Board Game Review – Lords of Waterdeep

As with Game of Thrones I don’t own this game so I apologise for the lack of pictures. Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game published by Wizards of the Coast. In this game each player randomly draws a Lord, who are members of the council in Waterdeep (a town from the world of Dungeons & Dragons). Each Lord gives you an endgame bonus to your score, and helps you focus your strategy on completing certain quests. The Lords remain hidden until the end of the game which adds a little bit of mystery. The person with the most points is victorious. You gain points by completely quests. As a Lord of Waterdeep you have agents, and you will place these agents around the board in order to gather resources that you will use to complete the quests. There are only a limited number of spots on the board so you have to prioritise which space you want to go, especially if you know that someone else needs a certain resource. 

As well as the quests there are buildings that you can buy, and these give additional benefits. There is also one particular Lord who gets bonus points for the buildings they own. The other main component in the game are intrigue cards, which can be used to give yourself bonuses or to harm other players. So the main thing you’re trying to do is complete your quests, but you’re also keeping an eye on what other people are doing. There are other nuances to the game but that’s a basic overview. 

This is one of my favourite games. It’s elegant and balanced and plays very easily. There’s a fair amount going on but it doesn’t feel draining, and it’s so fun that even if I lose (there was actually a stretch where one person won about 8 out of 10 games) I still want to play it again straight away. 

The theme isn’t the most immersive, for example instead of calling the cubes warriors, rogues, clerics and wizards I generally just say orange, black, white or purple, but it’s not completely pasted on. The resources needed for quests make sense, for example there’s one quest that is called ‘Bolster the City Guard’ and of course you need a lot of warriors for that. There’s a fair bit of strategy in that you have to work out where you’re going to go in order to make the most of your agents, but it’s not overwhelming or too taxing and it’s pretty easy to pick up. Even people who don’t play that many games should be able to play it with no problem. 

The intrigue cards add a layer of interaction that makes every turn interesting, and even when there’s downtime on other player’s turns you’re still involved as you’re seeing where they go, or what quests they’re picking up, or even just looking at the board and trying to figure out what path you’re going to take. 

One of the best aspects of the game which make it really fun is the endgame scoring. All through the game you’re tracking your points on a path around the edge of the board, but at the end each player, beginning from the one who has the fewest points, reveals their lord and counts up their bonus points. This means that often someone who you thought didn’t stand a chance can snatch victory at the last minute, so the tension runs through the entirety of the game. 

It doesn’t take too long to play, although this depends on the number of players (and whether you use the expansions). It usually lasts around 60-90 minutes with three players. Speaking of which, it scales quite well too. So far I’ve played it with 2,3,4 and 5 players. IT’s interesting because you have to tweak your strategy depending on the number of players, since as the number of players increases the number of agents you have decreases, so you won’t be able to get to as many spaces in a five player game as you would in a two player game. 

There is a two-in-one expansion out as well, Scoundrels of Skullport & Undermountain, which contains new quests, buildings, intrigue cards and two smaller boards with more spaces. Scoundrels also has something called corruption, in which you can get some really cool stuff but you’ll also be picking up corruption, and this will take points away from you at the end of the game…unless you can find a way to get rid of it. These add an extra dimension to the game and some of the extra stuff is really fun, but the base game is still excellent to play on its own, and sometimes for simplicity’s sake we just play with the base game. 

This is one game that is always a success when it hits the table, and it has led to some good in jokes between me and my friends, and we’re always referencing who is the current ‘Lord of Waterdeep’. It plays easily but there’s still a bit of tension and it strikes the right balance between having a lot to think about without being overwhelming. It’s an excellent game that should work no matter what level of gamer you consider yourself to be.

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