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Subject: Lords of Waterdeep: Mostly Harmless rss

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navajas
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DISCLAIMER: I am an adult and I speak and write like an adult. This means I occasionally use naughty words. Either deal, or click away.

This is only my second (EDIT: Lies! It's my third.) review on the geek, and my first of a game anyone might actually play. I’m going to go ahead and give you a spoiler or two right off the bat; 1) This is not a very good game at all, and; 2) I like it a lot.

I’m not a fan of rules in reviews, but since this game can be explained to anyone off the street in five minutes, and anyone who has ever played a worker placement game in about 60 seconds, I’m tempted to do so anyway.

RULES
Each player in turn places an agent on a space on the board for which they receive some game commodity. Already occupied spaces are typically off limits. At the end of any placement you can use those commodities, which exist in three levels of rarity, to complete missions for points. When everyone’s done, scoop them up, perform one minor bit of upkeep (placing VP chips on buildings), and do it all over again. Eight rounds and you’re out.

COMPONENTS
The Box: Is horrible. There are a couple reasons for this. I think Josh Dribble, better known by his internet handle as KLLrzST-18/00, that 10th grader from down the street who wears nothing but black t-shirts with dragons and metal bands on them, had to have painted the cover art. It is, literally, fucking embarrassing, two dimensional and amateur. And I’m talking Larry Elmore could have done better. *shudder* It’s the kind of thing jock/nerds like me who have trouble accepting their nerdy half, especially in front of other straights, would hide from view at all costs. Secondly, the cardboard is pretty flimsy compared to just about every other box I own save AEG’s (God those suck, eh what?): One corner is already shredded.

The Insert: I have no idea from where the people who complain about this insert are coming. I packed this thing up as intended, stuck it sideways in my carry on and took it to Florida. (I live in Washington state.) When I unpacked at the vacation house each and every of the five 100 point VP tokens had fallen out. And that was it. Maybe, maybe, Earth Reborn could have performed as well, but it’s sure as hell ain’t fitting in my carry on.

Rule Book: Beat you on the head level thorough. I think they could have been printed on a 3x5 card, but I understand you have to go in with the idea that maybe this is a person’s second ever game purchase after having played nothing but Hi Ho Cherry-O.

The Bits: All the pieces, from the cards, to the buildings, to the chits, to the wooden cubes are entirely adequate. The five gold, moon shaped, coin pieces are the only stand out for me, are pretty dang cool, and happen to be far and away the chief relay between you and the theme. Wait. Did I just type the word theme? Ha. Theme?

THEME
This game has no theme. (I’m tempted to simply stop there.) And I mean that. No. Theme. What it has is art, yes. There are griffons and wizards and shit on the cards. That’s not “theme” any more than I feel like I’m a student at Hogwartz if I sip Dr. Pepper out of a plastic cup from 7-11 with a picture of Harry Potter on the side. Art != theme.

I’m a thematic game player. I’ve played Road Kill Rally exactly three times, the first more than a year ago, and I remember the entire narrative of every race. I remember individual missions in Space Alert. I remember hosing my cousin out of a huge load of alloy in Star Trader, leaving him holding his dick in an empty spaceport wondering what the hell happened. Theme conveys narrative, and narrative creates memories. That’s what I love about games. I’ve played Waterdeep six times in the past couple months. I’m four and two. That’s it. That’s what I remember: A couple of fucking integers.

My wife couldn’t possibly care less about theme for the most part. (We’re a sort of gender bent family.) When I insisted we call them “Wizards” she, literally, pointed at me, laughed, and kept on calling them “purples”. When I make her read the through the text on the mission cards, she rolls her eyes at me. I can’t really blame her: THERE IS LESS THEME HERE THAN STONEAGE.

Dig it?

Trying to sell this game as a “Euro with theme” is pathetic. Fans pandering to this notion are, I feel, likewise embarrassing. The only caveat I can possibly see is that IF you’ve read these D&D books (you’re a nerd) and you take the time out of your turn to read the missions, they might hold some personal thematic relevance for you. However, even you very acute few should NOT purchase this game thinking you’re getting anything other than a bare bones, stripped down, mechanical, cube pushing, mathematic exercise.

