Back when I was just a lad, I thought the only roleplaying system in the world was Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, it was a very good example of the brand becoming the product. I am less sure that is clear now that I reread it, but I choose to believe you follow me. Certainly, it was a powerful brand even if people chose not to engage with it, and I am pleased to report that the Brand is still going strong and venturing into new areas. In this case, the worker management boardgame “Lords of Waterdeep”.
The play style of Lords of Waterdeep is simple. Each player takes control of one of the Lords of Waterdeep, a fictional city in one of the Dungeons & Dragons realms (honestly can’t remember which). As a Lord of Waterdeep, with one faction at your command, it is your job to complete quests, score points and become the pre-eminent Lord of Waterdeep.
Each Lord starts with 2 meeples, agents of their faction. Oldest player, which for once wasn’t me (by 2 days), goes first. The game board is divided into various locations in the city. Some locations yield resource cubes (I choose to think of the cubes as adventurers), money, give the opportunity to perform intrigues, collect quests and you can even build more facilities within the city by sending a Meeple to the Builder’s Hall and paying the build cost. Each player places their Meeple, collecting the resources or executing the appropriate action until everyone has placed one. Then the players go round again, placing their second Meeple until everyone has finished.
Once per turn you can complete a quest. A quest might require a certain number of different coloured cubes, and gold to complete. Hand the cubes and money back in, and the quest is completed. Narratively speaking, a Lord of Waterdeep commissioned a quest, for the good of the city, hired some adventurers and basks in their glory when completed.
Play goes for 8 turns. The winner is the person with the most victory points at the end. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game, though I suspect it might become harder if you play with the same people frequently and you start to learn that each Lord of Waterdeep has different bonuses. For instance, my Lord (technically, a Lady) gets 6 extra victory points at the end for every building I controlled. If people knew that was a possibility, they might not have let me build 5. (I got rent every time someone used them as well, which was nice). For most of the Lords, bonus VP came from completing specific types of quest – such as Piety, Commerce or Warfare.
The game was a lot of fun, feeling like it was in a D & D game, but with a completely different take on things – being the quest givers, as it were, as opposed to the adventurers. The ability to build the city was fun, collecting rent from people using your buildings was fun. And some of the intrigue cards were downright nasty (I started a chain of events where everyone decided to pick on the player sitting nest to me. When I did it, it was a one off. They went hell for leather. Such bad people).
Sadly, I didn’t win. The owner of the game did. I was only 3 points behind. Not bad for someone trailing most of the game.
This experience prompted me to get the came. I purchased Lords of Waterdeep from Amazon, though you can sometimes find it for sale second hand elsewhere.