If you were to think of Dungeons and Dragons or Forgotten Realms, then the first thing on your mind would probably be magic, adventure and fantastic monsters. The last thing in your head, however, would be the behind-the-scenes politics and shady dealings found in the cities and streets.
Lords of Waterdeep
Designed by Peter Lee & Rodney Thompson / Published by Wizards of the Coast
2 – 5 Players; Ages 12+
Retail Price: $49.99
You can buy it here.
That’s where Wizards of the Coast’s board game Lords of Waterdeep comes in. Instead of playing as legendary heroes who journey out into the wild for loot and fame, you play as the sly men and women who keep things running in the fictional titular city from the Forgotten Realms. And contrary to how boring it might sound, this game is wickedly entertaining.
At its heart, Lords of Waterdeep is a resource management game, tasking the player with collecting specific resources in order to complete objectives, which in turn grant points. The more points you have at the end of the game means the more chances of winning you get, so it’s a race to see who gets stuff done the best and most efficiently.
The game starts off with players getting assigned a faction and a Lord of Waterdeep card. Factions are no different from one another other than appearance, and are only used to distinguish each player with a color. Lords of Waterdeep cards, however, are end-game bonuses that are randomly dealt and can’t be seen until the very end of the game, adding a nice hint of chance to the mix. Players then also get agents – small wooden figurines that are used to collect resources, complete actions, get the first turn and more – depending on the number of participants.
Lords of Waterdeep is played over eight turns on a large game board that represents the bustling city. Each player, once the turn order is assigned, takes one of their agents and places it on one of the various areas on the board until everyone has distributed their units, claiming the resources that particular space grants. This is where the resource management part of the game comes in, as players can pick up small colored blocks that represent four adventurer types: warrior, rouge, wizard, and cleric; purchase a building, collect some gold coins, and grab some quest or intrigue cards.
To earn game-winning points and claim the position of top-dog of Waterdeep, you have to complete quests. These missions – which some are handed to each player at the beginning of the game alongside Intrigue cards and others are gained at a specific location on the board – require a certain amount of resources to complete; for example, a quest may need four clerics, two warriors and three gold coins. By locating the places that grant these resources on the board and collecting them by using agents, these missions can then be completed and points can be gained, getting you that much closer to winning. Getting points isn’t that easy, however, as other players can see what quests you have at the moment and can attempt to block your resource gathering by getting the pieces you need first. Only certain areas grant specific adventurers, so getting them depends on who can get there the quickest. Getting your resources on time is great, but stealing from friends is even better.
Resources can also be gathered by purchasing buildings over at the Builder’s Hall, although from a more indirect manner. By buying buildings, players can rent the location to visiting opponents. Each building provides resources similar or greater to the ones found on the field to the visiting player, but also pay out resources to the owner. This leads to some genuinely crazy situations, as the resources offered in the building may be good, but you’re also helping out the opponent, who may be amassing quite a fortune. It’s like a double-edged sword.
Then there’s also the Intrigue Cards, which can only be played in the shadiest part of Waterdeep, the Harbor. These cards are offensive tools, serving only to screw with other player’s games and benefiting your own. Some cards grant you additional resources from the pool, others take resources away from your opponents. Some are mandatory quests, which can be assigned to opponents and forces them to complete it before completing any other quests they have. Others allow other players to gain a small amount of points in exchange for crucial resources. Overall, these cards only exist to mix things up and turn the tides in your favor, and really add a competitive edge to the game, not to mention allow you to have some crazy poker faces.
The gameplay in Lords of Waterdeep is quite simple to get a hang of, but it’s actually deeper (no pun intended) than it seems. Players can go on the offensive by claiming resources that others need, claim first place by assigning an agent so that they can assure resources, play Intrigue cards in order to mess up other peoples plans, collect easy or high point quests to gain the edge, and buy buildings to amass extra resources. Things even get more strategic mid-game, when each player gets to use an additional agent, and some quests grant the use of other free agents, allowing the gathering of even more resources, quests, and of course, the dread Intrigue cards. The only issue I found was that it’s occasionally too difficult to catch up if a player has too big a lead, but it’s no real biggie.
