Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Published in: 2012
Playing time: 60 minutes
Mechanics: worker placement, set collection, card drafting
Expansions: Scoundrels of Skullport (Not released as of this writing, however)
BGG Page: Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep is a fairly new worker placement game that has received a lot of praise from the community. The mechanics are simple to grasp, the theme is light and fun, and the art is pretty nice too. All of this combines into what I feel makes a great gateway game. If you’re trying to get your friends into heavier games, this would be a good place to start. It has the D&D name on the box, but it doesn’t really have too much to do with D&D and shouldn’t scare you away if you’re not into that sort of thing.
Lords of Waterdeep has a fairly intricate setup. There are a lot of little pieces that need to be put all around the board and the set up is different depending on how many people are playing. We’ve mostly played with 2 people (imagine that!), but we have experienced the game with 4 a few times as well. You will have less workers the more players there are, and it will be harder to score more points since more regions will be blocked off.
Gameplay consists of taking turns starting with the first player and placing your agents at different buildings on the board. Depending on where you place your agent, you can do different things and the pictures on the board help identify what you get when you send your agent there. Most of the time, buildings will let you recruit more members to join your cause, which the base game uses simple cubes to represent.
One of the more interesting spaces allows you to buy a building. You pay its cost, and then you can put it into play in any unoccupied building space that you want. You get to mark the building with a nice little fitted token of your color, and whenever anyone (aside from yourself) visits that building, you’ll get a nice little bonus! Sometimes it is advantageous to have a lot of buildings in play, while other times the buildings to buy are not particularly exciting. This is one point I don’t enjoy about the game; sometimes all three buildings in the builder’s hall are boring or something you don’t want.
Once you’re out of agents to place it’s the end of the round, everyone takes all of their agents back onto their agent pool location on their player card, and then play begins with the first player again. The first player may have changed (there is a space that gives the agent who goes there the first player token), so be wary of that! There are also intrigue cards you can gather and play to (hopefully) screw up your opponents or further your own agenda.
During the 5th round, everyone gets another agent to use in their pool. Excellent! After 8 rounds, the game is over and the points are totaled to find the winner.
The goal of the game is to score the most victory points, and to do that you need to complete quests. To complete quests, you need to have recruited enough fighters, clerics, wizards, or rogues depending on what the quest requires. After you’ve done so, you may simply complete the quest by returning your adventurers to their respective piles. In some cases, I’m sure you’re sending them to their doom. Oh well, that’s why they’re not the heroes! Some quests are worth a ton of points, while others kind of suck and make you wonder why you picked that quest up in the first place. The higher point quests require many more recruits to complete, however, and since all active quests are face up, everyone will be trying to block you from completing your quest. You don’t lose any points for not completing quests, though.
You will also receive a Lord of Waterdeep to obey in the beginning of the game. You can ignore his or her demands, but you won’t score as many points as if you were to follow them. This could be risky or grand if you find yourself blocking other players from completing the objectives their lord requests. These are secret to everyone else until the end of the game, although you can usually infer after a few rounds in what people are going for unless they’re being sneaky.
This was the second worker placement game we’ve played (first being Stone Age), and we were drawn in at first by the theme. We both enjoy the fantasy world and thought that this would be a good fit for us, and knew it was simple enough as a starting worker placement game. We didn’t want to jump right in to the heavier worker placement games, and found that this was an excellent beginning.
Luck: The amount of luck in Lords of Waterdeep comes down to which quests you start with, which intrigue cards you pull, which quests show up in the Inn, which buildings are available and which Lord you get. That sounds like a lot of things, but I think overall the luck factor is pretty small. Some of the quests can be worth huge points, and thus need to be payed careful attention to. Either you need to snag that quest up so that someone else doesn’t get it, or block them from completing it as long as you can. Overall, I feel that the strategy and tactics you employ can turn the tides in your favor if you play well, but you may still lose with a superior strategy if someone gets obscenely lucky. This shouldn’t happen very often, though.
Strategy: As I just mentioned, I feel like the strategy you execute is more important than what cards you get. You just need to make sure you’re mindful of what your opponent(s) are doing, and not just tunnel vision on your own quests.
Theme: The theme in Lords of Waterdeep is not very strong. However….
If you’re interested at all, head on over to BGG in this thread and check them out. The DnDeeples help A LOT with the theme, but I understand most people aren’t going to plunk down an extra $30 just to help with the theme. Otherwise, the quests, intrigue cards, and art are what is trying to draw you into the theme. Without the DnDeeples, we were just saying “I need 2 white cubes, and 1 black cube”…”Ok, I’m turning in this quest so here’s 4 purple cubes and 3 gold”. It just doesn’t have the same immersion level as “I’m sending my 3 wizards and 2 fighters on quest XYZ.” Now, you can try to imagine the cubes as being fighters, clerics, wizards, and rogues, but it’s really hard when they’re just boring cubes. In any case, if theme isn’t a huge deal for you (like me, I don’t mind so much), then you won’t mind here, but I found the DnDeeples awesome so had to pick some up.
Interaction: Being a worker placement game, you won’t always be able to do exactly what you want to do, since other people are placing their workers too. The level of interaction is fairly small, with people blocking others from doing what they want to do, but the buildings giving a benefit to the owner and some of the intrigue cards can help give a higher level of interaction. This isn’t a directly confrontational game, and so if you like that sort of thing, you won’t really find it here.
Replayability: The quest deck is fairly large, as is the intrigue deck. The maximum number of buildings that can be put out is 10, and since there are only 8 rounds, very rarely will you get all 10 buildings out (there are some intrigue cards that let you build a building). The building stack itself has 24 tiles in it, so you definitely won’t see the same buildings all the time. There are quite a few Lords as well, so what worked for you in one game might not work for you in the next game!
Heaviness: This game is a nice introduction to worker placement games. The choices you make are not too tough, but not super simple either. It’s not a very heavy game at all, and the mechanics make it simple to get started and playing quickly.
Aesthetics: Like I said before, the cubes were boring. I think the art on the board and cards is great, though! I also like the player mats that each have a tavern and clear place to put completed quests, active quests, your hidden lord, and completed plot quests. It helps keep everything organized, which makes everything look nicer.
Component quality: Everything is very nice quality; the cards are nice stock, the buildings are thick and sturdy, the agents are wooden and solid. One thing that I really like is that the buildings have cutouts in the corner for building tokens to be placed to denote which color player bought the building. The cardboard chits fit perfectly into the cutout, and it really shows the attention to detail there. One thing I LOVE about this game is the box insert. Everything has a place to go and is great for storage. Now, the only problem with this is if you like to store you games upright, this insert is terrible and everything will fall out. Sorry :(. However, I store this game horizontally and so it hasn’t been a problem for me and really makes setting the board up a lot easier.
Value: I feel like you get a lot for your money with Lords of Waterdeep. There are a lot of components, lots of quests, intrigue cards and buildings to keep things fresh, and of course a bunch of lords to keep you changing your strategy. It plays anywhere from 2-5 people, and I feel like it scales pretty well (granted my opinion is only from playing with 2 and 4, I cannot speak for 3 or 5). As I’ve said earlier, it’s also fairly light and easy to learn, so it makes a good gateway game, and gateway games need to be relatively inexpensive to draw people in.
Overall: If I’m looking for a worker placement game that I want to play at the end of the day to kind of wind down and relax, Lords of Waterdeep is a good one to play. It’s simple, plays quickly, and still has enough fantasy theme to keep me immersed. Definitely a recommended light gateway game for more people, however, as a couple’s game, I think it scores a little bit lower, and there may be better light worker placement games out there.
Component Quality: 5/5