Lords of Waterdeep

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Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Designers: Pete Lee & Rodney Thompson

Ages: 8+

Players: 2-5

Duration: 60 min

Winding through the city, you turn a corner, and see the rogue in the alley. You approach him, offering him the adventure of a lifetime. You tell him that you will lead a band of rogues and wizards to reclaim lost treasure. He agrees to join you, and you head back to your tavern, walking between the tall buildings as night begins to fall. You have many quests to complete, many allies to hire and you must do it before others find them…

Lords of Waterdeep is a game set in the D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) universe, but thats all it really has in common with the role-playing game. It’s really a euro-style worker placement game, full of intrigue and beating our opponents to the spot. But among the sea of crowded Euro-worker placement games (seems like theres a new one each week), how does this one stand up after 5 years of release? Is it still a worthy and daring adventure?

What’s in the box?

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Just another day at the tavern…

Inside the box, you open up to find a surprisingly well done insert. There is a large game board, a player mat for each faction, 24 building tiles, 60 gold tokens, 36 Victory point tokens, 100 adventurer cubes (25 Clerics, Fighters, Rogues and Wizards), 5 scoring markers, 5 agents for each player, 9 building control markers for each player, a 100 VP marker for each player, 1 ambassador, 1 Lieutenant and 1 1st player marker. There are also 121 cards, which include 11 secret Lord of Waterdeep Cards, 50 intrigue cards and 60 Quest Cards.

Everything has a spot in the insert, and its great to have the tray to hold a lot of the pieces. The components are well done, the wood pieces are sturdy and the cardboard is nice and thick. If you’re into the theme and really dive into the flavour text of each card, you’ll be immersed in the backstory of the game, but its really not necessary. The art is really well done, with well drawn characters and cards. I do find the board to be a little bit on the “blah” side compared to the rest of the game, but it’s well designed and laid out. The game really presents itself well, and is very easy to navigate.

So how do you play?

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Look at all that action in one city!!!

To begin, each player will choose a faction (just the colour, no variable player powers) and receive agents (player pawns) based on the number of total players (the more players there are, the less agents everyone gets). One agent for each player will get placed near the round track, and each player has an agent near the round tracker (they will get it at round 5). Then the Lord cards are shuffled, and one will be dealt to each player, and the rest will be put face down in the box. These are secret objectives for each player, don’t show them to anyone! Then the quests are shuffled, and 2 are handed out to each player, and same for the intrigue cards. Then you set up the board by placing 4  quest cards face up and putting the deck on the board, putting the intrigue deck on the board, putting the buildings face down and revealing 3 face up, and then putting 3 Victory tokens on each round marker on the board. Last, the person who last visited another city begins the game and gets 4 gold, and the next player gets 5 gold, and so on (each player to the right of the starting player gets one more gold than the player before him). Now we are ready to begin!

The game is played over 8 rounds; each round you will take turns placing your agents on the spaces on the board, taking the action on the space and leaving your agent on there so no one else can use that spot for the round. You will be hiring helpers (getting cubes), getting gold, getting new quest cards and intrigue cards, playing your intrigue cards or buying buildings to put into play. Also, every time you place a agent, if you have the required amount of helpers (cubes) and gold (if required), you can complete one quest card and either place it face down, or if its a Plot Quest, you place it face up and have an ongoing special effect for the rest of the game, which can be really beneficial!

Everything on the board is very straightforward, but I want to focus on 2 aspects that have a lot more going on. The first is the buildings: When you buy a building, you put it into play and place your building control marker under it; this becomes a spot for anyone to use, but everytime someone does, you get something as well, so its really smart to buy buildings! Important to remember, if you use your own building you don’t get the bonus for it.

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Intrigue cards… a lot of good for you, not always so good for others

The other important spot is the Harbour, where you play your intrigue cards. Intrigue cards are a wild card; some give you resources, some take resources from players, some give you resources but you have to share with other players, and some are mandatory quests you give to other players and they cannot complete any other quests until they finish that one. They usually don’t require much, but also don’t give you many points and are a big nuisance.

At the beginning of each round, you will take the 3 VP tokens on the round marker and place 1 on each face-up building. Important to note, some buildings in play will also require things to be placed on them. At the beginning of round 5, each player will also get an extra agent. Players will play until everyone runs out of agents, THEN every agent who played in the Harbour will get to play those agents in turn order, placing them on any remaining tiles. Once that is done, everyone will take back their agents and the new round begins. As you complete quests and play certain intrigue cards and play on certain buildings, you will move your marker on the scoring track accordingly. After the 8th round, final scoring will occur. Every remaining adventurer (cube) in your tavern is worth one VP, and each 2 gold is worth 1 VP. Then you will reveal your Lord, and get points based on the quests you completed (there is one Lord that gives you points based on how many buildings you own). The person with the highest score wins!!!

Is it any good?

When I first saw this game, I really wasn’t too intrigued due to the D&D theme (I have no issues with D&D at all, but I just thought it was a role-playing board game and that didn’t appeal to me at the time). I went home and read about it, and then as I didn’t have too many worker placement games at the time, so I decided to give it a shot.

I’m so glad I did. I would classify this game as an entry-level worker placement, but a great one at that. It is extremely easy to teach and to play, but has enough depth for a more serious gamer. I would classify this as a gateway game (like Carcassonne, Catan, Ticket to Ride) even if its on the higher end of that scale, it’s one I often pull out with new players and everyone picks it up very quick. The mechanics are solid and the playing field is even, especially with the intrigue cards. The quest cards vary in difficulty and requirements, but the more difficult ones to complete offer a lot more points and rewards. Seasoned players and new players will have a somewhat level playing field due to the limited choices available, and bringing new buildings out gives benefits to everyone!

If I had one issue with this game, its the mandatory quest cards. If someone is really in the lead, I find players tend to give those quests to them and soon the lead player ends up in last place. It can be a little mean and discouraging. I know they’re meant to help balance the game, but I feel sometimes the player can feel targeted and get discouraged, It’s really a minor issue, and if you really wanted you could remove them from the deck.

If you have a lot of games (like me) or are just starting to build a collection, or just plan on keeping a few games around to play on holidays, Lords of Waterdeep is pretty essential to a collection. It’s perfect for teaching new gamers, plays in a pretty short time, scales well from 2-5 players, and has enough depth to satisfy. It’s gotten a lot of plays here (it’s one of my wife’s favourites), so many that at one point we played it sooo much, I wouldn’t play it for a few months (but now I love playing it again). And if you’re a more hardcore gamer and play with 6 players, there is a excellent expansion which adds a 6th player and adds a lot more to the game, and I absolutely love it. But even the base game on its own is excellent. I highly recommend Lords of Waterdeep to any gamer or non gamer!

Pros:

  • Easy to learn and to play
  • Great components and a great insert
  • So many choices, yet you really have to pick wisely
  • Those intrigue cards can be really great…

Cons

  • …except those mandatory quest cards, they can be really mean and no fun.

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