Lords of Waterdeep is a strategy board game, for 2-5 players, designed by Peter Lee and Rodney Thomson. Players take on the roles of secret rulers of the city of Waterdeep, the most resplendent jewel in the world of Forgotten Realms. Each ruler is concerned about the city’s safety but also has a secret agenda and is willing to do whatever it takes to gain power and control the city. What can’t be gained with legal procedures, can always be gained through treachery or bribery. In order to succeed with their secret plans, rulers hire adventurers to take on quests on their behalf and earn rewards. They can also expand the city, by buying new buildings that open up new available actions in the game or play Intrigue cards that may hinder their rivals or advance their own plans. By completing quests and buying buildings, players earn victory points. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points, is the winner.
The game uses a carefully designed board, depicting the city of Waterdeep and its various locations. There are special spaces reserved on the board for city expansions (new buildings that players can buy), the Quest Deck, Quest cards and discarded Quests, The Intrigue deck and discarded Intrigue cards plus available buildings to buy and the building stack.
At the start of the game each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding player mat in front of him. The mat has special places reserved for the player’s agents (the Agent pool), hired adventurers (the Tavern), completed quests and the player’s Lord of Waterdeep card.
Players are dealt a random Lord of Waterdeep card, which defines their character and secret agenta. It is placed at the bottom of the player mat, face down.
Each player starts out with a predetermined number of agent tokens (according to the number of players) which he can assign to different locations in the city and use them to hire adventurers. Hired adventurers are represented by wooden cubes of different colors, each one representing a different type of adventurer:orange (fighters), black (rogues), purple (wizards) and white (clerics). During setup, each player is also dealt 2 random quests face up, 2 intrigue cards face down and some gold. Each quest, in order to be completed, requires certain numbers and types of adventurers and sometimes also some gold and rewards players with victory points and sometimes gold or adventurers. After being completed, quests are placed on a special place on the player mat. Some quests have the notation “Plot Quests” which indicates that they have ongoing effects in addition to providing rewards. These are placed face up near the player mat to remind the player the ongoing effect. Intrigue cards can be of three types: Attack, Utility or Mandatory Quest. Attack cards hinder or penalize opponents while helping the player who played them. Utility cards just benefit the player who played them. Mandatory quest cards are given to opponents and must be completed before other active quests this way slowing them down. Intrigue cards may be played when agents are asigned to a certain building, “The Waterdeep Harbor”. After all agents are assigned by all players, Agents placed at Waterdeep Harbor are reassigned to another empty location on the board.
The game consists of eight rounds. In each round, players take turns and each turn can assign an unassigned agent to an unoccupied location in the city. The action of that location is immediately performed and then it is also possible for the player to complete a quest, providing he has gathered all prerequisites. There are 9 basic buildings in the city where agents can be assigned, but more can be purchased in the course of the game. Actions that can be performed in buildings include: hiring adventurers, gaining gold, buying buildings, gaining or playing intrigue cards, taking new quests, hiring an extra agent “The Ambassador”, taking the first player marker, gaining victory points and more. When buying a new building, players pay a cost in gold indicated on the building tile, gain some victory points, position the new building tile in one of the reserved empty spaces on the board and place one of their control markers on that tile in order to indicate that they own the building. Whenever another player assigns an agent to that building, its owner will benefit too.
The box of the game is quite big, with the front cover artwork depicting some of the famous Lords of Waterdeep (unfortunately the image can’t be described as very tempting). Opening the box, reveals a whole lot of beautiful components of high quality and a special storage tray, rarely seen in standard game editions.
