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Subject: Review from DDXP 2012 rss

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Paul Paella
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I had the opportunity to play Lords of Waterdeep (LoW) twice at the Dungeons and Dragons Experience this past weekend. First, I would like to thank WOTC for demoing it and also a big thanks to Chris Tulach (D&D program manager) for doing a great job at teaching us the game and helping us throughout our games.

How I rate games on BGG:

* 1-3: Games I do not want to play again and avoid like the plague. I wouldn't purchase these.
* 4-6: Games I will play but would rather play something else. I wouldn't purchase these.
* 7-9: Games I enjoy playing and will argue to play them over lesser games, but won't be disappointed if they don't hit the table. I usually purchase all 7-9 games.
* 10: Games I would like to play every time I get together to game and one I know I will never grow tired of playing. I don't often rate a game 10. I purchase all 10 games.

For this review, I value the underlined categories more than others.

DESCRIPTION
Lords of Waterdeep is a Eurogame and plays like most other Eurogames. If you dislike all Eurogame you probably won't like this. The game allows for 2-5 players.

GAMEPLAY: 9
The object of the game is to be the lord with the most victory points (VPs) at the end of the game. Each turn is broken into rounds where each player places one of their 2 agents on a location in Waterdeep. Each location confers some benefit to the lord, usually in the form of a number of adventures (fighter, rogue, cleric, wizard), gold, intrigue cards, quest cards, some combo of the previous, the ability to purchase buildings, or the ability to play an intrigue card. Buying a building allows you to own a location where lords can place their agents. Building owners get some commodity when some other agent uses their building. Most locations can only accommodate a single agent so moving your agent to prime locations is important. What makes a location important to each lords depends on what they need to complete their quests. Quests require a combination of adventurers and gold to complete, and reward the lord with VPs. Each quest falls into one of 5(?) categories (Warfare, Commerce, Arcane, Skullduggery, Piety, ?). Quest categories are only used during the end game to gain bonus VPs. After an agent is placed the player can complete one quest. Completed quests generated VPs.

The game ends after 8 turns. After the 5th turn each lord gains a 3rd agent to place during each turn. At the beginning of the game each player draws one of 10 Lord cards, each representing one of the many Waterdeep personalities from the Forgotten Realms. All but one Lord card contains 2 quest categories (Warfare, Skullduggery, etc) that grant 4 VPs per completed quest of either of those 2 quest categories. One Lord card grants 6 VPs for each building you own at the end of game. This lone Lord card can throw a monkey wrench into planning and must be accounted for.

DURATION: 10
Both games I played took about 1.5 hours and each had 5 players, most of them new to the game. The duration felt perfect to me. I do not like games like this that take more than 2 hours.

TIME BETWEEN TURNS: 9
I would say the time between each players action was anywhere from 5 seconds to 1 minute, with most being between 10 and 30 seconds. I rarely had to wait more than 3-4 minutes between my actions. I dislike games that have long downtime between actions and LoW did not have this at all.

THEME: 7
Just like every Eurogame I've played, the theme felt like it was just laid over the mechanics. This is okay as it seems like this is the case for most Eurogames. I'm a D&D player, and also a fan of the Forgotten Realms, and thought the theme was cool and felt like we were nobles vying for dominance. The quests, locations, buildings and lords were flavorful but were more mechanical.

COMPONENTS: 8
I like all of the components. The map is your typical fold up cardboard, the cards seemed like the same construction as Magic the Gathering, and the wooden meeples and cubes are what you see in most Eurogames. The art is great and the flavor text is both spot-on and funny. I've never been a fan of the cubes in Eurogames, preferring shapes that resemble what they represent, but they went with what is the status-quo for Eurogames. I would have preferred simple colored minis that looked like Fighters, Rogues, Clerics, and Wizards, and also more defined Agent minis.

MANUAL: ?/9
I didn't need to read the manual since Chris Tulach taught us how to play in less than 10 minutes. I liked that the game mechanics were easy and quick to learn but had depth once play began. We didn't have any problems in either of the games I played in.

PLAYER INTERACTION: 7
Player interaction comes in a couple of forms, Intrigue cards and placing agents. Intrigue cards are drawn randomly when an agent is placed on certain locations. Intrigue cards are played when a lord places an agent on the Waterdeep Harbor location. Intrigue cards do various things, and some of them can be targeted at other players. Most locations can only accommodate a single agent so you can prevent others from getting what they need or focus on getting what is best for you.

