all about allies and the Drunken Avenger is all about Liquid boons. Choose the one that suits your play and Valeros’ deck better—though if you’re playing the Core Set that’s likely to be Compatriot just because of the paucity of Liquids in that set.
Compatriot. This lets Valeros easily acquire allies and use them to fuel his powers. The ability to acquire an ally that a local character missed is one of his best powers, and almost always worth it, as you’re usually trading a so-so card for a go-again. This role also makes Valeros’ shields better than ever. Generally, take this role if you’ve collected shields or allies or if you’re focused on Valeros’ supportive role.
Drunken Avenger. Similarly, this role lets Valeros easily acquire Liquids and use them to fuel his powers. That might be a little weak currently just because of the limited number of Liquids in the Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne, but it’s a lot of fun. The role also offers some powers to make Valeros’s avenging more powerful, plus what may be the worst power in the game: one that forces Valeros to move randomly, but lets him heal when he does so. Since most games are won or lost on character positioning, this can be horrible—but somewhat resolvable if you also have Amiri in your party. Generally, take this role if you’ve collected Liquids, if you’ve focused on Valeros’s avenging role, or if you just want something that’s funny and fun.