I played Lords of Waterdeep for the first time in September last year. A couple of friends were really into the iOS version, so when I had a chance to play the board game version with them I pounced on it. On my second turn of the first game I said to my friends “OK, you know it’s a good game when by the second turn you’re already going ‘Is it my turn yet?'” I quickly bought my own copy of it, adding the expansion not long afterward, and have been playing the heck out of it since. I’ve actually started to wear out the pieces and cards; I may have to eventually buy a new set to replace my current one! I have a pipe dream that WoTC will come out with a fancy deluxe version sometime, but I’m not exactly holding my breath on that one.
LoW is a worker placement game; each player starts with a number of “agents”; each player gets 2 – 6 agents depending on how many players there are and if any expansions are being used. Players use these agents to gather resources, which are in turn used to complete quests, which grant victory points. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points (including bonuses for remaining resources and gold) wins. Also, each player is dealt one of the Lords of Waterdeep at the beginning of the game. Each completed quest related to that lord grants additional bonus points.
In the beginning of the game there are a limited number of spaces and options, but players can buy new buildings that add new spaces with new effects as the game progresses. Buildings for sale are randomly determined, and which ones become available and eventually onto the board is a huge factor in the game, making each playthrough different and fun.
The game plays very differently depending on the number of players; in a 2 player game you pretty much have your run of the board and can do whatever you need to, but with 5 or 6 players the spot you need is seemingly always taken (then again there are some cards that affect “each opponent” and those can be a lot of fun to play in a large game). Even in a 4 player game it’s tough to get the things you need when you need them, which means far fewer quests being completed and lower scoring. I think this is one of those rare games that plays best with 3 players; there’s few enough players that the game doesn’t bog down and you’re not constantly frustrated, but there’s enough competition to keep things interesting. 2 player games are almost like two people playing a solo game at the same time (but still fun as heck!)
The strategy revolves around trying to figure out which resources you need, and what should be the priority on any given turn. It’s basically about gathering and analyzing data: what resources do I need, when do I need them, what does my opponent need, what will do me the most good right now, etc. Many times you will find yourself in a situation where there are two different things you would like to do (such as take a new quest or collect a certain resource, call them A and B) and you have to decide which one you need to do now and which one can wait. If you need spot A more but you think it will still be available on your next turn and spot B will be taken then you can gamble and take spot B. But if you really need A and can’t afford to take the chance then you have to take it now and let B go. Deciding which is the case is one of the core strategies of the game.
Buying buildings is another key part of your strategy: not only does a new building provide a new spot to play on, but if you own a building and another player lands on it you get a benefit as well. When they find that out a lot of people (including me) ask, “Then why would I ever go on someone else’s building?” And the answer is: it’s because it’s worth to give the owner that small benefit in order to get what you need.
For example if you land on this building:
You get to take 2 orange resources and 1 purple, and the owner gets what’s called the “owner benefit”, which is in the lower left corner. In this case the owner would get to choose between an orange and a purple resource. Getting 3 resources with one move is tremendous; there isn’t any spot on the basic board where you can do that. Buildings of these type (there are 4, with different combos of resources on each) are very popular and almost always get used on every turn, and people don’t mind at all letting the owner have 1 resource if it means getting 3.
Another very important element of the game is what are called plot quests. These grant you an ongoing effect for the rest of the game. Getting a good plot quest early can make a huge difference.
For example, once you complete this plot quest:
Not only do you get 6 victory points, you will receive 4 additional victory points whenever you buy a new building.
I have a lot more to say about the strategy in this game, look for it in future posts 🙂
It’s a very addicting game and everyone I’ve introduced it to has really liked it. Anytime you want to play let me know!