June 28, 2014

Game Review: Lord for a Day

I tried the board game Lords of Waterdeep for the first time recently.

In this board game, produced by Wizards of the Coast, players assume the role of a lord of Waterdeep—“Waterdeep” in this case being the key city in Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting, as most D&D players would know.

I’m not going to provide a full synopsis of game play here, merely my impressions of the game and how play went. (You can find more detailed info on the game here.)

Style and Theme: The theme here was good. The art and maplike board affect a good fantasy feel, and any fan of the Realms will betreated to many familiar characters and place names. Our group had at least one player completely unfamiliar with the Realms, and the theme didn’t put him off any.

It is important to note that, at heart, this is really a more “economic” or “resource allocation” style game, and gameplay here has a very Eurogame feel.
Cubes—your main resource—are color coded to represent fighters, clerics, wizards, and thieves (D&D’s four food groups) that you, a hidden lord of the city, can dispatch on quests. Although the cubes represent adventurers, they’re still basically just colored cubes similar to those in many other eurogames, so the theme there was a tad like for me. White cubes for wizards and black cubes for thieves seemed apropos, but orange for fighters? (Maybe red would have been better?) After while, I didn’t play thinking “I need two more wizards to complete that quest” but rather “I need two more purple cubes.”

A sample quest might require, say, two gold pieces, three purple cubes (or, ahem, wizards), and two black cubes (thieves) to complete. Completing a quest earns you victory points, key to wining the game, and sometimes earn you other fringe benefits as well. One relatively minor quest I completed early on granted me a bonus Intrigue card every time I received purple cubes, which was often, and I soon found myself rolling in Intrigue cards! The aforementioned Intrigue cards spice up play, granting bonuses or hampering other players, so even though this is primarily a eurogame in feel there is some “take that!” element present. The game is not combative in feel, however, like the various RISK offshoots and such, which makes it very approachable to mixed group play.

Components: The components were top notch. The art was nice, the components and board were well produced, and the box tray was carefully designed to hold all components and cards. The card wells even have those wedges beneath, so a tap of a finger pivots a deck upwards for easy grasping—well done, WotC!

Lords of Waterdeep

Overall play: Overall play was fun, and made me want to play again soon. We played with five players, the maximum number, and everyone seemed to enjoy the game and everyone agreed they would happily play again. We had a mix of players with different game preferences at the table, so this is not insignificant. Moreover, it was a close race to the finish. We had a clear leader when points were tallied, but different players led in victory points at different times and it had the feel of a balanced, close game. The game’s first (only?) expansion Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport is also now being sold, and what I’ve read about it sounds extremely promising. So some longevity of play is there.

I’d recommend this game to anyone who likes lighter resource management games, such as Puerto Rico or Settlers of Catan, or lighter fantasy games. And any Forgotten Realms fan will appreciate the theme and names dropping therein, to be sure. Lords of Waterdeep solid thumbs up from me.

Those interesting in seeing the game in greater detail or getting an excellent overview of play should watch the video here, hosted by one of the game designers, Rodney Thompson.

Components: A
Theme: B+
Gameplay: B
Overall: B+

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