Recap: Lords of Waterdeep First Impressions
This week, I had the chance to get in first games of both Lords of Waterdeep and the upcoming Pirate Dice. Both are very different; LoW is a euro style substantive game and Pirate Dice is rolling frenzy. Additionally, I was able to return to some old favorites and explore new (and very ineffective) strategies.
Lords of Waterdeep. I went into this game expecting to like it. D&D theme plus euro game? How could it go wrong? Plus, it’s from the same publisher as Legend of Drizzt, a game I loved. But after my single play, I didn’t love Waterdeep. And it wasn’t because of all the “Mandatory Quests.”
In Waterdeep, the players represent various lords who hire adventurers to complete quests. It’s essentially a worker placement game where various spots on the board can you get you adventurers in four flavors (warrior, thief, cleric, and mage) and you can pick up quests. Each quest is worth a certain number of points and requires a specific combination of adventurers to complete. Turn in the required dudes and you get the points. Some quests have ongoing capabilities that impact the game. Quests come in several different types, some of which may be worth even more points depending on your randomly selected Lord.
Many people have complained about the mandatory quests. Basically, it’s an attack card that you play on someone else. Before they can complete any other quests, they must complete the mandatory quest first. Those quests are worth minimal points and use up precious resources. It’s a good way to slow down a leader or hinder your competition. Frankly, I thought that element was interesting and fun. The MQs aren’t so terrible that it totally derails your chance to win. Instead, it slows down you down as you have to take a few actions to clear that quest while your opponents continue to steam forward. It’s no worse (and I think less of a problem) than having the Provost pushed back in Caylus, or someone buying up your resources in Power Grid. It’s the kind of spite you would typically see in an interactive euro.
Instead, what bothered me was that there is absolutely no economic engine in the game. Ongoing effects, in my game at least, tended to give players money for taking certain actions, or more points for completing certain quests. But, other than that, you pretty much had to take the same actions every turn. Need warriors at the beginning of the game? Go to the warrior spot. Need them at the end of the game? Go to the warrior spot. True, buildings do arise that offer more attractive options. But I felt like I was taking the same actions over and over. And that repetitive experience over eight rounds was not ideal.
Hopefully, that experience is related to that one particular play. It is “first impressions” after all, and not a full review.
Pirate Dice. Thanks to a pre-production copy sent to me by the designer, I was also able to get a first play of Pirate Dice. So very fun. Pirate Dice captures all of the fun of the locked action games like RoboRally, but the small scale and quick rules keep everything light and enjoyable.
Players race in their pirate ships to pick up the treasure and make it back to the start tile. To do so, players roll five dice. Each die has several options, including turning, moving forward, drifting, and even a few spite faces. Players roll, then assign four of their five dice to action spots. If you don’t like what you rolled, you only have to assign one die and then can re-roll the rest. Again, you must assign one and then you may re-roll.
Our initial play was tons of fun. We had boats zigging and zagging and running every which way. Cannon fire was prevalent and boats took tons of damage. We were having a great time. The game is very unpredictable (it does have “dice” in the title), but as long as you can move past the luck factor, this game opens up to a fun experience.
Our first game did experience an interesting quirk. After the treasure was grabbed, the other three players tried to sink the treasure holder. We all bunched up on a tile with tons of islands (the upper left tile in the picture). With so little room to maneuver, and with everyone getting in each other’s way, we were able to generally only do one or two damage to the leader each turn, damage which he would spend the next turn healing.
We had about five or six turns in a row like that before our fifth group member arrived. So we ultimately called the game so that he wouldn’t have to sit out. Based on that particular play, I wouldn’t expect that getting bunched up like that was typical. I think it was likely unique to our set-up and also some wonky rolls. As it is, I’m looking forward to more plays of pirate dice.
Belfort. With enthusiasm, I finally got a chance to return to the city of Belfort. I picked up my opening cards and found that I had an Inn at my disposal. The Inn allows you to pay one coin to take another worker. It gives flexibility and a discount. Great! I thought, I can put that out first turn and just churn out the workers. That’ll give me worker point bonuses and tons of options. How can it go wrong?
I’ll tell you how. The Inn does not produce income. On turn one I was first and I played down my Inn. Another player had taken the Thieves Guild, which allows the players to steal from their fellows. I had only one coin left, and it looked like a good candidate to be stolen, so I spent it on a new card. If I was going to lose that coin, then I would rather get a card and deny it to my opponent. But without a coin to fund my Inn, that action was essentially wasted. Ugh.
Ultimately, it took me two turns to recover from that misstep. After that, I did fairly well, but I was so far behind that there wasn’t much I could do. In the end, I came in third place (though I only had a one point advantage over the tied 4th and 5th players). So I suppose that’s something. But next time I’ll remember to double check the guilds on the board before I settle in to a nice low money tactic.