I have had the pleasure of recently trying out a board game that I haven’t played before. The game is Lords of Waterdeep, a Dungeons & Dragons board game made by Wizards of the Coast. In addition to that, I also had the privilege of testing out the brand new expansion for this game, Scoundrels of Skullport. This expansion has a release date of August 20th, but Wizards of the Coast very kindly gave us a copy to try out. I will divide this article into two parts, one of the base game and one on the expansion itself.
Lord of Waterdeep – Base game
The first thing that I thought of when I opened the box, was the build quality of this product. I am still really impressed by it. There is a certain texture to the materials used that I feel will lead to minimal wear, even with a lot of use. Inside the box, there is a molded plastic tray that fits all the supplied pieces in it very nicely. Most board games I have bought with many small pieces, I have had to either use snaplock bags or buy multi-compartment containers to house all the pieces. There is even a storage guide in the manual for ease of use.
To the game itself. The three of us who played it had never done so before, or even seen the game previously, but we picked it up very quickly. The rules are simple and streamlined. Set up time is also quick, only a few cards needing to be shuffled and dealt out, some markers to be placed. The basic premise for the game is gain Victory Points by completing quests, meeting special conditions of Lordsor through various other means. It is a competitive game, you do work against each other to have the most VP at the end, and whoever does, wins. There are a total of 8 rounds, so the game is overall time limited, and each player has a number of agents they use to perform actions. These agents are used to gain money or adventurers (pretty much another form of currency), which are in turn used to complete quests. Each player also has a Lord of Waterdeep card they keep secret, which, once the game has ended, gives extra VP if you have met the special conditions of that Lord card. Buildings can be bought, they add more options to gaining coin or adventurers. There are also Intrigue cards that add another element, acting as schemes or favours that the Lords use. They can help yourself and others, but they also add in the opportunity to adversely effect others, such as making them complete a minor quest first before any others, or making them get rid of a little of their resources.
Like any board game, tactics and strategy is needed to do well, but the game is not overtly reliant on disabling others to get ahead. You more work at your own situation to get ahead. There are minor ways to affect your opponents, but not as much as in other games. The base game is very much an individual race to the the final score, which is good because you don’t have to worry about others actively trying to shut you down. There will be situations where their actions will effect you, but that might be more because they are trying to do something specific, and just get there before you.
Once we finished up, figured out who had gotten what, who had placed where, we all decided that it a most enjoyable game. Even those who had come around to watch us place also agreed that it looked very good and very fun.
Scoundrels of Skullport
Later on, with a couple other friends, we tried out the expansion, Scoundrels of Skullport. Upon opening the box, I encountered the same high build quality and the same brilliant molded plastic organisation tray. The base game allowed for a maximum of 5 players, but the expansion introduces a sixth faction, allowing 6 players max. There are also counters that allow for further expansion of the base game, in case some of those counters run out. It is a good touch.
Aside from the general use pieces, like the new faction, the expansion is divided into two separate modules, Undermountain and Skullport. One, the other, or both (with an optional rule) can be added into the base game to expand it. All the expansion cards are marked with a relative symbol for the module, and the plastic tray is also marked with the same symbol. The rule book gives all additional rules that might be needed, including optional rules for extending the game length, and has a Rules Clarification section in the back, to clear up ambiguous rules from the base set.
The first game we played with the expansion, we used the Undermountain module. This module introduced new intrigue, quests, buildings, Lords and small game board. No new rules needed to be learnt, and play carried on the same as the base game. The changed happened really in the new cards, providing new options to follow to get to that final point. My opponents thoroughly enjoyed the game. It was a very close game, only 8 points separated first place from third place.
After that, we removed Undermountain and put in Skullport. Not a hard task to perform.
Skullport adds in a whole new element to the game, Corruption. The base game didn’t really give much opportunity to overtly mess with your opponents, but Skullport adds more in. I took a different route in the game I played, forgoing the typical mad quest rush, in an attempt to hamper the other players using the Corruption.The corruption works in such a way that the more corruption that people have, the worse it is for everyone. At the end of the game, each corruption token a person has is worth a negative amount of VP depending on how much remains on the track. I tried using building control and the rules for Corruption to make my opponents lose VP, because one of them took a lot of corruption to get more resources, so he could complete a lot of quests very quickly. It worked, to a degree, I controlled the few methods of getting rid of the Corruption as best I could, so one of my opponents could not get rid of all of his corruption before the game ended, and so he lost a good number of VP. I came second out of that last game, but first place was miles ahead of me.
I will be playing much more of this game in the future, it is very enjoyable. Wizards of the Coast have done very well here, with a svelte system that performs very well. Combined with an easy learning curve, it shapes up to a game that anyone can pick up and play, and get maximum enjoyment from it. The base game is great, and the expansion just improves on it more and more. You don’t need to know anything about the D&D world (in this case Forgotten Realms) to enjoy this game, it is brilliant as a stand alone item.
Lords of Waterdeep product page.
Scoundrels of Skullport product page.