Playdek, for those who are unfamiliar with the company, has built themselves a solid reputation for converting trading card games into mobile apps for the iPhone. They recently broke into the traditional board game conversion market with Agricola which, for all intents and purposes, was a good port of a solid game.
Recently, however, they ported the Lords of Waterdeep – a Wizards of the Coast board game set in the Forgotten Realms – to over to the iPhone. The question is, does it hold up to the standards that they’ve set with their apps so far?
First of all, the game actually looks quite good. The board has been faithfully converted – no surprise in and of itself – and everything seems to give off an air of quality. Whoever was in charge of handling the artwork in the app really made sure to give it the care it deserved.
The only slight quibble, and this is extremely common in any board game conversion, is that they left all of the pieces looking like their physical counterpart. I understand that some people prefer it, but it would be nice to have app developers take the time to turn the little markers for priests, fighters, etc. into actual priests, fighters, and the rest.
There is one small problem with the game, however, and that is how it handles multiplayer. Local multiplayer can be handled easily through hotswap, which is always nice, but online multiplayer is handled in a rather annoying way.
Rather than make use of Game Center, like the majority of board game apps do, Lords of Waterdeep requires you to have a Playdek account to access their own multiplayer options. It’s not an enormous gripe, to be certain, but it’s always annoying when app developers choose to use their own, usually inferior, services instead of making use of the more commonly accepted services that do the same thing.
The actual gameplay, however, is solid. The touch controls are easy and responsive, the game does a good job of highlighting whatever you might need at the moment, and the single player game has some decent AI so you don’t have to worry about an empty “table” for the game.
The only real complaint, gameplay-wise, is that the beginner and medium level AIs are a bit too tough. For someone who’s played the game and knows their way around, they’re just fine, but new players are likely to find the difficulty frustrating.
Overall, the game is, despite one or two very minor nitpicks, a must have for any fan of the board game. Currently there’s only the base game available for purchase but, hopefully, we might be seeing Playdek release the expansion pack as an inexpensive add-on to the main game.
With that in mind, if you’re a fan of the game and you’ve gotten used to the expansion pack, hold off until that gets released. Otherwise, pick it up and give it a try. Even if you’re not a huge fan of board games, you might be pleasantly surprised.