Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lords of Waterdeep

Ben was too sick to run Pathfinder on Friday, and Kelvin ended up helping somebody move house, which left us denuded somewhat to myself, Manoj and Sebastian, plus an enthusiastic Maya as ever. I pondered running either Crypts & Things or a Call of Cthulhu scenario I keep in the back of my pocket for just such an eventuality. Crypts & Things is a very interesting swords and sorcery variant of Swords & Wizardry, and it takes no time at all to generate characters and get adventuring, but when I saw Lords of Waterdeep poking out of Manoj's bag, I thought it could wait for another time, as I was keen to try the former.

I've never played D&D in the Forgotten Realms, largely because most of the GMs I've played D&D with - with one notable exception - are allergic to the setting. Myself, I'm more of a Greyhawk man, with Eberron running a close second. But Sebastian and I have played a lot of Baldur's Gate and BG 2 on the PS2, and consequently Waterdeep and its factions are more than a little familiar to us.

Lords of Waterdeep, for those who don't know it, is one of the series of D&D-themed board games produced by Wizards of the Coast. Players take the role of factions seeking to accumulate victory points by completing quests. You do this by recruiting adventurers, represented by coloured wooden cubes - fighters, mages, thieves and clerics - to meet the personnel requirements of the different quests that come up in the game. Each player has a limited number of actions per turn, represented by 'agents' who can be sent on various missions around Waterdeep - e.g. to collect adventurers and bring them back to the faction's tavern.

There is something of the El Grande in this game, although there is more to LoW than shuffling little coloured cubes around. It also has a building construction element, where factions can invest in specific structures that can be used to produce adventurers more quickly than the fixed locations in Waterdeep. This feels a little like Puerto Rico (which I play on the iPad), and also ensures that no game is exactly alike.

Finally, Intrigue cards also allow you to mess with other players or achieve your own objectives more quickly. These can only be played in the harbour area, which seems to be the only location which can contain more than one agent per turn (it takes three). In addition, agents who go to the harbour can be used at the end of the round to visit an additional unoccupied location, which can be quite useful.

LoW is an interesting game that seems to offer a number of different paths to victory, although I'm not entirely sure whether this is the case, or whether these is a specific formula you need to follow. As there are no dice, it does seem to suit the mathematically minded, like Manoj and Sebastian, who like to pore over their various options. Sebastian and I committed a number of silly errors, as it was our first game, foremost of which was probably failing to realise that more than five buildings can be constructed! Maya pitched in happily and quickly got into the spirit of things, and was even leading in VPs in the early stages. She needed a bit of help at the start, and towards the end as she got tired, but overall seemed to be fighting her corner well.

I really enjoyed it. I'd like to play it again soon, as with the first game of LoW you do tend to blunder around a bit and just hope for the best. Now I've got more of a feel for it, I'd like to give it another try, before I start to forget how to play it. Six months from now, I'll have forgotten a great deal. Sad, really. LoW can readily be played in a single evening, perhaps twice with a group who knows it.

After Maya turned in, we played a short game of Saboteur, which I've been compelled to buy after having been exposed to it at Hove Area Wargames Society. This is a very entertaining little number about dwarves digging for gold, which has a traitor mechanic in it reminiscent of Shadows Over Camelot. Sebastian won the first round as the saboteur, and in the two subsequent rounds there were no active saboteurs, leading to quick conclusions in both rounds. On the strength of his four nugget score in round one, Sebastian won.

Saboteur is a great little game to play at the end of an evening, when the main event is finished, it's too early to go home, and you need something that can be played to a result in less than an hour. It also comes with an expansion, which I've not ordered as yet.

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