Board Game Reviews: Lords of Waterdeep

Board Games

Lords of Waterdeep is probably best described a medium- to light-weight worker placement game loosely based on the Dungeons and Dragons city of Waterdeep. For the uninitiated, a worker placement game is a mechanic where each player has a set number of tokens called “workers” or “meeples” that they then place in various spots on a board to either gain points or resources that will be used to gain points later.

In Waterdeep, you’re playing one of the Lords of this great city. Mechanically, this card simply tells you which types of quests (we’ll get into these later) score you extra victory points at the end of the game. If you want to add some extra flair to the game and don’t really care who wins, I would suggest roleplaying your character during the game. Obviously, this could break the game if people have played a few times because you can guess which Lord each person is playing and keep them from getting the quests they need. However, if you’re just looking to play a fun round without really caring about the scoring, this is a great way to do it. Further, it’s a fun way to play the game during your first few playthroughs before you really know the different Lords.

Before moving any further, we should probably talk about quests and Adventurers. At the beginning of the game you’ll be randomly given two quests and can acquire more quests by placing a worker in the tavern during your turn. Completing these quests is the main way you’ll score victory points. There are, if memory serves, five different categories of quests you can complete and two different types. The normal quests generally just score you points; however, there are some rare quests called Plot quests that do much more. A Plot quest will have text on it that gives you an extra reward upon completion. This will be something like “when you gain one cleric, gain two instead” or something to that effect. These are often super powerful because when you complete a Plot quest, you continue to receive its reward throughout the rest of the game. So, in the previous example, you will quickly amass quite the cleric army to complete many piety quests.

To complete quests, you’ll need to send your workers to the various places of Waterdeep and pick up adventurers. Adventurers come in four different colors (black, white, purple, and orange) that represent different adventurers (rogues, clerics, wizards, and warriors). You’re going to need quite a few of these little guys. Unfortunately, so does everyone else and, at least at the beginning of the game, there is only one slot per color to pick up new adventurers. That means, unless everyone ends up needing different colored adventurers, you’re going to be fighting over those spots in a bloodbath of worker placement. There are ways to open up the board later on, but before we talk about that, I should probably mention Encounter cards.

Like Quest cards, you’ll be getting two Encounter cards at the start of the game. These cards have many different uses during the game. Some get you extra Adventurers, while others force opponents to take on various Mandatory Quests that they have to complete before completing any other quest. These serve to slow players down who are getting out to a lead. My playgroup is generally pretty nice, so I haven’t seen many Mandatory Quests played, but they certainly serve a purpose. Similar to everything else in the game, you can’t just play an Encounter card willy-nilly. You have to spend a worker to play an Encounter; however, after everyone else has played all of their workers, you get to take back a worker used to play an Encounter card and replay them at another open spot on the board.

The final big mechanic you need to know about is the act of buying buildings. You can place a worker in the spot for purchasing buildings, buy one of the buildings available and place it in one of the open spots along the side of the board. When you do this, you claim that building, and from now on, anytime a player that isn’t you uses that spot, you get a tax paid to you from the bank. This can either be money or adventurers, but it is almost always something you’ll want. Sometimes a building is the best thing to purchase because it represents something that will likely get you extra resources for the rest of the game without having to use your own workers. Because those workers are so precious, that can be an important tactic for the middle to late game.

Those are the basics of the game, but how is it to play? In my experience, it’s extremely fun and varied. When telling new people about the game, I often call it the “next step up from Carcassonne”. It’s not a perfect statement, but it’s one that’s rung true in my plays. Carcassonne is a very casual game that has some strategy involved, but that strategy is fairly limited. Waterdeep takes that simple worker placement mechanic and adds quite a bit more in the many ways you can go about scoring points in the game. The obvious way is to just stockpile Adventurers and use them to complete quests and that’s certainly something you need to do. There’s just more than one way to skin the owlbeast, so to speak.

For instance, in one my plays, another player decided to mostly forgo doing anything besides buying buildings. Now, this made it obvious that he had the Lord card that gave him bonus victory points at the end for every building he owned. However, if I try to stop him from getting buildings, then I need to forgo my own strategy for winning. Also, by keeping him away from his tactic, then someone else has a much clearer path to to win the game with another strategy. You can see how the interplay between everyone’s various strategies forces you to constantly adapt your own in pursuit of victory.

That’s infinitely more varied strategically than something Carcassonne and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to me. In Waterdeep you’re able to have that same “gateway game” experience, while giving your brain something to really chew into. In truth, Waterdeep is often as deep as you want to make it. You can be just as successful with a very basic strategy as someone who’s played a hundred times. Obviously, the latter person is going to have an advantage, but if they don’t play it correctly, their newbie opponent can very easily steal a victory.

And that is an example of a good gateway game, in my opinion. It’s relatively easy to teach, but difficult to master. I’ve played the game quite a bit and I’m still constantly learning new strategies for play. Waterdeep has quickly become a constantly in-rotation game on my table and I would highly recommend that you go out and buy yourself a copy.

