Welcome back it is time for our second installment of Worker Wednesdays with a look at what has become one of my favorite worker placement games, Lords of Waterdeep.
Designer: Peter Lee & Rodney Thompson
EPT: 60 minutes
I recall many a time for two years looking at friends game shelves, shelves in game stores and on online retailers and seeing the game Lords of Waterdeep looking back at me; a glimmer in it’s eye. The box art showing a fantastic depiction of a fighter, mage and dude wielding a staff with two daggers in his belt that looks totally BA, with Dungeons and Dragons written across the bottom of the box, and a hefty weight when lifted off the shelf. Mental images of journeying through dungeons with the goal of finding treasure, saving damsels, and sleighing monsters, then I recall my friends saying, “Oh man that’s a good worker placement.” my heart fell like a dragon pierced through with a black arrow (shut up I can cross the fantasy streams all I want).
Let us jump to 2014; I am at a friends house on a cold march day as winter is ending and spring is on the horizon. We are looking through his collection and my eyes fall upon Lords of Waterdeep, for two years this box has taunted me. “No more!” I declare as I pull the box from the shelf, “this is the game we shall play.” my friend grins; it is not his favorite worker placement but it will do for now; he was still working on molding my ways at this point. Let us pause in our story and look at how the game plays.
In LoW each player acts as one of the masked lords working behind their masks and magic so as to secretly mold the city to their will. The players dispatch their agents in the shadows to recruit soldiers, clerics, rogues, and wizards to complete the quests they took on. Each player is given a lord card which dictates their end game goal (bonus points for certain quest types, buildings, etc), a couple intrigue cards which can be played to help themselves or hinder others, some money, and some starting quests to get them going.
Each round the players have the option of playing their workers on various locations so as to recruit wizards, fighters, and the like, buy and build buildings, draw intrigue cards, and take upon new quests. As is often the case I will not jump into minutia as there are plenty of recorded playthroughs and reviews; I will mention that when players buy buildings they place them on the board creating new spaces players can act upon.
Like most euros the game’s end goal is to amass the most points; this is done by completing your quests, buying buildings, and playing intrigue cards. One of the things that sets this game apart, however, is the lord goals. Some lords reward warfare, others piety, and one OP lord building buildings (personally I recommend removing him from circulation). At games end the lords are revealed and end game points are tabulated and the victor declared.
When I first played Lords of Waterdeep I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. While I admit I love me some worker placement now days; I still want a theme. As I play LoW I don’t look at my workers as pawns collecting cubes; but as agents recruiting rogues and clerics. The theme to this game adds so much for me; I have played the game ignoring the theme and found it lacking, and as a recovering ameritrasher this theme dependency is a blessing so much more so than it is a curse.
Mechanically the game’s use of worker placement tied with the ability to increase placeable locations is equally ingenious. As players build buildings they claim them so as any other player uses that location the builder gets a bonus as well. This adds an additional level of strategy in placing workers in hopes of forcing other players to use the buildings you constructed so as to get free cubes, money or points as a result.
Lords of Waterdeep makes a fantastic gateway worker placement game. Most non-euro players will share the complaint of worker feeding; as a former member of the “let the meeples fend for themselves party” I understand their argument. In LoW that is not an issue your workers and the people they recruit can fend for themselves and no excess farming is needed.
Lords of Waterdeep is my favorite worker placement at the current moment; easily due to the game’s reliance on theme partnered with the building, quest, and intrigue mechanics. The Scoundrels of Skullport expansion boosts it even further when corruption comes into play. Ignoring the expansion for now (a review for another day) the game falls as a 8.75 out of 10.
Visuals – 1.75 // 2
Skill/Luck – .75 // 1
Pacing – 1.75 // 2
Theme/Immersion – 2 // 2
Mechanics – .75 // 1
Fun Factor 1.75 // 2
Some people will balk at my preference of this game over many other fantastic worker placements; but as I tell them, “to each their own” and as player that loves themes, mechanics, and strategy this game hits the mark!
Visit again Tomorrow as I take a look at a great vintage game Voice of the Mummy; until then you can find us on social media!