Friday, June 7, 2013

First Look: Another D & D boardgame: Lord of Waterdeep

Let me preface the following remarks by reminding my loyal, faithful, readers that when I reference a first look I am describing a game I have played on a limited basis, providing reasons why I did or did not care for the game, some elements I may have found interesting, and finally telling whether I will play it again. Later on, I might provide a rebuttal, especially if extended play reveals a broken game mechanism or element. ****************** I'm not a real fan of placement games. You know where you and your opponents take turns placing tokens, taking up available spaces and some sort of privilige or resource before the other guy can do so. However, my friend, Marty, brought this one to a small gathering (there were three of us) and we played this one twice. It is published by Wizards of the Coast and set in a D&D setting, but doesn't really have any RPG type elements.

Players have two tokens (agents) at the beginning of the game. They recruit adventurers (which serve as primary resources) of various colors. It isn't really important to know that the purple cubes stand for cleric and the black cubes represent rogues, etc. When a player places his token on a space he might earn cubes, gold or a card, or a privilige.. he might also purchase building which come into play under his control and therefore obtains a benefit should any player place his token onto that building. Gaining gold and various color cubes is important because players earn victory points and some other benefits by completing quests. Every quest requires an expenditure of resources, whether gold or cubes. Some quests have ongoing benefits for the remainder of the game. Some provide a return of adventurer cubes and\or gold. Harder quests reward with large victory point payment. Players are able to see, for the most part, who is winning the game, but that, of course, changes as the game progresses. I say that players can see who is winning for the most part because every player has a "secret" Lord which provides various alternative objectives. For example, each completed quest with the piety trait might provide a Lord with extra victory points at the end of the game, so there is some secret stuff. At the heart of the game are the intrigue cards. These cards are typically "stick-it-to-your-opponent" cards or they provide some much needed assistance. These cards may take cubes from other players, provide a player with extra cubes, or allow some other action that affects the game. The limitation is that in any game round only three intrigue cards can be played because a player must place his token on the space to play that card and there are only three spaces. However, another cool feature is to allow the players who choose to RE-ASSIGN tokens places on that space AFTER all the normal placement for the turn is complete. I found myself struggling to find a proper strategic balance in this one. In the first game I was always short of gold and so in the second game I found myself using placements that would earn me gold. In the first game I owned and controlled no building, in the second game I was the player who owned and controlled the most buildings. In the first game I fought hard to complete quests and was ahead of the other players for most of the game. Honestly, I did not find the right strategic balance, but I can see that it is there, but there is some chaotic stuff going on based on the other players using intrigue cards or placing on the space that I need-- so I can see that the best laid plans of mice and players can easily be messed up, usually unintentionally. I can see that a FIVE player version of this game (the maximum) would be very, very difficult and perhaps frustrating. We played three and I felt it was well balanced for a three player game because two players could not agree to tag-team a third player. It doesn't look like a two player game would be much fun, but I will reserve a solid opinion until I see such. All in all, my first two games were enjoyable and we asked our friend to bring it to our next session. It looks like it might be a nice game to add to our rotation and thus far we've enjoyed it. However,

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