Whether it was Axis & Allies, Squad Leader, or Risk, I have always enjoyed playing board and strategy games. The Lords of Waterdeep Board Game from Wizards of the Coast caught my interest because I am a huge fan of the Forgotten Realms setting and was looking for a good game to play with my non-rpg friends and rpg friends alike. The Dungeons & Dragons element mixed with a boardgame seemed like it had at least a bit of something for each type of friend out of the box.
Lords of Waterdeep first struck me as an extremely smart package design that would not leave pieces sprinkled around the box when I reached my gaming destination. The cardboard pieces were very interesting to me as they had full color prints that were perfect as markers or chips in a variety of different games. The little wood pieces that players would use to represent their fighters, rogues, wizards, and clerics were plain in my opinion and a little underwhelming but I am told that is a popular thing in euro style games. I would have preferred an “HO” scale plastic piece that represented the four classes but that is because I want an army of tiny plastic wizards.
I like a game that plays quick and since the game only lasts eight turns, a single game won’t drag on forever. The game comes with Lord Cards for eleven Lords of Waterdeep but is designed for 2-5 players so there is a lot of replay because the Lord Cards are dealt randomly and the lords will be different for every game. Each player chooses a faction from the Knights of the Shield, City Guard, Silverstars, Harpers, and Red Sashes. Then you select the player mat for your faction which will help you to keep things straight once the game begins. Each faction also has a corresponding color that is used for Agents, Score Markers, and Building Control Markers. The game takes about ten minutes to set-up once you punch out and sort all the pieces. That took me about forty-five minutes but I took my time to examine and admire each piece.
I do not like the suggested system for starting play; the player who has most recently been to another city goes first. Seems like it leads to debate and it is kind of cutesy so I just rolled a die, it is a tiny thing. Once the game starts the action is controlled by Quest Cards and Intrigue Cards. The player whose turn it is places their agents in an unoccupied space in one of the nine basic buildings. The buildings are some of the more famous locales in the City of Splendors so Forgotten Realms fans should be pleased. Each building has unique rewards associated with it, such as gold or adventurers, and the Advanced Buildings add to the game by allowing players a variety of different power options for their faction. Some buildings have special rules but Appendix 1 sums up all the building rules.
Quest Cards and Intrigue Cards provide the action element to the game. Choosing to complete a quest can lead to a massive commitment of resources and a player may find they are unprepared to deal with a Mandatory Quest Intrigue Card that an opponent plays. Where to commit your resources and how early and often is part of the game that appeals to me greatly. The random factors that Lords, Buildings, Intrigue, and Quest Cards provide makes sure that there is never a sure fire strategy to win the game every time. Players will have to adapt to what cards are in play and learn when it is best to hold on to resources and when to expend them.
After eight rounds you total the Victory Points which are earned for completed quests, the adventurers and gold in your tavern, and the special conditions on your Lord Card. The player with the most points wins. The game plays quick and easy. The board really made me feel like I was looking at some of the maps of the City of Splendors from the old boxed set. I did not enjoy the look of the agents or the adventurers as they were very plain and did nothing to help me feel like I was directing either. That would be my only criticism of a game that appears to be pretty well thought out and put together. Lords of Waterdeep retails for $49.99 which is about what you would expect. You can save a pile of money by buying it at amazon.com and it pains me to say that but I feel I have to since I always point out the deals for gamers. I feel for the local game stores. Do your best to support them when you can, it is the best thing for the gaming community. Take a look at the cool gold coin and shiny gem tokens and think about using them in your rpgs as a great visual representation and the value is increased. If you are in the market for an easy to learn board game that plays quick and gives you a D&D feel then Lords of Waterdeep Board Game is a game for you to check out. You can read another review by Neuroglyph at EN World here if you are still on the fence. Until next time, Roll Hard!
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