GAME PLAY
As a genre, Eurogames suffer from the feeling that if you’ve played a few, you’ve played them all. That applies here in spades, however, there are a sparingly few novel ideas in this game. The “Waterdeep Harbor" space is an interesting decision. It allows you to play your intrigue cards (which come in three varieties; good for you; bad for them; good for you and a friend) and, since these cards, while handy, are almost never worth more than playing your agent elsewhere, puts you in a queue for later actions. These actions are taken in order of arrival at the Harbor after all other agents have been placed. There are a few special abilities and intrigue cards that let you do some pretty nifty/sneaky things with this mechanic and I haven’t come across it elsewhere.

The other nifty / unique thing about the game is… wait. Nope. That’s it.

I find the game entirely tactical as your strategy is literally handed out to you randomly at the beginning of the game in the form of your “Lord” card. As should be obvious by now, these are purely mechanical in nature, though the standard limp attempt at theme is attempted: There’s some very poor art on the card, and a throw away blurb. What the card does is give you two mission types that give you an extra four points. There’s one card that instead gives you six points per building. That’s it. That’s your strategy. Get those two types of missions almost at the exclusion of all others to score those points.

Why? Well, most missions offer very little return on investment. All cubes, er, adventurers, are worth 1 VP if left unspent at the end of the game. Even cursory analysis will show that very often you’re not getting a whole lot more than that on completed missions, and even if you sometimes are, the marginal gain from those four bonus points is almost always indispensably huge, and ignored at your peril. Occasionally you will certainly have left over cubes, or a particular combo via intrigue cards which suggest a non-bonus mission, but those are rare.

The game is then distilled into who can acquire these predestined bonus point missions with the greatest economy of actions and weigh that against the typically Euro passive aggressive denial moves to hamper that in your opponent. That, in a nutshell, is the whole game.

SCALABILITY
I've played the game with four and with two. I find that while the game is certainly different with the two groups, it is no more or less fun or interesting. It is ever so slightly harder to nail down everyone's two bonus mission types, and that's about it.

EXPANSION
My guess is this game has a few expansions ready to go. It’s possible that some of its shortcomings are already resolved and waiting for the marketers to give the call for the printers to get it on shelves. I’d be amazed if the first isn’t out before the year is up. (EDIT: Didn't happen. Yes, I'm amazed.)

CONCLUSION
To keep your reading through the above I already told you I like this game despite knowing intellectually it’s kind of crap. There’s not really a single element of the game about which I don’t have at least minor gripes (save those wicked cool five gold moon coins). I don’t have a lot of love for Euros. I think they are soulless and somewhat of an artistic and industrial dead end. I have Agircola (made my own Fimo pieces, a blog for which is on the Geek), Stone Age (which I respect a lot for helping me home school my six year old into easy multiplication, probability and division), Constantinopolis (which my wife always wins), etc…

In other words, I’m not ignorant of the style. In fact, I like playing them for the most part. I just think they lack the emotional investment and involvement that I maintain makes a great experience. I call Euros “brain dick” games. I find the usual Euro ultra champions, “Hell, you can keep your pansy ass theme, I’ll play Stone Age with a handful of pennies on a board scribbled in sharpie on the back of an old Amazon box”, to be akin to your average short man syndrome dude in the locker room boasting about his package: “My brain’s dick is WAY bigger than your brain’s dick!”

All that said, Waterdeep is currently my favorite Euro. It isn’t the best game. In fact, it’s not even really a very good game. But, it fits nicely into a lot of really helpful niches;

1) Ultra easy to teach.
2) Short playing time.
3) Easy to set up.
4) Easy to play.
5) Easy to put away.
6) Sort of fun.

In short, the above list means, Waterdeep has an extremely high return on investment. It is the Euro game penny stock. Yeah, there are lots of other WAY better games, but few if any require so little of you for the amount of (admittedly mostly banal and mundane) fun you net out of it, it’s hard to turn it down. It is just fun enough, it is just quick enough, it is just deep enough, it is just easy enough, it is just… It is just so pleasantly somewhat above average. And when you make a game that is so undeniably inoffensive, that has basically NO overhead, you end up with a pretty decent product.

Lords of Waterdeep: Mostly Harmless.
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Shaun
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navajas wrote:
1) This is not a very good game at all, and; 2) I like it a lot.

When I insisted we call them “Wizards” she, literally, pointed at me, laughed, and kept on calling them “purples”.

“My brain’s dick is WAY bigger than your brain’s dick!”


