The object is to score the most Victory Points within 8 rounds of gameplay, a fairly typical eurogame setup.
Each player represents one of the secret lords of waterdeep, represented by a card kept face down until the end of the game. Lords enact their will through the use of ‘agent’ tokens. Each round players take turns playing agent tokens on various buildings in the city. Buildings grant resources which in turn are used to score Victory Points. Agent tokens, in effect, limit the number of actions you can take each round.
There are a number of basic public buildings, but players may also purchase and own additional buildings drawn from a stack. Anyone may place an agent on these privately owned buildings, but when an opponent does so the owner of the building gains a small benefit as well.
The primary resources are gold and adventures, of which there are four types (fighters, rogues, wizards and clerics) represented by colored wooden cubes. Adventurers are ‘spent’ to complete various quests, which grant Victory Points (and sometimes other resources or ongoing benefits).
You can also play intrigue cards to either enhance your position or mess with your opponents. It seemed that intrigue cards could provide a nice bonus, but rarely were powerful enough to dramatically change the course of the game in a single play.
The rules are well-written and clear; we had very few questions and when a question did come up, we were able to find an answer fairly quickly. The back of the rule book contains a nice errata section covering various contingencies that could come up during gameplay, a nice touch demonstrating a well-tested game.
All-in-all LoW is a solid euro-style boardgame. There’s nothing revolutionary here; if you’re a fan of eurogames you’ve probably seen most of the concepts and mechanics in one form or another in other eurogames. LoW is probably a bit on the light side, as eurogames go. But the rules are easy to learn, it has solid mechanics and you can finish a game in just an hour or two.