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Lords of Waterdeep (and its expansion)

Discussion in 'The Gazebo' started by Ulminati, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

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    I bought this back in december. I'd seen it around my FLGS for a while, but I wasn't sure what to make of it. After seeing it on tabletop, I decided to give it a go. And I'm glad I did, because it turned out to be a quite decent little timewaster. I've had around 20 games of this - 10 of which were the expansion.

    In the box:

    [​IMG]

    The contents are standard fare. The box contains a bunch of wooden markers (agents, score markers, cubes in 4 colours), some cardboard markers (points, coins), a sizable amount of playing cards (quests, intrigue, lords) and a playing board. The artwork on the components is quite nice, and the components feel good. (Cards are laminated, cardboard tokens are decently thick).
    The box also comes with a hilariously over-designed plastic insert. While everything fits perfectly into the insert, it only does so if you align every component in exactly the way the designers intended. If you toss away the insert and pour everythign into ziploc bags instead, you can unpack/clean up the game in half the time AND fit the expansion into the base set box with room to spare.

    The game is for 2-5 players (6 with the expansion), although we've found it works best with 3-4 people. Playtime is somewhere between 45min and 1h30min, depending on the number of players and how new they are to board games.

    Game overview:

    The game is a worker placement game. Initial comparisons to Agricola are hard to avoid but - both to its credit and detriment - LoWD is a much simpler game. The game lasts for 8 rounds. During a round, players place one of their agents - the exact number of agents available to a player depends on the number of players in the game - on one of the marked locations on the board. Only one agent can occupy a locations at any given time. A locations will then give the player some sort of benefit - typically in the form of resources. For instance, the Blackstaff Tower will give the player who place an agent on it a wizard; the Fields of Triumph will yield a pair of Fighters; Castle Waterdeep will give you the first player marker (meaning you go first every round until someone else takes it) and an Intrigue card and so forth.

    After placing your agent, you may complete one of your active quests, if you meet its prerequisites. There are 5 base resources in the game: Fighters, Thieves, Wizards, Priests and Coins. These match up with the 5 quest categories: Warfare, Skullduggery, Arcana, Piety and Commerce. Warfare quests always require fighters to solve, arcana always requires wizards and so forth. Quests allow you to exchange a specific combination of resources for a benefit. Most quests yield victory points, but many also yield resources in return. For instance, the "Patrol the Docks" quest requires a number of fighters and priests, but yields a number of thieves in addition to victory points. (If you want to LARP it, you apprehended some thieves who now work off their debt to society for you). Early in the game, quests that yield adventurers are usually more valuable than quests that only yield points, as this allows you to quickly chain multiple quests together. Other quests are marked as "Plot Quests" and give a persistent bonus once they're completed. For instance, "Produce a miracle for the masses" requires a bunch of priests, a wizard and some gold. It gives you a small amount of victory points but - much more importantly - allows you to convert a non-priest adventurer to a priest whenever you place an agent on a location that gives you one or more priests. Since wizards/priests are typically more valuable than fighters/thieves, the quest can yield you a substantial amount of free resources if you manage to complete it early in the game.

    Player interaction happens in 3 ways. First, you can block other players by placing agents in locations they desire. For instance, if player A has a bunch of quests requiring wizards, it may be worth placing your agent in Blackstaff Tower first to deny them the ability to finish an early plot quest. More interesting are the aforementioned Intrigue cards. You typically acquire these in Castle waterdeep when taking the first player marker or in addition to picking up a quest in the White Cliff Inn. You play these intrigue cards by placing an agent in the Waterdeep Harbor to give yourself an advantage or to mess with the plans of other players by stealing their resources or giving them "mandatory" (aka "bullshit") quests that they must finish before they can score the quests they actually want to solve. Agents placed in the harbour are reassigned at the end of the round into non-harbour spaces, so they are often desirable - but not as desirable as locations that yield resources critical to your quests. This keeps the amount of intrigue cards played in a game fairly high. The last and most interesting way that player interaction occurs is through buildings. By placing your agent in Builders Hall and paying a sum of coins, you are allowed to take one of the 3 random face-up buildings and put it into play along with a token that shows you built it. Builders hall buildings usually yield more resources than the regular locations on the playing board. But whenever a player other than the one who built the building places an agent on it, the person who built it also earns bonus resources. Like plot quests, an early building can yield the player that made it a substantial amount of free resources over the course of a game if other players keep entering it. At the start of every round, a point token is added to every face-up building int he builders hall. Since they add up over time, "undesirable" buildings become more interesting to buy as the game progresses and bonus points build up on them.