LONG TERM DESIRE TO PLAY: 8
Our group will probably play this often, but not every time we get together. The game seems to have enough depth to avoid getting stale after several plays.

BALANCE: 9
Not being a Eurogame master, I cannot comment on the math behind the game or how fair it was for each player. I felt the game had little luck or randomness, but it did have some. The small amount of randomness and luck came from the Intrigue cards and the first player at the start of the game. To compensate for going first, the 1st player gets 4 gold at start, the 2nd player gets 5, etc. There's a location to be the first player in the next turn.

FINAL RATING: 9
Simply put, I had a great time playing both games I was in. I will buy this game and I'm sure it will see the table quite often in our group. Without more plays I cannot comment on if it will eventually get stale.
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Jay Levy
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Thanks for the review. This game has definitely been in my sights since it was announced. I know you didn't get to play this way, but, if you has to guess, how do you think it would play with 2?
 
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Paul Paella
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Jay,

My guess is that strategy will be slightly to moderately different with less players, mostly due to the limit of one agent per location. It will certainly be faster, probably only taking 30-45 minutes to play, depending on how long each player takes for their turn. With the little gameplay experience I have I would say it's best with 4 or 5, with 2 and 3 being a different experience.
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Rodney Thompson
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Actually, one thing you didn't see is that the number of agents you get per turn changes based on the number of players. So, the 2, 3, and 4 player games each take about 1 hour, because with fewer players you have more agents. The 5 player game takes about an hour and 20 minutes, because we didn't want to go below 2 agents per round.
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Frylock Bodine
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I had the privilege to play the game with Mike Mearls, Greg Blisand, Jeremy Crawford, and Matt James on Sunday night after DDXP. Surprisingly, the professional game designers killed me thanks in part to Jeremy essentially taking me out of the game for an entire round right about the point I figured out how to play. Greg earned a solid victory. As for the game, it was fun once I figured it out, which was rather easy to do. It had plenty of complication, allowing for varying strategies, and the time of play was perfect for me (60-90 minutes). I agree with Paul's description above, so I won't go into any more detail, but I definitely recommend the game.
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László Stadler
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Quote:
I would have preferred simple colored minis that looked like Fighters, Rogues, Clerics, and Wizards, and also more defined Agent minis.


Yes, the game definitely needs an upgrade in components. I think it would be really hard to associate colored cubes with fighters, mages, etc. Still, the game looks fun enough to consider. But the price...
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Fred Love
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stadi wrote:
Quote:
I would have preferred simple colored minis that looked like Fighters, Rogues, Clerics, and Wizards, and also more defined Agent minis.


Yes, the game definitely needs an upgrade in components. I think it would be really hard to associate colored cubes with fighters, mages, etc. Still, the game looks fun enough to consider. But the price...


I think the price is reasonable considering what board games are selling for. I think its right in line with what you get compared to other WOTC board games.

I took some time to consider the components too. I think the blocks actually work better than tiny minis would. It wasn't hard at all to associate a colored block to what you are looking for. Each quest card has a "recipe" of what you need to complete that quest. Its much easier to just look at the block color than what I imagine it would be to figure out if that is a tiny mage or cleric. And the quality of the cards was off the chart! They are a very durable, linen textured card that is just a joy to hold in your hand.

All in all, I think the quality of the components met, if not exceeded, the price point of the game.
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Paul Paella
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Thanks for the additional contributions, I concur with them all, especially the nice box tray to hold the components. I forgot about that.

The $50 price tag is Suggested Manufacturer Retail price, which is what you typically see in your local gaming stores. I found the game online for preorder for $33. That seems fair to me.
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László Stadler
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Cadilon wrote:
Each quest card has a "recipe" of what you need to complete that quest. Its much easier to just look at the block color than what I imagine it would be to figure out if that is a tiny mage or cleric


I'm sure it works as a mechanism, but it doesn't help the theme.

If you had small fighter-icons, mage-icons etc with the same color (as the cubes) on the cards, that would help theme-wise. And then maybe bigger cubes with stickers on them...

