Design by: Vladimir Suchy
Published by: Czech Games Edition / Rio Grande Games
2 – 5 Players, 1 – 1 ½ hours
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
NOTE: This review was first published on the Opinionated Gamers website
I really appreciate a game with a unique theme. Frankly, I've built too many cathedrals, castles and medieval cities, and consorted a bit too much with elves, warriors and dragons. I want to experience something different.
The novel theme is just one aspect of Last Will from Czech designer Vladimir Suchy that I appreciate. I cannot recall a game wherein the goal was to spend your inheritance as quickly as possible, leaving yourself completely destitute so you can inherit an even vaster sum … and win the game. The theme is novel for a board game and seemingly lifted from the movie Brewster's Millions, versions of which were filmed in both 1945 and 1985. Interestingly, both films were based on the 1902 novel by George Barr McCutcheon. Perhaps more game designers should look to novels and movies for their themes.
Each player receives two errand boy tokens (diminutive top hats), a planning marker, a board depicting spaces for five cards, and an inheritance of seventy pounds. Each turn, players will plan their turn and send their errand boys to the larger central board, claiming cards, manipulating the real estate market and performing other available actions. The idea is to spend money to lose money … not an admirable goal in real life and on that would drive financial guru Dave Ramsay stark-raving mad!
The central components of the game are the variety of cards. Cards are all geared to helping the players spend money. They include properties (manors and farms), events (operas, fine dining, carriage rides, etc.), companions (ladies, horses, doggies, etc.) and helpers that increase the cost of, well, just about everything. Each turn, players will draw cards at random from the separate decks and claim cards from the central board with their errand boys. They will spend actions to deploy and/or use these cards in their efforts to spend, spend, spend.
The three main phases of a turn are:
Planning. In turn order, players place their planning marker on the planning board. The space they claim determines the number of cards they draw, the number of errand boys they can deploy, the number of actions they receive and the player order for the balance of the turn. Choosing the space desired is generally quite tough, as it is a give-and-take proposition. If you want to perform numerous actions, you will likely have fewer errand boys or cards, or go very late in the turn order. This could mean that your desired actions or cards have already been taken by your opponents. Going earlier in turn order means you will be sacrificing cards, actions and/or errand boys. Enhancing one aspect generally means sacrificing another.
When placing their planning token, players take the indicated number of cards. They may choose any mix from the various decks, but must choose them all before looking at the cards. One vital cog in the game is to keep a steady supply of cards flowing through your hand, which gives you more options.
Errands. In turn order, players alternate placing their errand boys onto the planning board and taking the corresponding card or action. All but one space can accommodate only one errand boy. In addition to the numerous spaces from which the face-up cards can be taken, there are spaces whereupon a player can manipulate the prices for manors and/or farms, take a board expansion (giving the player space for an additional card), visit the theater (spending two pounds) or take a random card from one of the decks.
The idea during this phase is to secure the cards you need to help you further your approach of spending wads of cash. The cards you gather will be used during the action phase, saved for a future turn, or discarded. Manipulating the market is important for purchasing real estate, with the cardinal rule being "buy high, sell low." That advice hurt just typing it.
Actions. In turn order, players execute the number of actions to which they are entitled. This normally varies from one-to-four, but can be supplemented by the cards a player activates.
Many cards – typically events such as boat rides, dinners, theater visits, etc. -- are discarded after being played. The player spends the specified amount of money and discards the card. Others are placed onto a player's board and remain in the player's repertoire, able to be used turn-after-turn until they are discarded. In order to place a card onto their board, a player must pay the indicated cost and spend one (or two) action. The cost of a helper or event is generally a pound or two. Manors and farms, however, cost considerably more – often more than a dozen pounds – the cost of which is modified by the market. A player only has five spaces for cards, but additional spaces are available to be acquired when sending forth the errand boys.
Cards on the board can be activated, in most cases by spending an additional action. Many cards, such as attending a theater or going to dinner, allow the player to simply spend the specified amount of money. Manors and farms operate a bit differently. Once deployed, a player may pay the specified maintenance cost each turn. This helps reduce a player's wealth and prevents the property from depreciating in value. At some point, however, the player will want to allow the property to depreciate, as assets must eventually be sold, preferably at a drastically reduced price.
The presence of specific companions will allow the player to spend even more money. The cards specify which companions can be added or coupled with it. For example, bringing a companion to dinner or having them take-up residence in one's manor forces the player to spend even more money than normal. Companions can be played – usually at the cost of an action – and the appropriate token placed on the appropriate card, either a property or standing event. Alternatively, they can be played with one-shot events to increase the cost of that event.
The game is played over the course of seven turns, at which point the player with the least amount of cash remaining wins the major inheritance, which he can spend in a more leisurely and wise manner. Alternatively, the game can end sooner if a player is bankrupt by the end of a round. It is important to note that in order to become bankrupt, a player must have sold all of his properties and have no cash remaining. Players still in possession of property have their current value plus 5,000 pounds apiece added to their financial assets. The lesson? Sell your assets.
Last Will not only has a novel theme, but the flow of the game feels fresh and original. There are some familiar mechanisms, but they are blended together well, and the goal of the game forces players to take actions that are out of the ordinary. In an industry overflowing with games that are closely related cousins, this is extremely refreshing.
The challenges are numerous, and there are various paths one can pursue in their attempts to be the most wasteful spender. Learning the cards, keeping a steady supply flowing through your hand, and properly combining them for maximum expenditures are all vital keys to success.
It does take a bit to learn and adapt to the novel system. There are quite a few different cards in the various decks, and it takes some time to get used to their uses and learn the iconography. There is a helpful chart on the back of the rule book, but there should have been several included. Other than this minor quibble, I can't find anything else substantially wrong with the game.
Designer Vladimir Suchy has enjoyed a string of popular designs, my favorite of which has been League of Six. Last Will has now risen to the top of his designs, and is my favorite release from the 2011 Spiel. It is truly a breath of fresh air … and there isn't a medieval city in sight.
Excellent review. Thank you
Bought this last weekend and really looking forward to playing it. Thank you for the great review.
ahh....I love the smell of a stack of sketchily placed animals in the morning!
Thanks for the review, Greg. I played this 2 weeks ago at a game night and I have had it in my hand since every time I walk in the shop. I don't normally enjoy "race" games but with the worker placement and variable turn order, its makes for a very interesting and tense ride to maneuver the best way to empty your pockets first.