    At the end of the 8th round, players tally up their final score. In addition to points gained throughout the game from quests and buildings, players also score points for left over adventurers and coins in their tavern. Although less than they would have scored by using the adventurers and coins to complete a quests. Every player is also dealt a "Lord" card at the start of the game, which is revealed during the final step. The lord card details a bonus condition (usually specific types of quests) that grant them bonus points. Correctly guessing which lord an opponent has early on allows you to block their access to quests that would give them bonus points at the end of the game, so it pays to pay attention to what kinds of quests other players are collecting.

    (Re)playability:

    Like most worker placement games, LoWD is all about deciphering which locations are most valuable to work. Since every player has the same number of agents, the player who places his agents on the most valuable locations scores the most points and thus wins the game. However, the value of locations is not fixed. As a rule of thumb is 1 Wizard = 1 Priest = 2 Thieves = 2 Fighters = 4 Coins = 4 VP, assuming the resources are used to fulfill a quest. But many factors modify the "value" of resources: some locations give other players resources, the value of plot quests and building buildings is directly related to how many turns have passed, multiple players having lords that give bonus points for the same specific type of quests, buildings coming into play that make certain resources easier to acquire, intrigue cards and so forth. The buildings in particular change what resources are highly contested and 20 games in the game is still fairly fresh and compelling for my group.

    We do have some grievances with the game of course. Mandatory Quests in particular suffer from the fact that they don't give the player who plays them any advantages; they just hinder someone else. This means that if you're in last place, all they're good for is being kingmaker, letting someone else win the game at the expense of another. We've messed around with house rules to try and fix this, but we've yet to find a satisfactory solution. The game is also a bit too random in regards to the lords you're dealt. A player who starts with a warfare/x lord and the plot quest that generates fighters to complete more warfare quests will be at a huge advantage over a player who drew an arcana/commerce lord and 2 piety quests. We fixed this to some degree by introducing card drafting to the start of the game. In the normal rules, every player is dealt a lord, 2 quests and 2 intrigue cards. In drafting, the 4 quests in the inn are revealed along with the 3 buildings in builders hall. Then every player is dealt 2 lords, 3 quests and 3 intrigue cards. Every player keeps his lords, a quest and an intrigue card and passes the other cards clockwise. He then keeps a quest and intrigue card from the new cards he recieves from the player to his right and discards the other. He then discards one of his lords. This allows everyone to build some sort of strategy for the first couple of turns instead of relying on the luck of the draw. In our experience, this has led to closer and more interesting games.

    Scoundrels of Skullport expansion:

    With the base game receiving a warm reception among my cardboard mutilation companions, I figured I'd go and get the expansion pack as well. The expansion pack contains multiple components that can be added to the game either in parts or all together.

    First, it contains a new player colour with the associated tokens to play with 6 players instead of 5. It also includes an additional agent of every colour, allowing players to play a "long" game by giving everyone an additional agent at the start. The long game is also more or less mandatory if you play with all of the expansions, as they introduce a bunch of new locations to place agents. Without the additional agents, there will be precious few "bad" locations to force other players agents into.

    The meat of the expansion is the Undermountain and Skullport expansions though. Both add new locations quests, intrigue cards, lords and buildings. You remove a number of cards and buildings from the base game and shuffle the expansion cards in. The rules say you should pick the cards and buildings to remove at random, but I would advice against this. It is all too easy to end up completely screwing over certain types of lords by removing only buildings/cards that they would benefit from. I would recommend going to boardgamegeek instead and grabbing the quite excellent list of cards to remove that one of their users made. It removes a combination of the "best" and "worst" cards and buildings from the game, eliminating the no-brainer choices and leading to more interesting decisionmaking overall.

    Undermountain adds a new board with several new locations. These are basically more of the same, with nothing new. If the base game wasn't compelling for you, undermountain won't change that. The sole new mechanic it introduces is quests, intrigue cards and building where part of the action involves taking a resource from the bank and placing it on a location on the board. This can be used to make locations more enticing for the next player to place an agent on -- typically to lure other players into your buildings so you can reap the owners benefits.

    The real gem of the expansion is skullport. It introduces new quests, intrigue cards, locations, buildings and lords just like undermountain. But they all contain a new machanic as well: Corruption.

