Lords of Waterdeep

If you’ve heard the name, but never played the game, than this review is for you.  Before I delve into a lengthy description let me state this for the record:

To date, this is the best boardgame I have ever played!

That said, the Lords of Waterdeep board game sat, wrapped in cellophane upon my game shelves for almost two months before we finally decided to crack it open.  I think the terrible cover art kept scaring me away, I’m sorry but I hail from the days of Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.  Anyway, I finally gathered the courage to tear away the slick cellophane skin, and that’s what matters.

Cracking open the box was a pleasure, albeit a bit intimidating.  This is actually where I would drop my first tasty tidbit of advice:

Do not let the number of pieces or supposed complexity of this game scare you away!  It’s not as difficult as it looks!

Granted, after popping out all the little cardboard pieces, sorting them, along with the painted wooden figures and cubes, it was a challenge to figure out what did what.  Luckily we had a beautiful red-headed lawyer on hand to help us sort through the rules and figure out how to play.  And this is where my next bit of advice christens this blog post:

If you have a friend who knows how to play, ask them to teach you!

This will at least speed up game play and expedite your learning time.  Alternatively you could simply watch this Youtube video which I highly recommend:


Game Instructions and Rulebook can be found here in PDF format!

 

Now that you have a little background on how the game works, I can continue!

 

THE GOOD

So, we set up and stumbled through the rules for a bit, but gradually got the swing of things.  Before long we were in the thick of it.  To the point where every person’s move could positively or adversely affect the subsequent player’s moves.  This is where things got interesting.  I found myself perched in my chair as if I was a black leather-clad rogue skirting the rooftops of Waterdeep, looking down and pondering my next move in this massive metropolis.  Occasionally someone would make a move which would completely throw off my game and I leapt from my perch, tumbling down many levels toward the rough cobblestone below only to prematurely feel my face come in contact with the far too thin plush carpeting of my home in real life.  I phrase things as such because most board games do exactly what their name personifies… bore me.  I have been bored out of my mind playing “classic” board games, and newer games like Settlers of Catan are great fun, but I still don’t find myself getting lost in the game and “on edge”, watching every player’s move.  Lords of Waterdeep does that for me.

Typically I’m a GM or player in tabletop RPGs like D&D 3.5 or Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG.  Lords of Waterdeep did what I never thought possible, it pulled me out of my mundane existence and thrust me smack into the middle of a fast paced, and dangerous vie for power in a metropolitan beautiful city set in Ed Greenwood’s classic Forgotten Realms setting.  I bet a creative DM could easily incorporate a game of Lords of Waterdeep into their regular gaming session to great success.  If you do this (or have done this) please leave a comment below, I would LOVE to know how it went!

Now, all I have set thus far about this game is good.  It’s time to touch upon a few of the downers this game had.

 

THE BAD

The Ambassador

The rules regarding the Ambassador and how you are supposed to play him are confusing and can be interpreted a few different ways.  Because of this there has been a major argument between players at every running of the game.  It has escalated to the point where the Ambassador is now removed from the game prior to play to prevent continued confusion and disagreements.  It would have been nice if WotC discovered the erroneous text during their playtest and either rephrased or removed this piece entirely from the game.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Ambassador and find it a great twist to the game, but my fellow players did not find things as amusing as I, plus some disagreed (and others agreed) with my interpretation of the rules as presented.  Basically, a pain in the ass game piece is what this is.

 

Missing Intrigue

The game takes place in a huge city, where the Lords of Waterdeep do not even reveal their true identities.  With so much mystery and supposed intrigue I expected the game to be rife with it.  Sadly, it was not.  There were no special cards that allowed me to hatch elaborate plots on my fellow players, no dark deeds done in abandoned warehouses or hidden alleyways.  Yes, there were a few, but they were simplistic explanations performed on cards with little flavor and even less creativity.  Perhaps future expansions will hold some new advanced rules for those of us which hope to reach outside the mundane and into the world of the wicked!

 

Colored Cubes

Each of the colored cubes represents a different class: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric.  While this is easy to figure out, the game quickly degrades into “I’ll take one white and two blacks.”  Well, that just ripped me straight out of the illusion of being in a fantasy world.  Luckily, there’s a website online which crafts custom pieces for you to use in your games, colored icons which have the words “FIGHTER” and “CLERIC” printed directly upon them. I found some other game accessories here as well.  Let me toss the link up for your hard core gamers of board out there:  http://dapperdevil.com/product/lords-waterdeep-class-tokens

 

THE CONCLUSION:

Overall this game is totally worth the asking price.  You will get countless hours of enjoyment from a single game, and every game is totally different than the last!  Wizards of the Coast may have failed (in my book) with D&D 4th edition and some of their recent products, but if this is any indication of their delve into board games, you can count me among those willing to drop a pretty penny (or platinum) for the next release.  A round of applause from my fellow players and personal family for the team which put together this game.  Here, Here!

The minor perils and pitfalls of the game did diminish the overall enjoyment slightly (including an argument with my wife over the Ambassador), and I did miss out on some of that good old “intrigue” mentioned in the game’s description, thus I give the game 4.5 out of 5 stars.  Perhaps future rule clarifications and a future expansion shall clear this up, in which case I will revisit this post and up the total to the amount I truly wanted to grant this game.  Buy Lords of Waterdeep by clicking here, and a portion goes to support NERD TREK and reviews like this one.

Well done Wizards of the Coast!  Your new board games and Magic cards have brought me back!

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games / AdventureAWeek.com, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.