17 December 2020
Rolling in the Waterdeep, again
There are board games that are the stand out of its genre. Legacy games are mentioned in the same breath as Pandemic or Gloomhaven. Any discussion of deckbuilding is impossible without Dominion. Think of hidden agenda games and the Resistance immediately comes to mind. The worker placement genre is exceptionally rich with standout beloved games and one of them is Lords of Waterdeep.
Waterdeep opens its city gates to every player. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons are beckoned with the re-imagining of this beloved setting. Unlike the traditional set up of D&D, in Waterdeep players are not rogues, clerics, wizards or thieves going on an adventure. Instead, they are lords of Waterdeep, looking to thrive in this bustling city and are in charge of the various adventuring parties. As Lords of Waterdeep is still very much a Eurogame, some of its elements are abstracted: for example, adventuring parties are cubes, where colours represent classes. The process of completing quests is a simple exchange of resources for victory points, however, quest names, like little Easter Eggs, relate back to Waterdeep lore. It is almost impossible to restrain yourself from coming up with little stories recounting the adventures of the domestication of owlbears or luring the artisans of Mirabar.
Waterdeep is equally welcoming to board game newcomers. The lore and the reference are there, but they are the special nods to the fans, not prerequisite to enjoying the stay in Waterdeep. The game’s core gameplay is also distilled to the essence of worker placement mechanic: place your meeple on the spot on the board and gain the corresponding resource or action. Every benefit is clearly integrated into the Waterdeep map, making it easier to orientate yourself and plan ahead.
The ease of play does not come at the expense of depth of strategy. Those who really love to sink their teeth into the gameplay and come up with different pathways to winning will find Waterdeep streets equally bountiful. There are many quests to be completed, buildings to be constructed and, of course, scheming to be done. Owning a combination of right buildings could ensure a continuous generation of resources, while Waterdeep Harbour offers players special powers that could help complete a quest or sabotage the opposing lords. Even when you think you have explored every nook and cranny of this city, you will discover a powerful combination of quest or building powers that will make you re-think your previous strategies and try something new.
Lords of Waterdeep comes in a slickly designed game box. The components are displayed like a little exhibit: every piece fitted into its exact indent in the insert, carefully arranged to showcase the richness of component range. Although the components are quite simple – coloured timber cubes, cardboard coins and rubies – it is still very satisfying to pour them out in the colourful piles on the board. The beauty of the insert arrangement does come with a slight downside: coins and rubies are fiddly and take practiced fingers to fit in their insert space.
Apart from that, there is very little to nit-pick in Lords of Waterdeep. It has a fantastic theme that infuses with its gameplay, without becoming overbearing. The rules themselves are easy enough to pick up, even with very little gaming experience or knowledge. But with every play, it unfolds with new possibilities and strategies. This, without a doubt, makes Lords of Waterdeep one of the best games to introduce someone to the worker placement genre or even board gaming itself.
Lords of Waterdeep is a genre defining worker-placement game that easily caters to players of all experiences.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED STONE AGE...
Stone Age is another pillar of the worker placement genre, and together with Lords of Waterdeep they are great gateway games into the hobby.
Words by Alexandra Sonechkina
Designer: Peter Lee & Rodney Thompson
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Time: 1-2 hours
WHATS IN THE BOX
- 1 Board
- 5 Card stock player mats
- 100 Adventurer cubes
- 33 Wooden pieces
- 121 Cards
- 170 Die-cut pieces
This review originally appeared in Issue 44 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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