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Last Will

Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

(Czech Games Edition/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 11 and up, 60-90 minutes; $49.95)

 

I’m becoming a real fan of Czech designers.

In the beginning it was only Vlaada Chavitl with his great designs but, starting from 2007, Vladimir Suchy is also getting good releases. League of Six (Winter 2008 Gamers Alliance Report) was a nice game, Shipyard (Spring 2010 GA Report), good but not interactive enough and last year’s 20th Century was in my 2010 top ten. Last Will is probably his best design until now and, for sure, in my 2011 top 5.

lastwillboxThe idea behind this game is quite simple: an old uncle has died and decided to leave his huge fortune to the relative best able to spend a little of this fortune fastest. Of course you are thinking about the old Go for Broke!, a 1965 Selchow & Righter success that has been reprinted many times. It is, for sure, a game of reverse economics but what I really appreciated in Last Will is how the game evolves. In the beginning, you have to buy properties, farms and houses, and spend money round after round using and maintaining them. Then, in the second part of the game, you have to start selling your properties and find a way to spend the pounds you got. This is quite different from a normal economic affair where your properties usually last for the entire game. I think this is one of the most innovative concepts in the game. But now we have to start from the beginning.

Last Will is played in rounds. The first thing to do is the planning phase where you decide your plan. There are 6 different plans available (found on the board). The plan you decide determines turn order in the round, the number of cards you can draw from one or more decks, the number of errand boys you have (one or two) and finally the number of actions you have during the actions phase. Sometimes you need to go first in the round, sometimes you are looking for cards, sometimes for actions. Each plan has positive and negative aspects.

The mapboard also displays different places that, round after round, will be filled by cards. There are 4 decks of cards in the game: properties, helpers and expenses, companions and events. Players can place one or two errand boys on the map each turn during the errand phase. According to where you place the errand boy, you can get the corresponding card or some special benefit. This part of the game is classical worker placement.

Available cards on the map change from round to round: in the beginning, there are more properties, in the end more events. Three places on the map are filled with cards taken from a special deck containing a mix of properties, events and helpers: these cards are usually a bit better than “normal” cards and can be gained only from the map (you can’t draw from the special deck in the planning phase). You can also play an errand boy in the property market (more on buying properties later), send him to the opera (which costs you more money – going to the opera can be expensive!) or use him in getting a board extension (allowing a player to get an extra card in addition to the five normally allowed). After that there is the action phase.

During the action phase, players, in turn order, can use actions to play cards and spend money.

lastwillpcsYou can play a property card and other black bordered cards on your player board for one action. You have space for 5 cards but you can get board extensions to hold additional cards in the errand phase. Black bordered cards are something you get and can use round after round.

To play a property card, you need to buy it and pay the price displayed on the card modified by the property market. You can also, for one action, sell a property for the displayed value with the same modification. For example, you can buy a farm one turn and sell it for 6 money less in the following round if you play the property market well.

You can spend one action activating a card on your player board: it could be a property, like a farm or an house, or something else. Usually activating a card means spending money. That is a good thing in this game as the whole idea is to spend money to buy properties, use them for some rounds spending more money and then sell them, possibly for less money than their purchase prices.

White bordered cards are events. You can usually play an event from your hand using one or more actions, spending money in this way. Events become really important in the final rounds when you have already sold your properties and need to spend the last of your funds.

Companion cards (horses, dogs and women) can be added to properties or played together with some events to make the use of a card more expensive. Of course a farm with two horses needs much more money to manage than a farm without; sailing with a women is much more expensive that sailing alone.

The round ends after all players have taken their actions. If you have not used an already played property, it becomes “unmaintained” and depreciates. That’s not terrible but you will usually consume much more money by using the property.

After 7 rounds or if someone ends his money and has no properties, the game ends. It is important to sell your properties before the end of the game because in the final scoring (if no one has been able to spend all his money), they count 5 pounds more.

Last Will is quite simple and you can manage the game and mechanics after a few rounds. It is also playable in one hour with 3-4 players (a bit more with 5 players). I actually think this is the best Suchy design. It has a nice theme, nice artwork and some new ideas. It looks well balanced and it is amusing. In the rush of new releases that will appear as the year unfolds, I think Last Will will last.

 


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