Playdek have proven once again that they are the de facto leader in card & board game ports by tackling the very popular Dungeons & Dragons: Lords Of Waterdeep board game.
Don’t be intimidated by the Dungeons & Dragons moniker, while the game is set within the Dungeons & Dragons universe and features recognizable locations and characters from the Forgotten Realms campaign settings, but you don’t need to know anything at all about it to enjoy the game to the fullest. Consider it more of a treat for those who will point excitedly as they see a familiar face rather than an “insider edge” to the game.
Lords of Waterdeep is a worker-placement game where you take the role of one of the titular Lords of Waterdeep, mysterious figures who control the city to their own means. Your identity is only known to you through the eight rounds of play, and you have an agenda that will only be revealed to others at the conclusion of the game. The hidden agenda mechanic is one of the most exciting things when you have a close game since while you may gain an extra 6 victory points for each of your buildings, your opponent may have been awarded an extra 4 points for each Arcane or Commerce quest which is just enough to put them ahead to bring home that “W”
(W means win…thought I’d be clever with that one.)
Each turn you will place one of your agents onto one of the board’s spaces. Usually locations will give you a tangible benefit such as drawing or playing additional intrigue cards that can slow your opponents down or give you an edge. Others let you build new locations for later, give you money or even let you pick out additional quests for your adventurers. Most locations will give you said adventurers, which are represented by cubes in either Purple, White, Black or Orange. (Wizards, Clerics, Rogues and Fighters respectively, your typical D&D party characters) These adventurers can be spent to fulfill quests which get you victory points. After each player has placed their agents and taken actions, the agents are removed from the board and the next round begins.
Lords of Waterdeep scales extremely well to fit anywhere from 2 to 5 players without sacrificing engagement or extending the game length significantly. In a 2 player game each player initially has 4 agents to place per round, while in a 5 player game, everyone has 2 to place. This keeps the games flexible and enjoyable regardless of how many people you want to play. An average game takes about 30 minutes or so when playing computer opponents, and maybe 60 active minutes or so when playing with 5 people. This is pretty close to the physical game’s average time of 60-90 minute playtime in my experience. The card effects also scale since most of them say “each player does X” or “You gain 4 coins, choose an opponent, they get 2”. This gives a different dynamic each time you play since one card could be simply amazing when playing one on one, but be much more situational when in a full 5 player game.
When discussing game modes, like most of Playdek’s recent offerings Lords of Waterdeep has pass-and-play singledevice multiplayer as well as fully featured online play. The game keeps track of your wins, losses and even has a chess-style ratings system to show me how bad I really am at this game of intrigue when it comes to live opponents. The asynchronous play option is fantastic when you can’t sit and wait for say James and his buddy known only as “Big Blue” to take their turns way across the country. Game Center achievements Combined with the ability to have multiple games active, you will quickly get lost in the game and if you are like me, have many active games going at once, all waiting patiently until you have a bit of free time.
Graphically, the developers have gone above and beyond the call of duty on the board and cards. All the same high-quality art is used for the components as in the physical game, and is faithfully reproduced here. The board, which is a map of the city of Waterdeep, even cycles from day to night as the rounds pass, birds fly by and the game elements float slightly off the board giving a sense of depth to the game. None of this was needed but it really shows the attention that was paid to making the player’s experience even more enjoyable.
This is a wonderful addition to the quickly growing Playdek library of high-quality games, and a must-buy for anyone who enjoys board games, or even people who aren’t really ready for a more complicated board game experience since the gameplay is very easy to grasp and actions are very clear with limited text. The tutorials are some of the best I have played, they take you over the components, rules and eventually through a full game, bit by bit, all while keeping everything intuitive and in plain English. All gameplay is done with very clear and simple drags and taps, so there is no awkward menu system to figure out.
Now the big surprise, the game does not exclusively run on iPads! It runs flawlessly on my iPhone 5, and is actually now my preferred device for Waterdeep.
Normally I expect board games to be iPad exclusive, which is understandable for the most part, but with a game like this where turns only consist of a few actions it is nice to be able to take it with you everywhere, even if you don’t bring your tablet wherever you go because your 5 year-old son doesn’t want to let it out of his sight for more than a little while.
All in all the game is excellent for veteran board gamers and newcomers alike, and the port is everything I could have asked for and more! The only complaint I can think of is that I will have to drop more money on the expansion: “Scoundrels of Skullport” when/if it releases.
I take it back, I am hoping Lords of Waterdeep sells enough copies for Playdek to let Scoundrels to corrupt my games and bring more awesome Waterdeep excitement to me.
Now go buy it so I can have my expansion!