Lords of Waterdeep is the newest offering from WotC as far as D&D board games go. This game, unlike it’s predecessors is not about dungeon crawls, heroics, or world domination. Lords of Waterdeep puts you in the drivers seat of one of the powerful lords that secretly control the city of splendors through trade, espionage, the clergy, magic, and all out warfare.
Gameplay revolves around completing quests, out witting and out maneuvering your opponents with the occasional dash of stabbing them right in the back (or front). The basic idea of the game is to complete quests and objectives that best fit whichever randomly determined lord of Waterdeep you selected at the beginning of the game, none of your opponents know which lord you are, and neither do you know which one they are. The game ends after a solid 8 rounds of play (which go by rather quickly) and whoever ends with the most victory points is the winner.
The game has layer upon layer of D&D flavor, which is as thin or thick as you’d like it to be. Play it as a game and nothing more, or really put your imagination to work when picking up quests from the tavern or hiring thieves to do your dirty work. The flavor in Lords of Waterdeep goes a long way, but it is far from a requirement to enjoy the game.
How Do I Play, What’s Inside?
Rather than listening to me devolve into the specific mechanics of how the game is played here, why not leave that to Mr. Rodney Thompson, co-designer of the game who has created a lovely video that will teach you everything you need to know to play, in only 8 minutes! Want to know all the bits and pieces before you spend your hard earned $50, check my short unboxing video below for all the colorful wooden goodness:
Setup is a breeze, all the cards and markers have their own spot on the board and each player’s tavern card has a place for everything they need to keep track of – active quests, completed quests, plot quests, their agents and other resources are all at a glance and easily within reach. Everything is nicely color coded and the box itself provides a nice go-to grabbing spot for the players coins and resources when needed. I’ve found that if you merely start explaining each element as you lay it onto the board there is very little left to explain before jumping into someone’s first game. Setting up, tearing down, and learning the rules of this game is a breeze – if only D&D itself could be this easy!
Lords plays pretty quickly, and you’ll hardly ever notice the time is passing because the game is so much fun. Lords of Waterdeep is so simple, yet so complex that you’ll need to play through a few times before you start to truly realize all the possibilities and strategy you can employ while playing it. The experience always seems to speed up as the rounds go by and you can’t help but get sucked in trying to pull off awesome synergies with plot quest combos and seeing if you intrigue card your opponents into a stupor.
Not only do most players seem to grasp the game by the end of the first round or two, but you’ll see that the layers of gameplay really mesh nicely as the game progresses – quests, intrigue cards, foiling your opponents plans, and doing some really crafty stuff with some of the unique abilities the purchasable buildings provide.
2 Player vs. Multiplayer
The 2 player experience is very different than when playing with 3 or more people, namely because you’ll find yourself fighting over resources much less often and it really comes down to who can churn out quests faster than the other, perhaps with a bit of strategic flourish but mostly the 2 player game feels a bit less adversarial and punchy as when playing with more. Not nescessarily a bad thing, you’ll just find that playing with two provides a bit more relaxed game experience.
With 3 or more players the race to claiming the best resources and buildings is a lot more dynamic, the possibility to raise up alliances with other players and then break them down at just the right knife-in-the-back moment is a blast. I’ve yet to play with a full 5 players but I have played with 4 and it was a good time. Without going too far into the mechanics of each building, quest, and intrigue card I can say that the replayability in Lords of Waterdeep is high, and the game is very addictive. This is my favorite D&D board game yet.
In A Nutshell
Lords of Waterdeep is a great game, and I can’t recommend it enough for D&D fans and folks who just like board games alike. I’m sure realms junkies will love it too, as they’ve done a great job at dressing up a fantastic board game with full D&D garb. That perhaps is my biggest takeaway from this game, is that it’s a really solid game and perhaps designed as a game first, and a D&D product second – not that the “D&D-ness” of the game is lacking or stilted in any way.
Replay value on this one is high, the bar for entry is low ($31 on Amazon and if you use one of my links to purchase the game you gain a permanent +1 to awesome!) and you might even find yourself role playing a bit while you’re trying to outwit your fellow waterdhavian lords!