Lol!!

I think I enjoyed this game because it was so vanilla. I might just have to get it to give me an option when I'm not in the mood for Stone Age.
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navajas
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Vanilla is my favorite flavor of ice cream. Curiouser and curiouser.
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Darryl with one "R"
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Lords of Waterdeep: Mostly Harmless.

Didn't read the review, but have a thumb for the H2G2 reference.
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Tristan Hall
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LIFEFORM - LATE PLEDGE NOW!!!
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And the review was mostly harmless too. Nice move.
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Eric Clason
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Nice review, mostly accurate and presented in an entertaining way.

navajas wrote:
DISCLAIMER: I am an adult and I speak and write like an adult. This means I occasionally use naughty words.

I have no problem with you using naughty words. I am amused that you consider it adult (implying mature) behavior.
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Matthew Miles
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Umm...ya know..Adult, as in adult themes, adult movies, adult language, etc. Adult: not for children. I may use "naughty language" on the occasion but I would certainly not use it in front of kids. So I'm assuming that's what he means.
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Mike Stevens
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Nice review Roderic, it was entertaining and covered a lot of good points about the game. The review had me laughing out loud and reading portions of it to my wife while she was in the kitchen cooking dinner. The THEME = Harry Potter cup comment had her laughing so much she dropped a can of beans that she was trying to open with the electric can opener. I of course had to tell her that if she would just hold onto the can while trying to open it, that she wouldnt have dropped them and made a mess. She fired back with "I dropped the stupid beans because I was so giddy with excitement as I was listenting to you read me that exciting BoardGame Geek post". YES she did say it with that condescending sarcastic tone that the female race is known forshake

I dont own it yet but have played about 5 games of Lords of Waterdeep and I really enjoy it for all the reasons you mentioned. I also cracked up at the term "Jock/Nerd" because there are lots of times I will be at one of our group game days and have to leave to go play softball or soccer or something. Whenever I come out of the closet and teach one of my work buddies or guys on one of my sports teams a game, they are always like "I never knew you were a gaming nerd I just thought you were a dumb jock". The funny thing is that I have converted several of them into gamers. Hey it is a big world and there is room for ALL types
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navajas
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Hey, thanks for the kind words man. I really appreciate it.
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navajas
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Hey, cool. Thanks! I've always wanted a wealthy benefactor. Watch out though, you may encourage me to write more of them.

Oh, and it turns out I lied in the review: I've actually written TWO others (Star Wars Galactic Battle Game and Destroy Death Star GAME.) This is still the only one for a game that people (over about six years old) would ever read or would voluntarily play.
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Huh. Interesting review but one I must disagree with 100% - any boardgame that has a D&D (fantasy, whatever) theme that my wife will play over and over again is a fantastic game.

Sure, she does the quests and sees the heroes as "Oranges, Whites, Blacks & Purples" but different strokes for different folks. I'll imagine my heroes going on grand adventures, if she is still having a blast and wanting to play this game repeatedly while at the same time finishing quests with "colored blocks" so be it!
 
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navajas
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I think, in my life, if everyone who 100% disagreed with me had been as agreeable as you, I'd have been in a lot fewer fights.
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Mark Silcox
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Preach it, brother!

(Although I personally find Agricola to be redolent with theme. Art doesn't equal theme, but action doesn't equal theme either. For some people, theme is strolling through a bunch of pastures petting your domesticated wild boars).
 
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David Oldster
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Played this three times now, and I have to agree with every point in your review. Mostly harmless describes it perfectly.
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Tim McCormley
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And even if it was only to compare the packaging, you managed to make a comparison between Earth Reborn and Lords of Waterdeep. Whould'a thunk it?

Tim

P.S. Even if Earth Reborn's, ah, "insert" is about comparable to Lords of Waterdeep's "insert," it is FAR superior in terms of the actual game. Just sayin...
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navajas
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No argument here! But that does go to further support my contention of the things Waterdeep does so very well: I can teach that 58 year old great grandmother behind the counter at Wal*Mart how to play Waterdeep faster than she can scan my hand basket of protein bars and Nerf swords.

Earth Reborn? Probably not.

