Introducing Last Will
A good theme can't rescue a poor game. But a good theme that is woven closely together with a game's mechanics, certainly can make a mediocre game achieve heights that it otherwise wouldn't reach, and can even propel a good game into an attention grabbing success. A convincing theme that is original and unique has the potential to make a game travel even further yet. It can make gamers thoroughly excited before the game even starts, by capturing their enthusiasm from the outset, by furthering their enjoyment of the overall experience as they "get into the theme", and even by making them more charitable about any weaknesses that are present in a game's mechanics.
Vladimir Suchy's Last Will is precisely such a game with the potential to do all that and more. And it owes much of this potential to its unique, eccentric, and amusing theme. The game has been around for just over a year at this point, so its thematic novelty may already be familiar to many readers, but it's still worth highlighting and acknowledging. In the game, we are heirs of a rich uncle, ready to inherit his immense fortune. But now here's the interesting Brewster's Millions inspired premise that drives the theme and the game: our recently deceased multi-millionaire relative will bequeath this remarkable inheritance to the heir who can spend an allotted sum of money the quickest. All players start with an equal amount of money, and the object of the game is to be the first to declare bankruptcy. It's not often that the aim is to be the first across the line in a race toward poverty, but that's exactly what happens here!
This premise turns the theme of most games on its head, by conscripting players in a rush to dispense with their wealth, instead of giving them the usual aim of trying to collect and increase it. And it's exactly on this point that the game really shines. Making a tidy profit by careful investing in the share market? Old hat, we've seen that before. But now how about trying to deliberately make a loss? How about racking up debts by lavish spending with extravagant dinner parties, over-priced food, and exorbitant real estate, and getting to cheer all the more loudly the quicker it depreciate, or better yet gets trashed after one of your house parties? That's exactly what you get to do in Last Will, and a whole lot more. And boy, is it ever fun! Now all this excitement about theme would quickly wear off if the game-play wasn't any good, but fortunately it is good, and does live up to the promise offered by this novel theme. So let's go visit our rich uncle's solicitor, and find out what exactly is in store with his Last Will.
Czech Games Edition have produced some fantastic games over the years, and those Czech game designers really seem to be able to come up with some original concepts. I don't know if there's something that they put in the water over there, but whatever it is, I like it! Our first look at the front cover already tells us that there's something fun inside. Unble Bob is dead - hurray! Let's get the bubbly in hand, and start getting ready to spend his money like crazy! Well, of course we're a little sad at his passing, aren't we now, but I'm sure he'd want us to do a little bit of celebrating in his honour wouldn't he?!
The blurb on the back of the box is worth repeating, because it showcases what the game is about, and highlights some of the humor and fun that's in store for us inside the box:
"Last Will is a race to bankruptcy. In each round, you choose a plan for the day, which determines how many options you will have available and how much time you will have for them. If you don’t give yourself enough options, you might find yourself with nothing left to do after attending the theatre. If you don’t set aside enough time, you might have to forgo dinner prepared by London’s most famous chef or a carriage ride with a charming guest. And don’t neglect your property investments. Or rather, do neglect them: Once your properties depreciate, you can sell them for a pittance, bringing you that much closer to bankruptcy. The upper class lifestyle provides you many opportunities to spend your uncle’s money. Just be sure to spend it fast."
As with any good euro game worth its salt, there's a ton of wooden bits, cards, and other goodness inside the box:
● 3 double-sided game boards
● 5 player boards
● 12 player board extensions
● 140 Cards (31 Events, 39 Expenses & Helpers, 24 Properties, 20 Companions, 17 Special, 2 Companion wild cards, 7 Last Will)
● 10 errand boy figures
● 5 planning markers
● 5 action counters
● 4 property market modifier tokens
● 30 companion tokens
● 12 property value markers
● 55 money tokens
● round counter
● start player marker
All the components
I don't normally begin this part of my reviews by showing the money tokens, but it seems oddly appropriate in this instance. This is the stuff you are trying to burn - well, not literally of course, although you could start a fire with these cardboard chits if you were really desperate, but I don't think that's what your deceased uncle quite had in mind! The money comes in five denominations, and everyone will begin with 70 pounds (unless you're using the optional variable starting amounts), with the aim of spending it the quickest.
