Lords of Waterdeep – reviewed by Shawn Allen

Reviewed by: Shawn Allen

Though I was a Dungeons and Dragons fiend as a teenager, I eventually left role-playing games (and the fantasy genre in gaming as a whole) once I approached my college years.  About a year ago, however, I was happily perusing the shelves of the dealers’ floor at Emerald City ComicCon when I came across this nifty title among the other games.   “Lords of Waterdeep,” I thought.  “Dungeons and Dragons.  My wife will never play this with me!”  Then I turned the box around and read more about the game within.  A Euro-style, worker placement game in the D&D universe?  My wife was a big fan of placing meeples on a board, so it was worth a shot.  It was a gamble, but a year later, Lords of Waterdeep has seen more time on our table than just about any other game.

Let’s look at why.  First, the components.  The wooden cubes and cardboard tokens and tiles are of the highest quality.  The cards feature beautiful artwork and design as well as a nice linen finish.  All the components fit perfectly into a custom-made insert that keeps everything organized between plays, making it a snap to set up each game.  I was impressed as soon as I opened the box!

Next, the game play.  Each player receives a card indicating which Lord in the city of Waterdeep he or she represents.  This card lists certain quest types (e.g., “commerce,” “warfare,” “arcana”).  Every round, the players maneuver their agents throughout the city to complete the various quests that they acquire throughout the course of the game.  The players take turns placing their agents into different locations in Waterdeep in an effort to gain the requirements for these quests–specific heroes (represented by colored cubes–warriors, clerics, etc.), money, or other items such as buildings or new quests.  Space is limited, however; once someone has placed an agent at a location, no other player can use that location for the rest of the round!  Thus, a real sense of tension arises as you grapple with your fellow Lords to fulfill your quests or even to play special “Intrigue” cards, which can often help you, but also can interfere with other players’ plans.

As the game progresses through eight rounds, players will continue to take turns placing their agents, buying buildings, playing Intrigue cards, and maneuvering for new, more challenging missions worth ever more bonuses and points.  At the end of the game, each player reveals the Lord card he or she received at the beginning and receives bonus points for the completed quests that match the types listed on the Lord card.

My wife and I were very impressed with how well the theme of the game fit the mechanics and came through in the play experience.  We did get a taste of pulling the strings behind some clever political machinations as we carefully distributed our agents throughout Waterdeep.  We found ourselves cheering when we completed quests that made a “raid on Undermountain” or “bolstered the Griffon cavalry.”  The game offers decisions that are tense yet manageable, even when you have to change plans on the fly.  As I mentioned above, this game has seen a lot of table time at our house with many players, and everyone has asked to play again as soon as we’ve finished.  Kudos to Wizards of the Coast for creating an accessible yet thought-provoking game full of fun decisions and great experiences at the table.

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