Lords of Waterdeep is one of the most played games in my game library. Since we write a lot about roleplaying games here on Yawning Portal and Lords of Waterdeep is set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons, I thought it would be a perfect fit.
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!
In Lords of Waterdeep, 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.
During the course of play, you may gain points or resources through completing quests, constructing buildings, playing Intrigue cards or having other players utilise the buildings you have constructed. At the end of 8 rounds of play, the player who has accrued the most points wins the game.
Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game. In such games, players take turns placing workers to perform actions that acquire resources, gold, and allow them to perform special actions depending on the action space they choose. Only one worker or agent can be assigned to each location so players can strategically block other players and therefore prevent them from gathering the resources they are in dire need of.
At the start of the game, players draw on which leaders they play, each leader emphasises on two types of quests that they gets extra points for at the end of the game. Players keep their lord hidden from their opponents. Players utilise agents and place them on various locations on the board to recruit adventurers who solve quests and receive rewards in the form of points. These quests can be highly variable such as piety, warfare, skulduggery, or arcana.
You can build new buildings that offer more options for recruiting adventurers or collecting gold. Should an opponent opt to use that newly constructed building the owner will always get profits from that use either in the form of adventurer, gold or intrigue cards.
Intrigue cards can be used by players to help themselves or to adversely affect the opponents. For example, you can steal adventurers or gold from other players, utilise other players’ agents, and utilise spaces already occupied on the board. Best of all you can hand out special mandatory quests which your opponent must complete before any others. These mandatory quests often yield very few points and can be yield little rewards.
After eight rounds, it is time to tally up the points. Players are likely to have a different amount of points and someone may seem to have the upper hand but not all is yet lost. Players get one point for each adventurer they have and one point for every other gold they have at the end of the game. In addition, they show which leader they were playing and get four points for each quest that the leader emphasised. This alone can yield a vast amount of points and therefore snatch victory from what seemed to be the obvious winner. The game is therefore exciting until every last point has been tallied.
Scoundrels of Skullport
Once you’ve played the base game to shreds it’s time to get the expansion. Scoundrels of Skullport adds two new modules, The Undermountain and Skullport, to the base game which can be used one at a time or combined together for a truly epic game of Lords of Waterdeep. It also adds playing pieces for a sixth player, six new lords, 50 intrigue cards and 60 new quests along with 24 new buildings.
The Undermountain module:
Undermountain is a vast and multileveled dungeon beneath Mount Waterdeep that once served the crazed wizard Halaster as a site for magical experiments. Now it is a labyrinthine maze with few refuges for weary adventurers.
The rumored wealth of Undermountain entices adventurers to brave the mysteries and monsters beneath the City of Splendors.
This module adds a new mini-extension map to the base board providing three new locations that the players can use to their benefit. In this module everything becomes bigger, the quests yield more points but require more adventures and more gold.
New buildings let you place adventures on spaces on the board so when players visit these spaces they may pick up the cubes placed there. You can therefore entice players to visit certain locations for your own benefit.
It does not add any new rules the game except for how certain lords may score at the end of the game. However, you will see a significant increase of victory points at the end the game compared to the base game.
The Skullport module:
Skullport—also known as the Port of Shadow—is nestled in the heart of Undermountain, deep below the streets of Waterdeep. It is a haven for nefarious crimes, underhanded deals, and back-alley murders. Those who visit Skullport do so at their own peril, for around every corner are new ways to make people disappear.
The Skullport module includes a new resource: Corruption. Unlike Adventurers and Gold, having Corruption in your tavern penalizes you at the end of the game.
Each Corruption token in your Tavern at the end of the game is worth negative Victory Points. The exact negative value depends on how much Corruption has been collected throughout the game; the more corrupt you and your fellow Lords are, the more Corruption hurts your score.
This module also add a new map extension with three new locations. These locations give you loads of resources but also corruption tokens and they can cause you to lose a lot of points at the end of the game if you can’t get rid of them. Completing certain quests or visiting new buildings can rid you some of those corruptions tokens. You can however also find some very easy ways to complete quests that will give you a lot of points but you’ll also be rewarded with corruption tokens.
This module makes the game a little bit harder and the play style is more hostile due to the negative points at the end of the game. When someone hands you a mandatory card when you were just about to complete a quest that allowed you to return these last three corruption tokens from your tavern and you now have to spend those hard earned adventures on a shitty mandatory quest your friendship with that person will be terminated – temporarily. Hopefully.
There is no need to have any D&D knowledge or experience to enjoy the game, but D&D experts will recognise various references to known characters or locations from the world of Faerûn. The expansion is definitely worth buying and in my opinion makes an already good game become a great game. I will never turn down the opportunity to play Lords of Waterdeep with my friends or strangers for that matter.
The game can easily be taught to new and inexperienced players. Usually by round two or three all players have got a good grasp of how each round is played. The game also scales very well with different players since the amount of agents each player gets depends on the number of players. I therefore highly recommend Lords of Waterdeep to those unfamiliar with worker placement games and don’t know where to start.