Money tokens in five denominations
Next let's show you the game board, which consists of several pieces. First of all, there's a double-sided planning board, one side being used for 2-3 player games, the other side for 4-5 player games. It's called the planning board because the most important element is the chart at the top half of the board. Here's where players will place their planning marker each round. This placement of planning markers determines several things that will happen that round:
● the amount of cards drawn by that player that round (the number in the top row)
● the number of errand boys that player can place that round (either one or two)
● the amount of actions that player can play that round
● the turn order that round (players will place their errand boys and take their actions in turn from left to right)
The rest of the board contains places where players will place their errand boys worker-placement style. On the lower left are the four types of properties, and property modifier tokens will be placed here to determine their current value in the market. On the lower right are spaces for drawing cards, gaining points, or adding a player board extension - we'll explain these later.
The planning board (side for 4-5 players)
Placed alongside the planning board is the double-sided card offering board. Cards will be laid out face up here, and available for selection for players using their errand boys as part of the worker placement phase ("errands") of the game.
The card offering board (side for 4-5 players)
In games with 3 players or 5 players, you'll need to increase the size of the card offering board, and for that purpose there's a supplemental card offering board provided, which you won't need for games with 2 or 4 players.
The supplemental card offering board (side for 3 player games, and side for 5 player games)
Overall these boards are made out of solid cardboard, and what I especially like is how they make up a single image when placed alongside each other (a feature known as a polyptych, and also evident in other games as seen in this geeklist).
Now let's show you some of the components that go on these boards. The planning markers are what players will place on the planning board at the start of each round, to determine the turn order that round, plus the cards and actions available to them that round. Each player gets one in their colour.
One planning marker for each player
There is a worker placement mechanic in the game, and that's where your errand boys come in. After all, every millionaire with money burning a hole in his pocket has servants to do his dirty work, right? Each player gets two of these figures, which are shaped like hats, as a nod to the theme. Your errand boys will perform tasks for you like getting a card from the card offering board, or one of options on the planning board (e.g. adjusting the property market, drawing an unknown card, or going to the opera). To do that, you'll place these on the planning and card offering boards during the "errands" phase of a round - only one or two each round mind you, depending on what your planning marker has entitled you to.
Two errand boys for each player
Property market modifier tokens
These four tokens go on the lower left of the planning board, and will indicate how the current market price of each of the four types of real estate (Farms, Mansions, Manor Houses, or Town Houses) is to be adjusted in the event anyone is buying or selling properties that turn.
All four tokens for modifying property values
Starting player marker & Round counter
The black wooden cylinder will go to the player who begins the game, and moves clockwise at the end of every round. The grey wooden cylinder will go on the left of the planning board to keep track of the rounds.
Black start player marker, grey round counter
Each player gets their own board, in one of five player colours. This is where you'll keep track of how many actions you have that round (using the track on the far left), and more importantly where you'll place permanent cards like properties, helpers and expenses - in other words, things that cost you money, which of course we want to maximize in this particular game!
Player boards in five colours
Each player board only has room for five cards, but you can use your errand boys during the worker placement phase ("errands") of the game to increase it by getting an "extension".
The 12 player board extensions
Each player will also get one small action counter, that they'll place on the left of their player board to keep track of how many actions they have available on any given round. It's a nice touch, because in many games it's just left up to players to remember how many actions they are entitled to or have used, and having a marker to keep track of this prevents mistakes from being made too easily.
Each player gets one action counter for their player board
The biggest feature of the game are the 140 different cards that you'll use to figure out how to spend your money. They have marvellous artwork, both on the front and back of the cards. So let's just quickly walk you through the different types of cards in the game. The different decks are distinguished by different artwork on the reverse side.
● Property cards
These cards feature sepia-coloured background with a house on the reverse side. What better way to spend money than to buy a lavish house at maximum price, and then watch it depreciate it and sell it when the bottom has dropped out of the market?! Or perhaps to get yourself a lavish mansion that costs way too much money to maintain! Properties are either Farms (green icon), Mansions (yellow icon), Manor Houses (brown icon), or Town Houses (orange icon). The cost price is listed on the upper left, and each round your property will depreciate to the next figure - which of course you want, because dumping lots of money into a costly piece of real estate and then selling it for next to nothing is a great way to waste your uncle's dough! Alternatively, you can "maintain" your property for a one-time action using the figure on the top right of the card. It won't depreciate the turn that you maintain it, but sometimes you'll watch more money going down the sink by conducting expansive maintenance fees - again, a highly desirable proposition in this game!
Sample cards from the Property deck
● Helpers & Expenses cards
These cards feature wine-coloured background with a gentlemen on the reverse side. They are the kinds of cards you'll place on your personal player board, and will help you spend money by hired servants (e.g. a steward, a waiter, a coachman), or other wasteful expenses (e.g. a carriage, or a standing reservation at a restaurant). Some of these cards will also give you extra actions, or allow you to activate other cards for free, so you'll want to be on the lookout for combos that let money slip through your fingers without having to lift a finger for it.
