Dungeons & Dragons: Lords of Waterdeep
When Klaus Teuber introduced Settlers of Catan in 1995, the hobby gaming world was captivated by what is now known as the “Euro-game.” Many games using resource management and worker placement mechanics followed. These games were expertly crafted to be well-oiled game machines and often light in theme. On the other end of the gaming spectrum is the world of Dungeons & Dragons – specifically the Forgotten Realms. Originally created by Ed Greenwood and introduced in 1987, this fantasy “universe” offers a rich and vibrant world theme and immersion for role-players. What happens when one game form meets the other? Chemistry!
You are one of several Lords of Waterdeep with a secret objective, and you are vying against other influential lords for control of the city. To gain control you will send your agents out into locations in the city to recruit fighters, clerics, rogues and wizards to complete dangerous quests at your whim. Completed quests give you victory points and gold. Each Lord also has his or her own secret objectives as well. The Lord with the most victory points after 8 rounds of play is victorious.
Each turn, players assign “Agents” (D&Deeples as they have been named) to locations in the city of Waterdeep in order to seek out the adventurers needed to complete quests. If the player has the adventurers and or gold needed to complete that quest stored in their tavern on their play-mat, the quest is completed and victory points and gold are scored. After all the Lords in turn have placed their agents, gained their resources, and completed whatever quests they can, the round ends. Essentially, that’s all there is to a game round.
As in most “worker placement” games however, the interaction and competitive nature of the game reveals itself as each Lord seeks the same resources from the same locations to complete their quests. Only one Lord’s agent may occupy a building during a round – with some exceptions. So one important building an agent can visit is the Castle of Waterdeep – which give that agent’s Lord the First Player Marker. Being the first Lord to place an agent each round is a big deal.
Lords can also purchase buildings (chosen randomly from a stack) that can provide resources, as well as other game effects for Agents that visit them. Purchased buildings provide not only an additional location for Agents to visit and resources but also grant a resource bonus to the Lord that owns them.
Lastly, Lords can gain Intrigue cards, and by having their Agents visit Waterdeep Harbor can play them on other Lords; often times with negative effects. Intrigue cards add those powerful and unexpected effects and add another level of interaction between the Lords of Waterdeep.
The components of The Lords of Waterdeep are as vibrant ad they are useful. Every aspect of the game is expertly crafted and provides a perfect synergy between game play and each component’s functional use. The cards are easy to read and well illustrated with Dungeons & Dragons themed art from a host of staff illustrators. One of the standout aspects of the game is the box insert. Every component has its place, and the insert even has small indentations that allow easy access to cards and tokens with a simple push. It is among best storage inserts to date. (with Airlines Europe) What a pleasure!
Lords of Waterdeep has a low learning curve. The game can easily be taught in minutes, with an hour playing time – even for new players. Worker placement games traditionally have simple game phases. But the game’s complexity manifests itself in the form of play options or limitations as play progresses. In this game, the choices remain varied but they are manageable and steer the player toward a singular goal.
Who would enjoy this game?
Whether we like to admit it, there can be a deep separation between those folks that like to kick back with a good German board game and those gamers that play games to immerse themselves in the deep thematic plots the Forgotten Realms universe can offer. In fact, they are usually found in separate rooms at most gaming conventions. Was the idea to create a game that attempts to appeal to both of these groups? Does Lords of Waterdeep satisfy both these gamers’ itches?
In a word: no. Lords of Waterdeep can only be classified as a Euro-game. It is a derivative of worker-placement, resource gaining, and victory point tracking mechanics from many euro-games that have come before. This is not a D&D board game on the level of Wrath of Ashardalon. And any desire to roleplay, or imagine the small wooden cubes as small questing adventurers will fall a bit flat.
However, contrary to some opinions, the Forgotten Realms theme is not just “pasted on” but tightly woven into the mechanics to provide a fresh thematic journey for control of Waterdeep. So, what kind of game is this?
This is a game for anyone. No, it won’t turn a role-player into a euro-gamer or vice versa. But it strength lies in it’s accessibility. Perhaps the theme could have been anything, but its not. The vivid images and well conceived mix of variable player objectives, random Intrigue card draws and rich Forgotten Realms theme provides a perfect experience for those that have always wanted to try a euro, but found them too dry or technical.
Rarely has there been a game that combines so many enjoyable aspects from several sources, and still keep the game logical, compelling and accessible. Rodney Thompson and Peter Lee have created a gem: not for any one gamer type, but accessible to all. The Lords of Waterdeep is simply great fun.
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