Currently, I have a new favorite board game. For the longest time, it’s been Munchkin, and that’s not to say that Munchkin has lost any of its spontaneous, kooky fun, but Steve Jackson Games continues to churn out Munchkin-related product one after the other with no sign of slowing down in the future, and well…I just can’t keep up. Though I did get two new sets for Christmas–Munchkin Pathfinder and Munchkin Apocalypse–both of which are a lot of fun, but more or less the same ol’ backstabbin’, treasure-hoarding experience with a small twist or two, like Seals. There is strategy involved in every game of Munchkin, but also a lot of luck, like getting decent treasure early on to keep your character in the fight.
However, I’m always looking for more strategy elements over luck-based things–one big reason why I don’t play cards at the casino–and so we move on to Lords of Waterdeep from Wizards of the Coast, a fantastically unpredictable hour and change of planning, plotting, and plundering resources. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.
Here’s how the publisher describes it: a strategy board game for 2-5 players, you take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder – or help – the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans. During the course of play, you acquire victory points or resources through completing quests, constructing buildings, playing intrigue cards, or having other players utilize the buildings you have constructed. At the end of eight rounds of play, the player who has accrued the most victory points wins the game.
That might not sound like a whole lot, but there’s actually a whole lot there to work with, seeing that you are limited in the number of choices you make. You have to start planning things out from your very first turn, as every turn taken should be to your advantage, whether it is playing a card against an opponent or visiting a specific building to get the right colored cubes you need to complete that secret quest in your hand. I find going to the harbor to play Intrigue spells very beneficial as, after everyone else has moved all their units, you get to move off the harbor to any free spaces left, basically giving you an extra turn. See? Strategy. You can also play Mandatory Quests on opponents to slow them down on their journey to the top, but other than that, it’s quite a civil game, much more than say Munchkin or Shadows Over Camelot.
Ironically, my favorite part of Lords of Waterdeep is when it ends. This is the moment when you get to reveal what lord you specifically are and how it affected your decisions, as well as add up how many units you have in your tavern, how much gold you have left, and so on. All of that basically turns into more victory points come the endgame, seeing everyone inch up further (or down further if corruption from the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion is a factor), and the best part is that, more often than not, it’s still anyone‘s game here at this point. Only once all the points are added up can you really see who is in the lead, the truest lord of the city.
Evidently, there’s an IOS version of Lords of Waterdeep, which is both awesome and not. Naturally, my Windows 8 phone swings and misses yet again. Oh well. Actually, no, it’s okay. I’d much rather play a round of this game with my friends and food and the ability to watch their every move than tapping a phone’s screen on end until I win or lose. And just so it’s clear, I think I’ve only won once out of the handful of games my group has played since discovering the City of Splendors.