2012 was such a great year for board games that when we compiled the list for the top five games of the year, we had a difficult time narrowing it down. When the dust settled, Lords of Waterdeep was our game of the year. A light euro game that is set in the famous Dungeons and Dragons location was a great start. We also loved the game for its easy to learn game play, high level of interaction, and that it was just a blast to play. Recently, Playdek released Lords of Waterdeep for iOS and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this app. So lets get to the review.
In Lords of Waterdeep, players are one of the high ranking lords that secretly rule the city. Each lord has agents that they can send out into the different areas of the city to take control of a building or to play an influence card, but agents are primarily used recruit adventurers to go on dangerous quests and gather gold to fund quest expenses. Players will place 2-4 agents, depending on the number of players, over a series of eight rounds. Unfortunately, there are only room for a single agent at most of the locations around the city and some of the other players might want the same things as you. Every round players with place one of their agents on the board until everyone has deployed all their agents. Once players have enough money and glory hungry adventures they can complete quest cards that will earn them victory points and more clout in the city. At the end of the eighth round, the player with the most victory points in the winner and new true ruler of Waterdeep.
The app opens with two options for either an offline or online game. The online service is through Playdek and takes a quick username setup, but once that is done you can find other humans to play with. The main menu for the offline game shows any current games you have going, a profile option that will keep track of your games, tutorial section to learn the game if you have never played and a create a game option. Players have pass and play options as well as three difficulty levels of AI to challenge them. Once players have decided on their opponents they can start the game.
The top and bottom are where all the player and opponent information is located, with player information at the bottom. This menu shows the current number of victory points, number of each of the four adventurer types they have recruited, quest and influence cards and completed quest. Players are able to touch both the quest and influence cards to have them become bigger to see more clearly the requirements, rewards, effects and flavor text on the cards. The entire menu with this information is collapsible to allow you to see more of the game board. Players are also able to look at the same information for all of their opponents at the top of the screen.
At the bottom right side of the screen shows how many agents you have left to place this round. Players will touch this area and then drag their finger across the game board to place the agent at the desired location. Players will automatically receive any resources they gain from that placement. The entire middle section of the screen is devoted to the map of Waterdeep. It is set up exactly like the board game with quest cards at the top and building spaces on the right. If you double tap on a location it will show an icon that will tell you exactly what will happen if you place an agent there. The artwork uses the same artwork in the board game for both the cards and game board. One nice touch to the graphics is that they highlight the locations where your agent can be placed. They did add a little more to some little animations on the board of moving ships, clouds, birds and even a griffon that add more action to an otherwise sterile board.
Before I got to see any of the interface for this app I was wondering what Playdek would do with it. The game board has a lot of open, unused space that doesn’t bother me for the physical game but might in the app. I’m sort of mixed at the final result. I do enjoy the original artwork on the game board and I’m happy they stuck with that in the app. I do find myself moving around the game board or having to zoom in to see the quest requirements or buildings. I wish they would of taken a little more liberties with the layout to make it more concise. Besides this gripe, I like how the app is set up. Having the pop out menu with all of the information you need for yourself and opponents works great. If you ever need more information about a location or quest, simply double tapping gets you an almost full screen view. I wasn’t sure if I would like sliding my finger across the screen to place agents, but I quickly found it to be very natural.
There are plenty of options for players to get their Waterdeep fix. The online play works great and gives people a nice break from the AI. Which in my opinion is brutally difficult. Maybe I’m just a noob and have no idea what I’m doing, but I have difficulty beating the AI on easy. This doesn’t make me want to quit playing the game, just makes me know I have to be at the top of my game to win. I don’t see myself ever going to higher difficulty, but if you are better at the game then me, I’m sure they will give you a challenge.
The pass and play works well by forcing players to double tap on their leader before showing any information. As a single player experience, the app works extremely well. AI turns are completed quickly and within 10 minutes you have a full game experience. I do miss some of the player interaction when playing Intrigue cards though. Many of them have a “give something to another player” that you can use to form alliances, but that obviously can’t happen versus and AI. Since it’s not a major part of the game it doesn’t break the game, it’s just something I miss.
Even though I have some minor issues with the Lords of Waterdeep app, this is a great conversation to iOS. I would of liked some slight changes, but the game plays exactly like the board game. Which is what most people want. Playdek did a fantastic job of translating Lords of Waterdeep to your iPad and iPhone. Even if you have never played the game before, the great tutorials will teach you the rules in no time. If you are a fan of boardgames on the iOS, give Lords of Waterdeep a download. For fans of Lords of Waterdeep, this is a must buy!