Should you buy it? ABSOLUTELY

A Game of Thrones Second Edition Play-through (Oct. 21)

Board Games

The idea behind this blog was to make a place for me to write about various things that interest me, with a focus on wrestling, video games and board games. However, so far its been mostly wrestling with a bit of Survivor theory-crafting thrown in. This can stand no longer and so, without further adieu, let’s talk about board games.

 

This post isn’t going to be a review of game, simply because it’s been a long time since my first experience with A Game of Thrones Second Edition, and I’d prefer for any reviews to be posted before I’ve starting digging into the deeper strategy behind a game. That way, my review better describes the experience a player will get as they’re learning the game and not be too in-depth for a newcomer to understand. With that said, when I do play games I like (and AGoT is a game I REALLY like) and have played more than a few times, I want to review the session, describe the various strategies used, and see if I can find new strategies through my analysis. Now that this is properly set up, let’s begin.

 

If you’ve never played A Game of Thrones Second Edition (AGoT, for short), here’s a quick primer to get you somewhat up to speed. This is a game of Westeros domination, with a heavy emphasis on diplomacy over straight war (the thinking man’s Risk). Basically, you start as one of six factions (or less if you’re playing with less players) and you attempt to control seven castles through warfare, treaties, and good, old-fashioned backstabbing. My group was at five players for this playthrough, so the Martells were left unused, as per the rulebook. I’ve spent the majority of my time with this game playing the Tyrells and using the fact that they start out somewhat away from the majority of players to eke out quite a few victories. However, in this game, I was playing the Baretheons, who I usually ally with until around turn seven before backstabbing them for a victory. Outside of a single case where one player just laid down for another to win, I think I’ve won every time I’ve played as the Tyrells and used that strategy.

 

However, that was working against me in this game. You see, grudges often build from game to game in AGoT and when you play with largely the same play group every time, you begin to get long-lasting enemies. This was precisely the case in last weekend’s game, as the player who’d I’d backstabbed a few months ago was now playing the Tyrells to my Baretheons and claimed from the very first turn that his only goal was “to end me.” Obviously, this was going to make it difficult for me to have a chance and I basically had to spend my first few turns doing nothing to try and appease him before I could make my moves.

 

In fact, the only real moves I made before turn six was to conquer both King’s Landing and The Eyrie while building up a formidable navy. Now, many players forgo upping their naval presence in favor of building as many horses and siege engines as possible. This can be an effective strategy, and I usually don’t push my navy quite as hard as I did this game. But I knew I’d have to strike quickly and having lanes for my army to quickly move from place-to-place and be in a good position. This would prove invaluable because no one could keep up with me as I darted around the map, putting me in a position to win in the seventh round.

 

However, I could not have done what I did without the strong play from both the Tyrells and the Greyjoys. Both of these players were veterans, with even more plays than me, and they both jumped out ahead of the pack. The Greyjoy player, in particular, looked strong and actually held six of the seven castles needed in the sixth round with what looked like an easy victory in front of him. With that in mind, I laid down my final movement commands, knowing that turn seven would be my only chance at pulling out an upset victory.

 

Things didn’t look too rosy for me when the turn began. Greyjoy had laid claim to the Iron Throne, meaning he was first on turn order. He immediately went after a Lannister castle, which would’ve been the winning move. However, the Lannister player had the Raven and was able to change one of her move orders before the attack. She changed a territory from defense to support and was able to hold onto victory against Greyjoy. The Tyrell player jumped in right after and attacked the Lannister castle while she was weak. He easily overtook the castle, but I still had moves to make. Knowing the Tyrells had just used a few of his stronger cards, I attacked the castle he had just taken from the Lannisters and won it away seconds after he’d acquired it. Then, I used that navy I spoke of earlier to move the bulk of my troops from The Eyrie to an open castle close to Sunspear. Finally, I used my final movement and my Valaryian Steel blade (+1 to attack) to take my last castle from the Tyrells.

 

Essentially, I moved from four castles and fourth place into first and the win in a single turn, taking three castles to get there. Obviously, without the Lannister’s solid Raven play, I wouldn’t have had a chance, but I felt like I played a very good game overall. I generally like to lay low and try to win the game with a few big moves at the end and that’s exactly what happened. AGoT seems to have quite a bit of leader bashing, at least among my group, making late wins paramount to success. With that said, my play probably wasn’t optimal considering I had to rely on another player to even have a chance. A better move might’ve been to use my navy to make a move on the Starks earlier in the game, using two of their castles to supplement my holdings in the South. With that said, it’s difficult to ever get mad at a win.

 

In the end, this game represented the things I love about AGoT. There was a major backstabbing between the Greyjoys and the Lannisters. I made three big moves to win the game in a single turn. I didn’t mention it earlier, but I did a fair amount of lying during Wildling attacks, which is always fun. I’m not sure if this is enjoyable to read, but I’ll continue doing these when the gameplay is interesting to me. However, I’m going to try to more reviews in the future, which shouldn’t be hard considering the number of board games I’ve purchased in recent months. Tell me what you think of AGoT in the comments and let me know about any interesting scenarios that have developed during your own playthroughs.