In the realm of Dungeons and Dragons, the City of Splendors, otherwise known as Waterdeep, is a legendary city in Faerun that serves as the most influential city in northern Faerun’s history. The city of Waterdeep serves as the backdrop for this epic worker placement/resource management game called Lords of Waterdeep!
My fiancee and I have become huge fans of Dungeons and Dragons, both of us trying to play campaigns when time and energy allow. I usually serve as the Dungeon Master, whereas my fiancee is generally a player. Lords of Waterdeep allows us to fulfill both roles in certain aspects.
Lords of Waterdeep is for 2-5 players, lasts approximately 1-2 hours, and is for players ages 12 years or older.
My first Board Game Night post was about Stone Age, a worker placement/resource management game. Stone Age was my first experience with those types of board games, but Lords of Waterdeep opened my eyes to the real strategy and depth these games can include.
In Lords of Waterdeep, you take on the role of one of the Lords of the city. Each Lord has a secret agenda that gains you bonus points at the end of the game. The lords are handed out in secret so nobody knows which lord each player has at their disposal.
Much like Stone Age, the board is filled with different locations where you can place your workers on each turn. The game lasts a total of eight rounds. During each round, whoever the first player is, places their first worker in their place of choice on the board. Unlike Stone Age, as soon as you play a worker, you gain the resource or take the action associated with the place where your worker was played. Stone Age waits until all workers are placed, but this game resolves the action immediately.
You set up the game in the following steps. Each player gets a number of agents based on the number of people playing. Depending on the number of players, you’ll start with anywhere between two and four workers to use each round. Each player draws a random lord and chooses one of five different factions to play. The factions don’t give any kind of bonus, they are just there for flavor.
Shuffle the Quest deck and deal two quests to each player. These quests are considered active and must be laid face up so all players can see each quest at any time. These are considered active quests. Then shuffle the Intrigue deck and deal two of those to each player. Intrigue cards are cards that can be played throughout the game that change the course of the game by allowing players to take special actions. The starting player gets four gold, then the next player gets five, and so forth. The player that has most recently been to a different city gets to go first and the game begins!
The quest cards that you acquire throughout the game are your main source of victory points. Each quest requires different resources to complete. Some require money, but most of them require different adventurers that you hire by placing your workers in different spots on the board. The four resources are Fighters (orange), Clerics (white), Wizards (purple), and Rogues (black).
On your turn, you can place a worker in any ONE of the following spaces:
Field of Triumph
Aurora’s Realms Shop
The Grinning Lion Tavern
Field of Triumph
Playing one worker here nets you 2 Fighters.
Playing one worker here nets you 1 Wizard.
Playing one worker here allows you to draw 1 Intrigue card and you get to go first at the start of the next round.
Cliffwatch Inn has three different spots where you can play your worker. This is different from the other spots on the board in that multiple people can play here since there are three different spots. The leftmost spot nets you 2 Gold and you get to choose from one of the four face up quest cards available. After you take a quest, replace the empty spot with a quest from the Quest deck. If you play in the middle spot, you draw 1 Intrigue card and a new quest. Playing in the rightmost spot means you discard all four face up quest cards, replace the four spots with new ones, and you must take one of the new quests.
Much like Cliffwatch Inn, there are three spots here for players to place their workers. When you play a worker here, you can play 1 Intrigue card from your hand.
This spot on the board is my least favorite spot but the most helpful in the long run of the game. (It’s my least favorite because I don’t usually build here, so I never get the bonuses associated with most of the buildings). Playing a worker here means you get to buy one of the three face up buildings. You pay the gold price and move the building to a building space on the left or right side of the board. These buildings add layer and depth to the game in that players can now place their workers on those spaces as well. Each building offers different resources, card draw mechanics, or some other special ability.
Aurora’s Realms Shop
Playing a worker here nets you 4 Gold.
Playing your worker here nets you 1 Cleric.
The Grinning Lion Tavern
Playing one worker here nets you 2 Rogues.
Starting with the first player, he or she places his or her worker in one place on the board and then gains the resource or takes the action (i.e. buying a building, drawing an Intrigue card, etc). Then the next player places their first worker and collects. Remember, each spot on the board can only have one worker on it with the exception of Cliffwatch Inn and Waterdeep Harbor.
After you have placed a worker, if you have a quest that can be completed, you can choose to complete the quest and gain the reward from it. You keep playing one worker at a time until everybody has played all of their workers. Once everybody has played all of their workers, anybody that has played at Waterdeep Harbor can then redeploy their worker(s) in order from left to right at the Harbor. These workers can be played anywhere that has open availability on the board. In the rare event that no spots are open, that worker cannot be redeployed.
After redeployment, everybody collects their workers and the next round begins with whomever played at Castle Waterdeep last (or if nobody did, whoever went first the round before). At the start of the fifth round, everybody gains one extra worker to place each round. Once everybody finishes round eight, the game ends!
At the end of the game, start adding up your points. For every leftover adventurer on your player mat, you get 1 Victory Point. For every 2 Gold you have in your treasury, you get 1 Victory Point. Then look at your Lord and add up all the points you might have gained due to your secret agenda.
Add those points to the points you acquired throughout the game, and the person with the most points wins!
Lords of Waterdeep has become a personal favorite of mine, the worker placement/resource management aspect of the game involving more strategy and reason than in Stone Age. While Stone Age’s premise is fun and interesting, Lords of Waterdeep feels like it takes it to an entirely new level. While the board and game pieces might feel overwhelming at first, once you play your first game, everything begins to feel simple and easily explained. However, the strategy does run really deep. Do you try to hammer out quests as fast as you can? Or do you focus on buildings because you have the Lord that gives you bonus points for every building you buy? Perhaps you want to acquire as many adventurers as possible and then hammer out five quests in one round. Maybe you want to play as many Intrigue cards as you can to change the course of the game and give yourself lots of bonuses. The options are vast, and the strategy is fun to plan and enact.
While playing the game with two players can be fun, one player can snowball out of control very quickly. When my fiancee and I play the game with just the two of us, one player usually jumps out to an unobtainable lead and wins with no issue. The sweet spot feels like 3-4 players is best. The spots fill up quicker on the board, and you’re left with very few options when you get down to that last worker.
If you’re looking for something that has a lot of Dungeons and Dragons flavor with tons of replayability and thoughtful strategy, give Lords of Waterdeep a try. Maybe you’ll find yourself intrigued about the world of D&D after playing it. Or maybe you’ll just flip the table when your opponent plays on Blackstaff Tower for the fourth round in a row when you have a quest that requires 5 Wizards to complete.
Board Game Geek: Lords of Waterdeep