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Subject: The Nodak Gamer Reviews: Lords of Waterdeep rss

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The Nodak Gamer
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Beginning Thoughts
This review is a special one. It is my second review ever. It is also the first designer board game I bought over five years ago. This game has been my go to game for mixed groups of gamers and the board game I previously used to introduce people to gaming. I initially loved the beauty and simplicity of this game and frustration when I could not get other games to the table because everyone wanted to play it. Then it turned to disinterest as I moved on to heavier games.
I recently started a deliberate delve into the worker placement mechanic so I can have a more informed review of this game. I found Kingsburg, a dice(worker) placement game, was a fascinating middle weight game and is waiting in line to be bought. CavernaCaverna: The Cave Farmers, which is on the deep end of the worker placement pool of games was absolutely fascinating. But after playing these games I had an odd reaction... the warmth I had for Waterdeep was rekindled and I will use this review to flush out why I will not be getting rid of this game.

Gameplay Overview
The basic premise of the game is that you are a lord of Waterdeep, a town in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and you have a secret agenda. This agenda is represented by a hidden role "Lord Card". You advance your agenda by recruiting and sending out heroes to complete quests that advance your agenda.

Theme
This sounds very exciting. I would play this game and love it. But the theme is very thin and while someone with a herculean imagination might be able to coax the theme out and feel like a lord of Waterdeep I was not able to maintain that theme in my head. This is the biggest weakness of the game. The box art and the red letters on the side scream role play and thematic gaming. This eventually made me come to dislike it over time. I play games that are more abstracted and strategic, eurogames. They all have pasted on themes and they do not lie to you about it. But it is okay now. Lords of Waterdeep does not need to be thematic... I have Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second edition) for that... or Mage Knight, if I want solo play and a lot of strategy. Theme is not what this game is about. It is about having a perfect entry level eurogame,it is about the Art and production of the game, and it is about... we'll see as I keep going through the review.

Back to the Gameplay
Lords of Waterdeep is fairly easy to teach. If you have never played a designer board game you can pick it up pretty quickly (I did when I was first starting out) and be able to play quickly.

Here is my basic spiel about this particular spiel:

You need to get the most victory points.

You get victory points by completing quests, and you get more points at the end of the game if the completed quests are a type that is listed on your "Lord Card" that no one else gets to see. You can take one action and complete one quest on your turn.

You complete a quest by looking at what resources you need to complete that quest.

You get those resources to complete the quest by taking some of your meeples, wooden pieces that look like little wooden people for a street sign of some sort, and placing them on spaces (taking an action) that give you those resources. The resources are different colored cubes to represent different hero types. There are spaces that give you gold, which you use to complete quests and buy buildings.

Some spaces are special and different.

Some spaces allow you to build a building. This adds an additional space that players can use to get resources. If someone besides the player who built it uses that space the owner of the building gets things.

Some spaces allow you to get new quests if you complete the initial two that you draw. You can see them and find ones that align with your agenda.

Most quests are straight forward. They have a type, a cost, and a reward. But some are extra special and give you recurring bonuses. These are called plot quests.

Another special place to go is Waterdeep Harbor. You can go their to play intrigue cards. You start with two intrigue cards at the start of the game (hidden from the other players). But you cannot stay there at the end of a round (after you place all of your meeples). There is an evil fishy monster that will maim or eat you if you stay there. So the meeples hanging out in the harbor get another action right before the end of the round.

Intrigue cards are played to give you resources or other special bonuses, and also mess with other players. Such as the mandatory quest that needs

You play through eight rounds and then the highest scoring lord wins!

That was easy. It was not good, but it works if you do a lot of pointing and answering of questions. I usually try to limit rules explanations to the bare bones because I learn by playing best so I teach in that same vein. There are a few more pieces you would need to know to facilitate the game but that is a quick gist to get the players going.

Mechanics

The basic tools used to facilitate game play are called mechanics. The two main ones in Lords of Waterdeep would be worker placement and set collection.

