Sunday, June 16, 2013

Miscellany: Lords of Waterdeep review

"Lords of Waterdeep" is a Dungeons & Dragons-flavored board game set in the city of Waterdeep. As one of the titular Lords, each player competes for influence and power within the city by hiring adventurers (i.e., fighters, rogues, clerics, and wizards), creating buildings, and completing quests. At the end of the game, a player gets a victory point for each hired adventurer, victory points for completed quests, and a special victory point bonus depending on which Lord they are playing as (which is kept secret from the other players). The player with the most victory points wins:

At first glance, it seems fairly odd to graft a European-style boardgame design onto the D&D license. After all, D&D is all about exploring dungeons, fighting monsters, and looting treasure. These concepts typically don't work inside a Eurogame framework, which eschews player elimination and direct competition. "Lords" avoids these pitfalls because it's really a resource management game. Though the D&D stuff isn't exactly ignored (each quest, building, and card is appropriately flavored), the game mechanics boil down to who can accumulate resources and spend them in the most efficient way.

To this end, each player gets a limited number of actions and makes interesting choices each turn: do you spend your time hiring new adventurers? Grabbing new quests to undertake? Building stuff that'll make it easier to hire more adventurers later? Hindering your opponents? This is all cerebral fun, but it's maybe not the bloodletting or treasure-hunting some people expect from a D&D-based game.

Bottom line: if you like Eurogames like "Settlers of Catan," you'll probably like "Lords of Waterdeep." There's a certain satisfaction in completing big expensive quests (like raiding the Undermountain), and you seldom feel like you're losing so badly that you can't recover. Plus, the components here are excellent, with a nice gameboard representing the city, good artwork on the cards (hey, it's Wizards of the Coast), and even a great box insert that keeps all the little tokens and cards organized. However, if you're looking for a game with hitpoints, armor, damage, or even monsters, look elsewhere.


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