When getting ready for the fantasy football league here, I went through a handful of mock drafts and, each time, I found myself really regretting each choice that I made and then watched my mock opponents make choices that kept me saying “oooh, I should have done that, I should have done that, I should have done that…” until it was my turn, when, once again, the fields before me looked positively barren.
They’ve figured out how to capture that feeling in a boardgame. It’s called “Worker Placement”. The basic idea is that you’re given X number of workers and each turn you place one of them… and, two turns later, you always wish that you had placed it somewhere else. Carcassonne is pretty much the entry level worker placement game that pretty much everybody has heard of (with Agricola being the one that you really ought to name-drop in any given worker placement discussion) but the game that we’ve played on game night that has absolutely captured our various imaginations is Lords of Waterdeep.
This is an Americanized version of Worker Placement. (Brief aside: It’s a D&D setting but don’t let that scare you off if you’ve never played D&D. There’s enough flavor text to get you to recognize names, places, and personalities if you’re already familiar with Forgotten Realms but, if you’re not, that won’t matter at all to you. You’ll be able to look at the board and see just the 1s and 0s.) That is to say, it’s been somewhat made a bit more sexy. Agricola was a game about a husband and wife running a farm. Carcassone was about building a city in the countryside. Lords of Waterdeep? You’re collecting fighters, and clerics, and mages, and thieves! And completing quests! And engaging in skullduggery! I mean, sure, you could pretty easily switch words around and make this a game about a vineyard run by 14th Century trappist monks or iron chefs at the country’s largest cooking contest but the setting is one that automatically seems more “fun” than one involving the mundane (maybe that’s just me).
At the beginning of the game, you are given a leader type who will give bonuses for accomplishing particular goals (that is, completing any particular two of arcana, skullduggery, commerce, piety, or combat quests for additional victory points), you are given 2 workers (you get an additional worker halfway through the game) to place, and a couple of “intrigue” cards and all you have to do is hammer out who is going first (we roll a die… and that’s the only time in the game that dice get rolled). There are different areas where workers can be placed, areas where you get fighters (or clerics, or mages, or thieves), or areas that allow you to take a quest from the quest pool, or areas that allow you to build (and perhaps collect rents from) more areas, areas that allow you to play your intrigue cards, areas that give you gold, and an area that allows you to go first next time.
Quests consist of little collection tasks. One small quest may require a priest, a fighter, a mage, and two gold and pay you 5 victory points, another quest may require 8 thieves, one mage, and one fighter and pay you 25 victory points. It’s relatively easy to collect any given ingredient… but you’re also in a race against other people who find it relatively easy to collect any given ingredient… and you’ll find yourself wishing you had placed your worker somewhere else the moment your hand leaves the game piece (oh, I should have gotten thieves instead, no, I should have played my card, no, I should have taken that quest, I could accomplish that quest next turn!).
The only luck involved is in who goes first the first turn, what cards you’re dealt, and what order the special buildings could be built in, after that, it’s similar to any given football draft. While it’s not possible for *EVERY* team to have a great draft, it’s possible for *ANY* team to have a great one and if only I had placed my pieces here instead of there, that team could have been me.
Anyway, if you find yourself in need of a diceless boardgame that lasts about an hour to 90 minutes for 4-5 people, you owe it to yourself to pick up Lords of Waterdeep.
So that’s my recommendation for you this week.