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Lords of Waterdeep» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Yet another Lords of Waterdeep Review! rss

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Dianne N.
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Seattle
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Some Background:

I’m not a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, my outlook on the game being skewed by horrible news stories as a kid and the way my parents reacted to it. I also used to think it was super geeky and make fun of kids that played it in school. Things like Critical Role on the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel have helped change my mind recently, but it’s hard to uncouple this from my past.

So when a game comes along that has “Dungeons & Dragons” written on the box, it’s probably something I’m going to pass up. I didn’t even want to see the episode of Tabletop with Lords of Waterdeep because of its association with D&D, but my husband saw it and managed to get me to watch with the promise that the game had nothing to do with D&D and it would be a game I would really like.

And he was right. It’s an abstract game that has very little to do with D&D other than a pasted on theme, and the game stands on its own as an excellent intro worker placement game. I’m glad he managed to break through my prejudices to get me to play the game, because I ended up loving it!

Gameplay:

The goal of the game is to have the most points at the end of 8 rounds, usually earned by completing quests, especially ones that give you extra points at the end of the game. There's no role playing or dice rolling in Lords of Waterdeep, and completing quests isn't about telling stories, it's about collecting different colored cubes representing adventurers such as rogues, clerics, wizards, and warriors to earn perks and points.

Lords of Waterdeep is my first introduction to worker placement games, and I have to say I'm a fan. Since Lords of Waterdeep limits your worker placement to one Agent (worker) per action it means that once claimed, no one else is able to take that action that round. There are only so many actions that allow you to collect cubes and all of your opponents are trying to collect the same cubes, allowing for passive aggressive conflict without actually having to do anything to your opponents.

It’s not all passive aggressive worker placement, though. The game also incorporates intrigue cards which allow you to collect extra cubes, remove cubes from your opponents, or require an opponent to take on a mandatory quest, allowing for a bit of direct conflict as well.
You can also build buildings which allow for more actions to be taken on subsequent rounds, and add depth to the game. These buildings may be as simple as ones that allow you to collect more or different types of cubes, or they might allow for you to take an action that’s already been taken, or to thwart the first player by going first on the next round regardless of who has the first player marker. Buildings also allow for you to get extra cubes, gold, or points any time one your opponents visits a building you own.



Balancing your quests and taking on the right quests is important, too. At the beginning of the game you get a card that tells you what Lord of Waterdeep you are, and each Lord is interested in different types of quests (with the exception of the builder who just wants to build a lot of buildings). You'll want to make sure you're taking on and completing the kind of quests your Lord enjoys so you get more points at the end of the game. You'll also have to find the right balance between quests that earn lots of points and those that earn fewer points but give you more perks, especially plot quests which give you perks for the remainder of the game. Quests that earn fewer points usually require fewer cubes to complete, but the high point quests will help you win the game.

And in order to win, you'll have to balance all of these decisions in real time, adjusting you plans based on what your opponents are doing. It requires you to think, but isn't too mentally taxing, which I enjoy. It also doesn’t require so much thought that you can’t play once you’re a few beers in, which makes it a great game for game night!

Components and Rules:

The components are on par for most games, with wooden pieces and thick enough cardboard for heavy use of the gold and point markers. I was especially impressed with the cards, which are thick and have a heavy plastic coating. The same coating is used on the building tiles, and makes for very durable cards and tiles in the game. The only complaint I have is the game board, which, due to the way it folds, leaves a crease in the middle of the board and makes it look like the game board is frayed on that line. It makes it look like the game has been used hundreds of times, even if it’s the first time you play.



The rulebook is top notch! Not only is the game clearly explained with lots of visuals, but each building that can be built also includes a picture of the building tile and an explanation of what the building does. Pretty much any question you might have about how a building (especially the special buildings) or special Agents can be used is outlined clearly in the rulebook, and nothing has to be looked up online. I wish more rulebooks were this comprehensive and clear!

Theme:

Ok, so it may be a D&D themed game, but it doesn't feel like D&D in any way. It's a standalone game that I wouldn't have even known was related to D&D if it hadn't said "Dungeons & Dragons" on the box. You don't have to be familiar with D&D to play the game and there's little back story or explanation on the cards or in the rule book, though if you're familiar with the series you'll enjoy the references on the board and throughout the quests.

In reality it’s an abstract game with a pasted on theme, and the theme can be completely ignored while playing. Any theme could have been used and it would still be the same game. You’re just collecting cubes and gold to complete quests, and even though the cubes represent things like wizards and rogues, all of the pictures on the game board and cards are simply pictures of colored cubes without words. You don’t even have to read the cards or try to worry about the story as you play, if you don’t want to.

Then again, for someone like me who likes a strong theme in games to help me get into it, the game has the potential to fall flat. If you're not into it the game can become rote, going through the motions of picking up cubes and tossing down more cubes to complete quests, "OK, I've finally got 1 purple, 1 white, 2 black and 2 orange cubes... plus 4 gold... and now I've impersonated an Adarbrent noble for 18 points. Woo, now move my point marker."