Sample cards from the Helpers & Expenses deck
● Event cards
These cards feature cream-coloured background with a cyclist on the reverse side. They represent one-time events on which you'll drop some cash, such as a lavish dinner, a cruise, or hosting a grand ball. I'm loving this already!
Sample cards from the Events deck
● Companion cards
These cards feature slate-coloured background with a lady and dog on the reverse side. What better way to spend money than to take some companions with you? It's one thing to go to the theatre or go out for dinner, but surely it becomes a far more expensive proposition if you take your pet dog or pet horse with you! That's what these cards represent, and you'll use them in conjunction with the properties, helpers and expenses, and events. There are four types of companions: dogs, horses, guests, and chefs.
The four types of cards in the Companions deck
In addition to the deck of companion cards, there are two companion wild cards - these will be available on the card offering board and can be selected using your errand boy, to get a companion of your choice.
● Special cards
These cards feature wine-coloured background with a crown on the reverse side. They are a mixture of various events, helpers and expenses, but tend to be more powerful than the regular cards. A few of these will be available for selection on the card offering board every round.
Artwork on the back of the special cards
● Last Will cards
The final cards in the game are Last Will cards, which have values of 70 pounds through 130 pounds on them. They are simply used to determine how much money players begin the game with, by drawing one of these cards randomly, and help make the length of the game variable. They're not essential, because you can just agree on the starting amount (whether the amount of 70 pounds recommended for your first game, or a higher amount), but they're nice to have in the event you do want to use them.
Lowest and highest valued cards in the Last Will deck
Property value markers
Remember how the current value of your real estate can change as it depreciate? That's what you'll use these small house-shaped wooden property value markers for. Just place them on a property card at the present value, and adjust it as needed.
All the Property value markers
When you play a companion card that entitles you to have a permanent companion on one of your properties, or on one of your helpers and expenses on your player board, you mark it using the appropriate companion token. These are small wooden disks in four colours, corresponding to the dogs, horses, guests, and chefs that will be part of your retinue as a prodigal man of wealth.
Tokens for your dog, horse, guest, and chef companion
The instructions consist of a 12 page booklet, and taking into consideration that part of it consists of the cover, a reference sheet, and lots of diagrams, it's not hard to see that the rules themselves are not that significantly long. The glossy rulebook contains ample illustrations of gameplay, with lots of pictures, and overall is very nicely laid out. The icon reference sheet on the reverse side of the rulebook is particularly helpful, and if there was a shortcoming in the game's components it would be the absence of more of these - it would have been nice to have had multiple copies of this reference sheet. That being said, the rulebook is generally well done. You can check it out here:
Sample spread from the rulebook
At the start of the game, we place the appropriate planning board and card offering board (dependent on the number of players) in the middle of the playing area, along with the four property modify tokens (placed randomly) and the round counter. The various decks are shuffled and placed beside the board.
Each player gets a player board in their colour (plus a grey action marker for on their board), along with two errand boys and a planning marker in their colour. Everyone begins the game with the same amount of money - 70 pounds is recommended if we're playing for the first time, but once we have played a few times we draw a random card from the Last Will deck, which will determine the starting amount from 70 through 130 pounds.
As a starting hand of cards, each player draws 3 properties and 3 helpers and expenses, and discards down to two starting cards. I love the prescribed allocation that determines the starting player: "The starting player marker goes to the player who paid for something most recently." How appropriate! Let's get busy spending our money as fast as we can - after all, our late uncle expects nothing less!
Complete set-up for a four player game
Flow of Play
The aim of the game is to arrive at bankruptcy the first, and if nobody is bankrupt after 7 rounds, the player with the least amount of their starting money left is the winner. Each round consists of 5 phases:
5. End of Round
Cards from the different decks are dealt onto the card offering board. These are of immediate interest to us, because they indicate the different types of opportunities that will be available for us to spend money this round, with the help of our errand boys.
The first cards are turned up on the card offering board
In turns beginning with the starting player, we place our planning marker on the planning board. There are a number of columns to choose from, and which one we choose will determines several things for that round:
● How many cards we draw (0 to 6), which we take these immediately from the face-down decks of our choice
● How many errand boys we can use during the errands phase (1 or 2)
● How many actions we can have during the action phase (1, 2, 3 or 4)
● The turn order in which we play that round
Planning markers in action
This initial choice is immediately a difficult one for us, because this fascinating mechanic forces us to compromise at least one of the above four factors. We can opt to go first in turn order, but this means we can only draw one face-down card that round, lets us use only one errand boy, and have only one action. On the other hand we can opt to go last in turn order, which gives us the maximum of four actions, but this comes at the cost of giving our errand boys the last shot at the cards available on the offering board that round, and the best ones might be gone by then. Similarly a position on the planning board that lets us draw lots of cards comes at the cost of being lower in the pecking order that turn, or getting less actions. You can see how selecting our choice for the planning marker is a moment of delicious tension, and a great mechanic!