Anyway, this is the first wooden-cube euro (apart from Mission: Red Planet, but that's not a normal euro) where I'm interested in the theme. And the card art really looks good.
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K.Y. Wong
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The adventurer cubes are probably best suited to the purpose because of how the cards reference them. However, I am definitely gonna use prepainted minis to replace all the agent tokens.

Btw, thank you Wizards for making great games for the time-challenged!
 
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Chris Hahn
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(I have to say than i am a Euro fan boi to my core, but that's doesn't stop me from rolling a d20 from time to time.)

I had a chance to play this at #DDXP and IMO I think WotC did a good job with their 1st attempt at a Euro. The theme/back story is awesome and it works well with the goal of the game. That being said I know that hard RPGers will never get into this game. It's not for every one but that's OK. It bridges two different types of genres. Maybe its WotC way of bring new gamers into the d20 world.


stadi wrote:
Quote:
I would have preferred simple colored minis that looked like Fighters, Rogues, Clerics, and Wizards, and also more defined Agent minis.


Yes, the game definitely needs an upgrade in components. I think it would be really hard to associate colored cubes with fighters, mages, etc. Still, the game looks fun enough to consider. But the price...


That's what a Euro game is. Meeples and colored cubes. I am pretty sure that there is a law pretty much like Reinheitsgebot when it comes to Euro games. YOU MUST HAVE MEEPLES AND CUBES!
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Marty Devine
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Ghorro wrote:
The $50 price tag is Suggested Manufacturer Retail price, which is what you typically see in your local gaming stores. I found the game online for preorder for $33. That seems fair to me.


Just as an FYI, when we played the game at DDXP, we all got a promo Intrigue card for playing. Someone asked if the card was going to be put up on BGG as a promo, and the WotC person said that the promo cards would be shipping with the games to game stores and wouldn't be made available online in the Geekstore.

So I'm not sure if you order from an online retailer if it will have the promo card included...

That being said, I too really loved this game. Everything the OP stated was spot on. I came in dead last in the game but would have gladly played it two or three more times if it would have been available. I have a mini boardgame con coming up at the beginning of March, and I really wish this was available for the con, because I know it would get a hell of a lot of play.
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Martin Michaud
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Don't understand, how people with great imagination could have problem to associate colored cube to a particuliar things... for me a prefer cube made by European company with well treated employees than plastic minis factory in the deep China
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Scott M.
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dregojax wrote:
Don't understand, how people with great imagination could have problem to associate colored cube to a particuliar things... for me a prefer cube made by European company with well treated employees than plastic minis factory in the deep China


This is ignorantshake
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László Stadler
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LordHellfury wrote:
In short though, people play the D&D brand because they expect immersion. Pushing colored cubes across the table doesn't exactly promise an immersive experience..


Well said!

Even Agricola received some animal-meeples, so something like this is a common expectation.
 
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Phil Shimmin
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This seems like an odd debate every time I see it.

I love minis, but having minis undeniably pushes up the game cost, which makes it more if a gamble to buy a game you don't know you're going to like. I'd rather initially have meeples and cubes to keep the cost down. I can then always use minis I have kicking around if I feel the game is lacking thematically, but I usually find meeples are fine for most games. Surely most mini lovers here could rustle up generic rogue, warrior etc figures they already have?

Using generic components also lets companies get stuff to market without risking everything on the expense of custom components for a game they don't know is going to succeed. I realise that it applies less to established companies like Wotc, but this is still something of an experimental product for wotc and they can't know whether it's going to work.

Finally from a selfish point of view, meeples and cubes helps me get games on the table at home where my wife might get scared of by something too overtly/ obviously "geeky" ;-)
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joel siragher
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minis pushing up game costs:

I can only respond to this buy asking why some Euros cost 50+ dollars, have a stack of 2 of cards, some wooden cubes.

Id rather pay the extra 3 dollars and get the cute plastic figures made by underpaid sino labor.
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Dave Maxx
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I just pre-ordered my copy - though I may use the figs from Rune Wars or another game instead of the cubes.
 
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Nate Scheidler
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I played it at DDXP as well. I think its good, but two elements of the game keep me from wanting to add it to my shelf.

1. There's really very little benefit to building a building.

Other players can use it freely, can use it on the turn you build it before you can, and you get very little return on what you spent to put it in place. Given that the game finishes in just a few rounds, spending an action to construct a building needs a lot more oomph. In successive plays, I will gladly leave constructing buildings to every other sucker at the table.

