Hello Friends and welcome to another year of sucky gaming with your GM Dan Bogart.
Today I’d like to talk about Lords of Waterdeep. One of my favorite games. We have talked about it before briefly but we’ll start from the beginning here for you.
Lords of Waterdeep is a traditional strategy worker placement board game that I’d consider one of the most prominent of this new Golden Age of board games. Inspiried by the wave of german worker placement games, and set in the wonder Forgotten Realms world of Faerun, Dungeon and Dragons primary campaign setting for the past 20+ years, Lords of Waterdeep expanded upon the grand tradition of D&D based board Games.
Designed by Rodney Thompson, who’s work on Star Wars and Dusk City Outlaws I’m a huge fan of, has you completing quests with a variety of adventurers you collect in your tavern as a secret Lord of the Waterdeep council. The more quests you complete the more victory points you accumulate. Whomever has the most points after 6 rounds wins the game.
Pretty straightforward mechanics to this one. Gameplay should be relatively quick as well as you take a turn placing one of your agents (workers!) at various locations around the city of Waterdeep to collect adventurers (represented by wooden cubes of different colors), build new locations, collect monies, or utilize Intrigue cards to make neat things happen.
I say “SHOULD be relatively quick” since in reality I’ve been in many games where the game play can really slog down if players are not paying attention or not ready to place their agents. We’ve played some games that take 2.5 hours, which is a LONG time to be playing a board game.
One of the neat mechanics of the game is that at times the actions you may take, or the Intrigue cards you play make effect your opponents. This isn’t the kind of game where you are playing inside a bubble taking your moves while your opponents are in their own bubble taking their own moves and you compare scores at the end. This is a game where you play AGAINST other players. it’s competitive. And you are trying to win the game.
Alas and this is where my tale begins.
Twas the great Holiday Trek of Two Thousand and Eighteen for my family. We had journeyed far and wide this great festival season, visiting the shores of Delaware for time with my progenitors, as well as our previous land of residence to take in the Yule eve festivities. We partook of many libations and sumptuous repast. Following the Commemoration of the Nativity of Jesus, we then departed the lands of Delaware, and crossed the great Chesapeake Bay as well as the Potomac River, to finally arrive in Herndon Virginia.
We always love visiting Virginia during the holidays as it provides us an opportunity to play board games with my wife’s family. My family isn’t really that into board games, which is ironic as my love for board games began with family game nights we used to have.
We did play one game with my parents. A game we had gotten for my daughter and son.
We did play one game with my parents. A game we had gotten for my daughter and son. It’s a silly game called Dont Step In It! Unicorn Edition. I probably should include it on a game blog as it’s barely a game. But the loved it and i got a picture of my mom with a blindfold on! Win Win. Definitely a fun game to play with a 3 Year old. Or a bunch of grandparents on Christmas Morning! Its as bad as it sounds though.
In Virginia we played a number of games this trip. Tsuro of the Seas was the first. It’s a neat game of path finding that involves actively trying to eliminate your opponent by forcing them to take a path off the edge of the board. It’s pretty neat. I had played this once before at the beach with my friend Evil Steve. My cousin big C (thats his beard in the photo below) had found the game at his college’s gaming group and brought it home to share with his family. Glad I got to enjoy it again with them too!
Penny the little gamer even got in on the action. It’s simple mechanics that are easy to pick up but a lot of fun. Penny didnt have any issues with it and even had the strategy down by the end. I chose the red ship of course. Go Phillies.
Pretty sure I won this one, but who keeps count. (hint i do).
We also played a few rounds of Codenames Pictures which I always love. The “Pictures” version is a nice change of pace, and throws in the added difficulty of trying to decipher the images on the cards. I like it as it give the kids the opportunity to play, even if they are not as great at reading or understanding all the words.
During Codenames I started seeing some of the warning signs for what was to come. The two brothers in the family were ultra competitive during Codenames, and I was worried the table was about to be flipped. And this with them both on the same team! Seems competitiveness runs high in this family and they can get a smidge worked up when playing a game. But I mean, who dosent right? As Herm says:
To wrap up the evening we played a nice family oriented game of Apples to Apples. This one was a slightly different variant that included the “Sour Apple” to the game, which adds in some complexity by doing silly things like making you not able to talk. Its a fun game and we played with my wife’s parents. So when I got the “Beaver” card i had to discard that as quickly as possible. It turns out that playing
Turns out playing Cards Against Humanity pretty much ruins Apples to Apples for you.
So the next day before we left we got to play a few more games. The family wanted to play Lords of Waterdeep, as it’s one of their favorites. It’s one of my favorites too! I had introduced the family to it a few years before, and got them a copy of the game for a Holiday or a Birthday I think. I was happy to know they had played it a lot and really enjoyed it. They were all also very good at the game. I’ll say that now before I get to my arguments against our game session. Very smart people. Very good at board games. And I love them.
So we break out the board and start setting up. I didn’t get red. This should have been a the second warning sign for me. But we continue with playing.
As I mentioned above, Lords of Waterdeep is pretty competitive. There are mechanics that specifically attack an opposing player’s tavern resources, money, or even gives them tasks (mandatory quests) they need to complete before they can compete other quests. Boardgame Geek calls it the “Take That” mechanic and it’s purpose is to cause trouble for other players.