Note that in a two player game, a blocking mechanism is used - each player gets an extra planning marker in a different colour, which they also place on the planning board. The reason for this mechanism is to prevent too many options from being open, and it works well without the need for any dummy players.
Now that we've roughly planned out our day, it's time to put our errand boys to work, and make arrangements for lavish expenditure. The turn order determined by our planning token placement kicks in, and beginning with the player whose planning marker is furthest to the left, we send out our errand boys, placing them one at a time. Essentially this is the worker placement phase, with each player placing an errand boy in turn and immediately activating it. If our planning marker entitles us to a second errand boy, we get to place that after everyone has placed their first errand boy.
Placing our errand boys
So how can our errand boys help us spend our money? Well here's their options:
● Draw a face-up card from the card offering board. There's often hot competition to get our hands on useful cards, especially the face up cards in the top row from the special deck.
● Draw a face-down card from one of the decks. If there's no good face-up cards available, we might want to try our luck at drawing a random card.
● Adjust the property market modifier tokens. This lets us manipulate the real estate prices, and we'll want to jack up the price of a type of property that we're planning on buying that turn, or perhaps make the bottom drop out of the market for a type of property that we're planning on selling that round. Or we might want to monkey with the real estate prices to mess the plans of opponents that we're quite sure plan to buy or sell that round.
● Add an extension to our player board. This is useful if we are running out of room on our player board, and need more space for new properties or helpers and expenses.
● Visit the opera at a cost of 2 pounds. If all else fails, we can always blow some money by going to the opera. It aint over until the fat lady sings!
Most of these actions can only be selected by one player, so if someone beats us to the card or errand we want by placing their errand boy there before us, we're just out of luck and have to opt for something second best! This is where there's real advantage to being early in the turn order... although sadly this advantage usually means getting less cards or actions - oh the agony of decisions!
Now for the fun part - we get to perform the actions that we've been planning and arranging. This is the phase where we'll be using the cards in our hand and on our player board to help us squander away our uncle's money. Players can do this phase simultaneously if they really want to save time and speed up the gameplay, although part of the fun is to enjoy the narrative that goes along with these actions. The number of actions we get has already been determined in the planning phase (1-4), although having an Old Friend will give us an extra action, and being able to play a Hectic Day will also give us more opportunities for wasting money. Just like real life, isn't it?! Here we want to maximize combinations to come up with ways to spend as much as possible, as quickly as possible! So how might our cards help us do this? Cards indicate how many actions they cost to play, and how much money we "waste" by using them.
These cards go on our player board as long as we own them. Buying or selling a property requires an action, and the price is determined by the value on the card, adjusted by the current property value adjustment markers on the game board. Obviously we want to buy at high prices and sell at low prices, but we can also let our properties depreciate each round as another way of losing money. Alternatively, we can use an action to pay for their upkeep - we miss the "benefits" of depreciation, but sometimes "maintaining" a property means more money spent, especially if we can combine this with the services of a Gardener, or some Companions inhabiting the home, thus further draining our resources and money. Hurray! But we can't win while owning property - that would be too easy, so in the final stages of the game we must eventually sell off any real estate, and find other ways to dispose of the hopefully small income that this generates.
● Helpers & Expenses
Various black-bordered cards also go onto our player board when we play them - usually at the cost of an action. Some of them allow us to perform special actions using them, or automatically are a drain on our resources each round after they are played. For example, we might pay for a standing Reservation at our favourite restaurant or membership at the local Gentlemen's Club, or hire a personal Waiter. Or maybe we'll opt to get a lavish Carriage and Driver, or perhaps employ a Steward who will help us maintain our properties without needing an action. He'll cost us money though - which is exactly what we want on our journey towards bankruptcy! There are more than enough others ready to give us a helping hand in dispensing our money - such as the School Chum, who will help us get extra cards, or the Estate Agent, who will help manipulate the price in a favourable fashion when we're buying or selling.