2. The random elements can make for huge swings.

My experience was a bit different from the OP, as he apparently didn't take much notice of the random functions. In our game, one player started the game with an intrigue card that he played in round 1 that gave him 3 more intrigue cards because none of us had a mage to return to supply. We didn't have mages because the game had only just begun and we couldn't acquire them. Intrigue cards are quite powerful in their effects, and its possible to play several of them in a turn by simply taking delayed actions.


I'd play it again, and enjoy it. And I'm sure I could find other people who would like it a lot. Its just not a buy for me in its current state. I'd be more inclined to pick it up if:
- the Intrigue cards either provided only minor benefits or required a full action to use; and
- buildings provide a VP boost proportional to their cost/benefit whenever another player uses them. After all, we're talking about your influence in WaterDeep here... other players should be loath to patron your establishments.
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950Rav wrote:
Intrigue cards are quite powerful in their effects, and its possible to play several of them in a turn by simply taking delayed actions.


Exactly how can you play several of them in a turn? You can only play intrigue cards in waterdeep harbour, that means that you can play an intrigue card once you place an agent in waterdeep harbour. The relocation action at the end of the turn doesn't allow you to place your agent in the waterdeep harbour again, you have to place it somewhere else. I highly doubt that a player wins the game by simply playing intrigue cards. The intrigue cards are just another way of gaining resources and victory points. As far as I have seen the pictures, the intrigue cards are usually very situational, so you don't even probably want to play them every turn, rather wait for the right moment.

950Rav wrote:
I'd be more inclined to pick it up if:
- the Intrigue cards either provided only minor benefits or required a full action to use; and


Clearly you have played the intrigue cards incorrectly.
 
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Nate Scheidler
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RoadHouse wrote:
950Rav wrote:
Intrigue cards are quite powerful in their effects, and its possible to play several of them in a turn by simply taking delayed actions.


Exactly how can you play several of them in a turn? You can only play intrigue cards in waterdeep harbour, that means that you can play an intrigue card once you place an agent in waterdeep harbour. The relocation action at the end of the turn doesn't allow you to place your agent in the waterdeep harbour again, you have to place it somewhere else. I highly doubt that a player wins the game by simply playing intrigue cards. The intrigue cards are just another way of gaining resources and victory points. As far as I have seen the pictures, the intrigue cards are usually very situational, so you don't even probably want to play them every turn, rather wait for the right moment.

950Rav wrote:
I'd be more inclined to pick it up if:
- the Intrigue cards either provided only minor benefits or required a full action to use; and


Clearly you have played the intrigue cards incorrectly.


No, you're interpreting me incorrectly. A player doesn't win the game solely by playing Intrigue cards, but they have a substantial "swing" factor and the cost for using one is simply taking a delayed action. You can't go back to Waterdeep Harbor, but you can place multiple agents there in one round. Players without Intrigue cards can't place a pawn in the harbor to block you.

I can play more than one intrigue card in a given game round AND get that number of delayed actions... which may include gathering additional intrigue cards. That is a really trivial cost to pay for the potential benefit swing of an Intrigue card. You might re-evaluate your statements after you've had a chance to actually play the game.
 
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950Rav wrote:
RoadHouse wrote:
950Rav wrote:
Intrigue cards are quite powerful in their effects, and its possible to play several of them in a turn by simply taking delayed actions.


Exactly how can you play several of them in a turn? You can only play intrigue cards in waterdeep harbour, that means that you can play an intrigue card once you place an agent in waterdeep harbour. The relocation action at the end of the turn doesn't allow you to place your agent in the waterdeep harbour again, you have to place it somewhere else. I highly doubt that a player wins the game by simply playing intrigue cards. The intrigue cards are just another way of gaining resources and victory points. As far as I have seen the pictures, the intrigue cards are usually very situational, so you don't even probably want to play them every turn, rather wait for the right moment.

950Rav wrote:
I'd be more inclined to pick it up if:
- the Intrigue cards either provided only minor benefits or required a full action to use; and


Clearly you have played the intrigue cards incorrectly.


