Not one of the best
L÷wenherz looks like it should have all the feel of The Settlers of Catan (also one of Klaus Teuber's): it has a variable map layout, it has several players vying for control of the board, it has the equivalent of 'development cards'; indeed there are lots of similarities. It came as a big surprise to me, then, that this game did not have the allure that its predecessor has.
One of the appealing aspects of Settlers is that you are almost always building your own side rather than actively trying to hurt your opponents. This is not the case with L÷wenherz, where the battles can get quite bloody in cramped quarters. Every action seems like a struggle, from the bidding to the expanding of regions to the getting of victory points.
The game play runs like this: each player gets a few castles on the board and a knight to defend each. At the beginning of a turn, you turn up a card, and then each player bids for the right to perform one of the three actions shown on the card, which could be to add a boundary wall, add a knight to an enclosed region, expand the area covered by an existing region, or take a politics card for later use. Not everyone will get their first choice, which is where negotiation comes in - and if it still can't be resolved, a duel (simultaneous wager of money), with the winner getting to perform the action. And so the game goes until the deck is almost empty and the old king dies, the player with the most victory points being the victor and new king.
I have played L÷wenherz with two and three players, and there is a little more strategy with two players. Each time I have felt an inkling of a Great Game lurking somewhere underneath it, but so far it has eluded me.