Over the past couple of years, Lords of Waterdeep has become an extremely popular game. Rightly so, as well, as it is a strong contestant within the worker placement category of board games. As a game it is well balanced, the theme comes across as a strong addition, and there are as many strategies as there are mercenaries on the Sword Coast. It is a very good game.
That being said, there is one Lord who stands out as a regular point for discussion. Most of the Lords in the game are good at two specific types of quests – whether that is Warfare, Skullduggery, Piety, Arcana, or Commerce. At the end of the game, their endgame is to get 4 victory points per quest they complete within their own specialty. There is one Lord, however, who is completely different. This is Larissa Neathal – better known as “the building Lord”.
Larissa Neathal has a slightly different rule. She isn’t a specialist in any particular form quest. Instead, for each building you build in the game, she gets 6 victory points at the end of the game. This is notably more than 4, which has certain players asking if she is overpowered. The flip side of the coin, however, is that Larissa Neathal is difficult to play well.
Where Do Building Buildings Come Into A Worker Placement Game?
Before continuing, for those who don’t know the game, we should probably look at it in a bit more detail. Lords of Waterdeep, as mentioned before, is a worker placement game. The goal is to complete as many quests as possible by collecting thieves, clerics, warriors, wizards, and gold. To make more of the game, there are also intrigue cards that can be played and buildings built to augment the game somewhat.
By turn five of the game, no matter what, all players get an additional meeple/worker (they are called “Agents” in LoWD), making building additional buildings important and essential to the game. Each building adds another placement space onto the board, meaning that with more players more buildings get played, as well as more buildings get needed.
Which Lord you end up playing as, on the other hand, is up to chance. The lords are dealt out at the start of the game. There is a 10/11 chance you, as the player will get a Lord who specialises in two types of quest. There is only a 1/11 chance you will get Larissa Neathal, the odd one out – she who builds.
What About Larissa Neathal, The Building Lord?
Larissa, dearest Larissa, the builder, is a fictional character within the D&D universe. Lords of Waterdeep itself is D&D based, and Larissa Neathal is within the mythos as a whole. In the story, she is one of the “like-minded lords”. Where she appeared to be a bit superficial in public, she used this as a front to lure the many public officials she could manipulate to well within her realms of control. This made her exceedingly powerful, and with her allegiances with other lords, she became a force to be reckoned with within Waterdeep. Larissa Neathal appears within the second book of Elaine Cunningham’s Songs and Swords series, called Elfsong. I haven’t read it, but you can read about it here.
The question is though, what is it like playing the Building Lord within the game? Well, having just played her…it kind of sucks. Where it is more than possible to play a good game as her, her strategies are more dictated. They are more defensive and less offensive. Let me explain.
The reasons I think Larissa Neathal is restricted as a character are –
- SHE CAN ONLY BUILD EIGHT BUILDINGS ORGANICALLY
Leaving aside a couple of commerce quests that give buildings as rewards, Larissa can generally only build one building each turn. Like all games, there are ways of breaking this, like with Quest rewards, but ultimately you are looking at eight buildings by the end of the game under your control, if you manage to build each turn. This makes her the only Lord with a natural upper limit, meaning she can realistically get a maximum of 48 end game points. Granted, this is pretty good, but that is only if the stars align.
- SHE HAS TO USE A MEEPLE EACH TURN TO BUILD BUILDINGS
All players start with two quests, as is the nature of the game, however, Larissa doesn’t really care about quests. No players start off with buildings. Where other players don’t need to use meeples each turn to get quests, Larissa needs to use up a meeple each turn to get buildings. This makes it really difficult to play her in 5 player games.
- SHE USUALLY HAS TO USE A SECOND MEEPLE EACH TURN TO GET CASH
On top of that, buildings cost coin. Most of the time you will need to use an additional meeple up each turn to get coins.
- HER STRATEGY IS THE MOST OBVIOUS ONE
By turn three, if you have managed to build each turn, it will be really obvious what your strategy is, and anyone who is familiar with the game (seasoned players) will know precisely which Lord you have. Other players have two routes to end game points, two different types of quests. Larissa only has one route. This leads onto point five.
- HER STRATEGY IS THE EASIEST TO BLOCK
Since her strategy is the most obvious, and since (unlike with quests) there is only one way to get buildings, Larissa is the easiest Lord to block. Simply buy a building before the player playing Larissa can, and she will not get end game points that round.
- HER STRATEGY MAKES IT EASIER FOR ALL THE OTHER PLAYERS TO WIN
Meanwhile, as Larissa Neathal, you are making it easier for all the other players to win. By building buildings you are giving other players more spaces to play Meeples. This gives other players more opportunities to gather resources and thus complete quests.
Is It All Doom and Gloom?
I mean, no. No it’s not. Larissa Neathal can really come into her own when played properly; however, it is insanely difficult to do. Please note that I have never won with her, and I am a seasoned Lords of Waterdeep player, however, there is a theory on how to play her right.
The idea, I suppose, is to saturate the market. By constantly providing more spaces for players to play their agents it is possible to even the game out for everybody. If two players are after Warfare, for instance, provide an additional Warfare space (somewhere to get warriors) could mean that players even out. There will be no way for one player to gain a huge majority over the others if everyone has access to the resources. Meanwhile, you are gathering the knock-off resources by someone using your building.
It’s a theory, but it would require the right tiles, the right timing, and for the right players to be the right kind of obvious. With all those things, if the stars align, you may be able to sit above the other players and just kind of profit off their fighting.
Whether that makes up for the loss of being easily blockable, easily detectable, and a little bit boring is an entirely different question.
So there we go – one opinion on why I really don’t like the Building Lord, Larissa Neathal.
What do you think? Who are your favourite and least favourite Waterdeep lords? Let me know in the comments below.
For a really awesome blogger who has been looking at cards in Lords of Waterdeep under the microscope, check out Dan at https://danongames.wordpress.com/ – in his series he looks at Lords of Waterdeep cards in detail, exploring the strategy and playing tactics that can go with each one. It’s an awesome blog, I would especially recommend this article as it blew my mind.