    [​IMG]

    Corruption is a resource just like adventurers and coins. But unlike other resources, corruption is a "bad" resource. At the end of the game, every point of corruption gives you negative victory points. How many negative victory points it gives you depends on how much corruption has been taken from the corruption track and put into play. Early in the game, the -1 or -2 VP a point of corruption is worth makes it seem well worth the cost. Why go to the Fields of Triumph for 2 fighters when you can go tot the Slave Market for 2 fighters AND 2 thieves (and a teeny little bit of corruption)? Ad the game progresses however, corruption builds up and suddenly you're sitting with 5 corruption tokens, worth -6VP each and wondering how the fuck you got there. There are ways to get rid of your corruption - typically through quests of intrigue cards But they are highly sought after, fought over and consume your actions to play. There are also ways to force corrupt players into even deeper pits of corruption, or performing powerful actions at the expense of gaining more corruption. The most interesting actions are the ones that allow you to take corruption from your tavern and place it somewhere on the board. Do you have the First Player token? Would you like to keep it? How about placing some corruption on Castle Waterdeep to discourage other players from going there. LoWDs strength is the way the value of locations is in constant flux. Skullport adds a lot to this. It is for thisreason we're always playing with skullport in my group after trying it once.

    Final thoughts:

    Lords of Waterdeep is not a complex game. Some people - especially Agricola players - find it too simplistic. There are other games on my shelf I turn to if I'm in the mood for deep, complex strategy games. But there is a time and a place for LoWDs simplicity as well. It is easy to teach new players, and even younger gamers can join in. The dungeons and dragons fluff is pleasant enough for people who are into Forgotten Reals, but stays enough in the background that people who don't care about dungeons and dragons won't feel alienated. There is a large degree of randomness in the luck of the draw. It is easily for a player to be at a distinct disadvantage to another simply because a building that's really good for one player was finished early in the game. While the player interaction is fairly high thanks to intrigue cards, it is quite possible to find yourself in a position where one player is clearly surging ahead, but you have nothing on hand that can slow him down.

    If you're not too competitive I found LoWD makes for a nice, casual worker placement game in a pleasant wrapping. As an added bonus, my family seems to adore it almost as much as Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Smallworld and Dominion. While there are several other strategy games I like better than LoWD, it is a decent enough game that doesn't take forever to finish and I'm almost guaranteed to have someone who's willing to play against me.

    If you'd like to give LoWD a spin but don't fancy paying the full price of cardboard, there is an app of the game for phones and tablets that will leave less of a dent on your beer budget.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
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  2. Jaedar Arcane Patron

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    Nice post. I think I'll pick this up if I see it in a local store(because I too saw it on tabletop).
     
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  3. DakaSha Self-Ejected

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    have it on tablet. fun for what it is TM
     
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  4. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    I just received it as an early Christmas gift. I’ll see if I like it and consider getting the expansion later, depending on how difficult it will be to find it here.
     
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  5. Think big! Smoking Dicks

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    Yedo is Lords of Waterdeep in Japan, but better, imo.
     
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  6. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

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    The expansion greatly improves the game. Corruption is a great mechanic. Especially when you get intrigues that allow you to place corruption on other players buildings.

    Also, fuck cubes. Get dndeeples!

    [​IMG]

    If you want to go all out, Tzolkin has nice blue skulls for the corruption track. And there was a kickstarter for metal coins that got funded:
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    Oh, we’d like to get the expansion but board games in this country are as rare as truth and honesty in a political speech. It was already a stroke of luck to find the base game at all. As soon as I can, I will get it though since I became quite fond of it.
     
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  8. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

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    If you haven't already, be sure to try out drafting (see my original post in this thread). Once everyone gets familiar with the game, it helps out immensely with evening out the playing field at first. Nothing sucks like getting shitty intrigues, a Warfare/Piety lord and 2 25-point Arcana/Skullduggery quests to start you out. Once you do get the expansion, you have to remove a number of quests/cards/buildings from the base game. For that purpose, there's this file: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/96813/cards-remove-when-playing-both-expansions

    The rules only specify you have to remove X intrigues, Y quests and Z buildings. The BGG document has a solid suggestion on what to remove. (Manly the stuff that no-one ever wants to get and an equal number of commerce/warfare/arcana/skulldugery/piety cards to make sure no lords are at an advantage).

    2 of the lords in the expansion (Halaster, the Illithid whose name I forget) also warrant warning new players about. They get points for undermountain/skullport quests respectively. There's a small icon on quest cards that denote which kind they are, and they can be very easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2015
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  9. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    I had already seen it but thanks. It’ll still have to wait for whenever I can get the expansion though.
     
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  10. TigerKnee Prophet

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    I got the game on iOS and I thought the base game was kind of weak (compared to like Agricola), but I guess with this review I might consider dropping some coins on the expansions (which I think exists) if there's a sale.
     
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  11. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

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    I can't speak for the ios version. But board games tend to be more fun against people than AIs. :P
     
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  12. Occasionally Fatal Prophet

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    The iOS version is quite well done. Great UI, and easy to pass back and forth with friends while on a plane or bus ride. If you like the board version and have an iPad (or apparently, an iPhone, not sure if that's any good), it's a good pick up. It also appears the expansions have indeed made their way to the digital format as well.
     
