Friday, October 3, 2014

The Lords of Waterdeep Paradox

"I love completing tasks with clear, uncomplicated goals that don’t require resource conversion."
-- The Game of Wife

In days long gone, while the folks at TSR were busy running Gary Gygax out on a rail, someone in the building was simultaneously dreaming up the Forgotten Realms universe. No doubt Waterdeep was inspired by the ancient phrase "still waters run deep". Popularized in this modern age by a man named Snoop Dogg.

Lords of Waterdeep turns issues I have raised in other games on their ear. Because everything I don't like in these games, I love in Lords of Waterdeep.

This is why ultimately (and remember this for future posts)…

I truly know nothing about nothing.

Very Zen, very Zen.

But back to Lords of Waterdeep.

A million different places for your workers to hang out

LOD offers up a bunch of worker placement spots, and they all basically do the same thing. As in the majority of spaces involve the collection of various resources: either different colored cubes or spiffy gold coins with holes in the middle.

Traditionally, I find this annoying because it adds up to a whole lot of micro turns with someone holding their head in their hands while the other player looks for the optimal move.

In fact, I just got done singing the praises of Le Havre because it offers up only a single worker with which to do things with.

If Le Havre is on one of a worker placement spectrum, Lords of Waterdeep is on the complete opposite end.

There are so many spots, and they are so similar, that you never really get completely "blocked" by an opponent. So you don't HAVE to prioritize before each "micro turn" you can just check off things on your grocery list knowing sooner or later you will eventually get to them.

And as the game progresses, you gain additional workers automatically instead of the more normal fight for the worker reproduction spot (gross). Less worry and less hassle.

Then each player builds MORE buildings, offering up even more spots with which to collect the required resources. And you have even more options.

Finally, what are we doing with these resources? We are converting them into completed quests, which in turn are worth victory points. Delicious victory points, or as they used to say in the old days…points.

So the game itself offers up hardly any innovation. It appears to be a by-the-numbers worker placement game. But the "by-the-numbers" in this case are so incredibly streamlined and minimalist that the game moves through some sort of negative zone dimensional gate and back out into INTERESTING again.

Instead of boring, I find it relaxing. And while all the different spots give you lots of options, each option is slightly different and keeps your overall plan for advancement flexing like a reed in a stiff wind. You might have to pick a different space. You might get paid for someone using your space. The situation changes every so slightly with each worker placement I can keep up without having to rework the entire equation in my head.

No Upkeep

Here's a big selling point for the game: there's no upkeep! You don't have to send in your taxes, or feed your workers, or come-up with a mortgage payment at the end of the month. You will never default on a loan.

Le Havre is partially enjoyable to me because if I forget about my workers (or just choose to ignore their physical needs), there is usually some sort of gruel I can cook up at the end of the round using floor sweepings and leftover uncooked fish fillets.

Lords of Waterdeep, you don't even have to do that! Your agents are on their own for physical sustenance, and every building comes to you free and clear without any secret property liens from Waterdeep Ordinance Enforcement.

This is another reason the micro turns aren't bad…because you spend zero time thinking about what you NEED to do, and all the time figuring out what you WANT to do.

Quest Cards

Probably the biggest area of tension in the game is the scramble for quest cards. There are quest cards worth 25 points, and quest cards with 5 points. See the difference?

So while you and your buds and cleverly bantering and sliding workers across the table you will all be eyeing the row of quests for when a Sweet Opportunity comes out of the deck. True, most of the lesser point cards also give you special abilities, but at some point you have to be concerning yourself with victory.

And then there is one last true screw-you moment in the game and that is Mandatory Quests. If you are lucky enough to draw one of these, rest assured you will be able to significantly hamper your opponent with a quest he or see must fufil before moving on to the bigger point scoring opportunities.


So after looking at four worker placement games, the only single takeaway I can really offer is

1) I like to play board games

(sounds of things getting thrown off a desk)

Let's see if I can come up with anything else when I do the next worker placement study.

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