Overview: Lords of Waterdeep is the latest board game from Wizards of the Coast. It comes in the wake of the D&D Adventure System dungeon-crawl series and Conquest of Nerath, a hefty strategy game. But this is a departure for the board game designers at Wizards, because Lords of Waterdeep takes its cue from European fare like Caylus and Le Havre. Instead of fighting it out in dungeons or on the battlefield, players take on the roles of the titular lords of Waterdeep. Through careful planning, building, wheeling, and dealing, you become the most powerful politico in the City of Splendors.
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Rating: A near-perfect mix of Dungeons & Dragons theme and Eurogame worker placement mechanics.
Who Will Like It? Fans of the classic D&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting will love the many references made to old school supplements. Eurogamers will enjoy the familiar mechanics and the added twists that the Intrigue and Quest cards bring, as well as the quick pace. Power-hungry despots will have a blast sending wave after wave of adventurers to do their dirty work.
Lords of Waterdeep takes place, surprisingly enough, in the city-state of Waterdeep, a port located in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It is one of the most beloved locations in Dungeons & Dragons history, due in large part to the political intrigue created by the Masked Lords who rule it.
The designers of the game, Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson, have done an excellent job of integrating that mystique into the board game. Each player is secretly assigned a role as one of the Masked Lords, complete with a secret goal that helps them win. The entire game is built around the machinations of the Lords, as they use their agents to solve problems within the city, construct new buildings, and amass wealth and power.
Quest cards contain callbacks to adventure modules and computer games set in the Forgotten Realms, and the main mechanic of solving them — assigning color-coded adventurer cubes to the Quest in order to complete it — is classic D&D. Instead of playing those adventurers, though, you’re playing the rich lord who hires them to take care of unpleasantries.
The board is beautiful, with a stylized but evocative map of the city printed on it. It contains outlines for everything: cards, buildings, discard piles. The text is easy to read and the board never gets in the way of gameplay.
Cards and player mats are made of good, high quality stock. The building tiles and tokens are thick and well-printed punchboard, which pop out just fine from their frames without any tearing.
And, of course, being a Euro at heart, Lords of Waterdeep has lots of wood. Player markers, pawns, scoring pieces, and the 130 color-coded adventurer cubes. Even the colors made sense (white, orange, black, and purple, for cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard respectively).
Best of all, the game includes a custom tray that fits all of the components neatly inside. But it only works when the box is stored horizontally, so beware!
Here’s the full list:
- Game board
- 5 card stock player mats
- 121 Intrigue, Quest, and Role cards
- 130 wooden cubes, pawns, and score pieces
- Wooden player markers
- Card stock tiles and tokens representing buildings, gold coins, and victory points
Every turn, the players assign their agents to buildings on the map of Waterdeep. These buildings allow the players to perform various actions: collect adventurer cubes or money, acquire quests (from the inn, of course), play an Intrigue card, add a new building to the map, or become the First Player in the next round. Building the additional Advanced Buildings allow for more nuanced actions and will reward both the player who places their agent on the building as well as the player who built it.
If the player has any active quests, they may complete them by paying the quest’s cost in gold and/or adventurers. This results in a reward usually consisting of victory points, additional adventurers, gold, and with special Plot Quests, an ongoing beneficial effect.
To keep the players at each other’s throats, most buildings on the map only allow a single agent to occupy them. You can plan where your agent will go during your next turn, only to have that option snatched away when your rival takes your spot there.
The Intrigue cards also let you wreak havoc on your opponents. They force the other players to give up resources and cards. You can even prevent them from completing quests by assigning “Mandatory Quests” that must be tackled first before any other quests are completed. During our initial game, these Mandatory Quests were the only thing that prevented one of the players from totally running away with the victory.
There are five types of quests, which indicate what types of adventurers it will favor. The secret scoring bonus for each Lord is based on these quest types. For instance, Khelben Arunsun will receive bonus victory points if he completes Arcana and Warfare quests. This means that this player should focus on acquiring those types of quests from the inn, as well as Wizards and Fighters from other buildings.
For more information on the game, including a video tutorial and the full rulebook, check out the official Lords of Waterdeep page on the Wizards of the Coast website.
Lords of Waterdeep is an immersive, satisfying worker placement Eurogame with a lot to offer. It’s not as complex as many games with similar mechanics, but it plays fast and serves as a great introduction to the genre. One complaint I tend to have with many Eurogames is that a tacked on or underdeveloped theme totally loses my interest after a few plays. With Lords of Waterdeep, I know that the connections to the lore of the Forgotten Realms will keep my gaming group and me coming back time and time again. And with hints of expansions in the manual, we may even get bonus material some day.
For its price ($50) this game is a worthy addition to any game closet. Just be sure to store it properly!
Wired: Excellent Euro-style worker-placement game that plays in about an hour; great theme in a fan-favorite setting.
Tired: Slightly less complex than other games with similar mechanic, but that’s not really a bad thing.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.