Game Buzz: Last Will

With all the hype surrounding Vlaada Chvátil, it’s easy to forget about Vladimír Suchý, the “other” game designer at Czech Games Edition.  However, he’s produced some quality games in recent years – League of Six, Shipyard, and 20th Century have all met some pretty good reviews.  I haven’t really looked at any, but I thought I’d take a look at his newest title:

image by BGG user karel_danek

Last Will is a game for 2-5 players that takes around an hour to play and is for ages 11 and up.  As you might guess from the title, the game revolves around a vast fortune left by a dead relative – in this case, your uncle.  However, you have to participate in a game in order to inherit it.  The game revolves around spending as much money as you can as fast as you can, which of course is not as easy as it may sound.

Last Will comes with three double-sided game boards: one planning board, one offering board, and one supplemental offering board.  The different sides are for use with different numbers of players, with the supplemental offering board only used with 3 or 5 players.  There are 5 player boards with 12 extensions.  140 cards include events, helpers and expenses, properties, companions, special cards, wild cards, and last will cards.  Wooden markers included in the game are 10 errand boys; 5 action counters; 5 planning markers; 20 companions (dogs, horses, guests, and chefs); property markers; a starting player marker; and a round counter.  Cardboard in the game include 4 property market modifier tokens and money tokens in various denominations (1-2-5-10-50 pounds).

Each player begins with a player board, two errand boys, and one planning marker in a color.  They also get one action counter and 70 pounds.  Three helpers and expenses cards and three property cards will be dealt to each player, of which you must choose two and discard the others after the first phase of the first round.  The starting player is the one who paid for something most recently.  Hooray for another stupid start player mechanic.  Sigh.

A game has at most seven rounds.  Each round follows this sequence: setup, planning, errands, actions, and end of round.  In the setup phase, you’ll deal one card of each type to the offering board according to the icons printed on the board.  The deck used in each space may change as the game progresses.  During the first round only, you’ll discard down to two cards after seeing your options.

During planning, you’ll choose an hourglass on the planning board.  The hourglass you choose tells you how many cards you can draw, how many errand boys you will have available, how many actions you have in the action phase, and the order you will play for the rest of the round.  As soon as you mark your plan, draw the appropriate number of cards (it could be zero).  You can draw from the events, helpers and expenses, properties, or companions decks, in any combination you wish.  You can’t take cards off the offering board.  The remainder of the round will be played in order from left to right of the hourglasses chosen.

In the errands phase, you’ll send your errand boys out to do your errands.  In hourglass order, each player places one errand boy on an errand space, and then anyone with a second available errand boy places their second.  You’ll immediately do the errand when you place, and here’s the available opportunities:

  • Card offering – Take the offering card from the corresponding spot.
  • Player board extensions – Take an extension and put it next to your player board.  If there are none left, you’re out of luck.
  • Property market – Rearrange the property modifiers however you like, or not at all if you’re preventing someone else from doing this.
  • Unknown card – Draw one card from any of the four decks.  This can only be done once per round.
  • Opera – Spend 2 pounds.

Time for actions.  Each player, in hourglass order, gets one turn to take actions.  These are determined by the cards you play or activate.  Cards cost a certain amount of actions, and generally allow you to spend money or gain some benefit like extra actions, extra cards, or properties.  There are three types of cards.  White bordered cards are played, paid for, and discard.  Black bordered cards can only be played to your player board, cost at least an action to play, and can be used perpetually.  These include expenses (perpetual costs), helpers (costs and benefits), and properties (which cost money, depreciate in value, and prevent you from declaring bankruptcy).  Slate bordered cards are companions that can be played with white and black bordered cards to help you spend more.

At the end of the round, discard down to two cards in your hand.  Properties depreciate in value unless you activated/maintained them in the round.  Activated cards on your board are reset, offering cards that were not taken are discarded, markers are returned to their owners, and a new round begins with a new start player.  The game ends if, at the end of a round, someone has no money and no properties left, or if you’re played seven rounds without a winner.  The player who lost the most money wins.

I like the theme of this game.  It’s very interesting to have a game where the object is to get rid of all your money.  It reminds me of the old Mad Magazine Board Game, where that also was the goal.  That, however, was more of a reverse Monopoly, and this has other stuff going for it.  There are bits of worker placement, action point usage, and hand management involved.  Overall, it seems like a fairly straightforward game.  I think the real secret to the success will be how the cards work together.  There’s some interaction involved – you will be able to interfere with your opponents’ plans by making choices they wanted to make.  However, it’s not a game where you need to pace yourself because you want to blow through your money as quick as possible.  So you don’t really need to pay attention to what others are doing.  That appeals to me somewhat – I like interacting with others, but sometimes it’s nice to play your own game.

I’ve been reading up on some of the early buzz from the prototype at The Gathering of Friends, and it was mostly positive.  Rio Grande is picking it up domestically, so it will be good to see it in stores.  I’m looking forward to seeing the reception this gets, and to playing it (hopefully) someday.  Thanks for reading!

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