If you’ve read one of my other posts about the Virginia Family you’d know that they tend to play games a bit more casual then I do, or even than they are intended. And thats fine. There is nothing wrong with playing games in a more casual manner with house rules to remove some of the components of the game. For some games it can make it easier for people less accustomed to cut throat player vs player style, and allow an entry point for those who dont have the same level of competitive streak. I also am certainly not someone who NEEDS to play very aggressive games. I cant stand online multiplayer games because of this. I’m not super competitive. I enjoy playing games to learn the mechanics. I dont NEED to win, regardless of how often i post that Herm Edwards gif. I like to win. I’ll try to win. But I’m not gonna spazz out if i dont. For me playing the game is more important.
However, (you’re probably saying “HERE IT COMES!”.. but bare with me.) If you are going to house rule your game, ya should let everyone playing know.
Thats one of the things I love about Role Playing Games in general. D&D, Scum and Villainy, Fate, Call of Cthulhu, etc. Part of the constant interaction and dialogue between the GM/DM/Keeper and the players builds a sense of shared ownership and control over the game and TYPE of game you are going to play.
So back to our little game of Lords of Waterdeep.
***Disclaimer*** I’m not pointing these items below out to poke fun at how they play, but more to look at just how changing a few rules can really change the type, tone and tenor of the game. ***/Disclamer***
First thing I notice when playing the game with them is that they play that you can resolve as many quests as you want on each Turn. This is clearly incorrect as the rules explictly state you can complete only one quest per turn. This is pretty game breaking of itself. If you could do that turn economy becomes less important. Why play any quests during the game then? Why not wait till the last turn and play them all.
Second, they don’t record the earned points immediately on the score tracker. This one is a bit of a bigger deal to me. The score tracker is used not just to track your points, but as a bit of a leaderboard for the game. If one opponent is taking the lead you might start targeting them with Intrigue cards with ill effects and Mandatory Quests to try and balance their lead out. The player who goes first in the game generally has a leg up from the very beginning that COULD be insurmountable. At that point it’s just a race to the Castle Waterdeep to get the first player token each turn.
Mandatory Quests as I mentioned before are one of the main ways you can try and slow down a run away leader. This is a quest you play on an opponent that they must complete before they can do any other quest cards. If your opponent is building up Fighters (the orange blocks), play a Magic quest that they need a wizard (the purple blocks) to complete. Then camp out on Blackstaff Tower to prevent them from getting that arcane associate! Unfortunately they had removed all of those from the game so that you couldn’t prevent someone from scoring that big completed quest. I didn’t know this until about 3 rounds in and was holding on to a card to eliminate mandatory quests and fishing the intrigue pile for one to play on the player who was leading.
Third big issue with scoring I came across playing with them was in Plot Quest Cards. Plot quest cards allow you to, once completed, have ongoing benefits that help you along in the game. Some of the guards grant you extra victory points when you complete quests after the plot quest is completed. So if you complete another Arcana quest after completing it, you get 2 more victory points.
They would only score those bonus points at the end of the game when counting up all their victory points and moving the scoring tracker. The problem here is that with that method, you could play this card absolutely last and record those bonus points for all the quests of that type you complete the whole game. That makes this card way too overpowered. This card is a beast if you complete it early and are able to focus on those quest types. Especially if combined with your lords ability.
While bringing up these rules discrepencies they repeatedly told me “You taught us how to play the game!”. And that may be true. This blog is called “Dan sucks at Gaming” because I’m generally terrible at it. However I’m pretty sure I played with those specific rules above correctly, as they are pretty big game breakers if they are played incorrectly.
I felt pretty bad about upending how they play the game. It obviously frustrated them a bunch as they kept slipping up with those rules after and losing track if they hard recorded points, or trying to play two quests. They just generally seemed grumpy about it.
But to me these are pretty fundamental changes to the game that really change how the game is played. I joked earlier about playing the game in a bubble with no cross interaction between players.. and thats not the point of this game.
I have played a lot of worker placement games, and blocking other players from placing their workers in an advantageous position is pretty critical. This is the main component to worker placement, besides the actual worker placement. This in and of itself is competitive. Why take the other mechanics of the game and water them down?
When discussing this with my in laws they mention that they prefer to play games in a less competitive fashion due to arguments that arose in game play. I can understand that, especially when watching brothers and sisters play the game togther. But knowing who is leading the game and being able to hamper them from a run away victory is pretty important is, as is playing defensively by blocking quests.
Their style of play was much faster then when I typically play this game and that was refreshing. I have dreaded playing Lords of Waterdeep and actively avoided due to some of the delays between turns. Granted that was with the 6 player game and the expansions, so perhaps going back to basics would be fun.
Overall as much complaining I am doing above it was a neat thought exercise to see how their changes of the game really alter strategies and the point of the overall game. Having played a lot of Lords of Waterdeep in the past it really changed how i approached some of the ingrained tactics of holding on to cards that neutralized Mandatory quests, or keeping an eye on who was in the lead to even who I was going to share a split loot card with.
Either way, I lost. So at least I keep up with my blog title. I hope they will play the game with me again!