Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport Board Game Expansion (Dungeons & Dragons)
Publisher: Wizards of the Cost
Cost: $39.99 ($26.94 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 08/20/2013
Get it Here: Amazon.com
A year and a half ago, I reviewed the Lords of Waterdeep board game. I thought the game was a lot of fun and nicely combined the D&D branding with a euro-style board game product. I did feel it was a bit overpriced for what you got but it was one of the best board games of 2012, so I could live with the price tag. Now here we are with the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion. Now the forty dollar price tag for an expansion may raise a few eyebrows, because that is a LOT of money for a few cards and some meeples. The good news is that Scoundrels of Skullport actually contains TWO expansions for Lords of Waterdeep, the title’s Skullport expansion and one for Undermountain. Why the two are being sold together is a mystery to me. Wizards probably could have made more money and kept the interest in Lords of Waterdeep going if they had put out one expansion say, six months ago and the other now. With a year and a half between the original release and the expansion, a lot of the buzz about the game has died off and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone mention the game, much less bring up playing it. Is this a case of too little, too late? I hope not, because both expansions bring a LOT to the table.
Now, if you want a review of how the game plays, the flow, what you can do on your turn and the like, you should go back and read my Lords of Waterdeep review. Instead we’re going to review what these expansions bring to the table. You can play a game of Lords of Waterdeep with one, both or none of the expansions. If you play both, you’ll want to remove a set number of Intrigue and Quest cards (randomly) along with some building tiles (also randomly). Now once you mix the cards from the expansion in, you might feel like you are stuck with the combination, but in fact Wizards had the forethought of putting a beholder logo all on the cards for the Undermountain expansion and a flaming skull for the Skullport. This means if you only want to play one of the expansion, you just sort through the cards to make sure you pull out all of the other. If you want to play a regular original game of Lords of Waterdeep, you go through the decks pulling out all the marked cards. So the expansions do greatly increase the time for setup and takedown, especially if you want to play a different variant than the previous game, but that’s true of any game expansion.
Besides a ton of new cards you’ll also get twenty-four new building tiles, all of which will add some interesting effects to your game. You’ll also find two small game board attachments, one for each expansion. These are used just like any spot on the regular board and are simply to expand the game map. You’ll also find six new playable lords – three for each expansion. As the Xanathar is my favorite character in Waterdeep, I was happy to see him as a now playable lord, although unless you are playing the Skullport expansion, he’s really not worth using because his special ability text is no intricately tied to that expansion. This is true of two other lords (Halaster and Sangalor), which means only three of the six new lords are really playable in a regular game. That’s fine, but honestly, I’d have preferred more universal lords.
One of the big changes with these two expansions is the ability to have six player games. Previous, you could only have games for two to five players. This is a nice addition and it doesn’t really change the rules much. The sixth player takes on the role of the Gray Hands faction and everything else is pretty much the same save for adjusting the number of agents you start with (Two in a six player gamer) and you MUST use one of the two expansions in a six person game to ensure there is enough to do. It’s a nice change and I always thought five was an odd number to cap at a game at, so for those of you who were longing for a six player game, now here’s your chance.
So what is the difference between the two new expansions? Well, a lot actually. Undermountain primarily adds harder Quest cards, but with the extra risk comes a lot more reward. Basically you know have the option of doing a lot of regular quests, or going in for longer ones in hopes of getting them done quickly and netting the big victory point awards. Other than that though, Undermountain is exactly the same as the core game, just with the new board expansion, three new lords and the sixth player option.
Skullport, however, really changes things up as it introduces a new resource called Corruption. Unlike gold and adventurers which are resources you want, Corruption is a resource that penalizes you at the end of the game. For each corruption meeple you have you’ll lose victory points at the end of the game. How MANY victory points depends on how far along the corruption track things go. The corruption track is a side board littered with skull meeples. As you earn corruption through buildings, intrigue and quests, you’ll take skull meeples off the board and add them to your collection. At the end of the game, you see which is the highest spot on the corruption track to be completely free of meeples. So if -1, -2, -3 and -4 are completely meeple free and -5 still has one skull meeple on it, the corruption penalty is -4 victory points per meeple. Does that make sense? Now The Xanathar reduces your corruption penalty by four, so in this instance, every other player would lose four VP per skull meeple, except Xanathar’s player who would lose none. If say the VP penalty was -3, Xanathar’s player would actually GAIN a victory point per skull meeple, which makes the character quite useful with the Skullport expansion but utterly worthless without it.
So why would you WANT corruption tokens? Well, the things that earn you these blue skull meeples also give you a lot of bonuses and big rewards. So you basically have to decide if the corruption penalty is worth risking or not. It’s also worth noting that there are cards and rewards that let you remove Corruption tokens from your collection, but these do not go back on the corruption track. Instead they go into the box. So the corruption penalty never reduces, which is an interesting effect.
As you can imagine, the Skullport expansion changes how Lords of Waterdeep is played, but not to any great extent that you’ll need to relearn the game. It’s a small but notable change that will take a few games to figure out how the corruption aspect will affect your play style, and also how to maximize the effect to your own benefit.
All in all, the Scoundrels of Skullport is a fine collection. Neither expansion really changes the game up too much, and you can still comfortably play the original version of the game without this if you prefer. For big fans of the game, however, getting two expansions, six new lords, the ability to finally have a six player game and all the new quests, intrigue cards and buildings will make your day. I do admit the forty dollar price tag for Scoundrels of Skullport is pretty pricey compared to expansions for other board games. Arkham Horror, for example, has expansions as little as fifteen dollars. Remember though, you’re actually getting TWO expansions with Scoundrels of Skullport, which means you’re paying roughly twenty dollars per expansion if you pay the full MSRP, which actually isn’t too bad in this day and age. Amazon.com has SoS for only twenty-seven sdollars, bring the cost per expansion down to $13.50, which is a hell of a good deal. Definitely try to buy it from there, although Amazon.com IS backed up with their orders of this so it may take one to three months for you to get your copy. The question is whether you want Scoundrels of Skullport now or for cheap.
So I’m pretty happy with these expansions. It’s a decent price for all that you get and in fact, the box for Scoundrels of Skullport is roughly the same size as the core Lords of Waterdeep game. The art is great, the material are high quality and I know I’ll definitely get a lot of use out of this expansion as it’s given me an excuse to break Lords of Waterdeep out again after all this time and remember why I enjoyed it so much in the first place. Great job with this one Wizards!