Lords of Waterdeep is a board game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe that plays 2 to 5 players. It is a European style worker placement board game dressed up with a Dungeons & Dragons theme. There are no hobbits, no magic armour and no wandering monsters. Roleplaying is entirely optional, but adds to the fun (of which there is plenty to be had already).
Each player becomes one of the Lords of Waterdeep, who are secretly plotting and scheming to recruit adventures and complete a number of different quests. Each quest takes a different mix of adventurers (clerics, wizards, warriors and rogues) and money and will provide different rewards and victory points when completed. If a player completes a ‘plot quest’ then they will also receive an ongoing benefit for the rest of the game.
Each round players take turns sending their agents to unoccupied buildings to take the different actions available at each building and thereby blocking other players’ agents from using that building for the remainder of the round. This involves tense resource management decisions, as players compete to recruit specific adventurer types necessary to complete the different quests a player has claimed.
The actions that can be performed by agents include:
- Recruiting different types of adventurers;
- Collecting money;
- Collecting quests cards or intrigue cards;
- Collecting the first player marker (the order of players will change from round to round);
- Playing intrigue cards, which can help that player or hinder other players; and
- Building new buildings (from a randomly selected stack) that will open up new action spaces, and provide a benefit to the builder whenever other players utilise that space.
Once all agents have been assigned, the round ends and the next round will begin. At the end of 8 rounds, the Lord with the most victory points is the winner.
Each Lord of Waterdeep is kept hidden during the game and provides a different scoring bonus at the end of the game. Because of this, while players accumulate points throughout the game, the leader is usually unknown until the end of game scoring.
Lords of Waterdeep is very well polished, with excellent pacing. It never outstays its welcome and is an excellent use of game-time.
It has a low learning curve and is accessible to non-gamers, but with enough depth to keep experienced gamers interested.
It has a fun theme, which will appeal to Dungeons and Dragons fans, but that doesn’t overwhelm the gameplay.
Plays very well from 2 to 5 players (although the games will be quite different).
The components are absolutely stunning, with fantastic artwork, and spectacularly well organised in the box.
Because the buildings and quests available in each game will differ, as will the bonuses for each player’s Lord, every game will offer a different experience. The availability of the different adventurers will vary depending on which buildings have been built, and different Lords will be trying to complete different quest types which in turn require different adventurers.
This isn’t a game that can be ‘solved’ by veteran players adopting a superior strategy from the start of the game. Instead all players will have to adapt to what happens during the game, which makes it easier for new players to be competitive, and makes the game very replayable.
While the identities of the Lords usually become obvious by mid game based on the actions a player has taken, the exact number of bonus points that a player will receive will not be known until end game scoring. This helps to keep players engaged and makes for a more enjoyable game.
The coloured cubes that represent adventurers in a particular game (warriors, rogues, clerics and wizards) could have been replaced with something a bit more thematic – such as coloured meeples.
If storing the game on its side, the lid can come off the box.
This game is accessible to a wide range of players and will make a fine addition to any board game collection. Highly recommended.