D&D Lords of Waterdeep released on Steam with essentially no warning or announcement. This is usually an indicator of a disastrous release, but I found a deep and enticing board game that could be picked up and enjoyed within an hour. In Waterdeep, up to five players compete as innkeepers trying to achieve as many VP (Victory Points) as possible before eight rounds are over. Each turn has you placing your workers one at a time on open slots on the board, alternating with your opponents until the round is over. You can check out our review of the board game here.
There are five different resources that players can utilize: Gold, Clerics, Fighters, Rogues, and Wizards. Once a worker is placed in an open area, the player receives whichever reward is stipulated. For instance, if I were to place a worker on The Grinning Lion Tavern, I would receive two Rogues, which is shown by the two black boxes. This may look and sound somewhat static, but it really isn’t. The above picture only shows the base game, and if one were to buy the two expansions, the Undermountain expansion, and the Skullport expansion, the game opens up immensely.
This is because Waterdeep at its most basic (without the expansions) feels somewhat dull. It's still a fun and interesting experience, but there is a reason why both expansions were available at launch. The game feels incomplete without them. They both add so much more to the game as a whole that going back to the original board game is difficult, as there is just so much space that is no longer being used.
The Skullport expansion, (and my personal favorite of the two) adds a Corruption mechanic, where players have the option of placing workers in Skullport and receiving more resources, but at the cost of receiving Corruption. Usually, this would be a bad thing, but for some, it is the complete opposite. While most players would lose points for having Corruption at the end of the game, there are the rare few Lords that benefit and receive VP for the more Corruption that player has at the end of the game.
What is a Lord, you may ask? Well, a Lord essentially molds the players’ expectations and playing style throughout the entire game, guiding how they play and think. If you have a Lord that grants VP for having corruption, that is what you are going to be after. If you have a Lord that rewards you for completing commerce quests, then you will be looking for commerce quests and jealously hoarding gold, just like Smaug.
In the above picture, players who are playing as Sangalor feel compelled to buy as many buildings as possible and to complete as many non-Mandatory quests as they can. The incentive of receiving four VP’s per completed objective means that to play otherwise would be foolish. While in theory this sounds restricting, it really isn’t, as each new game has a randomized new Lord for the player to play. I have also found that there are enough Lords that I find myself having to play differently for each game of Waterdeep.
To summarize my playing experience thus far, I have found D&D Waterdeep to be a good translation of the board game. Foiling your opponent's through trickery and superior strategy is always entertaining, and while at the moment I am bad at the game, carefully watching my opponents has led to me changing the way how I play for the better. However, for all the good the playing experience has, it seems that nearly everything else has some niggling issues that drag down the entire experience.
Looking at this screen, it is made immediately clear that this is a title that was released on Android and IOS as well, and there are parts of the game where this fact is this almost painfully obvious. For one, while the board itself is clean and easily legible, I found that the general sound design is the complete opposite, betraying its mobile origins by repeating the same few sounds repeatedly. The one soundtrack is the same way – it is pleasant to listen to for a few minutes, but after hearing it again for the dozenth time, I essentially muted the sound altogether.
This is a theme that is continually evident throughout the entire game. If you were to go online, you have to scroll through the games by mousing over the active games and scrolling your mouse, which works, but I would have vastly preferred a list. Another weird issue is that it is incredibly difficult to add someone to your in-game ‘friend’s list’. It can be worked around, but it shouldn't be this difficult.
However, you can talk via text to people online, which is great, and there is a chatroom for people to hang out and beg for players to join their each other’s games. As one might suspect, there isn’t a ton of users, but there are enough that it didn’t take too long for me to find a game. However, there is a catch. By online, I mean that this game is designed to allow people over a period of time. There are many options to choose from, with players having a minimum of thirty minutes of playtime through the course of an entire game, or up to seventy-one days of playtime, which is ridiculous but the option is there if someone wanted to play a game and disappear for weeks at a time.
This is because when it is your turn, the player time goes down. If it hits zero, you forfeit and you automatically lose. For a thirty minute game, you really need to stick around, but for a three-day game, you could disappear for hours at a time and check in whenever you have a chance. Your mileage may definitely vary on this, but I have found that a thirty-minute game is not enough time to complete it without being forced to forfeit (which happens when you run out of time) but an hour-long game is just enough time for to carefully evaluate my decisions. I currently have a game going where three players (including myself) have a week's worth of playtime to finish a game. It's been working out good so far, and I can see myself playing long-term games in the future.
As one can expect from a board game, there is a lot of information to keep track of. Almost too much, and while I can easily access most things, having to reopen and close a half-dozen tabs can get mind-numbing. While I’m sure it works well on a phone or tablet, on PC I cannot help but think that there should be a better way of accessing this information.
As a whole, though, I really enjoyed my time in D&D Lords of Waterdeep. While there are some issues, they are minute enough that I can look past them. Currently, the developers are reasonably active, with a patch every week or so that quashed some bugs and adds a feature or two that makes the UI easier to navigate. There are no more expansions to add to the game, so this title will need meaningful and continual support in order for Waterdeep to stay populated on all platforms. For myself, while I’ve always loved board games it’s getting increasingly difficult to match schedules with my friends, so games like D&D Lords of Waterdeep are an agreeable compromise. If you enjoy board games and are not averse to playing against strangers, you should give this a close look.
Our D&D Lords of Waterdeep review was conducted on PC via Steam with a copy purchased by our reviewer.
If you can handle the mobile-inspired interface and lacking set of options, D&D Lords of Waterdeep offers a compelling experience for those who enjoy board games.
- Excellent Tutorial
- Well Implemented Mechanics
- Easy to Pick up and Play
- Mobile-First Interface