“All of the problems we’re facing with debt are manmade problems. We created them. It’s called fantasy economics. Fantasy economics only works in a fantasy world. It doesn’t work in reality.” – Michele Bachmann
Heh. Michele Bachmann quote. Who would have thought it?
The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Like why you haven’t updated your dumb blog in so long when you actually have readers who have made specific requests. Lewis Carroll could stand to go back to rhyme school. Well, my faithful audience of four, the answer is multi-faceted.
It’s a harrowing tale of heartbreak, betrayal, revenge and redemption. Paradise lost, opportunities discovered, adventures embarked upon and lessons learned.
At one point I engaged in battle with my doppelganger (or perhaps the doppelganger is I?) on a mountaintop where my foe was defeated and plummeted to his uncertain doom, only to make a surprise appearance at a later hour inside an active volcano where a smaller but more intense battle took place to resolve our enmity once and for all.
But all that real life nonsense has little to do with gaming, so I’m guessing you want me to shut up and get on with the real reason you’re here.
Lords of Waterdeep is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. By which I mean a Euro game cleverly disguised as a D&D product.
Or as clever as you can be with the dead giveaway of colored wooden cubes, anyway. I picked up this game because it had a lot of buzz.
Hype is not normally something I go in for, but for whatever reason, this time was different. It was probably the D&D brand, to be honest.
Even though I wasn’t crazy about the 4E system, I found myself very intrigued by all of the adventure games Wrath of Ashardalon, or the Drizzt one (I couldn’t be bothered to look up the name, such is my contempt for Drizzt). I also was drunk with a huge amount of store credit at my local game store. It worked out well for me.
First, the materials. They’re solid. And they are many.
This is a double edged sword. Similar to many Fantasy Flight titles, there are a lot of chits and moving parts, but unlike those games, the game doesn’t lend itself well to bagging.
I discovered this, of course, right *after* I finished punching and bagging everything.
There is actually a diagram in the back of the rulebook that shows how to put the game away. And it’s vital. Don’t drop or spill this game, you will cry. If this game is traveling, do yourself a huge favor and invest in some of those board game rubber bands.
Hitting one nasty pothole with this in the trunk will totally ruin your day. Here’s a few pro-tips though that have made my life much easier.
Replace the red jewel VP chits with a tower of small D6s. They fit perfectly under one of the decks of cards and you won’t have the frustration of trying to get those chits back in the slot they are supposed to be in.
I may still replace the Gold Piece tokens with poker chips, because they are similarly infuriating to try to put away, but this can be mitigated considerably by spearing all of them onto a Q-Tip.
The box is a little weird, but really, that’s a small quibble. The cards are of decent quality. Not great, but they shouldn’t see too much handling, so they’ll be OK. The art and the board are all fantastic and flavorful.
Component quality is nice, but really, you want to know about the game play. Game play is in a word: fun.
In two words: really fun.
It’s an elegant simple design that everyone grasps pretty quickly. The theme of the game isn’t exactly deep, it’s pretty much a D&D veneer on top of a Euro worker placement game, but it adds just enough to make it fun.
The theme is great in that it may help appeal to someone who might not have checked out this style of game.
At its heart, this is a simple game. Each player starts with some meeples (called Agents), a few Quests to complete, a few Intrigue cards to force player interaction and a Lord of Waterdeep, WHICH IS TOTALLY THE NAME OF THE GAME, I SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE!
Each Lord has two Quest types that they will score bonus points for at the end of the game. Whereas you can take Quests of any type (Warfare, Piety, Arcana, Commerce and Skullduggery) it benefits you most to keep to the types your Lord provides bonuses for. Given, this telegraphs who your secret Lord is, but typically the only people who are going to try to hamper you via Quest selection are people who need the same Quest types.
On each turn, you place an Agent (the number you have access to scales with the number of players), resolve the action on the space you placed your Agent, and if applicable, complete a Quest. Most of the spaces on the board collect various currencies to spend on Quest completion.
The other spaces allow you to acquire new Quests, or play your Intrigue cards. Also on the board are Building spaces, where a small assortment of new spaces/new abilities can be added. There are many more building options than there are building availabilities, which enhances replay value.
Intrigue cards are a mechanic to force more player interaction outside of worker placement order. For example, some might provide you with a certain Adventurer type, but force you to give someone else one too.
Universally reviled are Mandatory Quests, which are minor roadblocks you can stick on players to hamper their game. Mandatory Quests provide little reward but must be completed before you can complete other Quests with better rewards.
A turn ends when all Agents have been placed. There’s a brief clean-up step and game continues to the next turn. Midway through the game, everyone gets an extra Agent, which is nice.
The game ends after 8 turns, at which point you tally up your Victory Points to determine a winner. Don’t be fooled though, those 8 turns fly quickly.
There aren’t a lot of really new concepts here, but the game still feels fresh and original. It is simple enough to appeal to casual gamers and deep enough to appeal to fans of other Euro worker placement games, which is a pretty difficult balance to strike.
In some ways, it is superior to Agricola in that A) the theme is more accessible than farm building under brutal conditions and B) with Agricola, you know what is going to happen in which phases of the game.
The randomized elements expand replay value better with Lords of Waterdeep, but honestly, it’s not like Agricola has a problem with replayability.
The game plays quick enough to be able to rock out several games in a single evening which is a huge point in its favor. Is it the best game in my collection? Probably not, but it’s definitely one that will see a lot of play.
Lords of Waterdeep marks the best drunk decision I’ve ever made.