If you have ever played in a fantasy role-playing game you will recognise the scene:
The party is in a tavern when they are approached by a stranger – the representative of some sponsor – who asks them if they are looking for work and then proposes that they be hired to escort a caravan, find and defeat a party of local brigands or recover a valuable artefact.
In Lords of Waterdeep (LoW), the players take the role of those shadowy figures – the project sponsors – this is done by randomly allocating a card from the Lords card deck at the start of the game. As a Lord of the city of Waterdeep, each player is seeking to advance their schemes to become the most powerful Lord in the city by hiring adventurers to achieve quests. Each player controls a number of agents of one of the factions of the city: The City Guard, Knights of the Shield, Silverstars, Harpers or Red Sashes. The number of agents (represented by different coloured wooden Meeples) is dependent upon the number of players in the game.
A game of LoW is played in eight rounds, with the player with the most victory points at the end of the eighth round being declared the winner.
LoW is a worker placement game – the players agents are placed on the board to perform different actions during their turn.
In each round, players perform a number of actions. Starting with the start player (the player who has the ‘Start Player’ marker) players can do the following:
• Assign an Agent
• Complete a Quest
Play continues in a clockwise direction, with each player assigning a single agent and then possibly completing a quest until each player has assigned all their agents.
Agents are assigned to different areas or buildings on the board, and each area (which can usually only be occupied by a single agent) allows a different action, such as recruiting a certain type of adventurer (Warrior, Priest, Thief or Wizard), taking control of a new building (thus allowing additional actions to be taken), gaining new quests or allowing the playing of Intrigue cards.
The vast majority of victory points in the game are gained by completing quests. Each quest will have a requirement – a number of different adventurers that will need to be recruited in order to complete the quest, plus perhaps an amount of money that will need to be paid. Fulfil the requirements of the quest, and you will gain its reward – usually a number of victory points, plus perhaps some money, or perhaps some new adventurers.
Quests are divided into certain types: Arcana, Skulduggery, Warfare, Commerce and Piety. Depending upon which Lord of Waterdeep the player has been allocated, they gain additional victory points depending upon what type of quests are completed. For example, Brianne Byndraeth gains additional victory points for Arcana and Skulduggery quests, whilst Duran the Wanderer gains bonuses for Commerce and Warfare quests.
Player interaction in the game comes in two forms. The first can be performed by players blocking each other from gaining the resources they need to complete quests – players quest cards and resources are available for all to see, thus you can look at what your opponents are trying to achieve, and block them whilst achieving your own ends at the same time. The second way of players interacting is by the use of Intrigue Cards. These cards can be gathered during the game, and allow players to perform different actions against their opponents – perhaps luring adventurers away from their taverns, or maybe sending them off on quests that have to be completed before anything else – the interaction isn’t a huge part of the game, but it is vital and stops LoW from becoming a game of multiple people playing solitaire.
On each turn, players compete for limited resources in that attempt to maximise their victory points – do you complete many small quests, or concentrate on more difficult tasks which take much longer to complete, but give rich rewards?
Lords of Waterdeep is one of the best games of the worker placement genre that I have played in recent years. Resources are tight, which means that players are constantly competing over where best to play their agents – this makes for a very close game which is usually decided by a handful of points (always the sign of a good, well balanced game in my opinion).
Add to that the excellent D&D artwork from TSR on the cards and components, plus wooden playing pieces (and let’s face it, where would we be if a game including resource collection didn’t have coloured wooden cubes?) give LoW a great look and feel.
In summary, Lords of Waterdeep is a well-designed eurogame using the worker placement/resource collection mechanic, which gives an excellent thematic playing experience. I would highly recommend it.