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  13. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    The wife got me Scoundrels of Skullport as a birthday gift. I knew that getting married would eventually pay off.
     
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  14. Agesilaus Arcane

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    Agreed, iOS version is solid. I wouldn't say that I love the game, but it is fun. The app is very high quality, too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
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  15. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    Just a heads-up: Playdek converted the iOS app to Unity so it can run on Android and PC. While originally planned for release today, the new version will be made available on all three platforms on Monday.
     
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  16. LESS T_T Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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  17. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator Patron

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    Is this any good to play? (I like card/board games).

    :M
     
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  18. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    Digital version got delayed (again), and from the looks of it we have to wait until Friday.

    It is a very nice worker placement game. The mechanics are simple and easy to pick up but offer you some interesting choices all along, and it scales well with various numbers of players—my wife and I sometimes play it just the two of us, and while more players lengthen the game, it also makes it more interesting. That said, it’s also fast-paced, and we once completed a three-players game in 20 to 30 minutes once everyone knew how it worked. And the whole thing is simply gorgeous with very high quality production values. The theme will also probably appeal to the average Codex dweller, although strangely enough hardcore D&D fans complain that the theme isn’t strong enough and those with little interest in fantasy complain that it feels intrusive since they know little about D&D.

    The expansion is also good and comes in two modules: the Undermountain adds more of the same, and Skullport adds the corruption mechanic which is just brilliant: the idea is to allow you to get a lot of ressources right away and pay later by also taking corruption, but the more corruption is in play and the more of a penalty it will inflict, so you always have that temptation to pick more corruption up but it may end up biting you in the ass later, which is the kind of choice good game mechanics should be about.

    The only aspect that doesn’t work all that well is the fact that your lord’s identity is kept secret during the game: it is only a secret at the start since you’ll start to collect and complete quests of a certain type and it will soon be obvious what your lord’s objectives are. Still, the expansions add a bit more variety to let others guess, but even then knowing the identity of a lord doesn’t really change much. But aside from that, the rest of the game is solid.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
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  19. LESS T_T Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Out now.
     
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  20. Gragt Arcane Patron

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  21. Haba Harbinger of Decline Patron

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    Can you play cross-platform? I.e. one on PC, one on iPad or someshit?

    HTPC hasn't really been the best way to play those so far.
     
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  22. Gragt Arcane Patron

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    As far as I know, playing cross-platform is possible since it uses Playdek’s own network; you only need to create a Playdek account. I know this is possible for Twilight Struggle so it should be possible with Lords of Waterdeep.
     
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  23. Haba Harbinger of Decline Patron

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    The game is pretty simplistic in the end. There is a limit to interesting tactics. The best I could come up was to get the plot quest that gives you two victory points whenever you play an Intrigue Card. Then I completed the plot quest that gives you a free Intrigue Card whenever you draw a wizard resource.

    Then finally I followed up with the quest that allows you to draw and immediately play an Intrigue Card as a "free action" whenever you use action that lets you play an Intrigue Card. So essentially you get to play one extra card every time.

    After that, I could essentially just farm victory points without turning in any quests. And the bountiful Intrique Cards allowed me to constantly sabotage the other players so they couldn't farm quests.

    Ended up winning with 150 point lead.

    The PC version UI certainly still is not quite there when it comes to hot seat play. Why doesn't anyone allow us to just show the board on the TV and let the players interface with their smart phones/tablets?

    Still better to buy the actual board game if you want to play with friends.
     
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  24. Jason Liang Cipher

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    I'm really addicted to the digital version of this game (finished ~60 games in 1 week). I think I will write a strategy guide for it. The design is actually terrific, both overall mechanics as well as the card design details themselves. I'm especially impressed with the Commerce and Skulduggery lords since the gameplay fits those concepts dead on. Skulduggery lords are the most challenging and advanced to play and of the 11 basic lords the Commerce/ Skulduggery lord (Nymara Scheiron) is the most challenging to play but also the most satisfying once you figure it out. The jew lord (Mirt the Moneylender) is also fun as hell to play. Halaster's pretty fun too.

    I mostly play 6 player long games with the Undermountain expansion only. The AI doesn't seem written to deal with corruption, i.e. it doesn't try hard to get rid of its corruption tokens.

    The AI could be a little better but it isn't terrible. On cunning, it knows to cockblock you from the resources you need to finish your quests and will gangbang the shit out of you as well. Also, a well-timed mandatory mission before your last turn:( It just doesn't know how to abuse shit like Defend the Yawning Portal and Jailbreak. It does know to abuse Diplomatic Mission to Sezail, I guess that shit is so simple even AI can figure it out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
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  25. Gay-Lussac Arcane

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    I played this a ton on steam with friends over the internet and Discord. Great digital board game.
     
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