These cards represent wonderful outings or unique opportunities to spend money as a one shot deal, such as a Dinner, Carriage Ride, Boat Trip, or attending a Theatre performance. Sometimes these Event cards give opportunity for multiple actions, thus devoting more time (and money) to the activity of our choice. For example the more actions we devote to the Ball, the more we spend. If we can find a way to rack up lots of actions, we could unload an enormous amount of money in one shot this way, diminishing our bank account in a delightfully rapid and satisfying fashion!
Some cards are played in combination with Companion cards, thus amplifying their effect. Going out for Dinner can cost us a pretty penny, but our expenditure becomes all the more ridiculous when we bring along our personal Chef, and our pet poodle, or when we ride our Horse to the Theatre. Imagine the joy of going on a Boat Trip with your Dog, Chef, and Lady Friend, and the insane amount of money this could cost you - isn't it marvellous already?! Companions can also be added to properties or expenses cards on our player board for a permanent effect, but this usually costs an action to place them as such. After all, if only we had animals on our Farm, then maintaining it would quickly become more expensive, and the bigger the upkeep and maintenance expenses, the happier we are!
Ideally we want to look for combinations of cards that work together. If we own property, having a Steward who can maintain them on our behalf and save us an action - a good idea, because that's an action we'd much prefer to use for going out on an exotic Dinner or - better yet - an exorbitantly priced Cruise. If we own Farms, getting a Training Ground will prove to be a delightful drain on our resources, and having some horses or other pets wandering around our real estate will nicely add to their maintenance costs. As you can begin to see, there's a remarkable variety of cards available to us, corresponding to diverse strategies and possibilities.
5. End of Round
At the end of a round, we do a bit of housekeeping, which includes discarding down to 2 cards, and implementing depreciation, which is a simple matter of adjusting down one level the value of any of our properties that we didn't maintain that round. Of course it's tremendously satisfying to see our wonderful pieces of real estate fall prey to corruption and decay, for as they fall apart and drop in value, our chances of winning go up. We also discard any cards on the card offering board, so that all the available spaces can be filled with new cards for the next round. Players get their planning markers and errand boys back, and we move to the next round, with the starting playing marker going clockwise to the next player.
Enjoying the satisfaction of watching our prime real estate depreciate
I love the way that the rule-book describes the win condition: "Your houses are falling down, your racing dog never gets out of the starting gate, your favourite restaurant is overcharging you for every meal, and now you are in debt. Congratulations! You win!"
But players can't win as long as they own property. You can hardly be a pauper if you have wads of money tied up in real estate after all! No, we want it completely gone! When you have got rid of all your properties and all your money in the course of a round, you declare bankruptcy. You do have the pleasure of continuing to dig yourself even further into debt that round if you can, because the round is played to completion, and the player with the biggest debt at the end is the winner. If there's no joyous announcement of bankruptcy, then the game ends at the end of the seventh round, and the player with the least money is the winner. It's not often that poverty leads to triumph as it does here! We've found that with the recommended amount of starting money (70 pounds), at least one person usually declares bankruptcy by the end of the fifth round, but games will go longer if you begin with more money.
Approaching bankruptcy with the help of two restaurant Reservations, an Old Friend, Steward, and Gardener
What do I think?
A terrific theme that is incredibly fun! The theme of Last Will makes for immediate interest, and captivates players from the outset. Even after nearly a dozen plays, the charm hasn't worn off, for me anyway. The idea of having to spend your money excessively, by hosting a wild party to make your house lose its value quicker, or going out to dinner and increasing the cost by taking along your pet or by having a standing reservation and private waiter - these are ideas that we can quickly grasp and are immensely fun. Such thematic innovation deserves to be warmly welcomed and embraced by eurogamers.
Well-supported by solid mechanics. As mentioned in at the start of this article, a good theme won't save a bad game, but it will help us overlook minor weaknesses in mechanics. In this case, the mechanics are about creating a solid efficiency (or: inefficiency!) engine using worker placement. Some will argue that the game is really just an economic engine in reverse, and wouldn't feel quite so original if it was about earning money instead of spending it. There's some truth to that, but the reality is that underlying the theme are sound mechanics that work well. It's especially fun trying to pull off combos with your real estate, helpers, and expenses, because this can really help you fritter away your cash quickly!
The first shall be last? Not only is the arguably well-worn mechanism of worker placement given a new lease of life with the help of an amusing and compelling theme, but it's also given some innovation courtesy of the planning mechanism. I love how the turn mechanic works, when players put their planning token down in turns, but in the process must weigh up the benefits of going early in the turn order (and hence getting first choice for their errand boys), or instead choosing something that gives up primacy in turn order in return for more lucrative rewards like cards or actions. This creates tough choices and some very interesting decisions at the start of every round.
