Name: Lords of Waterdeep
Type: Board Game
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Playtime: 60 mins
Size: 28.4cm x 7.6cm x 39cm
(5.0 / 5)
Lords of Waterdeep is a competitive resource acquisition and management board game published by Wizards of the Coast. It is set within the city of Waterdeep, City of Splendour, in the Forgotten Realms Campaign setting and revolves around the game of one-upmanship played by the hidden Lords of Waterdeep, the secretive hidden leaders of the City of Splendour.
I picked up this game on a bit of a whim actually, I was originally going to buy X-Com until one of my regular group mentioned that they were picking that up regardless and so I needed an alternative. My criteria was pretty simple, I wanted a good game that easily accommodated 5 or more players without breaking and Lords of Waterdeep seemed to meet those criteria while, as a bonus, being fairly cheap.
Let’s start with the box, since it’s actually pretty unique. The box splits in two around the middle but the two halves are actually kept separate by an insert in the bottom half. This insert is gold coloured and decorated with swirling patterns and the overall effect is that the box looks like the kind of curiosity you might find in the home of one of the Lords of Waterdeep.
Inside the box is a customer made plastic insert that actually holds all of the components neatly and tightly to the extent that carrying the box vertically in a bag doesn’t cause the components to become dislodged. There is a guide in the rulebook as to the proper place for everything and the insert holds the board snugly to provide a lid of sorts to the rest of the contents. It’s a weird thing to dwell on but it’s very rare that this amount of thought goes into how the components will be stored and transported.
Inside the box you get-
- 27 x Wooden Meeple Agents (5 each of Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red to match the factions and
- 1 each of Cream and Pale Green)
- 1 x Wooden First Player Token
- 5 x Wooden Victory Point Counter Tokens
- 100 x Wooden Adventured Cubes (25 each of Black, White, Orange and Purple for Rogues, Clerics, Fighters and Mages respectively)
- 5 x Player Boards (1 each for the 5 factions)
- 5 x 100 Victory Point Markers (1 for each faction in Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red)
- 12 x Lords of Waterdeep Cards
- 50 x Intrigue Cards
- 60 x Quest Cards
- 24 x Building Tokens
- 60 x Gold Tokens (split as 50 x 1 and 10 x 5 denominations)
- 36 x Victory Point Tokens
- 40 x Building Ownership Tokens (8 each of Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red to match each faction)
- The Board
- The Rulebook
The production values seem pretty high on everything included, the tokens are full colour, thick, card, the cards are full colour, thick, laminated, cardstock and the wooden tokens are all clean cut and brightly painted. I tend to find that the inclusion of wooden tokens makes a game feel like it has been designed with more care and attention to detail and that is very much the case here.
The art on the cards and relevant tokens is good and all in full colour with each of the more iconic people and places bearing a strong resemblance to the relevant characters. Choosing Waterdeep as the setting, rather than going with a generic customer made city, was a strong choice as the inclusion of iconic places and characters helps people feel more connected to the setting. I’m not really a Forgotten Realms fan, Dragonlance, Eberron and Planescape have always been my thing, but even I know the name Khelban Blackstaff and know of some of the legends of the City of Wonders.
The Board is A2 sixed and folds into A4 sized. It is a full colour representation of the city of Waterdeep with various buildings highlighted as being locations you can assign Agents to in the game and what the result of that action is. There is space for all of the various decks and discard piles and there are spaces marked around the outside to denote where buildings can be built.
The rules are short at 24 pages but the rules booklet still comes with a sewn binding, which I found surprising and just another sign of the high production values put into this game. All things said I was able to learn the game fairly quickly by reading the rules and playing a couple of turns and was able to teach 4 other people to play it inside of 10 minutes, despite having never properly played it. The rules tend to be intuitive and simple and the rulebook includes a nice section clarifying specifics from the cards, although I would argue that they should have simply made the cards clearer rather than adding the clarification to the rulebook.
Playing the game is pretty straight forward. Set up involves deciding on a faction and taking the board, checking how many Agents (the wooden Meeples) each player gets, based on the number of players, and handing them out, randomly assigning a Lord of Waterdeep and randomly assigning 2 quests and 2 intrigue cards to each player. Four Quests are placed face up on the board and the rest of the deck next to them, the intrigue cards are placed in the indicated space, three buildings are placed in Builders Square and the rest are stacked nearby. The player going first (decided by whoever most recently visited another city) takes the First Player Token and 4 Gold and then every other player clockwise takes 1 more gold than the last (so player 2 takes 5, 3 takes 6 etc.) Finally 3 Victory Point Tokens are placed on Turn spaces 2-8 on the board and 1 is placed on each of the buildings in Builders Square.
