We had long delayed getting the game's first expansion. Scoundrels of Skullport since we were already enjoying the base game and we sort of wanted to make sure that we made the most of the core experience. Plus with so many other games in our collection, we weren't exactly in dire need of new games or anything like that.
But one thing led to another and we finally found ourselves in a position to finally get a copy of this set. It took a little while before we fully appreciated what the designers were trying to accomplish with this expansion given all the bells and whistles thrown into the mix of things. But once the game engine became a bit more familiar, then the real fun really started.
Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport is an expansion for the original Lords of Waterdeep and requires the base set to play. The game was designed by Chris Dupuis, Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson and it expands the core experience to support up to 6 players.
Scoundrels of Skullport is actually two separate expansions in a set, as represented by two new locations added to the game. One is The Undermountain that includes new spots for your Agents to use and a good number of Quest cards and Intrigue cards that really up the ante. Undermountain is a realm that offers great riches for warriors who are brave enough to risk all. Then there's the titular Skullport, which offers new ways to gain power quite quickly but at the cost of corruption.
Skullport is the module that has the most obvious impact to the game given the introduction of the blue skull-shaped tokens called Corruption counters. Skullport-related effects tend to give you a lot of benefits (i.e. a spot that gives 2 adventures of any type) but at the cost of a Corruption token added to your tavern. Corruption counters count as penalty points at the end of the game and the more Corruption people give into, the more penalty points all players with such counters will have to deal with at the end of the game. Skullport-related locations. Quest Cards and Intrique Cards are designed to tempt you with great rewards in exchange for adding Corruption. And once the board is without Corruption counters, future Corruption penalties mean an instant 10 point deduction from that player's score.
Undermountain really shines in terms of the many quests that it adds into the mix of things with rather challenging requirements but also significant rewards. The quests include those that require a good number of adventurers but the card can also allow for players to use any types of adventurers to complete the quest. Of course there are additional requirements that trigger depending on the sorts of adventurers you send into the mix. And there are some card and building effects that allow you to seed the board with various rewards like adventurers or money in order to entire players to go to that spot.
What I really appreciate about Undermountain is the space it adds that allows a player to draw a quest from Cliffwatch Inn, then play an Intrigue Card. And we all know that Waterdeep Harbor used to have the virtual monopoly when it comes to playing Intrigue Cards. It's a tempting offer that allows one to further advance his goals, but without the benefit of the second action that players get from Waterdeep Harbor.
When you put the two sets together, it makes for a far more challenging Lords of Waterdeep game, especially when you max out the game at 6 players. Gameplay does get a little long at this point and it does require a bit of a commitment to see things through. But it's still not crazy long enough to consume your entire game night with just a single game.
I also liked how they tried to vary the sorts of Lord cards in the game. The original mix was mostly an effort to create every single possible combination of Quest Types per Lord apart from the "builder" as she's called in gaming circles. This time one can get points for completing quests of a particular expansion or even get a smaller penalty from corruption tokens in your tavern. Of course how things play out is a completely different story especially with cards that even allow you to reveal your Lord card early in exchange for protection from future Intrigue effects.
Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport adds an interesting new set of rules to the core game that should keep things pretty interesting. Not everyone will want to play with both expansion modules at the same time, I expect, but the flexibility of the option certainly helps one tailor things. Thus the expansion as a whole gets 4 surprise Intrigue twists out of a possible 5.