Let’s talk a little more about Lords of Waterdeep! When you buy the base game you get the big board and you can have from 2 – 5 players. There’s also an expansion called Scoundrels of Skullport. The box actually contains two independent expansions called Undermountain and Skullport. You can add either one to the main game or even both at the same time. The expansions add a lot of new options (including the ability to have 6 players) but in different ways.
Undermountain – This expansion basically just adds more of the same to the base game: more quests, more intrigue cards, more buildings, 3 new lords, and a small expansion board. The new board has three additional spots on it that can be used, and all three of them are very handy; one of them (the one that gives you an orange and a black) is what I call my “default spot” – the spot I take when I’ve got nothing else better to do.
There is one new mechanic this expansion brings and that’s what I call “spreading” resources.
When you play a card like this one:
You get to take one purple resource and you place a purple resource on any spot on the board. People put a lot of thought into where to put those resources in order to try to make it do the most good (usually that means trying to keep it for themselves). Typical strategies for spreading resources (BTW, in this game gold isn’t technically a “resource” but for purposes of my posts I’ll consider it one) include:
- If you’ll be taking the first turn next round and the spot you plan on taking is already occupied you can put it there and snatch it next round. Not that this is guaranteed to work!
- If you’re going to be taking the last two turns of the round you can place the resource on your penultimate turn and then take it on your final turn.
- Sometimes you put it somewhere to bait your opponent into going onto that spot. The most common usage of this is putting it on the “reset all the quests” spot if you don’t like any of the quests.
- If you don’t have the “go-first token” (whoever has it goes first each turn, which is a pretty nice advantage), you can put it on the spot that lets you take it. This is particularly good in a 2 player game!
It actually gets pretty funny watching people fret so much over where to spread the resources and how to keep them. In the end it’s only 1 resource people! But hey, I do it too 🙂 It’s even more fun when you have to spread 2 resources instead of just 1.
The other thing the expansions introduce is power creep. First off, the quests are worth a lot more points; the highest scoring quest in the base game is 25, while the expansions have 40 pointers.
Buildings have also gotten some serious upgrading. There are 5 of what I call the “crazy [resource] buildings”. Here’s the crazy black building for example:
Some of the quest rewards are pretty big too; I’ll talk about quests in their own separate post. But overall the Undermountain expansion doesn’t radically change the game; it gives you more cards and buildings to play with and makes the game bigger and better. On the other hand…
Skullport – This expansion also has the additional buildings, quests, intrigue cards, and lords to add to the base game (if you decide to use both expansions you actually remove some of the base cards and buildings to make it easier to deal with). And while it doesn’t have the 40 point quests or much of the spreading mechanic like the Undermountain expansion, it does introduce a whole new game mechanic: corruption.
Corruption is an interesting concept. Basically there are cards and buildings that let you reap huge benefits while picking up corruption markers. These are worth negative points if you have them at the end of the game, and the more that have been taken (not just by you, but by all the players) the higher the penalty is. So you have to decide: is it worth getting all this good stuff if I have to take a corruption token or two? There are many ways to get rid of corruption tokens once you receive them, so in many cases it is worth it since you know you can probably get rid of it later.
Here are some of the crazy things you can do if you’re willing to take a corruption token or two:
This expansion includes two additional boards. One has 3 additional spots to land on, just like the Undermountain expansion (but of course all three of them give you corruption tokens as well):
The other board is the corruption board:
Whatever spot is currently uncovered shows how much each token is worth. In the above pic only one has been taken (all the spots start with 3 tokens except for that first spot), and it’s worth (-1) point. In this picture:
Enough have been removed that they’re worth (-5) each! Better figure out a way to get rid of some of them 🙂
Overall I’m not a fan of the corruption mechanic or the Skullport expansion. I totally get what the designers were trying to do: add a new mechanic to change up the gameplay and inject new life and strategy into the game. I don’t fault them one bit for that. But the whole corruption thing feels too “tacked on” for me. They did a good job trying to integrate it into the main game, but it’s just so different than the regular game that it’s jarring. It’s just another thing to worry about that distracts you from the “real” gameplay. All in my opinion of course. I really feel that the designers did a great job with Skullport and that it’s a quality product, but it’s just one of those cases where it doesn’t jive with me.
In the end I play with the Undermountain expansion only, and the Skullport expansion just sits in the box, with the buildings and cards all shiny new and perfect still. One of the lords is compatible with the base game so I use her but that’s it. But it’s definitely worth getting the expansion just to only use one half of it; when I introduce new players to the game we play a couple of games with just the base set and then throw in the Undermountain set so they can get a little used to the game before jumping into the deep end.
Whew, this went longer than I anticipated, thanks for reading it all! If you did 🙂