Dungeons and Dragons is one of the most beloved game franchises of all times! Most people had their first gaming experience through the old TSR faithful, and many more are experiencing it today, in more than just the traditional role playing atmosphere.
Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast came out with Lords of Waterdeep, which is based in the Dungeons and Dragon's universe, inside the city of Waterdeep, and is a euro-style game with worker placement at it's core. It plays with 2-5 players, in about 60 minutes, and is suggested for players 12 years old and up.
Is it a good game though, or are we looking at something that Wizards simply said, "let's slap the DND name on it, they'll love it!"? We'll delve into the game, components, and thoughts in our video and written review, so come with us, as we enter the great and mysterious city of Waterdeep my Lords!
In Lords of Waterdeep, each player will be given a random Lord card, which all have a different end game bonus, when tallying victory points. These identities will only be known to the player themselves, and cards are placed face down. Part of the fun and strategy, is figuring out your opponent's strategies and motivations, to ensure you succeed at yours, and hinder theirs!
Your goal, as this Lord, is to enter the city, use your Agents (meeples) in various buildings, recruit heroes, complete quests, gain Intrigue, and amass the most victory points, to be declared the Lord of Waterdeep. Primarily, you'll be obtaining the bulk of your points from completing quests, but there are several other ways throughout the game, to amass a fortune of points!
Depending on the number of players, each player gets a set amount of Agents (well-designed meeples), that they will take turns placing in different buildings to gain special rewards and effects. The game board starts with several basic buildings, but also provides access to a Builder's Hall, where you can build new, more powerful buildings, that will vary from game to game due to randomness and shuffling of the stack.
Each turn, players can play one Agent and complete one quest, in either order. Quests will normally require a combination of Heroes and or money. Heroes are represented by small cubes. Orange are Fighters, Black are Rogues, White are Clerics and Purple are Wizards. There are, if you prefer, third party meeples to be found online for replacing cube if you like as well. Depending on the buildings your Agents visit, will determine the amount and type of Heroes and money you obtain.
Quests have types, like Arcana, Commerce, etc, which count as impacting other quests, like ongoing Plot Quests, as well as impact the end of game scoring for Lords who gain a bonus for having completed different types of quests.
The game is played over 8 rounds, with a full round being completed after all players have completely distributed all the available Agents they have in play. Once complete with the game, players tally up money, additional left over Heroes, bonuses for completed quests, and whomever has the highest victory points (scored through an outer ring of points around the board) is declared the Victor and Lord of Waterdeep.
One of the unique aspects are the additional buildings players will have access to throughout the games. Each game starts with 3 buildings from a shuffled stack face up in the Builder's Hall, which will allow a player to play them, and become the Owner of them. Each building that is built this way, offers an Agent spot, for all players, owner or not, to place Agents in to gain its rewards. However, whenever an Agent is placed in a building owned by a player, there is also a reward that only the Owner gets!
The game makes it very easy to remember who owns which buildings, by providing a cut out corner on each building and Control Markers in each player's color, that aligns to the cut out portion, to make a simple and visual reminder. As you can see in the example of The Golden Horn to the right, the building would cost 4 gold to build if you placed an Agent in the Builder's Hall, would provide a player all the gold accumulated on the building when an Agent is placed in it (this one adds 4 gold when purchased and at the start of each round), and the Owner would get a separate 2 gold. If the Owner is the player who places an Agent in The Golden Horn, then they get both!
So it is to your advantage to manage buildings in two ways. First, to build buildings that you'll want to use, to get the resources you'll need to complete your quests and further increase your points. However, you have to be careful, as once built, all other players can place Agents in the buildings as well, so they may block you for a turn or two. Second, you could take the strategy of building buildings that match your opponent's strategies, drawing their Agents to the buildings, but offering you the Owner's benefits for you! Either way, there is a great amount of strategy, just in this one aspect of the game!
There are also Intrigue cards, which provide a great amount of impact to the game. Intrigue cards can be beneficial to you and others, can be "mandatory quests" (more on them in a moment), or attacks on other players! Beneficial Intrigue cards are simple things like "Gain X heroes from the supply" or "all players without X Hero type gain one from the supply" and so on. Mandatory Quests are unique. While each player will keep track of the quests they are on with face up quests next to their player boards, if another player plays a Mandatory Quest on them, they MUST complete that quest prior to completing any others! Since you can only complete one Quest per turn, this can slow and hinder players, especially if played at the opportune time where they do not have the resources to pay for it, and thus must spend valuable turns accumulating these resources, to complete the Mandatory Quest.
Finally, Attack Intrigue cards will general impact the amount of resources another player has, from heroes to money to quests. It's never good to get attacked, but it sure is a fun way to add some fisticuffs to the city streets!
As you can tell, there is a massive amount of strategy and replay ability in Lords of Waterdeep. The designers have done an excellent job intermingling the role playing and adventure from Dungeons and Dragons, with the political influence and majesty of a good euro worker placement game. The Quests themselves make a lot of sense, and have some effective combinations, not just with your Lord's strategies for end game scoring, but to impact the game during the flow. Add to that, that by shuffling all the Quests, Intrigue, and Building cards each game, and the different goals of each Lord impacting the game, and you end up with a great amount of replay value and differentiation between games.
Lords of Waterdeep has excellent art as well. It has a feel of Renaissance paintings, with very thematic pictures and locations. This lends itself to the game well, and adds to the already immersing ambiance that the game successfully pulls off. You definitely get the feeling of building the city as you go and that you have true influence over the events inside of Waterdeep, which all add up to a pleasurable experience that sucks you into the game.
It is also a very social game, mostly because of the buildings and who owns what. Each turn is alive and interactive with people quickly placing Agents and completing Quests that will impact other player's choices! There's the ownership bonuses to watch out for, where everyone is placing Agents, and timing to be aware of, all keeping you glued to the seat, and enjoying every minute. There's nothing quite as refreshing as building a building you NEED to use immediately, then waiting for others to take their turn, only to come back to you, and not have seen anyone use it, so you jump RIGHT ON IT and grin with an evil laugh!
Engrossing gameplay, high replay value, engagement from end to end, a solid theme and license, and a fun game generally means only one thing. Critsville! Lords of Waterdeep is one of the best games of the year and I'm only sorry that I didn't obtain a copy or provide a review sooner! It is something that is enjoyable for many different ages (while the box says 12+, NinjaZach picked it up quickly and almost won his first game) and is surprisingly something that satisfies both those looking for a Dungeons and Dragon's theme, as well as those who may not jump at the excitement of entering that universe! It really can appeal to many audiences!
While on the surface, Lords of Waterdeep may look like an American "attempt" at a classic Euro style game, don't let the cover of this book keep you from turning the pages! It hits the mark like an Elven marksman with his arrow and will provide an excellent time for you, your party of adventurers, and all the Lords, and Ladies, gathered around your table!
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