Also, I've owned Waterdeep for less than two months and I've played it seven times (five and two) which is right around twice as many times as I've gotten to play Earth Reborn in almost a year.shake
 
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I also got some non-boardgamers plus one guy who hates boardgames in general to enjoy this game. That is an achievment lol
 
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navajas
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I can't tell if that statement should raise the saturation of your disagreement with my review to 110% or lower it to 90%.
 
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Mark Baumann
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Hilarious and insightful review, and I absolutely agree with your philosophy about theme: A narrative is what creates memories. Very nicely put.

I hope you'll continue to write more reviews... I'd be a subscriber!
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navajas
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Thanks man, I really appreciate it. The response has been so positive and the experience pretty fun, that I plan to write more. Just trying to decide which games fit the bill. I'd love to get more plays in on Earth Reborn for instance because a review now would be terribly immature.

I just got Dungeon Twister and Space 4x in my first ever math trade. Maybe those will happen. I could also take suggestions from my collection list.

Cheers.
 
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M. B.
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Good review.

Somehow enough for me though, the theme does come through (simple as it is). The artwork in the game and the act of looking for the resources in the game in order to complete missions does enough for theme in my mind (for whatever reason...is hard to pin down).

Not sure if I'd consider the cover art to be bad. I actually think it did perfect for what was intended for the game. It immediately stood out to me when looking at other games on the shelf (and I mean immediately). That's saying something. It visually held my interest and started to form a need to critique it or delve further into it. I thought that pretty good marketing.

It looked like just another ameritrash game, but then looking at the components and gameplay/reviews...it came across as euro. The difference in the way that it artistically looked vs. the way that it played was what caused me to buy it and give it try. I'm glad I did.

I also find it to be an incredibly fluid and easy to play and teach game for everyone that plays. It is getting great gameplay at my place from the get go. No one seems to dislike it and my friends regularly keep asking for it. Every time, it is a good experience.

Anyhow, keep up the good reviews.
 
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navajas wrote:
My wife couldn’t possibly care less about theme for the most part. (We’re a sort of gender bent family.) When I insisted we call them “Wizards” she, literally, pointed at me, laughed, and kept on calling them “purples”. When I make her read the through the text on the mission cards, she rolls her eyes at me. I can’t really blame her: THERE IS LESS THEME HERE THAN STONEAGE.


My short take is while I enjoy both games (LoW more simply b/c it's still moreso the "cult of the new"), to me, it feels SA has less to equal theme than LoD. There's still some adventuring feel to LoW.

I've also heard people counter-argue that SA has more theme b/c people turn in 2 wood, 1 brick, and 1 stone for a hut, whereas in LoW, they just refer to the adventurers as cubes and types by colors. I feel that if SA used colored cubes instead of shaped resource bits, they'd be in the same boat.
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Aaron Clefton
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navajas wrote:
I’m a thematic game player. I’ve played Road Kill Rally exactly three times, the first more than a year ago, and I remember the entire narrative of every race. I remember individual missions in Space Alert. I remember hosing my cousin out of a huge load of alloy in Star Trader, leaving him holding his dick in an empty spaceport wondering what the hell happened. Theme conveys narrative, and narrative creates memories. That’s what I love about games. I’ve played Waterdeep six times in the past couple months. I’m four and two. That’s it. That’s what I remember: A couple of fucking integers.


A well written, joyful review. A pleasure to read and fair. Not just saying that because I'm your cousin, either.

Yes, I'm still wondering what the hell happened on Mu Herculis. Or was the transaction in another system? Regardless the alloys were almost certainly coming from Gamma Leporis. Everyone who can and has interest should play Star Trader at least once. I love that it got a plug from your review. Kim would have smiled at that.

Watch out when next we play, Cousin! And Congrats on a wonderful review of the "mostly harmless" game, Lords of Waterdeep.
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marc lecours
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Your review is spot on. In fact, of all the reviews that I have read, this may be the one that is closest to my views.

I just played the game for the first time yesterday. (friends have been playing it for a couple of years). I tried over and over again to think of rogues, clerics, missions etc. That would last about 5 seconds. I was essentially pushing cubes. This game is utterly themeless. No matter how hard I tried to imagine the theme, I was just shuffling cubes around.

Like you, I didn't mind the game. I have played many better games but I did not mind the game. Mostly harmless indeed.
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navajas
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Thanks man.

Wow, a lot as happened in almost four years. That cousin metioned above your post disowned me even... How time flies. Ha!
 
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