Valley of the Two Rivers
Review of an offering from Mayfair games, which is one of the juggernauts in high-end gaming: Dos Rios, Valley of the Two Rivers. In Dos Rios, players compete to control the farmland in a small valley fed by two rivers. While this may sound like a game that fits in the “harvest moon” category for no strategy time waster, it is actually a fun little game that takes about an hour and a half to play.
There are raging rivers, builders in the field, and even bandits coming down out of the mountains to thwart your designs. Dos Rios is a good game. It is for those who are experienced board gamers, but still simple enough for casual gamers to join in and play with friends.
Story – Board Game Dos Rios
The story behind Dos Rios revolves around the settling of the west of Mexico. In the game, there are two rivers, the green river and the brown river that feed the valley. Hills, forests, and fields fill the landscape, and each player takes on the role of a wealthy landowner looking to settle the land in the valley. Throughout the game, you dodge bandits, build houses (casas) and even a mansion (hacienda).
The key element of the story is that the farmers can build dams to control the river, which changes the flow of the river. Thus begs the question, “Can you control these mighty rivers to build your holdings?” The story has a fresh historical element that matches up with the game elements without being forced. It nets a solid rating score of 6.5 out of 10 for the story.
Artwork – Dos Rios Board Game
The art in Dos Rios is simple but well done. The town where your workers start is well drawn, but the mountains which make up the outer edges of the board are background stock. The art on the cardboard “cards” has an old west feel to it. The pictures of corn and wheat lead to some confusion by those farthest away from the card pile.
The pieces are standard wooden pieces, of high quality but mass production. Overall the art is average for a high-end mass-market game. The wild west feel of the cards bumps the number up a little resulting in a score of 5.5 out of ten. It must also be noted that the cover art is notably good.
Mechanics – Dos Rios Board Game
Dos Rios has a straightforward set of game mechanics. Each player can move their workers up to six spaces. There is a slightly less comprehensive waypoint system using the “mountain path” and the “haciendas”. Players with wood or enough money can build dams or houses/their hacienda, respectively, without costing a move on any space with a worker (and without an opponent’s building).
One of the coolest features is the dams, which change the flow of the rivers. The concept is simple; hills are the highest, forests are next, fields are the lowest. Water always goes to the lowest space on the lower half of the hex-space. Dams force the water into a different path while still flowing down the lowest accessible path.
This may be a good game for you.
When two paths have equal height, the active player chooses the path. Since only “watered” spaces produce, you want the river to always flow through your fields and forests. The hill spaces were lacking as a mechanic. They gave the “high ground” for “running off” opponents’ workers, but often were just a wasted move for your worker. The mechanics are good, 7 out of 10.
Strategy – Dos Rios Board Game
The strategy is where Dos Rios shines. With simple games, strategy rules over exploitation of mechanics. Early in play, most people avoid “aggressive play,” but the mechanics force it upon people. Like in Small World, the board is not big enough for everyone to have what they want, which causes the conflict of the game. This is what makes the game fun.
Whether you attempt to be mobile and hit spaces when they are coming up then run away, build your cities fast and use the waypoint, or force your opponents to the top of the board where they are vulnerable to bandits, there are several ways you can win at this game. One slightly broken feature is that a hacienda at the top of the board gives a significant advantage and can eliminate the bandit’s element. However, this is a reliable game with a very good strategy score of 8.5 of 10.
Novelty – Dos Rios Board Game
Dos Rios has a high novelty score for one reason: The manipulation of the rivers. This part alone makes the game fun and frustrating at the same time. Since there are a limited number of dams, you cannot force the rivers to stay where you want them at the bottom of the board (the top is easier to manipulate but takes more work to get there). The pieces are normal but do represent the mechanics and story well. Combined, we set a novelty score of 7 out of 10 (good) for this game.
Review Summary on Dos Rios
Overall, Dos Rios was fun to play. The people who playtested it with me were experienced gamers who have played the gauntlet. One of them disliked it enough to quit mid-game, which is a negative factor. However, once you got past the startup, it was a fun game for everyone remaining. While Dos Rios is not an “entry level” game, it is not a “experts only” game either.
This means if you are looking for something challenging that your friends have not played a million times, this may be a good game for you. Dos Rios has a respectable overall score of 34.5, which makes it a well above average game. If the designers wanted to improve it, more detailed art such as separating corn from wheat, and overcoming the hacienda control (something like haciendas need to be in the middle section of the board) would help. However, this is a solid game that could continue to run in its current form.
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