The rulebook, very impressive indeed, stands out with its elaborate design, beautiful artwork and clear text. Next comes game setup, which doesn’t take too long: a little shuffling of the intrigue and quest cards, placement of cards and buildings, distribution of player mats and agents and ready we go! Gameplay is pretty simple and runs smoothly: Assign an agent, perform the action of the building, possibly complete a Quest. Next player please! I was much excited when I completed my first (2-player) game and eager to play many more games. That’s a pretty good first impression, isn’t it? Let’s get down to business and analyze individual aspects of the game:
Components are of high quality as could be expected of a major publisher like Wizards of the Coast. The game board is huge and impressive with basic buildings drawn on the map of the city of Waterdeep and empty spaces around the board for city expansions. There are special locations on the edges of the board to place the quest deck and quests available for purchase, discarded quests, the Intrigue deck of cards, available buildings for purchase and future buildings. In general there is a place for everything and the board is very well organized and totally functional. The cards’ artwork is awesome (let’s not forget that Wizards of the Coast is the publisher of “Magic the Gathering), with elaborate designs and made of high quality, thick paper. However, sleeving the cards is recommended, especially for Quest and Intrigue cards that will soon suffer from repeated shuffling. The building tiles are made of thick cardboard and are cleverly designed, leaving a special place on their southeast corner for the player’s control markers to be put. This way the markers don’t hide the building text nor interfere with the placement of Agents. Agents have the shape of meeples which is most convenient and are made of wood. So are the first player token as well as the Ambassador and Lieutenant tokens. Score markers are also made of wood. A special mention to player mats must be made: Each player takes a player mat that matches his/her Agents color. The mat is beautifully designed and has separate spaces reserved to place Agents (the “Agent Pool”), adventurers (the “Tavern”), control markers, completed Quests and the player’s Lord of Waterdeep card. Awesome work! Adventurers are represented by wooden cubes of different colors. There is a sense of failure here, as players are used to think wooden cubes mostly as resources: wood, stone, gold etc. After a short while, you start to forget that cubes are adventurers and can easily be caught saying things like “I place an Agent here and get 1 orange and 1 white cube” and think of them as materials instead of saying “I place an Agent here and I hire 1 cleric and 1 fighter”. It’s obvious that some other kind of tokens could be used to represent adventurers, something that would at least have the shape of a human being. The use of miniatures would be great but I guess that would rise the production cost and subsequently the game price too much. 9/10
Playing Lords of Waterdeep is a very entertaining experience. The game has easy rules and runs smoothly. You can think about your next agent placement while opponents play. There is a huge amount of strategic thinking involved in your decisions about agent placement and luck only plays a small part in the game, mainly in available quests and drawing of Intrigue cards. There is also decent amount of player interaction, through Intrigue cards. The game scales excellently with any number of players and that’s a huge plus. When playing with 2 players, all 4 agents are available from the start f the game, plus one that comes into play on the fifth round. With 3 players, each player has 3 agents and with 4 or 5 players 2 agents. This is a clever way to bring balance to the game. The game’s duration is about an hour, which is an ideal duration for me. Not too fast, not too long. Without introducing something innovative, Lords of Waterdeep is one of the most interesting and entertaining games I’ve played this year. 9/10
The rules of the game are simple in general and you won’t have to read through them again after the first time, except maybe for some clarifications on specific buildings or Intrigue cards. An official rules FAQ has been released with answers to most common questions players may have. Players will learn the game quickly within the duration of the first game, so it’s equally suited for experienced gamers and non gamers. 8/10
Wizards of the Coast is a publisher renowned for their emphasis in theme and Lords of Waterdeep is no exception to that. The theme seems present in every aspect of the game, from the illustrious analysis of the organizations in which Agends of each color belong to, in the rulebook, to the flavor text on Lords of Waterdeep cards and quests. The game board also promotes the sense of theme in the game. The only important objection regarding the implementation of the theme is the representation of adventurers with cubes. An important aspect of the theme is lost here: the hiring of adventurers. As mentioned earlier, players will eventually tend to forget what cubes really represent and will think of them as some kind of resource which has this form in most other games. 7/10
I am never bored to play a game of Lords of Waterdeep and I think that tells everything about this scoring category. An ideal game for gamers and non gamers, for 2,3,4 or 5 players alike with no compromising on fun. Games are fun, challenging, with some player interaction and a lot of strategy and they last just about the right amount of time. What else could one ask for? 9/10
Well, it won’t make you laugh but it will always make your time worth it. Some interaction between players through Intrigue cards is a plus for the fun factor. 8/10