In the end, Lords of Waterdeep is a fantastic resource-management game that perfectly taps into the source material while creating a fun, competitive experience that offers loads of replay value. It also helps that it’s very easy to get into while remaining challenging throughout the whole experience, and cleans up pretty nicely afterwards (it comes in a nicely designed box complete with storage instructions!). If you’re tired of dungeon-crawling, plundering, and swinging swords like a madman, and want to sit back, relax and send others to do your dirty work, then you owe it to yourself to try out this excellent game.
Javier Bernal – Between all of the games we’ve played so far, I believe that this is one of the best, if not the best of them all. It was quite easy to learn.
It seemed simple the ﬁrst time we played it, but as you play more and more you start to see that unlike other resource management games, this one has a lot more possible strategies. It’s also quite fun seeing someone almost ﬁnish a quest and then someone else throwing down a mandatory quest.
Gameplay is quite fun and quick. Its only eight turns long, so it’s a good game to play if you don’t have the whole day to sit at a table, though the length of the game depends on the amount of thinking done by the players.
Even though the gameplay is really good, the best part is counting the points to see who the winner is. Seeing people who seemed to be losing suddenly take the lead is one of the best parts of this game, as you don’t know who’s going to win until every point has been accounted for.
David Matos – A few months after beginning my foray into the world of tabletop, I’ve now finally played an official Dungeons & Dragons game. Dungeons & Dragons comes with a lot stigma and preconceived notions, some positive some negative, but when it comes to Lords of Waterdeep, I’m here to tell you to put all of that aside. This game is will challenge the stereotypes associated with the franchise, and in its place you’ll have a great experience with a lot of fierce competition amongst the players. This really was one of the most addicting games I’ve ever played.
The gameplay itself is quite straightforward initially. Your goal is to acquire as any points as possible. You acquire said points mostly through accomplishing quests by utilizing your agents to acquire resources (wizards, thieves, etc.) that in turn allow you to complete them. There are a few other ways to get points, like purchasing buildings, and the amount of gold you have at the end; but at its most basic, that’s the game.
What takes things to the next level is that you are all competing for limited resources, and so begins the scheming. This makes the proceedings an ongoing lively exchange with few lulls. This, coupled with the fact that the game only lasts eight turns creates an incredible pace. Every round is important as there is no turn to waste, and the game is all the greater for it.
All around, I genuinely believe that Lords of Waterdeep has to be one of the finest board games on the market. It is fun, well balanced, it has a great pace, and tons of replayability. You will love it.
Eduardo Otero – Oh my God, Lords of Waterdeep. The tabletop gaming scene is full of different types of games, from pure strategy to simple, almost mindless fun. Lords of Waterdeep is able to strike, in my opinion, a flawless balance of both.
The amazing thing about this game is that even though the game mechanics are fairly simple, the strategy level required to win depends entirely on the skill of your opponents, and some luck which of course spices things up a bit. There’s something about planning a course of action so sneaky that you could swear nobody will be able to notice, and running through all the steps to either get the satisfaction of a plan well executed, or have an opponent foil it for you at the last second making you have to rethink your whole strategy. The game is fast-paced, but mindful in execution thus providing a gameplay experience that satisfies, but does not make you feel tired afterwards or bored at any point.
After everyone uses up all their agents on the last turn, a great bit of last minute fun goes down. The card you have been holding for the whole game, but couldn’t see at any point, comes into play. In a sort of “Mario Party” end bonus section, anything can happen. Those who have been on top the whole time can find themselves scared of the outcome, and unlikely players have the chance to come out on top. Making it all better (or worse) is that fact that at this point, there’s nothing one can do but look at the board and hope for the best. It’s amazing fun. Only a Sith deals in absolutes; but I can confidently say that Lords Of Waterdeep is hands-down one of the most enjoyable tabletop games I have ever played, if not the very best.