Worker placement in a board game usually means that someone takes a "worker" and places them on a space to trigger an effect. Most, if not all, of those spaces are only able to be done by a limited number of workers. This usually is one, but in the case of Waterdeep Harbor it is three. The source of tension in a game is usually derived from the worker placement mechanic. As a player you want a certain set of resources or actions to complete a goal, in Waterdeep that would be the quests. Since the ability to access resources can be blocked off if another player goes to the spot you want to go you have to remain flexible in what you are going to do each turn. But ultimately you need those resources so you will do whatever you have to in order to get them.

In Lords of Waterdeep this worker placement mechanic adds only a small level of tension. Most of the time you have multiple quests you are trying to finish so you can go elsewhere if someone takes the spot you want. Very few times have I had a point where I can't get anything done because I keep getting blocked off. This is in part because you can take an action to get a first player marker so you can start the next round as the first person who plays.

I think that a major critique that could be made against Waterdeep is that it does not have that desperate tension or difficulty in obtaining resources. But that is fine. There are plenty of games out there that are frugal with resources. This is an entry level game and the flexibility and multiple options make it easier for new players to do well. Whereas a critique of many eurogames is that the systems are too tight A mixed group of players will not usually have a surprise winner. The player that has played the most games or played that particular game the most is the most likely to win. Lords of Waterdeep levels the playing field a bit. If I was a ruthless person and bent my mind to it I could win most games of Waterdeep when I play with new players. But if you have even a bit of experience with it you can easily be in the running to win. I love a game that allows others to win even if they have not played a game ten times. Waterdeep's "easy" worker placement mechanic allows players to get what they want and quickly find a viable path to victory within their first play of the game.

The second mechanic is set collection. Which kind of is a part of the game. It is definitely a secondary or tertiary piece to the game. You try to complete these quests (or other things) that match your agenda and the more of them you have at the end the more bonus points there are for your set of cards. This is made easier and more forgiving because you can have as many incomplete quests as you want and it will not impact the final score. If you want something that makes set collection important and get penalized for not finishing an objective you should go play Ticket to Ride. I do not see the set collection piece as a big part of the game. You just have to get some of your quest types done to give you an edge in the final scoring. I have seen many players win without playing to their agenda and I have seen players who have won because they focused really hard on their agenda. Multiple paths to victory are lovely.

Quality

I have taken up too much of your time so I will be brief. This game is made by *Wizards of the Coast*. This means that the components are at least sufficient. I thought everything was of pretty good quality. They had the linen finish cards and the thick cardboard tokens. Those were fine. The "hero" resources were rather bland cubes. I think that upgrading them to little wood or plastic figures could add to the theme a bit. They have custom resources online if you want to upgrade to little heroes or metal coins. This is not necessary to enjoy the game and the pieces that come in the game are sufficient for me. The inlay tray is alright. It organizes the pieces but if you turn the game sideways when the lid is shut everything can shift around a bit. But unlike many games that I buy now that do not come with organizers this tray is a nice touch.

Final Thoughts
Lords of Waterdeep is not my favorite game. It has a good amount of replay-ability that is increased a bit with the expansion. The expansion is not necessary unless you fall in love with the game and need more stuff. This game has been great in my collection and is a great way to get players started into the hobby. I am never ecstatic to play this game after so many plays but I will when someone is interested or I want a nostalgia trip. Initially this game was exciting, fresh, simple with a good amount of options and strategies.

If you are an experienced gamer you could skip this and move on to Kingsburg or an even meatier worker placement game. If you are an experienced gamer you have probably played this and liked it at some point. It made a huge splash because it was a well built and solid game. But it was not a challenge if you have done more intense worker placement games.

If you are new to board gaming and want a good game to give you a good taste of the worker placement mechanic and a first step into designer/ hobby board games this might be for you. You do not need to buy it if the two D's are drawing you to it. The theme is pretty mute in the game. But it is a reliable and sturdy game that I have played so many times I just guessed when I added it to my list on bgg.

I know I will be keeping it on my shelf so I can continue to have a good game to introduce people to the worker placement mechanic. When I pick up some of the harder worker placement games I know I will be getting players comfortable with the core concepts by pulling this game off of my shelf to get them started. It is not a perfect game and it doesn't fit me anymore. But I am happy to go through the motions and teach people a wonderful board game. It has lost some of its luster with me... but I just can not seem to part with such a lovely game.

