Lords of Waterdeep
is one of the most recent boardgame offerings from Wizards of the Coast
, tackling a genre that a large number of D&D players may not be familiar with: Euro-style games. Unlike other Wizards games such as Castle Ravenloft or Conquest of Nerath, Lords of Waterdeep is a game about simple economy building, taking opportunities, and scoring points over your opponents.
Lords of Waterdeep is visually fantastic. The box itself reminds me of classic sword-and-sorcery adventure modules and supplements; it looks like a D&D book you might have picked up in the bookstore 10 to 15 years ago. The same quality comes through in the design of the various components. Players' worker pawns are wooden (a very classy touch; I'm one of those purists who turns up his nose at plastic game pieces...don't get me started on the Game of Thrones reprint), the artwork portraying the city of Waterdeep on the main board is stellar, looking just like an urban map, and the various tokens for the players, reference cards...etc...etc...it's all very well-produced.
I don't know much about Waterdeep itself, but the fantasy theme shines through heavily in this game. It's focused around collecting adventurers from one of the four basic D&D stocks: fighters, rogues, clerics, and wizards. Each adventurer type also has an associated quest type (Warfare, Skullduggery, Piety, Arcana) which requires mostly adventurers of the matching type to complete. (For instance, a Warfare quest might require 5 fighters, a Piety quest might require three clerics and a wizard.)
Each Lord (your secret identity/agenda) also has a preference for two of the four quest types, scoring bonus points for achieving quests in those categories. This serves to characterize each player very well. The only area where theme is a bit lacking is the five different factions; they're nothing more than a color swap. I would have loved to see a different special ability or bonus granted to each of the five main factions.
Lords of Waterdeep is simple but involved. Like many Euro-style games such as the excellent Agricola, it involves worker placement. Every player has a certain number of agents. In turn, each player puts an agent on a building to use its ability; each building may only have one agent placed on it, so strategic blocking becomes important. Shutting opponents out is a strong consideration.
You place agents on buildings to gain gold and to summon adventurers to your cause. You spend adventurers to complete quests. You complete quests to gain victory points. You also have the option of assigning an agent to a building that allows you to erect a new structure in Waterdeep, providing more powerful abilities to the players (along with a goodie to you, whenever players use your building). Along the way, you can pick up Intrigue cards, which mix the game up in small ways, but the crux of the game is collecting adventurers and quests.
Finally, each player is a Lord of Waterdeep; this consists of a secret agenda, revealed at the end of the game, such as "You score 4 victory points for each Piety and Arcana quest you have completed."
While it's not as complex as some Euro-style games, such as Puerto Rico, it's still in-depth enough to be quite interesting. I personally like it better for that. While most Euro-style games take me a couple playthroughs to really "get" the core mechanics (and thus stand a fighting chance), Lords of Waterdeep was a game that I picked up immediately, and, er...I managed to do quite smashingly well, powering past my opponents, especially when it came time to tally up my bonus secret agenda points.
Lords of Waterdeep is well worth playing more than once. Not only is it a fantastic game, but it provides a very good starting point for more complex Euro-style games. It's definitely fun to wrap one's mind around.