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Players: 2 to 5 players
Playing time: 60 minutes
Skill factor: medium
Luck factor: medium
My score: 8/10
Price: check on Amazon
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When playing board games, one of the issues I always have, is finding time to play and getting people together, organizing everything. So, I’m always on the lookout for games, that have a single player mode or games, that have been digitalized. I like to play a well polished product, so I browse Steam often and have numerous board games on wishlist, just waiting for a sale. Lords of Waterdeep – Dungeons and Dragons board game was one such game and it was one sale last week.
Introduction and Theme
Lords of Waterdeep is a strategic game. It’s main mechanics are worker placement, resource collecting and cards drawing. By characteristics, it’s a pure eurogame. First, you place workers to get resources, then you spend these resources as is requested on the cards you draw. There are some tweaks here and there, but basically, that is it.
Set in Forgotten Realms (Dungeons and Dragons universe), you might think this is a thematic, adventurous game. You would be very wrong. Lords of Waterdeep only uses the famous setting as a presentation, but (as is often the case with eurogames), it could very well be anything else. But let’s have a look at the theme anyway, since the presentation is good and it does create a nice atmosphere.
You play as one of the underground lords of the city of Waterdeep, who fight over influence, control and their own agendas. (Read: they collect victory points.) This is done by sending their agents into key buildings in the city, who provide you with recruits of four classes (fighters, rogues, clerics and wizards), money, gather quests, build buildings or perform special (intrigue) missions. You need recruits and money to complete quests, and quests earn you the most victory points.
Course of Action
In a nutshell, Lords of Waterdeep is not an overly complicated board game. Game consists of eight rounds, and each round, players take turn placing their agents, until they run out of them. Then the next round starts.
When it’s your turn you basically only do two things:
- Place your agent.
- Complete a quest (if you want).
You can place an agent to any vacant building on the board. Beside simple buildings, that give you a recruit (or two) of a certain class or money, there are some special buildings:
- Inn (here you can choose a new quest from one of the four face-up ones),
- Harbor (gives you an option to play intrigue card)
- Castle Waterdeep (you take the first player marker – you start the next round(s) and it gives you an intrigue card)
- Builder’s Hall (pay for the build of an advanced building and put it under you control)
Agents, placed in harbor also get an extra action at the end of the round – that means they can be placed twice in a turn.
Advanced buildings are just that, advanced. They provide more recruits, intrigue cards, quests, money or various combination of those.
Moreover, they provide victory points to the player who build them and a bonus, every time another player uses their building. These bonuses vary from, you guessed it, recruits, cards, money etc.
“The difference between the quest for the Holy Grail and someone saying ‘bring me a cup’ is the flavor text and the number of stops involved.”
― Bryan Fields, Life With a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend
Ok, now that your agent is placed and you gained (or did) whatever that building does, it’s time for quests. Quests are an element, where the D&D legacy has the most influence and an element that provides most of the atmosphere. They have beautiful illustrations with flavor texts.
There are several types of quests (Warfare, Commerce, Arcana, Piety and Skullduggery) and if you complete a quest that is aligned with your lords beliefs (randomly drawn at the beginning), you get extra victory points at the end of the game.
Each player starts the game with two quest cards and further cards can be obtained at the inn, through certain advanced buildings and through certain intrigue cards.
But, in the end, quest are just a card that converts your resources into victory points and not an actual adventure, you’d go on with your fellow recruits. But if you have good imagination, you could certainly make up stories in your mind about how your party defeated the Xanathar.
Intrigue cards are there to spice up the play. They are three kinds of intrigue cards:
- Attack: these cards hurt your opponent(s) directly by, for example, removing recruits from their tavern.
- Utility cards are there to help you. They can provide you with extra resources, give you an option to reassign an agent etc.
- Mandatory Quest are quests you give to your opponents. They must complete the mandatory quest before any other. Trick here is that these quests are very low rewarding and are just a drain on resources.
Things I like about Lords of Waterdeep
- Quick, simple and easy game to learn and play.
- Plenty of options and choices for the advanced player.
- Quest cards look great and have cool sounding D&D names.
- Game is well-balanced for all player count (2-5) – you start with fewer agents, when there are more players.
Things I don’t’ like about Lords of Waterdeep
- Using people (recruits) as a resource does not feel right.
- I don’t think D&D theme goes well with eurogame mechanics. Or maybe I’m just old-fashioned.
- I’d like a bit more variety and power for intrigue cards.
- I would like to see more special abilities or bonuses from the lords, not just a bonus on a completed quest type.
Santiago de Cuba is a game with related game mechanics, but with a completely different, Cuban, theme
A word or two about the Digital Edition of Lords of Waterdeep
Digital edition is a direct conversion of the physical one with all the rules and elements included. So, if you played one, you will feel right at home with the other, too. All the usual things, like different bot skills and online multiplayer are included.
There are some minor issues (like too similar colors of some agents or a bit poor overview of other players’s resources – you can only see one opponent at a time), but all in all, everything works and feels smooth and polished.
This also comes at a bargain sale of just a couple of euros (bought on Steam sale), so it’s really cheap. There are two expansions available (Undermountain and Skullport), which are sold separately.
As is usual with digital editions, some immersion and appeal is lost. This is especially crucial with Lords of Waterdeep, where the gameplay is abstract as it is and digital version certainly doesn’t do it any favors. It’s not something I see myself playing more in the future, but as a practice and test-the-board-game tool, it’s excellent and cheap.
I hope I didn’t come through as too much negative in my review, because that was not my intention. I believe Lords of Waterdeep is a good game. Gameplay is well-balanced and there are plenty of options, choices and tactics available.
Just be aware that it’s not a thematic D&D game with a glorious adventure, but a eurogame with it’s (a little less glorious) race for victory points.
Digital edition is something you should look into before considering the physical game. It will give a good feel on how the game plays.
What is your experience with Dungeons and Dragons games? Do you like their choice of game mechanics for this theme (or a choice of theme for this game mechanic)? Leave your comments below.