Skip to content

Recover the Magister’s Orb – Lords of Waterdeep [Game Changer]

One of the things about picking apart games on a regular basis, and running a blog about it, is that the articles can go on some length. It isn’t uncommon for an article on this blog to go over 2,000 or even 3,000 words, and that allows for us to dive pretty deeply within the numbers. What it allows less of, however, is room to talk about very specific component or elements that we simply love.

This series, starting today, aims to put that right. In this series (“Game Changers”) we’re going to look very precisely at different cards, components, and elements in various games that (quite simply) change the game.

These articles aren’t designed to be too long, but instead will focus on one aspect, dive in deep, and then recover to the surface for a gulp of fresh air before going after the next one. These won’t stick to the normal posting schedule but will simply be posted as and when.

Now that we’ve taken that diving metaphor way further than expected, let’s crack on and look at the first thing –

Recover the Magister’s Orb – A Game Changer in Lords of Waterdeep

Recover the Magister’s Orb – Lords of Waterdeep

Recover the Magister’s Orb is, in all honesty, little short of a stroke of genius. From the hit worker placement game, Lords of Waterdeep, Recover the Magister’s Orb is a plot quest, designed to give the players a few points for a handful of resources. It is an Arcana Quest, meaning it specialises in the magical side of things, and for the cost of three Rogues (black cubes) and two Wizards (purple cubes – or five resources in total) it is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful cards in the game.

It is also, coincidentally, the card that inspired this entire series.

In all truth, Recover the Magister’s Orb is actually something I have wanted to talk about for a while on this blog, because the plot effect is simply incredible. Once the player has completed the quest, then they get a special ability. That ability is described as:

“Once per round, you can assign an agent to a space containing an opponent’s agent.”

To translate this into game terms, what this means is that, once per round, you can use a space that an opponent has blocked off.

Now, Recover the Magister’s Orb may not seem all that powerful, and you may be thinking “so what?”; however, in order to understand why this card has such an incredible ability, we need to first dive into the role of space in worker placement games.

The Power of Return the Magister’s Orb in Lords of Waterdeep

Worker placement games have been around a fair while, with some sources stating Keydom was the first back in 1998. To this day, they are one of the most popular genres of board game, with top level strategy that ultimately fits into two categories. Firstly, in worker placement games like Lords of Waterdeep, there is an active strategy. That strategy is looking at your own cards, looking at your own quests, looking at your own resource, and trying to understand how (using the spaces on the board) you can turn those items into points. This is Worker Placement 101, if you will.

The second aspect is understanding that either:

  • Your opponents also need the same resources and, with limited spaces for placement, how can you ensure you get to them first
  • If you get to them then your opponents can’t.

Thus, part of a worker placement game is understanding the economy of placement spaces.

What an Arcane quest like Recover the Magister’s Orb does is alter that economy of placement. It completely removes the second point from the equation, at least for the first time you are blocked. Due to the nature of Recover the Magister’s Orb, it becomes increasingly difficult for opponents to block you, and it also makes it worthless for them to try to block you intentionally.

A card like Recover the Magister’s Orb opens up the board. With Intrigue cards offering similar one-off options, and one building allowing for a similar effect, Recover the Magister’s Orb is a consistent and useful tool for changing the dynamic of the worker placement game.

The use of Recover the Magister’s Orb increases exponentially when you have fewer agents, and there are more opponents around the table. When you really need to focus on what you are getting, being able to use the space an opponent has used is absolutely invaluable when 4/5 of the spaces used on the board aren’t used by you. Although this isn’t a strategy article – a large player count, plus going to Waterdeep Harbour to play an intrigue card, and then replacing that agent at the end of the round using the plot effect of Recover the Magister’s Orb is an incredibly powerful move.

The Restrictions of Recover the Magister’s Orb

Of course, there are a couple of restrictions to Recover the Magister’s Orb that are worth recognising. The first is that it costs three Rogues and two Wizards. Wizards are hard to get in Lords of Waterdeep due to a scarcity of spaces and buildings offering them as rewards. Intrigue cards are some of the easiest ways to get Wizards quickly. Much less of a point is that Rogues tend to come in twos, making going for three (traditionally speaking) an inefficient collection of resource. That is more of a point than a complaint, and who doesn’t like excess resource, amIright?

Secondly, you can only use the Plot ability of Recover the Magister’s Orb on spaces with opponents’ agents. You can’t spam your own space. Yes, the Lieutenant counts as yours if you placed it. Interestingly, the Ambassador doesn’t.

Generally speaking though, Recover the Magister’s Orb is an absolutely fantastic card, and I encourage everyone to go for it, even if you don’t have an Arcana Lord. You won’t regret it.

So, there we have it – a (relatively) quick post exploring a card that is absolutely deserving of your adoration within Lords of Waterdeep. There will be more posts like this every few days, and if you have any games you would like me to cover, please feel free to send me a message. Also, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you would like to read some of the analysis we have written around Lords of Waterdeep, you can find links to those below.

Lords of Waterdeep Buildings Analysis
Lords of Waterdeep Lords Analysis


  1. Agreed that it is one of the most useful quests and most flavorful in the game. Though Thin The City Watch is just sheerly efficient for its cost and my personal favorite, from Skullport, Swindle the Builders Guilds, is equally interesting though obviously different in effect. Defend the Tower of Luck, which is awesome when you are a paladin type working on Warfare, is also a pretty decent one. But the Magisters Orb is definitely one of the most powerful.


  2. I remembered you really like this quest. Agreed on the effectiveness with more players. In a 2 player game it’s nice, but not as huge a deal. With 5 players? It’s outstanding.

    One minor point of correction: the Ambassador does not count as yours once you place him. Once he is on the board he is considered everyone’s opponent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s an incredible card – and you’re right, my bad. The appendix states that the Ambassador doesn’t count – I had forgotten about that. Thanks for pointing it out! It’s now corrected 🙂


  3. Hey.
    I struggled to find an answer to this question, but if I assign a meeple to Waterdeep Harbour on an opponants space, when it comes to removing the meeples how do you decide the order.
    I.e. Player 1 removes their character from the first slot first.
    Player 2 and Player 1 share the second slot.
    The third slot had a meeple from Player 3.
    How should you decide who removes first from the second slot?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: