Lords of Waterdeep

lords of waterdeep max zoom
Players:
2-5
Multiplayer:Pass n Play or online via Playdek servers (note: online games cannot include AI)
AI:Yes, 3 levels
Universal App:Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)
Purchase for iPhone:Use link below to purchase universal app
Purchase for iPad:
D&D Lords of Waterdeep
Price: $6.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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Lords of Waterdeep, 8.4 out of 10 based on 202 ratings

Lords of Waterdeep, though thoroughly Ameritrash in every aspect of its origin, owes much of its design to Euro-style worker placement games like Caylus, Le Havre, or Stone Age. Set in one of the most famous campaign settings of the Dungeons & Dragons universe, LoW has players recruiting adventurers to do their dirty work for them, hiding behind the anonymity of their office. Will you don the mask?

lords of waterdeep title

Gameplay

LoW features a large map of the city of Waterdeep, marked with several spaces and four face-up Quest cards. Each player is randomly assigned one of the masked Lords as a secret identity, and starts with a pool of Agents (2-4, depending on the number of players) and some initial Intrigue and Quest cards of their own. On their turn, a player will place one of their Agents in one of the available spaces on the board.

lords of waterdeep zoomed out board

Depending on which space is selected, a player will either gain resources (adventurers of the classic D&D archetypes: Cleric, Warrior, Rogue, and Wizard) or take some other action.

One action players can take is the Builder’s Hall, which allows them to construct additional buildings, thus increasing the options available for a turn; the owner of a newly-constructed building also gets some benefit if another player selects it for their action. Once an Agent is placed, a player may complete any Quest(s) for which they possess the required Adventurers.

lords of waterdeep intrigue card

The focal point of the map is Waterdeep Harbor, with enough spaces to accommodate up to 3 Agents. When an Agent is placed here, the player is able to play an Intrigue card, which can either grant them some boon, penalize an opponent, or appear as a Mandatory Quest. Solving Quests is the primary engine to earn Victory Points, and Mandatory Quests, assigned to an opponent, must be completed before that opponent can undergo a higher-valued Quest of their own. The other major space is the Cliffwatch Inn, where Agents can grab one of the four face-up Quest cards to add to your Active Quests pile. Completed Quests are hidden from other players unless they are Plot Quests, which provide you with some lingering passive bonus.

lords of waterdeep winner

Once all players have placed all their Agents, the round is over. At the start of round 5, all players received an extra Agent. At the conclusion of round 8, final victory points are tallied. In addition to the victory points gained by completing quests throughout the game, most of the Lords have specific classes of quest (such as Warfare or Piety) that will grant bonus victory points in the endgame. Additionally, you will receive points for any left over Adventures in your Tavern and any extra currency. Victory points are tracked via score markers that progress in a ring around the board.

lords of waterdeep empty board

The game has drawn the ire of some for the level of abstraction from its theme. The only dungeons to crawl here exist as descriptions on quest cards; indeed, adventures are represented by nothing more than the ubiquitous little wooden cubes found in almost all Eurogames, rendered here in perfect digital symmetry. While it is not difficult to see the point behind this argument, the games’ designers have gone out of their way to include references to the thematic material in every component of the game. Longtime D&D fans will find callbacks to nearly 40 years’ worth of lore, while those new to the franchise will find a tight Eurogame that doesn’t require knowledge of the D&D universe to enjoy.

Implementation

lords of waterdeep nighttime

Playdek has a well-earned reputation for producing high-quality digital versions of analog games, and LoW is no exception. Before we get into the technical nitty gritty though, we’d like to mention something that is done terrifically well here – atmosphere. As the game progresses, the map of Waterdeep goes through a complete day/night cycle, complete with lights in the doors and windows of the buildings. Animals fly overhead, darting around slowly-drifting clouds, and boats sail into and out of the harbor, minding their own business as the Lords plot each others’ downfall. Importantly, none of these embellishments interfere in any way with gameplay – they do nothing but set the mood, and they do it well. The pure card-based nature of most Playdek products don’t leave a whole lot of room for these sorts of touches, and it’s nice to see them get to stretch their creative wings a bit.

lords of waterdeep tutorials

The game offers an extensive array of fully interactive tutorials. Each tutorial introduces a few of the key concepts of the game, and each builds on what came before to introduce new players to the games’ fundamentals, as well as a bit of basic strategy. Thoughtfully, Playdek also included a separate tutorial aimed specifically at people familiar with the board game who just need to learn how to work with the interface of the iPad version.

lords of waterdeep max zoom

LoW features a higher density of information than anything Playdek has tackled before, but it’s pulled off with the usual aplomb we’ve come to expect from their products. A ribbon at the bottom of the screen displays all the vital stats you need to know at any given moment, while collapsible drawers give you easy access to your Quest and Intrigue cards, as well as to any Quests you’ve already completed, should you need to peruse them. Each of the five player colors has a different portrait associated with it, and tapping this portrait pulls your Lord card up for reference. A ribbon at the top shows your opponents’ factions, and tapping any of them pulls up an expanded view with vitals about their Taverns and score. Tapping the jewel pulls up a detailed breakdown of standings, so you can quickly see who’s winning and why.

lords of waterdeep building after

The game’s map is laid out identically to the physical game board, and you can scroll around and zoom in and out as necessary. When another player takes an action, the game automatically jumps to the appropriate part of the interface. Many of the cards and buildings in the game allow you to select specific types of adventurers. When this happens, a graphic illustrating your choice pops up, followed by a ribbon indicating how many choices you have to make. Simply drag the appropriate cube to the ribbon, and tap the green triangle to confirm your selection – a clever approach that keeps the visual elements of the game entirely consistent.

lords of waterdeep online menu

Typical of Playdek games, multiplayer is possible in both online and offline modes. Online games are played asynchronously, with a wide variety of timers available. Offline games can be against any number of either AI or human opponents, and each AI player can be set to one of three levels of difficulty. Online play does require an account on Playdek’s servers, but you can use any account already created for one of their other games. There’s also a little blue button that pops up when you’re playing an offline game and it becomes your turn in an online match, a neat feature that we wish more games would implement.

Verdict

While some people find the randomness in Lords of Waterdeep off-putting, the game remains a fantastic introduction to Euro-style worker placement games, easy to teach and fun to play. Playdek, already a company with an outstanding reputation for digital translations of card games, have truly outdone themselves with this title. Anyone with an iPad and an interest in this game is doing themselves a disservice by not picking it up immediately, if for no other reason than to see a shining example of a board game made digital.