To counter this, I bought dndeeples online: adorable little laser cut warriors, clerics, wizards, and rogues in the same colors as the cubes! Beyond the cuteness factor, they really bring out the theme of the game and make it much less abstract. You’re actually hiring adventurers to go on your quests, and it's fun to see them all hanging out in your tavern waiting for their big moment. I got the original wooden ones on etsy (from BGG’s very own Danny Perello), but you can get plastic ones from Amazon if you prefer acrylic. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought something extra for a game, and my husband wasn’t happy with me because he thought the cubes were just fine (especially since the dndeeples cost almost as much as the game itself), but I’m really happy with the purchase and how cute and fun they make the game.



Strategy:

The game requires you to keep track of what your opponents are doing in order to strategize, especially if you're trying to figure out what type of quests they're after in order to thwart them, but includes enough randomness in the intrigue cards, which spots are taken at any given time, and which quests are available that you can't strategize too far in advance. You have to balance your decisions in real time, adjusting you plans based on what your opponents are doing. It’s a light game that makes you think, but won’t hurt your brain too much.
If you’re super into dissecting every strategy available, look no further than BGG forums or the internet – people have made spreadsheets and strategy guides galore if you’re into this kind of thing. For me, it’s enough to just play the game and enjoy myself.

The verdict:

Turns out I really ended up liking this game, even though it’s set in the world of D&D. It makes me excited to try other worker placement games, or games that have worker placement elements.

With more players you’re not able to complete as many quests and your options become limited, but even with two players there's plenty of tension in where you place your agents, who will choose the coveted first player marker, hoping others don't take the spots you need, keeping track of your points and your opponents points and which adventurers you and your opponents need to complete quests, trying to figure out who is playing which Lord, etc.

The balance is right no matter how many players you have, with scores very close at the end of the game. The only difference that I’ve noticed is that with two players you tend to see higher scores since it’s easier to collect cubes and complete quests.

There's so much going on in this game, and although it's more passive aggressive in the conflict department, the intrigue cards offer plenty of direct conflict and flair to keep my interest (sorry hon, but yes, I had to play two intrigue cards in a row to get two clerics out of your tavern - it was the last round of the game and you would have completed that 20 point quest! I also find myself constantly thinking while playing this game, which is one of my favorite things about board games in general.

This game is definitely staying in our collection and will be played again and again. Both my husband and I enjoy it and like to introduce new players to the game when we have guests, and the guests enjoy it too!


For more of my thoughts on Lords of Waterdeep, click here!
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corum irsei
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Great review! It's good to see that you gave the game a chance and actually found you like it despite the D&D brand.
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Dianne N.
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Thanks! My husband and I have very different tastes and he's exposed me to quite a few great games that I wouldn't have played otherwise. It's definitely taught me to be more open minded not just about board games, but life in general.
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Brian Baier
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If LoW was your intro to worker placement, I'm curious what you've played and enjoyed since learning it.

Stone Age and Village spring to mind as excellent examples of similarly low complexity, yet still offering a rich and replayable experience.
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Dianne N.
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Stone Age is definitely on our "list," but I haven't played any other worker placement games yet. A couple others I'm interested in are Viticulture and Dungeon Petz.

We do own Lord of the Ice Garden, which has a worker placement mechanism involved, but haven't gotten around to playing it yet (working our way through some co-op Descent, and I think the hubby wants to tackle Mage Knight next). I'm actually really excited for LotIG, I hope it doesn't disappoint!

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Delith Malistar
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Once you get a few worker placement games under your belt, you should take a look at Caverna: The Cave Farmers. It's a little more rule heavy and intense but it's an awesome worker placement game. It's a spin-off of Agricola which I have yet to play myself but that too is on my list of worker placement games.
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Dianne N.
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Both of those (Caverna & Agricola) are on our "list" too, but a little farther down because I'm a fan of direct player interaction. Waterdeep didn't have too much of it, but the intrigue cards and mandatory quests offered enough direct interaction to hold my interest.
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WD Yoga
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If you like worker placement game with lots of player interactions and great theme, may I suggest Argent: the Consortium? It's a very good game with lots of setup options to shape your game.

Going to the cute side, Dungeon Petz is very interesting to play.
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Dianne N.
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Esvath wrote:
may I suggest Argent: the Consortium? It's a very good game with lots of setup options to shape your game.


Hmmm, I'll have to check that out, it has deck building too, which I like. Thanks!
 
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David Benito Richards
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Dianne, very nice review. The picture of the dndeeples is just unbelievable.
I played this for the first time yesterday. I would just like to add a comment on the theme.

I agree that you can play in a totally "theme-less" way if it suits your taste, but I note that all the Intrigue and Plot cards have flavour text and thematic illustrations. If you like the D&D setting, you can play a "theme heavy" game by reading aloud these flavour texts and looking closely at each card. Not my case, as I have always been more a fan of Middle Earth than D&D, but if someone is looking for a D&D "immersion", he can get it with LORDS OF WATERDEEP.

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Brian Baier
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PerpetualFX wrote:

Both of those (Caverna & Agricola) are on our "list" too, but a little farther down because I'm a fan of direct player interaction. Waterdeep didn't have too much of it, but the intrigue cards and mandatory quests offered enough direct interaction to hold my interest.


I really enjoy intuiting games with indirect player interaction. In Stone Age or Castles of Burgundy, for example, weighing the choices between personal gain and interfering with an opponent's opportunities often matter, provided you're up to the challenge of anticipating their goals. Thus far, this approach has proven successful.
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