Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Tuesday Reviewsday: Scoundrels of Skullport

Players: 2-4
Playtime: 45minutes +
Replay Value: 8/10

Scoundrels of Skullport is an expansion to Lords of Waterdeep (which I reviewed back in November). Released in 2013 it includes two different expansions, three new boards and a mountain of new Intrigue and Quest Cards, as well as new buildings and Lords.

You can use one or both of the new expansions. Using only one expansion means adding 3 buildings to the base board, but has no other effect on set-up. Using both expansions adds 6 buildings to the board, and each player gets another agent.

 The Undermountain

The Undermountain expansion adds a little bit more variety to the game, but not any more flavour. If this expansion was sold individually I wouldn't recommend buying it unless you were a die-hard fan of the series. The Undermountain board adds three new building. The Entry Well allows your to take a face-up Quest from Cliffwatch Inn and play an Intrigue Card. The Grim Statue lets you draw two Intrigue Cards, and the Hall of Mirrors gives you the choice of one orange and one black cube, or a cube of your choice (presumably a white or a purple).

And that's it. While the expansion also adds more Quests, buildings, Intrigue Cards and Lords, it's just more of the same. Some of the quests are a little more flexible, and will allow you to turn in any type of cube, and offer bonuses if you use purple cubes for example but otherwise there is nothing new to effect the gameplay.

While it doesn't have a huge impact on game play, there are some drawbacks. The extra spaces lead to extra choices. While they aren't massive game-altering choices, it does mean a less fighting over spaces. In the vanilla game there is only one action space for each colour cube, the Undermountain provides an alternative with the Hall of Mirrors. If you are playing with three plus players there is still enough of a scuffle over resources to make it worthwhile. However when you are playing with 2-players it means that if someone blocks you from the Plinth, you can just go to Hall of Mirrors to collect your white cube. The ability to still get what you want, or be unable to block another player detracts from the urgency and strategy of the game.


Here's a tip if you are playing against me, insist on this expansion. Skullport adds Corruption Tokens. Each building in Skullport pays exceptionally well, for example the Hall of the Voice lets you take a Quest, an Intrigue Card and 5 gold (making it the highest paying building) but you must also take a Corruption Token. Each Corruption Token you have will cost you points at the end of the game. The number of tokens in play will effect how much they cost you. The first token only costs 1, however when 13 tokens are in play, each one will cost you 4 points. At first you think it will be fine to take some Corruption Tokens because they aren't worth much, but they build up quickly. And I can't resist the temptation of those high paying buildings, so I tend to become really corrupt.

The Corruption Tokens create a whole new spin on the game. There are plenty of ways to get Corruption Tokens, and very few ways to hand them back. The expansion includes lots of Quests and Intrigue Cards that pay really well, if you take another Corruption Token. There will also be Intrigue Cards that your opponents can piggy-back on for a Corruption Token. For example, you will receive 2 white cubes, or three if you take a Corruption Token. Your opponents will be given the option to take a white cube and a Corruption Token.

Corruption needs to be carefully balanced, because going to the Slavers Market will get you 2 orange and 2 black cubes, which would normally cost you two turns. Sometimes that will allow you to complete a quest, which is worth more than you lose for the Corruption Token. It is easy to get suckered into Corruption Tokens, which at the beginning of the game don't cost you much, but increase exponentially.

In the time I have been playing I have come across few ways to return Corruption Tokens. The last game I played had a building where you could return a Corruption Token and receive a white cube. Another building allows you to remove a Corruption Token from your tavern and place it on the board, booby trapping an action space. There are also quests and Intrigue Cards that allow you to return Corruption Tokens. Despite all this, I find it very hard to empty the Corruption Tokens from my tavern, because there are so many tempting ways to get them, and returning them is generally quite tedious. It's an instant gratification equals long term trauma mechanism, and I fall for it every time.

There is a new Lord worth noting in the Skullport expansion. The Xanathar scores four points for every Corruption Token in his tavern at the end of the game. While this initially seems like a huge advantage, the Xanathar is still effected by the same point loss as everyone else. So whilst having 7 tokens gives you 28 points, you will lost at least 21 - meaning you have only gained a measly 7 points. This example assumes that no one else has any Corruption Tokens. The more in play, the more negative points they are worth at the end. The Xanathar's 'bonus' really just negates the end of game negative. In theory you should be able to use the Xanathar's power to freely visit Skullport, however the bonuses of the buildings aren't enough to outweigh the bonus points your opponents will be getting at the end of the game.

I strongly recommend playing both together if you have three or more players. Each player receives one extra agent, meaning the game runs for a little longer, but the added options add depth and complexity to the game. I wouldn't play both together with only two players, as you would have too many options, even with the extra agent. While the original scales nicely, the expansions seem to work better with more players.

As with the original version of the game, playing with the Builder twists everything on its head. Whilst the builder is very rarely able to be sneaky, they creates more shiny temptations for the other players. Whilst going to Skullport gains you Corruption Tokens, going to other players buildings gives them points and resources.

The game is joyfully devious, forcing you to always take plan B or C. On the off-chance that you got to follow plan A, it was probably because you are the first player. The expansions give you more ways of failing to get to plan A, which makes the game more enjoyable and more frustrating in equal parts. You have to enjoy strategy to enjoy this game, but it is rewarding if you are willing to spend the time with it.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...