Multiple paths to victory. Yes, this is becoming a tired cliche, but it's still what we look for in a good euro game, and it's certainly present here. You can opt for getting rid of money through quick and easy combos using events (preferably with suitable companions that make your money slip through your fingers even faster), or opt to sign up longer term expenses and helpers to help drain your bank account, or go for a very long term strategy with the help of rapidly depreciating real estate. All this means that there's a variety of genuinely different strategies to explore. To some extent your strategic options will be governed by the cards that are available, but a case can be made that this adds to Last Will's value by promoting greater replayability, and helping creating a casual gameplay environment that's appropriate for the theme and length of the game.
Humorous artwork enhancing the game experience. Stunning artwork isn't everything, but it certainly adds welcome chrome to a fun game. In the case of Last Will, the clever and amusing artwork on the cards really helps bring the theme to life, and gives players more to appreciate while enjoying the game. The components don't feature the same kind of polite restraint sometimes seen in euro games, but are bursting with mischief and fun - much like the designer and publisher of this game, I expect!
Handles the full range of players. I've played with everything from 2 through 5 players, and the game has been quite satisfying in every case. There is a little more down time in a five player game, but once players are familiar with the game you can speed things up by doing your actions in the closing stages of a round simultaneously. The two player game features a "blocking" mechanism where players each place a neutral planning marker on the board, and I'm happy to report that this works smoothly and satisfyingly, meaning that the game also works nicely for couples. The game is arguably at its best with four players, but unlike many other games, there's no number in the recommended 2-5 players that I'd suggest not playing with.
A step above your average gateway game. In one respect Last Will has elements that will really appeal to families and non-gamers, particularly the theme. It has to be admitted that the randomness of the cards, especially when you draw events and companions that don't work together while your opponents have a more favourable draw, does have potential to frustrate more serious gamers looking for a luck-free experience. Some luck of the draw can be mitigated by drawing more cards, but a certain element of chance is part of the game, and in fact keeps the game interesting, making it suitable for a lighter experience, true to the theme. Yet there are also elements that prevent it from being considered a true gateway game, notably the heavy use of icons and the need for some light mental math to play smartly, and some basic bookkeeping. It's nothing that can't be conquered before the end of your first game, but the fact that it can take some time to digest will put off some new players, although we have had some success introducing the game to non-gamers. But these are factors that will likely prevent Last Will from being a big hit in the mass market, because the entry threshhold is just a little too high for the average John Smith. On the flip side, however, this means that the game is just the perfect weight for most readers of this article, aside perhaps from those dedicated only to more heavy games. It's a terrific "next step" after staples like Settlers of Catan, for folks looking for a more challenging experience without needing to dive into the deepest waters of gamers games that require cerebral thinking or a degree in mathematics to enjoy.
Ideal length. Our first game lasted about 90 minutes or more, in part because we were all new to the game. Since then, we've played close to a dozen times, and in most cases we can easily whip off a game in just under an hour. Granted, the game length will in part be determined by the amount of starting money players have. The 70 pounds recommended for new players prevents the game from dragging on too long (we usually have someone trigger the end with bankruptcy in round 5), but games with a larger starting amount will go a little longer, while also giving more opportunity for longer term strategies such as those revolving around depreciation of real estate. But the length feels just right for a game of this type.
Starting hand of three helpers & three properties
What do others think?
Not everyone is as excited about Last Will as I am, although I'd like to think that my enthusiasm is indicative of the majority of gamers. So what are some reasons why you might not like the game, and what do the critics have to say about it?
● If you probe below the surface of the theme, it's just like any other profit making game only in reverse. Response: This is of course true, but this is exactly the point! In my opinion the "build-up-an-engine-to-spend-more-money" in Last Will does give a fresh take on what could otherwise become a stale concept, and is more than just a cheap gimmick, particularly because it is solidly driven by a convincing theme. Unlike some, I didn't find this at all to be just another soulless euro.
● Opportunity for direct player interaction is minimal, and there is a sense of multiplayer solitaire. Response: Well, yes, but is this necessarily a weakness? If you're looking for viciousness or nasty confrontation, look elsewhere, but there are many gamers who enjoy being able to build up their own efficiency engine without having other players put a spanner in their wheel. Interaction here is mainly about beating other players to the best cards with your errand boys, and don't worry, this will cause more than enough frustration to your opponents on occasion!
