Lords of Waterdeep iOS Review

Dungeons & Dragons Lords of Waterdeep iPad Boardgame review
Lords of Waterdeep was one of 2012’s most popular board games. The blending of euro-style worker placement with the rich Dungeons & Dragons theme proved a hit with many gamers and so it was only a matter of time till a digital version of Lords of Waterdeep was made.

Lords of Waterdeep iPad Boardgame choices
In Lords of Waterdeep you play as one of the titular lords as you recruit heroes to your cause and send them on quests to gain victory points. Playing Lords of Waterdeep involves sending your agents to various places in the city of Waterdeep; you may send them to the Field of Triumph to recruit fighters, Cliffwatch Inn to claim a new quest or Waterdeep Harbour to instigate some intrigue. You can’t play an agent to an area that has already been claimed so choosing which order to claim locations, or taking Castle Waterdeep to go first on your next turn, are of upmost importance. You can also go the Builder’s Hall to construct a building, buildings act like other locations in Waterdeep but as the owner you also get a bonus when another player sends an agent there.

Lords of Waterdeep on iPad is a perfect translation of the board game and not a single aspect of the game has been compromised to make it work on a touch-screen device. Not only are there a variety of AI opponents to take on you can also go online to play against your friends or random denizens of the internet. This follows Playdek’s usual asynchronous gaming system and unfortunately Lords of Waterdeep isn’t particularly suited to asynchronous play; intrigue cards and buildings often give options to other players during your turn, breaking the flow of the game. There’s is however a pass and play option but I always think if you’ve got your friends round why not play the real board game.

Lords of Waterdeep iPad Boardgame day gameplay
Playing Lords of Waterdeep on a touch-screen is a dream, simply dragging your agent to the required space. Panning and zooming is a doddle and the details of any card are just a double tap away. Some information though, such as your quests and the assets of other players is hidden behind menus which means accessing some of this information isn’t as intuitive as the rest of the game. The detail is so crisp that this game is perfectly playable even on the tiny screen of an iPhone but shines on the expanse of an iPad.

One aspect where the digital translation helps, though only slightly, is adding a little more graphical detail to the resources. In Lords of Waterdeep you are recruiting adventurers to your cause but those clerics, wizards and rogues are represented by nothing more than wooden cubes. It’s something that disconnects the player from the theme and it takes a conscious effort when playing the board game not to just refer to them by their colour. However the digital version adds a little more graphical detail, it’s amazing how far a simple emblem on a cube can go to turn a small purple block into a wizard.

I often talk about whether an iPad board game is a replacement or an addition to the physical product and the iOS version of Lords of Waterdeep is a bit of a glitch in the matrix, it shines a spotlight on one of Waterdeep’s biggest flaws. Because you can play this game offline, against AI opponents it dawns on you that there is very little player interaction in this game. It highlights that apart from the odd intrigue card Lords of Waterdeep’s only real player interaction is hoping to claim a location before your opponent.

Lords of Waterdeep iPad Boardgame night gameplayIn the physical game it’s easy to look over the board and try to determine what your opponent wants and how best to screw them up. In this digital translation all of this information is available but it’s more difficult to ascertain quickly which means you’re paying less heed to how your opponents are playing. It means you are effectively playing your own game and though you may grab a location first or have your most beneficial location stolen this version of the game brings to the front that that could be achieved by randomness anyway. It doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the game; it just highlights this flaw that is less apparent when sitting across the table from a real opponent.

One thing that stands out throughout the entire experience is just how beautiful this game is. When converting a board game to the iPad it’s possible to just bring across the card and board art and leave it at that but Playdek really have gone the extra mile and added all manner of graphical tweaks. Whether it’s the clouds or a flock of birds passing over the city, ships sailing in and out of port or the way the map changes from day and night with all the buildings twinkling from within, these little touches can’t help but make you smile. They add nothing to the gameplay but that’s not the point they do add to the experience. Unfortunately the music used in this game isn’t as favourable; it’s one of those grating medieval ditties that feel like its playing on some old school midi hardware.

Lords of Waterdeep is now the gold standard in board game to iPad conversions. Not only does it perfectly translate the entire board game experience to your touch-screen it also adds layers of visual opulence to the experience. Playdek have once again proven themselves the undisputed kings of iPad board game conversions. Lords of Waterdeep is slick, beautifully presented and an absolute pleasure to play.

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  1. Why is this not available for pc almost everything is pc based and not on apple so why would you put a world famous game on a system built for work and not gaming makes no sense besides most people have pc's at work and at home not the apples.

    1. Wat. iPad and iPhone is the standard platform for digitizing tabletop games. These games are being made for mobile devices, not computers, a market that Apple is dominating right now.
      If Apple products are meant for work and not play, then the entire population of the United States has not gotten that memo. The guys at Rovio will be devastated when they find out. They'll have to wipe away their tears with the huge mounds of cash they've made selling Angry birds for Apple devices.

    2. The reason I believe iOS is the main platform for board game conversion is simply profit. The iPad is relatively simpler to write for as it is a standardised hardware and, even at the low prices in the app store, apple owners are historically more likely to buy new apps. The result is lower costs and a higher sales.

      Why these games don’t come to PC is a bit of a mystery. However the PC currently doesn’t have much in the way of stand-out board game conversions. Space Hulk and Talisman have both hard lukewarm success and these are both pretty big licences.