Lords of Waterdeep
- Designer: Peter Lee & Rodney Thompson
- Players: 2-5
- Time: 60 Min
Have you ever wondered why all those elves, dwarfs and gnomes in fantasy adventures are always running about, kicking in doors and generally causing havoc for the nefariously inclined? Well, I did too until recently. As it turns out, they were all sent there from one of a handful of mercenary quest clerks sitting behind cushy desks in a town far removed from all the magic casting, monster slayings and plundering. Lord’s of Waterdeep proposes the concept of heroes for hire in a way that, on the surface, sounds bit lackluster, but at the same time… the game play is ironically satisfying.
Here’s how it works. Each of you will be taking on the roll of a lord with a handful of minions at your beckon call. Over the course of the game you will send these minions out into the town of Waterdeep to search for adventurers brave enough to embark on perilous quests. You increase your influence in the city, and the adventurers get to indulge in their need to hack, loot and kill anything that gets in their way. You may also find that your holdings within the city are not enough, and to fuel your continuing takeover you will need to purchase additional establishments of business. Of course your friends are welcome to frequent your facilities at any time, but it will come at a price. The buildings and board itself are exquisitely designed, depicting the town of Waterdeep in an ample amount of detail, and the technical aspects of the game play nicely with the artwork. However, the Dungeons and Dragons theme is merely a thin veil over a series of cog-like mechanics, and I would bet most who play think little about the game’s namesake as they place workers, snatch up cubes and move their marker around the score track. On the other hand, it does create a nice balance of feeding flavor text to those interested and doesn’t hit the casual player over the head with the lore. The fact that the intrepid souls you are recruiting to venture off on death-defying quests are simply colored cubes amusingly reflects the business-like nature of the role you are playing within the game. These warriors are just a means to an end for you, and what says faceless, nameless warrior more than a little wooden cube?
The straightforward objectives make this easily the most accessible Euro-style game on the market today. There are a lot of little bits and pieces, but they are fed to players in such manageable bites it’s very easy to swallow. A contributing factor is the realization that there is nothing new about Lords of Waterdeep. It takes familiar mechanics and distills them down further to a palatable experience that most people will enjoy. You know what you need to do to fulfill a quest, and you know what you will get in return. It’s that simple, and also one of the only worker placement-style games that doesn’t outstay its welcome. You can play a game in an hour and be totally satisfied with the experience. This not only leaves you free to play multiple games in a single sitting, but will encourage you to take it off the shelf time and again. If that weren’t enough, the Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport further increases the game’s re-playability and forces more player interaction into a fairly solitary game.
This is in fact a worker placement game, and those who are more analytical will appreciate the near perfect information presented to them as players take their turns. If you are looking for a narrative within the D&D-adorned box, you aren’t going to find one. The irony here is not lost on me, and my guess is many people may have been disappointed when they finally sat down to play; expecting harrowing tales from within the walls of the City of Splendor… and there were none to be found. If you’re looking for a story, you’ll need to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a fun and accessible resource management game set in a fantastically imaginative world, then Lords of Waterdeep is a perfect match.
Pros: Most Accessible Euro Game Ever, Easy to Play, Fun, Great Art, Re-Playability
Cons: Very Little Narrative, Can Be Solitary