● The luck of the draw factor adds too much chaos to the game, because some cards are more useful than others. Response: The random elements are potentially frustrating for serious gamers, but on the plus side they are appropriate for a family game that's one step above being a gateway game. In the course of a game, this luck element can even out, and will give players who are behind a slim opportunity to get a magic draw that will help them out. But the sheer variety of cards, including the face-up cards available to your errand boys, means there's still lots of tactical choices, and the variable draw can be considered a strength that ensures good replayability and helps keep things interesting from game to game.
● The icons aren't the most intuitive, and as a result it can take a few rounds to get a good grip on the basic mechanics. Response: It's exactly this quality that makes Last Will unsuitable as a pure gateway game. It is best enjoyed with repeated play, with players who have mastered the icons, which fortunately doesn't take long too long.
● The rules are fiddly and the bookkeeping is tedious. Response: This is overstated, and while it may be a sentiment experienced by first timers who are still coming to grips with the game mechanics, it's not really an issue after your initial game. There's some bookkeeping that will keep you busy at the end of a round, but it's modest at best.
Most people who praise the game speak highly of its novel and humorous theme, its fresh approach to the worker placement genre by introducing an reverse efficiency engine, as well as its variable strategies and charming artwork. Some of the positive comments include the following:
"This one is a great gateway game and it's the theme that really brings this one home. " - Louie Knight
"Really dig it. Unique, fun, and tight. The cards and card ideas are really cool." - Jordan Stewart
"Clever the way this well crafted Euro turns the usual goal, which is to acquire, on its head." - Rob F
"Probably my current favorite game. I love the theme and the artwork, and the gameplay is a really nice blend of worker placement and planning." - Nick
"Really interesting theme. The mechanics work well to support the theme throughout the entire game." - Ian Noble
"This game is really fun to play. It plays quickly once you understand it's flow and icons. Love the opposite nature of losing all your money as opposed to hoarding it. Gets better with each play so far. " - James Mathias
"A great theme with simple enough rules and a whole lot of gameplay." - Keith Gray
"One of my favorite games at the moment. There are multiple paths to victory, and there's all fun to explore. The most thematic euro I've ever played. Great artwork. " - Jordan Robbins
"It's pretty unique and you actually feel the theme." - madhatter
"This game is just highly entertaining and pure fun. A prime example of how a great theme can propel a game even further. Luckily the economic engine building mechanics help cement this game to become an instant favorite of our table." - Rocke Marlon Serrano
"Fantastic take on the well worn engine building game. I love it." - Morgan Dontanville
"It has a nice combination of resource mismanagement. action points, card selection and worker placement. There is enough interaction to make the game interesting, but it is mostly a race for the poor house." - Eric Jones
"Familiar mechanisms of competitive worker placement, combined with challenging hand/tableau management. The theme of trying to spend all of your money as fast as possible is amusing, and the mechanism is clever." - Bob Rademaker
"This game gets better every time I play it. I keep trying different strategies and each seem to be a viable path to victory. Very well balanced. Awesome addition to my collection." - Christopher Boat
"There's a lot more game packed into this one than I was expecting." - Rob Steward
"The stress of the simple turn order mechanism is amazing and is scaled incredibly well based on number of players. I also find it fascinating that a game with so much randomness doesn't feel random at all, and indeed you can mitigate most of the luck in such a way as to make your endgame feel well planned and structured." - Dave Kudzma
"A pretty nice light economic euro with great theme and graphics." - Dimitris Vasiadis
"I love this game. The worker placement part is just right and the tradoffs make sense. The theme really shines too. The cards are excellent and the art is meaningful. Fun game." - Doobermite
"Really nice tight economic game playing in reverse. Every game has been fantastic." - Kevin Duffy
So, is Last Will a game for you? The game is not without its flaws, but it is good. Very good! I can see that very serious gamers might wish for a little more control than what is offered here, but who can argue with a rich uncle who is dead and offering you a boatload of money to burn? The reality is that the strong and humorous theme is very compelling, and proves to be a driving force that helps us overlook any minor blemishes, and fortunately such blemishes are few. Moreover, there's more than enough positive elements about the gameplay, particularly the planning mechanism, that helps make Last Will stand tall as a strong game in its own right, completely independent of the theme.
Last Will may have a couple of small warts, but for me and my family, this has proven to be one of the most fun games we've played in the last year or two. We just keep wanting to play it, making it a strong contender for one of my personal favourites of all the newer games I've played in the last year or two. Last Will ticks all the boxes for me, because it offers more challenge than the average filler or gateway game, without becoming too ponderous and thinky, or sacrificing fun. Moreover, it offers a lot of laughs along the way, with the help of solid mechanics and an evocative theme that is capably strengthened by charming artwork. It may have come at the cost of a dead uncle, but those Czech boys have done it again. Highly recommended.
