Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
One of the questions I had about Lords of Waterdeep before I played it was concerning its 2-player play: Would it be any good? On Friday, I played three 2-player games, and I now know the answer to my question: Yes, it would be; it would be a very good game indeed.
The three games I played were of different characters, each against a different opponent, and they also brought home just how important skill is in this game. Yes, there are random elements, but skill at the game is far, far more important than blind luck. There are a lot of ways of managing the random elements - building choice, quest choice and intrigue cards - and letting one player control them all is a recipe for disaster.
Mark, owner of Good Games Ballarat, might have been playing his first game, but he certainly didn't let me control this game. Blocking tactics, struggles over quests and buildings: this game was hard-fought and very enjoyable as a result.
Mark began the game by building:
Helmstar Warehouse (Mark) - 2 rogues + 2 gold (1 rogue)
Not liking the new quests on offer, Mark also reset the quests and took one more to his liking. I played an Intrigue card: Crime Wave (+2 rogues, one other player gets +1 rogue) and used Castle Waterdeep to become the first player. Otherwise we gained money and cubes - with Mark gaining a lot (6) of gold.
The second turn saw me leap upon the Builder's Hall first and bring this into play:
House of Good Spirits (Merric) - 1 fighter + 1 adventurer of your choice (1 fighter)
I reset the quests this time, and Mark grabbed back the role of first player. An intrigue card allowed me to use a building currently in the offer, so I took a wizard and an intrigue card from the Dragon Tower, and completed my first (big) quest. I'd now scored 19 points to Mark's 1.
Mark finished his first quest in the next turn, and it was a big one: Recruit Lieutenant, which gave him an additional agent for the remainder of the game... I'd have to work hard to overcome that, but at least he'd spent 5 fighters, 1 wizard, 1 cleric and 1 rogue getting it, which is not a small investment. Mark also built the Dragon Tower and reset the quests.
Dragon Tower (Mark) - 1 wizard + 1 intrigue card (1 intrigue card)
I completed my own plot quest: Explore Arghairon's Tower, which gave me an intrigue card whenever I gained a wizard. Mark used the Waterdeep Palace to make sure he kept first player position, and completed a small quest to take his score to 12; I was on 25. He also took a quest I really wanted: Place a Sleeper Agent in Skullport, which gave him 2 VPs each time he played an intrigue card.
The fourth turn saw Mark reset the quests once again, while I built the Tower of the Order.
Tower of the Order (Merric) - accumulates 1 wizard/turn (1 wizard).
Mark sent his Lieutenant to make sure I wasn't first player, and finished the Sleeper Agent space, but had to use intrigue cards to do it, so didn't gain as many VPs as he might have otherwise. The battle over Waterdeep Harbour spaces intensified: I didn't want him gaining a lot of free points there!
I was able to extend my lead by completing another quest, and at 43-22 had opened up a big gaps in VPs half-way through the game, but Mark had the extra action each turn, so I knew that lead would be hard to maintain.
No-one built a building in the fifth turn, for we were too busy gathering adventurers and quests. We'd received our extra agent and Mark now had 6 actions each turn to my 5. I reset the quests, but Mark then used the other two Inn spaces to take two quests.
Both of us continued to complete quests: the score reached 60-40 in my favour, as Mark completed his third plot quest: Protect the House of Wonder, which gave him 2 VPs each time he completed a Piety Quest from now on.
Mark continued to use the Waterdeep Palace to draw Intrigue cards and keep me from the lead.
In the sixth turn, I'd accumulated the eight money needed to build the Zoarstar.
The Zoarstar (Merric) Choose a space containing another player's Agent and use it as if you'd assigned an Agent there. (2 VPs)
This is one of the most amazing building in the game, and it led to this amusing play: I finally regained the lead by claiming Castle Waterdeep. Then Mark used the Zoarstar to get the lead right back... argh!
Mark had enough quests by now, but I needed to replenish my stock: I refilled the quests and took an additional quest. Mark hired adventurers and completed a couple of big quests: at the end of the turn, the lead was gone: Mark now led 68-67.
game board and Mark's tableau
I reset the quests again in the seventh turn, and Mark took a quest and drew an intrigue card. The amusing play of the last turn reversed itself, as Mark took Castle Waterdeep and I used the Zoarstar to become the first player for only the second time in the game.
However, the big move was my completing of two massive quests; Mark's quest was puny in comparison. Suddenly the score was 109-84, and the last turn would be hard-fought.
I used my first two actions to play intrigue cards, mainly to stop Mark from gaining too much of an advantage from his Agent in Skullport. Mark still got to play two intrigue cards, as he used the Zoarstar to that effect. I reset the quests, and took an additional one, as did Mark. We gathered some adventurers and completed what quests we could: a lot of our moves were purely blocking ones, stopping each other from getting big points from the quests. Mark gathered 4 gold, which he didn't need, just to stop me recruiting paladins. I recruited priests to stop Mark from completing another piety quest.
As the round - and game - ended, the score was 134-117 in my favour, but the endgame scoring would be crucial.
Merric 165 = 134 + 6 adventurers +1 gold + 24 Lord Brianne Byndraeth (Arcana/Skullduggery)
Mark 159 = 117 + 9 adventurers +5 gold + 28 Lord Nindil Jalbuck (Piety/Skullduggery)
So, that was the end result - I'd won by 6 points in an fantastically close and tough match. The game was hugely enjoyable to play like this, and I suspect that 2-player might be the best way to play the game. The intrigue cards changed their character markedly: although they were somewhat disruptive to the other player, they were much lessened than their impact in 3- and 4- player games, where they serve more of a "keep the leader in check" role. It's not that they were insignificant, but they were just one more element of the game.
My next game would be against the more casual and inexperienced player, Marc (not Mark), and show exactly how much the game is one of skill and not luck.
Gardens by the Bay
Absolutely delicious session! I'm drooling to play this game!
How feasible would it be to have 3 player games with 4 agents each or 4+ players with 3 agents each?
Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Lords of Waterdeep
Not very, as there aren't enough action squares under normal circumstances.
Re: Game 4: A tough two-player game with Mark