Gloom of Kilforth: Lords of Waterdeep - NinjaDorg gets his arse kicked

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lords of Waterdeep - NinjaDorg gets his arse kicked

Her irony loaded words filled me with a heady mixture of expectation management but also pride:

“Okay then, let’s get this boring board game over with so we can watch another episode of The Walking Dead.”

My wife is not a gamer. Not by any stretch. And I wouldn't have it any other way. She kind of benignly sees my board game addiction as a much more preferable alternative to me getting sloshed down the pub every Saturday watching footie with the lads. So once every blue moon she’ll indulge me when a new title lands and I can’t wait until Thursday game night to break it out.

After struggling to resist a nebulous magnetism in Merric’s early preview reports on Lords of Waterdeep - and failing miserably it has to be said - I pulled the trigger on an Amazon pre-order. When Lords of Waterdeep arrived at my FLGS and sat there taunting me after Amazon had said it would be two more weeks before delivery, I paid the extra few quid and picked up a copy of LoW there and then, and cancelled my Amazon pre-order.

As an ardent Brit-trasher I’d been looking for a decent Euro for a long time and the theme of this one was irresistible. Especially considering the many hours of my youth I’d given over to travelling this imaginary city or indeed hosting adventures in it. Or reading books about it. Yeah Waterdeep figures pretty heavily in that respect. So when I laid out the map board for this new game I got a weird nostalgia rush for the old City System Waterdeep boxed set, and an old AD&D campaign I ran where the players invaded the city’s keep. Great days.

Well here we were now fighting to save the city and exercise control over it. My wife was blissfully oblivious to all of this back story of course, it was just coloured cube gathering and card playing. I ran through the simple rules quickly and dealt out the Lord cards, then had an ‘oops’ moment. I’d drawn Larissa Neathal – the one ‘different’ Lord who gives bonus points for Buildings at the end of the game.

“So you’ll see you’ve got two types of quest there that you need to aim for without telling me what they are. Oh, and by the way there’s also a Lord who gives bonuses for building buildings too, just so’s you knows...”

I briefly mulled over the consequences of beating her mercilessly by just buying buildings the whole game whilst she struggled for quests. Well if off the back of that she decided never to play again we’d always have Forbidden Island (which went over quite well that one time we played it all those months ago) or, um, Walking Dead season 2. In any case it was her first game of LoW but I decided not to hold back as it was my first game too.

As first player I* decided to try and grab gold to get some buildings going, so I popped a little wooden dude down at Aurora’s and added four gold to my supply.

With her first move she bought a building.

D’oh!

Okay, not a problem, there are seven more rounds to go yet, and other ways to get buildings too.

As the game moved swiftly on we took turns to place our little guys and grab coloured cubes and the ‘theme’ of the game slipped away pretty quickly – I still don’t know which coloured guys are which. Although the fighters all inexplicably wear orange iirc. Basically, it may as well have been a bunch of farmers and sheep, though I probably would not have bought the game if it were...

My wife was completing an alarming number of quests, and especially plot quests, and seemed to somehow be getting cubes faster than I could. Her VP token was ahead of mine for the whole game and I realised I still needed to complete regular quests to win. As I focussed on questing she handily yoinked the first player token from me and kept it for the rest of the game.

So I hit her back with a few intrigue cards as and when I could to keep her in check.

“Bam - give me your purple cube!”

Then she started to hit me back with her own intrigue cards, nicking my guys and plopping annoying mandatory quests on top of me.

“Bam yourself – stop being a dick!”

Suddenly it was round 5 and our fifth agents came into the game – time was really flying. I only had a couple of buildings and gold was hard to come by, so I focussed almost exclusively on dominating the Builder’s Hall. As I got increasingly desperate for effective moves she seemed to be breezing through and completing quests which had really big requirements and gave really big rewards. Soon she had her 100 VP token whilst I straggled behind. I took solace as I put the finishing touches to my fifth building, completed another quest and passed the 100VP mark myself. I decided my game would come together in the final scoring stages.

Soon enough the game did come to an end in under an hour and we totted up the final scores. I made a sort of ‘sorry’ face as I revealed my Lord, explained her bonus and bounced along the VP track, over-taking her marker and landing on 139 total Victory Points for the game. Un-phased she revealed her own Lord: Durnan the Wanderer, whose principal interests were Commerce and Warfare. For dramatic effect she revealed her quests one by one. Every single one of her completed quests had been Commerce or Warfare. She hopped along the VP track and landed on 141 Victory Points!

I checked and re-checked the final scores about four times and realised with growing trepidation that I had just been soundly and thoroughly arse-whupped.

“That wasn’t bad - it was a bit like Forbidden Island, not one of those long boring ones you always play. Shall we go and watch the season finale then?” she smiled.

I need to step up my skills before game night on Thursday!



Some notes on Lords of Waterdeep...

Pros:

The box is great, the insert is fantastic – probably the first insert that I will not throw away. You can turn the box upside down and shake it about and everything stays in place (except for the 100VP tokens, no big deal though).

Cards seem great, the linen texture is fine, another game that I don’t think I’ll need to sleeve any time soon, which is nice. Plus they have artwork on the cards! After the disappointingly bland D&D Adventure System games’ cards this was a lovely step up in quality.

The layout of the game feels very organic, it’s easy to see what goes where on the map and the map itself is good. Although fairly colourless it serves its purpose beautifully and speeds the game up too.

The gameplay is easy to pick up, we didn’t have any rules questions in this first play, and it goes by very quickly.

The art for the locations is really nice, and the players’ Tavern cards look sweet.



Cons:

Generally, the art itself is not really great however. I’d have loved to see some of the old 1st and 2nd edition D&D art recycled for this, or just good art generally in that style. But it’s all very cartoony and Magic: The Gathering-y. In fact my wife was crying laughing at Durnan’s ugly mug but couldn’t tell me why she was laughing until after the game finished. In fact pretty much all of the characters are quite ugly. Even the pretty ones. FFG has spoilt us in this respect.

Wooden cubes! I don’t see the attraction, or the need, or the why, or the how. They’re supposed to be people? I don’t get it!!! Surely potential Euro gamers attracted to the wooden cubes will be put off by ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ written on the cover! Even the agent meeples look a bit dumb. But they stand up well and are durable as hell.

The theme is nice and everything - it's what drew me in after all - but it's a struggle to keep it in your head as you play. For example, you'll be much more concerned about how many oranges and whites you have and how many blacks and purples you need.



Finally:

I really enjoyed Lords of Waterdeep and it sped by at a great pace. I can’t wait to break this out with my group and see how they take to it. Might even be able to get my wife to play again some time...






* what? it’s not an etiquette thing, I’d just got back from a shoot in London, it’s in the rules dammit, whoever went to another city most recently goes first!! 

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