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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Mar 28, 2012

Review – Lords of Waterdeep (Board Game)

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The night is drawing near. Shadows slip in and out of alleyways, back and forth across streets. The clinging of gold can be heard hitting tabletops from the corner taverns across the entire town. A handful of colors drape throughout the city – blue, black, red, green, and yellow. Each color comes with its own allegiance, which builds reputation and bends the city just a bit more to the will of the secret Lords. This is every day. This is a secret war. This is Waterdeep.

What is it?

Wizards of the Coast has introduced a brand new board game that follows the Dungeons and Dragons theme, much like others before it. Though it may follow the same theme, however, it is different in many – and very enjoyable – ways. At its core, the game plays out somewhat like Monopoly with a medieval veil tossed over it. Taking a look a bit deeper reveals that Lords of Waterdeep is a much more cunning and cut-throat than you’d first assumed. I’ve spent some time with the game, and played quite a few sessions, so I’m here to break it down and tell you what to expect if you decided to take up residency in the city.

Out of the box and Setup

Lords of Waterdeep is packaged and presented just like any other board game. There are your player pieces, some different cards, currency markers, and buildings. It’s in the pieces that the game first deviates from others in the D&D theme, and leans more toward traditional games like Risk and Monopoly. There aren’t any dice to roll, and no monsters to fight. You’ll get your game board and rulebook as well, which are both simple in themselves. There are tons of small pieces, but they add up to a huge gameplay experience. Once you’ve punched out all of the gold, you’re ready to setup for a game.

Broken down, here’s a list of the pieces you’ll take from the box:

  • 5 player mats

  • 25 Clerics (white)
  • 25 Fighters (orange)
  • 25 Rogues (black)
  • 25 Wizards (purple)
  • 5 score markers
  • 25 Agents (five of each color)
  • 1 Ambassador
  • 1 Lieutenant
  • 1 First Player marker
  • 11 Lord of Waterdeep cards
  • 50 Intrigue cards
  • 60 Quest cards
  • 24 Building tiles
  • 45 Building control markers (nine of each color)
  • 60 Gold tokens
  • 50 1-Gold tokens
  • 10 5-Gold tokens
  • 36 Victory Point tokens

These will all be set upon the game board, save for those that serve as currency. We’ll get to how the game is played in a bit, but for now we’ll get the board set up. Lords of Waterdeep is a game that can be played by 2-5 players. Each player chooses a faction – City Guard, Harpers, Red Sashes, Silver Stars, or Nights of the Shield – and takes the player’s mat for that faction. Then gold is divided up between the players, in increasing amounts depending on the number of people playing. There are wooden tokens called “agents,” which go to the player playing the faction of their corresponding color. They’re all set atop the player’s mat as indicated in the rulebook. Then each player gets dealt two Quest cards and an Intrigue card, which we’ll get into later. The leftover cards are placed in their marked areas on the game board. Then players choose a card from the Lord of Waterdeep deck, which will represent their “character” in the game. For all intents and purposes these cards will serve as the source of all power in the players’ hands.

Once these cards and pieces are set, it’s time to grab the building set. You’ll place one building face up in the designated spots on the game board. These will serve as the city’s real estate that players can purchase on their turns, creating places of interest in the city. An extra agent for each player is placed down on the spot below the rounds marker, and then the final steps come into play. You’re almost ready to start the game!

Player tokens, which are circular pieces that share the same color as the player’s agents and player mats, are placed on the “0” marker on the game board’s track around the edges, serving as the scoring tally for the game. Then the Victory Point markers are placed on the board. You’ll see the round markers on the board, showing the number of rounds each game lasts, which is eight. On each of these rounds you’ll place three of the Victory Point counters. I’ll explain how these are used in a bit. Finally, the group decides who will take the first turn, and the First Player Marker is given to the chosen player. Now you’re ready to get into the game.

All together, setup takes about 10 minutes. Once you play through a game and put the pieces back where they belong in the storage tray, it’s a lot easier to setup and tear down each time. Keeping track of all the smaller pieces, like gold and Victory Point counters gets a bit annoying, but it’s not terrible.

How To Play

Now we’re at the exciting part! Lords of Waterdeep is played in a total of eight rounds. The main goal of the game is to accrue more Victory Points than the other players at the end of the final round. These points can be earned by completing quests, as well as purchasing buildings each round. Remember how I said that three Victory Point counters were placed on each of the rounds on the game board? Well at the beginning of each round, you take them off and place one on each face-up building on the game board. When players purchase a building on their turn, they gain any amount of points currently on it.

Each round is composed of turns that the players take. On each turn, a player will assign one of their agents to any open space or building on the board. These agents serve as the interaction between your Lord and the city. They allow you to gain gold and adventurers that you’ll need to complete quests. Once you assign an agent, you can then choose to complete a quest that’s available to you.

When you complete a quest, you’ll earn Victory Points and sometimes other rewards such as an Intrigue card. Once you earn these points, you’ll advance your circular player piece forward around the edges of the board, corresponding to the number of points you earn. After a player assigns an agent and completes a quest, their turn has ended. When players have assigned all of their agents, the round ends. At this point all of the players take back their agents and the player with the First Player Marker takes the first turn for the new round.

Players also have the ability to purchase buildings, as I mentioned before. Buildings can offer players with new abilities and rewards when used. To use a purchased building, you simply need only to assign an agent to the building once it’s placed on the board. The player who made the purchase “controls” the building at this point. When opposing players assign agents to the building, the owner will receive special bonuses for controlling it. This can make the game much easier for some, and much more difficult to others. Owning real estate hasn’t been this fun since the good old days.

Each round passes as players gain gold, and Victory Points, as well as playing Intrigue cards. These cards will allow players to give opponents Mandatory Quests which will hinder progress, as well as gain adventurers and gold.

Adventurers come in four types: Fighters, Clerics, Wizards, and Rogues. These are represented by colored cubes and are used in the completion of quests. Players can assign agents to different places on the board to gain these adventurers, which provides a sort of strategy to the game.

After many rounds of thoughtful play, the game will eventually come to an end. At the end of the eighth round, players count up all of their Victory Points, and convert any gold and adventurers they own into extra points. The player with the most points at this point could win the game! But, there’s one more factor that comes into play. This is when your Lord is most important. You see, each quest has a certain type. Your Lord will allow you to gain extra Victory Points for completing certain types of quests by the end of the game. For instance, some say that for each Skullduggery and Commerce quest you complete, you’ll gain 4 Victory Points a piece. Each Lord is different, and this is the final point that can make or break the game.

Conclusion

Lords of Waterdeep started out as a confusing game with way too many pieces, and evolved into a very interactive battle of wits. I find myself wanting to play over and over, just to see what different combination tasks I can take to come out on top. The rules and game board are really self-explanatory, and don’t leave your searching for answers to too many questions. Though this is D&D-themed, it doesn’t fall into the same category as the other board games in the series. You can pick up the game for around $40, which is an amazing price for such a fun game. A typical run can last about two hours, so it’s definitely worth paying for. I really enjoyed the game, and urge you to go grab a copy for yourself. Become a Lord of Waterdeep and take the city for yourself!

The Good

  • interesting gameplay
  • tons to do in one session
  • sessions last for upwards of 3 hours
  • each playthrough is different
  • the game makes you seriously think and work out strategies
  • great game for multiple players
  • unique theme, takes from the Dungeons and Dragons realm
  • easy to pick up for first-time players

The Bad

  • tons of little pieces are easy to get lost
  • the game can’t be played in a short time period
  • keeping track of counters can be agitating

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