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Last edited Thu May 15, 2014 2:39 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:45 am
Another excellent review. Thank you.
Maybe talk a little about the current promos and what they add?
Thanks for this review! I've been looking at this game for months now, unsure whether to buy. I'm glad to hear there is good replay value.
Wow that is one exhaustive, well illustrated, and well thought out review!
Getting quoted was also fun
Thanks for this (and while I'm at -- for all your other reviews too!).
Players can do [the action] phase simultaneously if they really want to save time and speed up the gameplay, although part of the fun is to enjoy the narrative that goes along with these actions.
Yes! A great deal of the delight of the game is narrating your actions and taking glee in the silly spending spree, and having folks marvel at your well-planned profligacy. When players aren't as into this part of the game, the game doesn't feel nearly as unique. When they are -- there's nothing quite like it.
Well done, Ender! A lovely and detailed homage to a fantastic game...
Excellent and extensive review of the game. Great theme and replayability. It is also my wife's favourite! I hope there will be an expansion to add more cards/companions/ to this lovely game.
I thought you put the planning markers above the hourglasses, not on them.
I thought you put the planning markers above the hourglasses, not on them.
Yes, you put them on the circular hourglass markers at the very top.
I'm guessing they move them downwards over the cards, hats, and actions as the turn progresses to keep track of where they are, and who's done what so far. With two players, I haven't felt the need.
The best review i have seen. Also i would like to ask what do the small numbers on the right of actions mean?
- Last edited Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:41 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:34 pm
The best review i have seen. Also i would like to ask what do the small numbers on the right of actions mean?
Are you referring to the small numbers on the player boards, pictured below? The 6-10 are used in the event that you ever get more than 5 actions.
Thanks for the compliment on the review - if you enjoyed it, you'll find more like it here.
The best review i have seen. Also i would like to ask what do the small numbers on the right of actions mean?
Are you referring to the small numbers on the player boards, pictured below? The 6-10 are used in the event that you ever get more than 5 actions.
Thanks for the compliment on the review - if you enjoyed it, you'll find more like it here
what are your thoughts on the expansion?
Unfortunately I can't help you with that, because I don't own the expansion and haven't had opportunity to play it. Like you, I'm curious to know what people think of it though.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
There's just one kind of favor I'll ask for you - you can see that my grave is kept clean
Another great review, thanks, Ender. I'm convinced enough to add this game to my wish list.
"The two player game features a "blocking" mechanism where players each place a neutral planning marker on the board, and I'm happy to report that this works smoothly and satisfyingly, meaning that the game also works nicely for couples."
In the two player variant, is this neutral marker essentially an additional player tool? Or is this an external "computer" play, in the vein of 7 Wonders or Settlers? I'm always looking for good two-player games for my wife and me. (Stone Age great. Al Hambra good. 7 Wonders not good. Settlers lousy.) But the two-player mechanics can really upset a great 3+ player game.
Also: what's the fiddly-bits feeling on this? Some games can feel like they've just got too many fiddly-bits to make two-player worthwhile. Maybe that goes back to the core two-player mechanics, since Stone Age is fantastic, and I don't even notice the numerous little bits to setup.
Last Will is very intriguing sounding, and my wife and I like the theme. But it would be a blind buy, and I want to double-check that 2 player is solid.
Sarah AJ Tasko
I see you are wondering how Last Will plays with two players. I recently watched Rahdo's runthrough of it on youtube and I get the sense it plays nicely - but go check it out, it might help you make a decision and not have to 'blind buy'. I know personally his videos have helped me make smarter choices of games that will be a good fit for my group :)
Rio Grande do Sul
One of the best reviews I have read so far on BGG. Congratulations!
How compare with The Prodigals Club, assuming you've played it?
I haven't personally had opportunity to play The Prodigals Club (2015), which is a more recent game than Last Will (2011), and uses a similar game system and idea.
From what I've read, The Prodigals Club is heavier and harder than the original game, and is like running three modules of Last Will at the same time, because you're not just trying to get rid of money, but three things. While some choices are more stream-lined in The Prodigals Club, it's definitely geared even more towards gamers overall. Most people agree that the theme is stronger in Last Will.
Speaking of theme, it's worth mentioning that the Brewsters Millions book/film that inspired the game was also turned into a radio play of around 45 minutes by the famous Lux Radio Theatre. This recording is from 1937, but it's a great performance, and well worth listening to, to help get into the spirit of the theme. If you've not read the book or seen the film, this is a great way to enjoy this well-told and entertaining story!