2-5 players, Competitive, Worker Placement
Designers: Peter Lee, Rodney Thompson
Artwork: Eric Belisle
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Overview of Gameplay
It is such a simple worker placement style and yet has some very interesting mechanics. For those of you who have never partaken in a worker placement, the general idea of the game is to take a little meeple character and place it on a specific spot on the game board and collect whatever resource is displayed there. You collect these resources over time to use for various other means which in turn usually net you some of those delicious victory points in order to win the game.
What sets this particular worker placement apart from others is mostly the interesting theme and how it integrates with the mechanics and card play. When you first start playing you set up a rather large quest card draw pile and 4 face up quests on the board. These cards are the basis of what you will be working on. As you complete these quests you will gain victory points. There is also an Intrigue card pile which you can draw from that has cards that can either help you or hinder your opponents and a building draw pile which are printed on much heavier and thicker card stock. There are also 3 face up building tiles to choose from. The building tiles are used when you place your worker on the building section on the board and allow you to build a unique building after paying the cost. Each different building (and there are a ton) does something different when built and added to the game board when you place your worker on it. When you start playing you also get dealt a random Lord card. This Lord card has a way to gain even more VP at the end of the game usually by completing certain kinds of quests.
So let’s recap. You place a worker on a spot, take the resources, spend resources to complete quests, gain vp’s, SUCCESS! Whoever has the most victory points at the end of 8 rounds wins!
The game board looks pretty cool with a map of the city of Waterdeep and spaces for new building tiles to be constructed which in turn opens up EVEN MORE places to place workers. There is a nice VP point tracker that goes all the way around the outer edges of the board and dedicated spaces that are labeled for the different card decks. It’s a very well put together board for sure.
Overall the components are excellent with very nice card stock with a linen finish and even the tokens have a glossy finish to them to make them feel more premium. The wooden meeples are also great, BUT the little colored square cubes they have packed in for the resources are pretty lacking. Again they work but when you consider what the resources are you instantly think, “what? These are represented by wooden cubes?” So you are not collecting your standard wheat or wood resources here, you are collecting adventurers to go on your quests! Each different quest requires different kinds of adventurers depending on exactly what it is that quest has going on. You could send a rogue to kidnap someone or a cleric to heal something or you might need to recruit fighters and wizards to put down a beast or possibly a mixture of them all for those really high level quests that net bookoos of VP’s. Now wouldn’t the game bring that much more theme to it if those cubes were at least wooden meeples shaped like wizards or fighters?
The box is super unique and looks like a book when all closed up which is pretty cool. When opened it has a really nice insert that has a space for everything as well. Actually all said this is a prime example of how games should model their storage solutions. The insert works and looks great and the box design is a nice touch. Super impressed.
Visual Appeal /Theme
Another amazing thing about this game is the theme. It is VERY heavy fantasy oriented and since it takes place in the D&D universe you will see a lot of references that you will recognize if you are a fan. The quests are fun and the flavor text on all the cards really adds to the theme. The artwork is great with all kinds of unique images for the different kinds of quest cards. The coin tokens further enhance the theme being shaped like a square or half-moon and each player has a unique player mat starting location which is pretty nifty even if it doesn’t really matter.
Zero problems with the rulebook although player aids would be appreciated. There are still things I forget coming back to the game months later that player aids would make so much easier. Other than that not much to say about the rules other than they are well written and easy to follow.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
This is key in this game. You see when you place a worker on a spot, other players CANNOT place a worker there until the spots clear at the start of the next round. SO weighing exactly what resource you NEED and what resources you are willing to potentially give up is paramount. This creates some pretty tense moments when you snatch a spot that someone else was eyeballing. Also if you buy a building to add to the ever-growing city proper, you own it. Which means that if any other player places their worker there, you get paid. This creates such an incredible dynamic between players weighing not only where they need to go vs where they want to go. Placing on that other player’s tile would reap much better benefits for you BUT that player also gains a benefit…do you allow that to happen? The choice is yours.
I always have a great time playing this game. The choices to make are always changing and the sheer amount of quests keep the game fresh and since there are only 8 rounds the game is over before you know it.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
So for a worker placement to really WORK you need at least 3 players, preferably 5. I mean you can play it fine at 2 players but you miss out on a lot of that player interaction and critical choices since both players have so many options of placements. The more players you have, the less options that you can place which equals more critical choices.
Replayability is a bit above average just because of the crazy amount of different building tiles and quest cards. So the quests are usually always going to be something along the lines of “collect adventurers, gain vps” it’s mostly the theme and art on each card that really sets them apart. However the building tiles can drastically change the board state depending on which come out and which are bought and placed. This is where you will find most of the variability in the game. Of course aside from the Lords themselves. There are a bunch of Lord cards included with the game and you only get one at the very beginning so this starting Lord’s ability will basically set you on the main quest path that you will likely follow through the end of the game.
The Fuzzy Llama Golden Seal of Eternal EXCELLENCE
Positive Final Thoughts
The game even with a full 5 players doesn’t last that long. Let’s see a 2 or 3 player game usually takes about an hour to complete. A full 5 player game takes about 2 hours, honestly not bad. It’s really fun, it moves at a decent pace, it’s not too lengthy. For the most part as far as worker placement games go there isn’t anything mechanic-wise in this game that I don’t find fun.
Negative Final Thoughts
BUT if I had to point out something that I don’t utilize as much in the game as the rest it would be the intrigue cards. Now this is just a personal thing here as I have seen many other players unleashing these cards to their heart’s content. Basically there are some intrigue cards that actually harm or hinder other players so using them could give you that edge that you need to squeak out a win. It’s just that I don’t find them as fun as just building up a large quest base or constructing buildings.