Scoundrels of Skullport is an expansion for the D&D themed worker placement game Lords of Waterdeep. Released by publisher Wizards of the Coast back in 2013, it adds two modules for players to include: The Undermountain Module and The Skullport Module. The content of the two modules is rather different, with the choice of including one or both subterranean locations when playing. This expansion also includes a new faction, the Gray Hands, enabling up to 6 players to now join in the action. However, is this the “game-perfecting” expansion gamers would have you believe? Let’s find out!
The first, and simpler, expansion takes place in the dungeons beneath Mount Waterdeep, and is aptly named Undermountain. This module includes a small additional board that normally sits just below the main game board, adding three new locations for workers to visit. Lore wise this is where the rumoured wealth of the mountain can be found, along with plenty of Adventurers and quests. While it doesn’t add a new location to obtain gold, it does add a new location where players can pick up a quest, with the strong bonus of playing an Intrigue card.
The next new space is The Grim Statue, the furthest into the Undermountain dungeons. As intriguing as it sounds, players will actually gain two Intrigue cards for placing a worker here. Last but not least is the Hall of Mirrors, where the player can choose between getting an orange and black cube or any cube of their choice.
A second small board is added into the mix when players start to journey to Skullport. This criminal haven, nicknamed the Port of Shadow, is found just next to Undermountain, below the streets of Waterdeep. Just like the nefarious back-alleys that make up the area, Skullport’s locations sound less than pleasant. Being a less than reputable location Skullport’s three new spaces all come with a new resource type, Corruption. This is as bad as it sounds, corrupting players’ scores via negative points at the end of the game. In a twist the exact cost is not calculated until the very end of the game where the amount of corruption taken determines how much of your score will fall by.
To counteract the negative effects, and entice players in, each of the spaces the Slaver’s Market, Hall of the Voice and Skull Island all come with heavy rewards. These are 2 orange cubes and 2 black cubes, a quest card, an Intrigue card and 5 gold or any two cubes respectively, each coming with one corruption skull. For every three corruption tokens taken, communally by all players, the negative score per token increases. This can see huge point changes at the end of the game with the negative starting at -1 but ending at -9! Though to get all the way to -9 at least 25 tokens will have had to be claimed in a single game.
Alongside these new board locations and the new corruption mechanic the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion also adds in a new range of Lords, Building tiles, Intrigue cards and quests. Players will find with all of these, that a small symbol allows the new cards/tiles to be recognised. This allows players to split them out if they so wish, which is extremely helpful when trying to play with only one of the two modules.
For the most part these new cards just add to the variety on offer. Shuffling these in and the same old card combinations players have got used to will no longer come up so frequently. This adds to the replayability of the core game, even without the inclusion of either module board. Some of the new quests aren’t just more of the same though. Some off huge point returns but come with equally large resource costs. These can change the dynamic of the game as players can focus on a couple of these large scoring quests, rather than trying to complete plenty of low scoring one, churning the quest deck less as a result.
Two sets of three new lord cards are added into the game via the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion, unsurprisingly split into Undermountain and Skullport sets. These all add in a twist to the original lords, whom all give 4 bonus points for completing quests of two set types. Instead, these expansion cards offer unique secret abilities, such as scoring 5 bonus points for ever completed quest worth 10 or more points. There is even a lord card featuring the Eye of Xanathar that scores plays 4 points per skull token in their tavern, completely changing the dynamic of corruption for that player. Note that half of these lords can only be shuffled in when playing with the expansions.
Unlike the lords, when it comes to the new buildings the entire Undermountain set can always be shuffled in with the base game. Conversely, none of the Skullport set can be included without the expansion, as they all feature corruption tokens. As a result of this, the strength of these building types is rather different from base buildings. The Skullport buildings often offer on paper a much better return for sending your worker there, though do come with the risk of the negative corruption points. Depending on how many of these buildings come out in a game can determine how much of an impact corruption can have, making each game feel a little different and keeping players second guessing themselves over taking skull tokens.
While it is rare for me to play Lords of Waterdeep at 5 players, Scoundrels of Skullport adds in the Gray Hands, a new faction that increases the player count up to 2 – 6 players. Moving forward I’ll use this element as more of an additional colour choice for players as they select a faction, though it does open the game up to that slightly higher player count. To play with six you really do need the two additional boards to be in play, to give enough spaces to choose from. Therefore, it’s would be best not to throw a brand new player into a game with such a high player count.
Overall, Scoundrels of Skullport is a fantastic expansion for any fan of Lords of Waterdeep. The increased replayability that is pumped into the game by the new cards, tiles and module boards is more than welcome, adding some extra variety in to stop things feeling samey. Depending on your gaming group you might be more or less inclined to enjoy the risk/reward style gameplay that corruption introduces.
I won’t go as far to say that Scoundrels of Skullport is a requirement for the game to be enjoyable, I’ve had too many hours of entertainment from the base game for that to be true. Nevertheless, I cannot see playing future games, other than with new players, without at least one module board and expansion cards included. New strategies open up, players will have to revaluate what resources are worth and the increased depth the worker placement puzzle presents, all combine to make this expansion a worthy purchase for any Lords of Waterdeep owner.
[Editor’s Note: Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £28.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]