Is this classic worker placement game deep enough to lord it over the competition?
Lords of Waterdeep is a classic worker placement game that sees players take on the role of Lords in a town of Waterdeep who’s aim is to complete quests, gain victory points and ultimately be crowned the Lord of Waterdeep. A game will take place over 8 rounds by which point the player who has amassed the most number of victory points from completing quests, recruiting adventurers to your tavern, amassing a fortune and gaining bonus points for completing specific quests based on your hidden Lord card will win the game.
A round in Lords of Waterdeep follows the same tried and tested path for all worker placement games, players take turn in placing one of their limited supply of workers onto various locations on the map and take the relevant action. Once a worker has been placed on a location it is no longer available until the start of the next round and as such not only are you trying to optimise your own turn, you are competing with your opponents for key locations you all need. In Lords of Waterdeep the locations that start available for you are reasonably standard fare, recruit specific adventurers to your tavern, these people will be the main requirement to complete your quests, gain money, additional quests or intrigue cards which can be played for one time bonuses and finally build additional locations on the map. It is these building which not only add a level of strategy to the game but also increase both the variance between each game as well as providing new and more powerful locations for your workers. What makes the buildings so interesting is that the player who pays to place a new building becomes the owner and whenever the building location is utilised by another player the owner will gain something, be it money or new recruits. This may seem insignificant however the ability to gain resources required to complete quests without having to use one of your own workers to do so is key to optimising your engine and will lead you to victory.
Lords of Waterdeep includes two additional expansions to the game which add some additional variance to locations, buildings, quests and your lord cards as well as offering you the opportunity to play a longer game in which each player starts with an additional worker in their pool. Perhaps the most interesting change the expansions make is the inclusion of a new mechanic called corruption. New more powerful locations are added to the board giving players the chance to gain far greater rewards than previously however each time a player utilises these locations they will gain a corruption token taken from a track. The corruption track contains a number of tokens and as they are removed they uncover an ever increasing minus value, at the end of the game, each token will be worth the highest uncovered minus number on the track and therefore the more corruption players take as a group, the higher the points they will lose at the end of the game. It’s an interesting decision to take during the game and one that opens up strategic possibilities. I am a huge fan of board game apps adding the option for expansions in their games and the inclusion of these in Lords of Waterdeep increases the longevity of the game no end, as with most expansions, I find myself including them with every play and I’m not sure I would play the game without them in the future.
The look and feel of the app version of Lords of Waterdeep mimic that of the physical game, providing the same artwork and fantasy style you see from a Dungeons and Dragons based board game. While the art is not ground breaking, it fits well with the theme and fans of the source material will not be disappointed with the port over to the digital tabletop. While everything is handled by either drag and drop or by clicking on locations and workers, I found that the small screen and the even smaller location tiles often made for a tricky and frustrating user experience, a challenge often found when porting to the small screen. Perhaps it was the target area being too small or my screen not being responsive enough to my finger however it would often take me a few attempts to get the location to open up for me to place my worker and while it was by no means a deal breaker for this app it is definitely worth noting when comparing the user interface to other digital board games. In addition to this Lords of Waterdeep isn’t the snappiest of apps to play, menu load times, while not massively long, are definitely noticeable compared to newer apps and actions and animations take just that bit longer than we have become accustomed to, meaning a game which I’d expect to take me around 15-20 minutes, more often than not takes 30-40. While this is still half the time of the physical game it’s slightly longer than I would like for a game which is medium weight like Lords of Waterdeep and is more in line with the length of time I would expect to play a much heavier game such as Playdek’s own Twilight Struggle.
When it comes to options in Lords of Waterdeep is available for online and offline multiplayer with up to 6 players as well as offline multiplayer via pass and play. Single player is available against an AI with 3 difficulty levels ranging from easy to challenging; the easiest level makes a good introduction to the game for newer players and provides enough of a challenge to get you started without being too punishing however you will soon surpass this level and head straight to challenging which is sufficiently good to keep you interested in the game while not being too dominant an opponent. You have the option to toggle on and off the expansions both in single and multiplayer games which adds a nice variation to the games as well as player a longer version of the game with more rounds and workers available.
Overall Lords of Waterdeep is a good worker placement game that is solid if not ground breaking however this isn’t necessarily a negative. While the mechanisms are standard worker placement fare it does such a good job of being a tight and competitive game that it doesn’t really matter it lacks some of the inventiveness of other worker placement games such as Viticulture and Raiders of the North Sea. Lords of Waterdeep is a great gateway game for those looking to enter the genre of worker placement without having the complexities or some of the other games in the genre, and while the play time might mean that I’m more likely to play other more complex games in that time I still find myself picking up this app and frankly having a great time with it. It’s a modern classic and one that you won’t regret having in your app collection. The inclusion of the expansions mean that once you have figured out the puzzle of the base game you can add just enough additional options without increasing the complexity too much and breathe new life into the game.