Lords of Waterdeep: D&D Board Game
List Price: $49.99
Your Price: $39.99
(Worth 3,999 Funagain Points!)
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Waterdeep, the City of Splendors—the most resplendent jewel in the Forgotten Realms, and a den of political intrigue and shady back-alley dealings. In this game, the players are powerful lords vying for control of this great city. Its treasures and resources are ripe for the taking, and that which cannot be gained through trickery and negotiation must be taken by force!
Lords of Waterdeep is a strategy board game for 2-5 players. You take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder—or help—the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.
Lords of Waterdeep (LoW) is a great game for 2-5 players. The game is set in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) universe, the port city of Waterdeep. The game is played in eight rounds plays in about an hour and there's absolutely a lot to like in this worker placement game.
First off, the components are wonderful. The agents (meeples), scoring pieces and Adventurer cubes (representing the standard D&D classes of fighter/cleric/wizard/rogue) are all wooden. The building tiles are nice and thick and contain a little cut out area in the bottom corner that allows the player that built the building to place an token to denote ownership. Even the money is cool... the one gold coin pieces are square with a hole in the center, while the five gold pieces are moon-shaped also with a hole in the center. The box comes with a nice insert to hold everything in place. Good stuff all the way around.
My only complaint with the components is with the Adventurer cubes. New players or those not familiar with D&D will typically say, “I’ll take two orange and a black” instead of “two fighters and a rogue.” While everyone will certainly understand what the player means by that, it just detracts from the theme of the game.
Fortunately, a couple of aftermarket options have shown up to help with this problem. One vendor sells small chips with an icon and the appropriate adventurer name (fighter, rogue, etc.) stamped on one side. An enterprising Canadian gamer is selling laser-cut wooden meeples which look very cool.
The rulebook is well written with lots of helpful illustrations, including an overview of each building. No complaints here.
The game board is nice and colorful. It looks great and features a very nice layout. The board has labeled spaces for where components are placed during setup. Everything is labeled clearly which makes it very easy to teach the game. A scoring track runs around the outside of the board. +1 for the game board.
LoW’s gameplay doesn't really break any new ground. However, the gameplay is so tight and interesting that the game just flows. It's not uncommon to hear, "Oh, it's my turn?" as turns play out very quickly.
At the start of the game each player receives a card representing a Lord of Waterdeep. This card is kept hidden from other players and provides a scoring bonus at the end of the game. For example, one Lord provides six victory points (VPs) for each building the player owns at the end of the game. Another may provide four VPs for every type of a specific quest type the player has completed.
This Lord provides casual gamers with a much needed goal. Instead of having to fully develop a strategy to win, the strategy is provided. The player then can focus on executing against that strategy.
LoW is a worker placement game where the players take turns placing an Agent on the board and immediately take the action provided by that location. Some locations allow the player to recruit Adventurers (receive cubes of the corresponding color), while others may provide gold, allow the player to draw or play an Intrigue card, build a building or take a quest.
As with most worker-placement games, players contend when placing an Agent. Most locations will only allow one Agent to be present, so the first player to place an Agent there gets that action that round. Note that there is not a blocking mechanism in the game. The player who places the Agent has to be able to take the corresponding action or he can’t place his Agent in that location. One of the locations (Castle Waterdeep), allows a player to draw an Intrigue card and become the first player in the following round.
After placing an Agent, the player has the option of completing a quest. Each player starts the game with two quests and completing quests will generally be one of the primary goals for players during the game. Quests are completed by discarding the appropriate types of the Adventurer cubes that the player has recruited (collected) on previous turns. Sometimes you have to cough up a few gold to complete a quest too. In return, the player will gain some combination of VPs, gold, Adventurer cubes and/or an ongoing effect (called a Plot Quest).
Plot Quests provide depth to the game as some of their effects align nicely with a Lord card bonus. For example, your Lord card may give you an end game scoring bonus for completing Commerce quests. One of the Plot Quests provides a two point bonus every time you complete a Commerce quest. Make sure to point these types of synergies out to new players.
Intrigue cards allow the player to receive some benefit or cause a negative effect on another player. Some cards “break the rules” of the game in a benign manner. Each player starts the game with two Intrigue cards. Additional cards are received as a result of Agent placement or completing a quest.
Buildings provide a new location on which players may place their Agent. The player who builds the building marks it as such, and this player receives a bonus any time another player places her Agent on that building. The bonuses are small but add up over the course of the game.
Quests are at the heart of the game. The quest cards all contain a name (“Deliver an Ultimatum”), an illustration (some cool, some meh), some flavor text, the quest type (Commerce, Warfare, etc.), the cost to complete the quest and the quest reward.
Quests are left face up so other players can see what you’re working on and what resources (Adventurers or gold) you need. Once completed, quests are placed faced down on the player board. Plot Quests remain face up to help remind the player of the ongoing bonus that they provide.
After all Agents have been placed, that round ends. Play continues in this manner until the end of the eighth round. Players will get another Agent at the end of round five.
LoW is tremendous fun to play. There’s enough player interaction with the Agent placement contention, Intrigue cards and the building bonuses to keep the game from feeling like he’s playing a giant game of solitaire. There are no wonky rules and the game feels and plays very intuitively.
Complexity-wise, it’s a step up from Ticket to Ride but a notch below Stone Age or Ninjato. LoW would be a great choice to introduce the worker placement mechanic to casual game players.
We love LoW at our house and it receives my highest recommendation for players looking for a fun board game to play with two to five players.