No, you're interpreting me incorrectly. A player doesn't win the game solely by playing Intrigue cards, but they have a substantial "swing" factor and the cost for using one is simply taking a delayed action. You can't go back to Waterdeep Harbor, but you can place multiple agents there in one round. Players without Intrigue cards can't place a pawn in the harbor to block you.

I can play more than one intrigue card in a given game round AND get that number of delayed actions... which may include gathering additional intrigue cards. That is a really trivial cost to pay for the potential benefit swing of an Intrigue card. You might re-evaluate your statements after you've had a chance to actually play the game.

Each player has two intrigue cards in the beginning. There are also two places where can get more of them in the beginning(some building or quests might give you more). I would assume that people would get more of the those cards somehow. How did it happen that only one guy had intrigue cards?
 
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Nate Scheidler
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RoadHouse wrote:
Each player has two intrigue cards in the beginning. There are also two places where can get more of them in the beginning(some building or quests might give you more). I would assume that people would get more of the those cards somehow. How did it happen that only one guy had intrigue cards?


Everyone had them. He happened to have one that gave him an Intrigue card for each player that didn't return a Mage to the pool. It was the start of the game, nobody has Mages at the start of the game, therefore he got 3 Intrigue cards (net gain of 2) for the cost of a delayed action. Other people played Intrigue cards too, he wasn't alone. This was, however, a very substantial swing for a Round 1 play that only costs you a delayed action.

Acquiring a single mage in the game before special buildings come out costs a player a full action... so his one card already had the potential impact of negating several player actions, for the cost of a single delayed action. That's why I suggest they either need to be toned down to put the power in line with the cost, or cost a full action to put the cost in line with the benefit. In its current form, Intrigue cards intentionally throw the game way off balance.

As I said, I'd play it again. And enjoy it. But its not something I will be purchasing or recommending, because buildings and Intrigue cards... two significant parts of the game... are not well balanced.
 
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Paul Paella
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950Rav wrote:
I played it at DDXP as well. I think its good, but two elements of the game keep me from wanting to add it to my shelf.

1. There's really very little benefit to building a building.

2. The random elements can make for huge swings.


From my experiences buildings can be beneficial and, in the case of both of the games I played at DDXP, were instrumental in winning. One game was won from the plethora of free assets gained from being the owner of multiple buildings that were frequently visited, and the other game was won as a direct result of VP gained from being the Lord that gains VP for the number of buildings owned at games end. Granted, all of us were new players but these are perfect examples of the usefulness of buildings.

Intrigue cards can only be played when placing an agent in Waterdeep harbor, which delays the relocation of that agent until after all agents have been placed, almost always on prime locations. This is the key. You sacrifice placing your agent in prime locations to play an Intrigue card. The relocation of Waterdeep agents is also when most player buildings get used, generating "free" assets to the owner of the buildings. Buildings also give the purchaser a minimum of 3 VP just for purchasing the building, more for buildings that weren't purchased the turn they became available.

I don't see either of these as major issues. Lords of Waterdeep may not be a game for those wanting no random elements in their game. LoW has some, but they certainly aren't major.
 
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950Rav wrote:
RoadHouse wrote:
Each player has two intrigue cards in the beginning. There are also two places where can get more of them in the beginning(some building or quests might give you more). I would assume that people would get more of the those cards somehow. How did it happen that only one guy had intrigue cards?


Everyone had them. He happened to have one that gave him an Intrigue card for each player that didn't return a Mage to the pool. It was the start of the game, nobody has Mages at the start of the game, therefore he got 3 Intrigue cards (net gain of 2) for the cost of a delayed action. Other people played Intrigue cards too, he wasn't alone. This was, however, a very substantial swing for a Round 1 play that only costs you a delayed action.

Acquiring a single mage in the game before special buildings come out costs a player a full action... so his one card already had the potential impact of negating several player actions, for the cost of a single delayed action. That's why I suggest they either need to be toned down to put the power in line with the cost, or cost a full action to put the cost in line with the benefit. In its current form, Intrigue cards intentionally throw the game way off balance.

As I said, I'd play it again. And enjoy it. But its not something I will be purchasing or recommending, because buildings and Intrigue cards... two significant parts of the game... are not well balanced.

With two players that card could only give one card and with five players it could give 4 cards. Seems like 3-4 players is the way to go in terms of card balance.
 
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