Friday, September 27, 2013

Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport Review

Designer: Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee & Chris Dupuis
No. of Players: 2-6
Playing Time: 75-100mins

Mechanics: Worker Placement / Set Collection

Scoundrels of Skullport is the first ( not sure if there’ll be more ) expansion for the 2012 hit – Lords of Waterdeep.
It adds two modules that may be added to the base game either together or separately.
The first module is Undermountain, the second is Skullport.

How to Play

The Undermountain module falls under the “more of the same” category of expansions.
It adds a separate board area that opens up more spaces for the players to obtain the same resources from the base game.
Also included are more buildings and intrigue cards and most importantly, the high point quests. The new point ceiling for a quest is now 40 points instead of the old ceiling of 25 points.

Skullport is the module that the expansion is named after – and rightly so – as it adds a brand new resource / mechanic known as corruption.
Corruption is represented by skull tokens in the game and are obtained by activating the high value spaces on the new board area from this module. At the end of the game, each skull token is worth a variable amount of negative points to each player that still has any left in their tavern.

Skull tokens can only be discarded via some intrigue cards and by completing some of the quests that come with this module. Skullport likewise introduces new buildings and intrigue cards which all center on the corruption mechanic and greatly increases the amount of interaction between the players.

Lastly, the expansion comes with materials for a sixth player and also a few new lords; some of which may only be used with the expansion modules, but there are a few that can be used solely with the base game.

New Board Areas for Undermountain ( top row ) & Skullport ( bottom row )

Things I Like

1) Seamless Integration
Regardless whether you are adding in one or both of the modules, they each blend in with the base game so well that you could introduce it on a first play and no one would know that they are expansion materials ( apart from the fact that the new boards are separate from the main board )

2) Small Change, but a Big Difference / Corruption Mechanic
The only new aspect that the expansion brings is the Corruption mechanic. But what a mechanic it is ! It changes the game in subtle ways but it really makes the game much more fun and allows you to try to run up your score though with maybe some negative consequences. It is aptly named corruption as it really tempts you to just take the resources and the skull and to hell with the world – so to speak.

3) New Lords
I like the new lords that come with the game. They don’t really seem extremely overpowered and offer you a new way to approach the game. Yes they still award you points for collecting certain types of quest(s), but it’s the thought that you could actually receive someone different from the usual “4 points each for 2 types of quests” that makes it interesting. And with so many lords to choose from now, dealing 2 and keeping 1 is something that can be done each and every time you play the game.

4) Increased Interactivity
With the new buildings and new intrigue cards, the interactivity between the players is much higher than before. But what I liked best is the subtle indirect interactivity that the expansion adds. You will find cards and buildings that require you to place a certain resource on an action space. This lets you determine how attractive ( or repulsive ) a certain space can be for the remainder of the game ( till someone takes the action space ). It may seem like a small thing to introduce in the game but when you see a space with an additional skull staring at you, you will greatly think twice about how much you really want that particular action space.

5) New Box
This is a small point but the new box size is great. The base game box had a useless lid, and took up too much space. The new box can fit the base game and expansion together ( provided you toss the expansion insert ) and fits snuggly in a box that I feel is shaped just right. Space is a premium for me and this is very much welcomed.

New Buildings that focus on Corruption mechanic & Placement of Resources on other Action Spaces

Things I Dislike

1) Balance Issues
Some of the new intrigue cards are really really powerful in games with a greater number of players. This may also be said for some of the high point quests though personally I found that I am pretty ok with them. I have heard some complaints from others that the 40 points quest is a must have to win the game but I tend to disagree. Still, the quest cards from the expansion set seem slightly better than that from the base set ( though I think not by much )

2) Setup & Teardown Time
With the expansion comes more complexity during the setup phase. Players must take out a set number of base game materials and then add and shuffle the expansion materials to form the starting decks of quests, intrigue cards, and buildings. This may seem like a small hassle but its really quite annoying, especially when you want to play another round of the game, then you have to split the items up, reshuffle them, and remove some base items again and reshuffle the expansion inside. You could use the same buildings to replay a second game but I prefer having the chance to draw new and different buildings. So you can also imagine by now the tear down process, split and sort. Bleh.

3) Inequality in Production Value
If you have read the forums by now, you would know that the color backs for the base game and expansion quests are slightly off color. The card sizes are also very marginally different ( the expansion cards are slightly bigger than the base game cards ). Also, the orientation of the quest cards are different between the base game and the expansion. This may all sound like major production issues, but really for me, when looked at from the gaming table as a whole, it’s hardly noticeable. So I really couldn’t care less. But it’s still under the dislike column as production issues like these should never occur on a scale as big as this. Off color cards are a pain but understandable, but different sizes and orientation is very sloppy. So, negative points right there.

My Thoughts

Scoundrels of Skullport is what an expansion set should be. I love modular expansions and even if the set only comes with 2 modules, they beat & hum in perfect harmony.
One module for players who don’t want any major changes to the game, and one module for something new for all to enjoy without any additional complexity added to the game.
The expansion may add to the game’s playing time, but it also adds another layer of fun to keep you entertained throughout the session and thus never feels like it has overstayed its welcome. If you enjoyed vanilla Lords of Waterdeep, then this expansion is a must buy for you. If you didn’t really enjoy Lords of Waterdeep in the first place, the expansion is quite unlikely to change your mind as the mechanics mostly remains the same, but still, the gameplay experience is different enough that I think you should at least give it a shot before you brush it aside.


1 comment:

  1. Well written ....... now I must really try out this expansion!