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It's Waterdeepin' Time!

Welcome to Waterdeep, also known as the City of Splendours, a place where the Lords and Ladies operate in secret, sending their agents out to do their bidding, in a battle of strategy, timing, intrigue and sudden but inevitable betrayals!

The Inevitable Betrayal Intrigue card from the game Lords of Waterdeep

Actually, in-game aside and ironically for once, this isn’t a hidden traitor game that I’m reviewing! It is an all-against-all, worker placement game in a Dungeons and Dragons setting. In fact, Lords of Waterdeep from Wizards of the Coast was one of the first worker

placement games I played, and as such, it has a special place in my heart.

The Lords of Waterdeep box art

Players: 2 - 5 (base game)

Ages: 12+

Game Time: 60-120 minutes

In a nutshell, all the players get a secret identity, a “Lord” card, this card determines what quests they need to complete or things they need to achieve for bonus points at the end of the game. To complete the “quests”, the player needs to recruit adventures, namely warriors, rogues, warlocks and clerics. Or in purely game terms, orange, black, purple and white cubes!

Some lord cards from the game Lords of Waterdeep

The player starts with two quests in their hand, but they can acquire more quests if they wish from one of the locations on the board. Each player takes it in turns to move one of their ages to a location in Waterdeep. Need warriors for your quest? Go to the field of triumph and recruit / collect two orange cubes! Need rogues? Go to the tavern!

The Eliminate Vampire Coven Piety quest card from Lords of Waterdeep

If you manage to get the quest requirements for whatever adventurers are needed, for example, the above quest needs two clerics, two warriors and a rogue to complete. Once you’ve completed it, you get the rewards, in this case 11 victory points and four money coins! (that's what the squares are).

This is a victory points game, there are eight rounds and you have only a few agents to play each round (though some cards can get you extra meeples). You complete all the quests you can, get your bonus points at the end, count up the points and see who wins!

Where’s the strategy in this, I may hear you ask? Well, each round, even though you have numerous agents, there are limited locations you can send them to and by default only one agent can use each location per round. Need some nefarious rogues to go on a quest of skulduggery for you? Well too bad, another player is hogging the location. On to Plan B! The city is huge! And there are many opportunities for you to exploit!

A 5-player game of Lords of Waterdeep in progress

Suddenly the game becomes a lot more complicated. All players quests are faceup, is it more efficient for you to try to complete your own quests or should you spend an action denying your opponent from getting that last crucial resource to complete that massive 40 pointer quest they’ve been sitting on?

You could go to the harbour and play intrigue on each, boosting your own resources or stealing your opponents'. You can throw mandatory quests on your enemies that offer them no choice but to complete first instead of focusing on their own worthwhile quests.

There are also some more important quests called Plot Quests. If you complete these, they will offer you a permanent bonus or new power throughout the rest of the game. For example, there might be a plot card to gain you extra warriors when you do any action that gives you any warriors at all. Turning you into a warrior making factory! Other plot quests include ones that give you points when you play intrigue cards, give you some free money if you collect rogues, give you a permanent extra agent for the rest of the game or give you the ability to use one location even if an opponent is hogging it!

You could perhaps go to the Builder's Hall to construct in more locations, investing in the city and perhaps making much lucrative locations for everyone to use. With the additional benefit of you getting an owner's bonus providing rewards if other players use your buildings.

At its core, Waterdeep is a fun and interesting game. There’s lots of different options for the players to achieve their goals. But at the end of the game, with all your cards, resources and abilities, it feels like you’ve constructed a pretty efficient quest completing engine! It also feels rewarding when your master plan is executed to perfection or with a little bit of luck or you manage to predict what your opponent was attempting and block them to steal the win.

There are also two expansion boards available in the addon Scoundrels of Skullport, which provides you with even more lords to play as, quests to complete, buildings to buy and amusing intrigue cards to play on each other and another! It also introduces corruption, which can be risky but powerful.

The core game can support two to five players, and with the expansions it can handle up to six! In fact, I will say if you decide to use both expansion boards, I do recommend playing with the full eight players, otherwise there are so many empty spaces for players to place their agents it does take some strategy out of the game.

Waterdeep holds a special place in my heart as it was the first proper worker placement game I ever played. In fact, I would go as far as saying this is a great gateway to the worker placement genre! It is simple enough to learn and once you have learnt the ropes, there are many different strategies and approaches to master.

The closest thing I would say to a downside is that the Dungeons and Dragons theme, whilst cool to me, might be alienating to some people. I think I would struggle to get my non-gaming family to get this on the table due to the theme! One defence against this, if you could call it a defence, is that whilst the theme adds some flavour and setting to the mechanics of the game, ultimately the theme could be stripped entirely and pasted with something else about engine building (space, pirates, cowboys, space pirate cowboys etc) and the core mechanics of trading resources to complete quest conditions would still be functional and fun to play.

A D6 die face showing six pips

In summary, I love this game and would happily play it at any point. It has lots of replay ability and doesn’t over-stay its welcome in terms of game length. Hence, I am happy to give this game the highest score we can give out on our site… a full six out of six!

Dan Leaky

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