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They'll tell you black is really white The moon is just the sun at night.
And when you walk in golden halls You get to keep the gold that falls It's Heaven and Hell
My review of Lords of Waterdeep will not try to be an in-depth breakdown of every facet of the game. Rather, I'd like to highlight some of the things I like most about it, and hopefully that will help you decide if the game is right for you. In case you know nothing about the game, it consists of eight rounds where each player gets to place multiple "agents", each of which will net them some variety of resources by occupying a slot on the board. The resources are used to play quests, which are worth VP. There are also "intrigue" cards, which allow some direct player interaction, and buildings which expand the available options for worker placement. The tension comes in trying to get the right resources to complete your quests, since all players are competing for the same limitied resource spots.
About me: I consider myself a "gamer". I tend to be very analytical and I like games that don't involve much randomness. I mostly play games with my wife, who is very competent but not very competetive. I sometimes play with a few other guys like me. I play games to have fun; I like to win, but I'd rather have a good time than get stressed out over a game. So with that in mind, here is what I love about Lords of Waterdeep:
I love the theme: as a long-time D&D player (most of the last 20 years) I think it is so cool to see board games bearing the official D&D brand and using classic settings. I have avoided the dungeon-crawl games, but this one caught my eye as something different. I love how parts like the quests and intrigue cards fit the theme - for me this adds a lot of richness to playing the game. In fact the only reason I don't sit and admire the theme more is because the rest of the gameplay is so exciting and engrossing! But I still love that you can play intrigue cards like "Arcane Mishap", which kills your opponents wizard, and "Free Drinks" which makes one of their adventurers come join your tavern. It's easy to overlook these details but I think they add a lot of fun to the game.
I love the artwork: From the massive box cover, to the even-more-massive playing board, down to the little portraits on the individual cards, every bit of this game is beautiful. Most of the art looks to have been done by the same people as the D&D 4th Edition books and materials, which is outstanding. Whatever criticisms there are of 4e, the quality of the portraits and the product design has been of the highest quality. Each quest and intrigue card has a unique picture and flavor text. The playing board looks awesome, and combines a great-looking map of the city with a very functional set of spaces for playing. The designers did not cut any corners on making this game look terrific.
I love the simplicity of learning: even though there are about a thousand little pieces in the box it's remakably easy to teach new people how to play this game. I always get to be the one to explain new games to people when they come over so I really appreciate this. LoW takes less time to explain than some of my other favorites like Carcassonne or Pandemic, and people seem to understand the general strategy right away. I love seeing "non-gamers" who "aren't really into fantasy stuff" go from looking concerned at all the pieces during setup to talking trash and telling other people to hurry up in round 2 I would pick LoW to play with a new group just because it's the easiest to explain!
I love the flow of play: the concept of collecting adventurers and money in order to complete your quests is so simple that the game gets rolling very quickly. I really like how the decisions start off pretty basic (get 1 cleric or two fighters?) but then get more complex as more buildings are added (do I get 3 heros and give my opponent 1 as well, or just grab two?). In any given turn you have lots of options, but they don't tend to be paralysis-inducing. Sometimes I am head-down just trying to crank out my own quests, other turns I am examining my opponents active quests and trying to deny them what they need. Once everyone knows what they're doing the rounds really start to fly by. It's exciting to realize that it's round 7 all of a sudden and you've only got six more chances to play before the game is over. There are always lots of lead changes throughout the game and it almost always comes down to the final revelation of the Lords to determine the winner.
I love how well-designed the game is: both because it is fun and interesting to play, and because it has a lot of replay value. There have been many times where I just have to admire how well-thought out the game elements are. For example, to play an intrigue card, you have to assign an agent to "Waterdeep Harbor" and you get no benefit other than playing the card. But, at the end of the round you get to re-assign that agent and get an actual resource. So you have to balance the choice of getting your first pick vs. playing a card and getting last pick. I also like how the game scales. I've been able to play it with 2, 3, 4, and 5 players and it's a pretty different experience at each number. With two players you'll have tons of options each round, it's hard to foil your opponent's plans, but it's easy to complete your own goals. You'll be racing to rack up the points. With five players the resources get very tight. The difficulty of getting the resources you need keeps scores low and tension high. It's easy to mess up other peoples' plans, and going first is a big deal.
Overall I feel this is a high quality game with lots of replay value. It should appeal to a wide audience, because of its cool theme and easy explanation. It provides a high amount of fun, with minimal frustration and anxiety. This is one I will keep on the top of the pile, ready to get out often.
I am not a D&D player but I have read some forgotten realms books and I also do love the attention to detail they put into this game. You also can tell the game designers and WoTC really saw eye to eye when it came to deciding quality and craftsmanship of this game.
I love the length of this game. I can play two games in a two and a half hour time frame with 2,3,or 4 players (have not played 5 yet).
Great review, and pretty much sums up my feelings for the game. Well done.
Wow people are gushing about this one! I can't wait to try it out! Thanks for your impressions.