The game always lasts 8 phases and each phase is broken down into a number of turns. At the start of each phase the 3 Victory Point Tokens are taken off the relevant turn space on the board and 1 is placed on each of the 3 buildings in Builders Square and each building that has a restock is restocked.
Play continues until each player has assigned all of their Agents at which point the phase ends, Agents are cleared from the board and the next Phase starts, with the person in control of the First Player Token taking the first turn and assigning an Agent. After the last player assigns their last Agent on Phase 8 and they complete the action from that building, the game ends. Bonus Victory Points are awarded based on remaining Gold or Adventurers and according to the details on individual Lords of Waterdeep cards. The player with the most Victory Points after all bonuses have been added is the winner.
On their turn a player can-
Assign an Agent
Complete a Quest
Assigning an Agent involves a player taking 1 from their supply and placing it on a building on the map. Once the Agent is assigned the player takes the action detailed on the building, either collecting Adventurers, collecting gold, playing an Intrigue card, collecting a new Quest or some combination of all of the above.
Each Quest card has a number of prerequisites that need to be met for a player to complete it. These are generally a number of adventurers of one or more types (shown by a number of coloured cubes on the card) but may also include an amount of Gold that needs to be spent (shown by a number of Gold Tokens on the card). If a player meets the prerequisites on any of the Quests they have, after assigning an Agent and taking the building action, they can complete a single quest and collect the reward.
Quest rewards are varied but generally involve a Victory Point amount and it is these that dictate the winner at the end of the game. Each Quest is of a certain type, such as Piety or Skullduggery and this tends indicate the type of adventurers (so Clerics of Piety Quests) that you need to complete the Quest but also may be aligned with one or more players lord of Waterdeep.
That’s more or less it for how to play the game. The various buildings allow for different activities such as playing or acquiring Intrigue Cards (more on these in a minute) but in principal the idea of the game is to hire Adventurers and acquire gold in order to complete quests and therefore earn Victory Points. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.
Each Lord is a specific character and these are dealt randomly at the start of the game and are not revealed to the other players. Each Lord provides bonus Victory Points to either certain Quest types or based on the number of buildings you own, at the end of the game. It is therefore within your interest to try and acquire and complete quests that are aligned with your Lord’s bonus.
Players gets 2 Intrigue cards at the start of the game and can draw more by assigning Agents to certain Buildings. These are always kept facedown until played so only the owning player knows that they have. Intrigue cards represent the political manoeuvrings of your Lord to try and improve their position and allow you to do a variety of different things such as forcing a Mandatory Quest on an opponent, to reassigning an Agent to recruiting Adventurers.
If a player assigns an Agent to Builders Hall then they can buy one of the face up buildings immediately by paying the indicated Gold cost. When they do this they place it in one of the places indicated on the board and add a Building Ownership Token to the corner to reminds everyone who the owner is. These bought buildings are called Advanced Buildings and tend to have better rewards for assigning Agents to them than the Basic Buildings on the board. Each Advanced Building indicates what a player gets when they assign and Agent to it, such as Gold, Intrigue or Quest cards or Adventurers but they also indicate a bonus that the owner gets when someone else assigns an Agent to the Building, which is usually Gold or Adventurers.
I found Lords of Waterdeep a very simple game to learn and teach and a fun game to play. I’m a big fan of Euro style games that are competitive but have very few ways of directly attacking another player, making tactical use of your own resources and abilities all the more important. The specific number of turns means that the game will always last around an hour, unless players are particularly slow in taking their actions, and that’s also a good thing as most games that support more than 4 players tend to have playtimes of 2-3 hours.
The game has a surprising amount of tactical depth as your intentions vary based on who your Lord is and which buildings are available. The game can have interesting decision points when you have to decide whether to utilise a building owned by another player and therefore allow them to collect the owner bonus or whether to limit yourself. Likewise tactical use of Agents to deny other players from obtaining certain types of Adventurers, therefore limiting their ability to complete Quests is a valid choice and adds another element into your decision making process.
For a game I bought on a whim I’m pretty pleased with Lords of Waterdeep and it’s certainly a game I will continue to take to games nights.
At the time of writing there is one expansion available for Lords of Waterdeep.