I hope that this review give an additional data point for you to decide if you want to spend your money on this game.

Regards,

The Nodak Gamer



*Edit:I have too much fantasy flight games on my shelf. I will begin the purging process immediately.

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john newman
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Nice balanced review. I would agree with your final assessment.

LoW is a great gateway game, especially as an introduction to the worker placement mechanic. For newer players, I would recommend removing the four mandatory quests. It will make the game much more enjoyable for first-time players.

LoW may not the best game in the world, but it has become a classic.

Regarding the expansion: I do not see the expansion as necessary. In fact, I believe it detracts from the game. If you have outgrown the game, move on to meatier worker placement games. Scoundrels of Skullport increases playing time too much for such a light game - overstaying its welcome. Undermountain's new quest cards offer too much scoring variance, offering 40 point quests. If you get your 40 point quest and I don't draw one, it will be very difficult for me to overcome that gap.
 
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The Nodak Gamer
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johnpnewman wrote:


Regarding the expansion: I do not see the expansion as necessary. In fact, I believe it detracts from the game. If you have outgrown the game, move on to meatier worker placement games. Scoundrels of Skullport increases playing time too much for such a light game - overstaying its welcome. Undermountain's new quest cards offer too much scoring variance, offering 40 point quests. If you get your 40 point quest and I don't draw one, it will be very difficult for me to overcome that gap.


I would agree with you that you don't necessarily need the expansion. But I would say that if you are really into it and you feel like the game is over too quickly, the expansions give a nice longer game that is easily implemented. I also really enjoyed the Undermountain module because I really enjoyed a longer quest that had a higher reward. The corruption/ Skrullport module was ok, but I didn't find it necessary. Just added a little bit.

I would say if someone is still in love with the game and wants a longer game, a little bit more of the same, and an easily implemented mechanic that adds a bit of risk to your play, then they should go get it. I liked it when I got it because I really just want to see new things in my game. It is the same reason why I get small box expansions of Eldritch Horror (basically just adds to card diversity instead of a new board and a bunch of new rules). If someone looks at the price of the expansion and wants something that drastically alters the game in a cool new way... I would say pass.

Thank you for the comments, I think you are the first one. Anything I could change moving forward in my reviews is appreciated too.
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Tod Andrew
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The game is from Wizards of the Coast, not Fantasy Flight Games.

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John Herrera
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tod_13 wrote:
The game is from Wizards of the Coast, not Fantasy Flight Games.



I had to read that 3 times to make sure I read that right. I was about to comment about it then saw your post
 
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Randy Espinoza
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johnpnewman wrote:

Regarding the expansion...Scoundrels of Skullport increases playing time too much for such a light game - overstaying its welcome. Undermountain's new quest cards offer too much scoring variance, offering 40 point quests. If you get your 40 point quest and I don't draw one, it will be very difficult for me to overcome that gap.
I agree that both modules together extend the game perhaps a bit too much, but adding either Skullport or Undermountain elevates the game significantly without issue. The addition of Corruption in particular improves it a lot.

Finally, the 40 point quests are very resource intensive and hardly guarantee a victory. Betting on them too much might cost you the game if the other players slow you down enough; they also tend to reduce your Lord bonuses since you would likely complete less quests.
 
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quaoar 10
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I have the expansion and since I do, I have never played without it. I think the corruption mechanic makes the game a lot more interesting, especially for experienced players, without making it a lot more complicated.

The great thing about LoWD is that you can play it with a mixed group of players wrt their game experience and all will have fun.
 
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john newman
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quaoar10 wrote:
I have the expansion and since I do, I have never played without it. I think the corruption mechanic makes the game a lot more interesting, especially for experienced players, without making it a lot more complicated.

The great thing about LoWD is that you can play it with a mixed group of players wrt their game experience and all will have fun.


What was your experience for game time in your Skullport games? I found that the addition of either expansion added about 30 minutes.

What are your thoughts about the Intrigue card in which you can take another person's building, destroy it and pick a new building from Builder's Hall? I don't remember the exact wording or which expansion it is a part of.

I have found that to be a devastating card, almost insurmountable. What are your thoughts?

 
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