Review – Last Will

2 -5 Players, Age 12+ , Playing Time 60 minutes

The artwork on the Last Will box lidA review copy of Last Will (designed by Vladimir Suchy; his other games include 20th Century, Shipyard and League of Six) was kindly provided by CGE.

I am a sucker for humour and good artwork and Last Will struck me as having both; set in Victorian England the game has a slightly Dickensian feel about it. Prior to his death a rich man had the inspired idea of deciding which of his nieces and nephews should inherit his fortune by giving them £70 each - the one who spends it fastest is obviously the most ‘competent’ and deserving beneficiary of his fortune!

What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: Game ComponentsSetting Up The GamePlaying The GameWhat Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if reading the whole review doesn't appeal just scan down to the headings that do.

Game Components
As you would expect with a game coming from the publisher of games like Dungeon Lords and Galaxy Trucker the components are all of the highest quality and there are plenty of them:

A central Game Board made up of three separate parts:

A Planning Board which is double sided to accommodate different numbers of players; this records the fluctuating property markets and provides an area where players can bid for a combination of, additional cards, Errand Boys, Actions and the Turn Order for later in the Round.
Last Will - The Planning Board for a 4 or 5 player game
A Card Offering Board (again double sided) – To accommodate 7 or 8 face up cards available during each game Round. In addition there is a Supplemental Card Offering Board required when there are 3 or 5 players.
Last Will - The Card Offering Board for a 4 or 5 player game
5 Player Boards (Green, Blue, Yellow, Red and Purple) which can each hold 5 cards. Plus 5 sets of Player Tokens consisting of 2 Errand Boys, 1 Planning Marker and 1 Action Marker - bizarrely in a different colour!
Last Will - A Player Board
12 Player Board Extensions used to hold 1 additional card each and available to all players.

140 cards divided into 4 decks:
Last Will - The Card Backs for the 4 main decks of cards: Events, Helpers and Expenses, Properties and Companions
These decks are organised according to the design on their backs. The front of the card gives the playing instructions. Black bordered cards are played onto the Player Boards, White bordered cards are used once and discarded whilst Blue (Slate) bordered Companion cards are used in conjunction with other cards to help you spend extra money on your guest, dog, horse, or chef thereby enhancing your fun.

Events – White backs showing silhouette of a man with a penny farthing cycle on the back; all are white bordered on both sides; includes cards such as the Boat Trip, Dinner and the Theatre.
Last Will - Example Event Cards
Helpers and Expenses –Wine coloured backs with silhouette of a gentleman with top hat; all are black bordered on the front; includes cards such as the School Chum, Estate Agent and a Carriage.
Last Will - Example Helpers and Expenses Cards
Properties – Brown and sepia coloured backs showing a silhouette of a house; all are black bordered on their front; there are 4 types of property in the game, three of which can be used as venues for costly entertainment with the possibility of depreciation if you fail to maintain your Town or Manor House or Mansion (this is a very good thing in this game). Farms do not depreciate but do allow for costly investments in Dogs or Horses. However, beware of having a property on your Player Board as the game nears its end as you can only go bankrupt if you owe more than the value of your assets!
Last Will - Example Property Cards
Companions – Slate blue and pink backs with a silhouetted lady and her dog; all have blue borders on the front; these cards allow players to gain Guests, Dogs, Horses and Chefs which, used in conjunction with other cards, add to your fun and obviously cost you money.
Last Will - Example Companion Cards with their card back on the left hand side
Special Cards – Wine coloured backs showing 1,2 or 3 Crowns, these have black or white borders on the front and introduce expensive friends and events; in some cases the black bordered cards cost two actions to get onto the Player Boards but they can be game winning.

Wild Cards – These two cards have identical images of the 4 possible companions on both sides with blue coloured borders. The game Offering Board has at least one space for these cards and they can be used by the players to gain whichever type of companion they wish.
Last Will - One of the two (Companion) Wild Cards
Last Will Cards – These 7 cards offer more variety to the game by changing the players starting money from £70 to £130 in £10 increments.

Plus 4 Property Adjustment Tokens; wooden tokens to represent the Companions: Dogs, Horses, Guests, Chefs; Property Value Markers; cardboard Money Tokens; a Start Player Marker and more...
Last Will - The spaces on the Planning Board to manipulate the property market and the 4 Property Adjustment Tokens

Setting Up The Game
Make up the central Game Board based on the number of players and randomly place the Property Adjustment Tokens on the 4 places provided.
Last Will - The spaces on the Planning Board to manipulate the property market
Shuffle the Special Cards based on the number of crowns on the back of the cards and place them in a single pile with the cards with one crown on top.

Shuffle each of the other decks of cards and place them by the Game Board face down.

Each player takes a Player Board and the corresponding Player Tokens plus, in the basic game, 70 pounds and 6 cards, 3 from the Helpers and Expenses deck and 3 from the Properties deck.

Create a bank (a pile) with the remaining Money Tokens and create piles of all the other tokens by the side of the game board.

Playing The Game
The game is played over a maximum of 7 rounds made up of 5 phases:
1. Set-up
Cards are dealt face up onto the Card Offering Boards as indicated by the symbols in the place holders so you will have cards from the Helpers and Expenses, Properties, Events, Wild Cards and perhaps most importantly the Specials decks. The Special Cards are typically more powerful, always in short supply and unlike the other decks only available through the Card Offering Board.
Last Will - The cards on the Offering Board
The exact combination of cards varies depending on the number of players and the round.

At the beginning of the first round,once they have seen what cards are on the Offering Board, players need to discard 4 cards taking their hand down to 2 .

2. Planning
Starting with the first player everyone uses their planning markers to indicate which of the six available planning options they wish to take during this round. Depending on the number of players the planning board gives various mixes of the following options:
Last Will - The Planning Board for a 4 or 5 player game
a. 0-7 cards to be drawn from the Events, Helpers and Expenses, Properties or Companions decks as the planning marker is placed; the combination is the player’s choice.

b. 1 or 2 Errand Boys used in the Errands phase.

c. 1 to 4 actions to be used in the Action phase to play cards and spend money.

d. The player order for placing the Errand Boys. The player order is based on the position of the Planning Token with priority to those on the left.
Last Will - The Planning Board for a two player game, with the player order being Yellow & then Red as the other colours are non player tokens used when there are only two players
As you might expect the decision making is always difficult never offering the players quiet the combination of choices they want, with the choice reducing the later your go after the start player. However, whilst you will frequently not get the option you really want the game mechanics mean this is frustrating rather than terminal in your efforts to win the game.

My feeling is that it will take a couple of games to fully understand the interplay between the various alternatives and feel comfortable with your decision making at this stage.

3. Errands
The players now place their Errand Boys one at a time on the Central Game Boards, in the order their planning tokens are in on the Planning Board, starting with the leftmost token. Each player places one Errand boy and then those that have a second one place them in turn.

The choices offered to the talented Errand Boys are many and varied, from:

· Manipulating the Property Market in preparation for buying or selling property. However don’t miss the opportunity to adversely influence the market if your preferred choices have already gone and you can see that one of your fellow players is likely to sell their properties!
Last Will - The game boards set up
· Obtain a Player Board Extension - we found it was useful to have at least one of these.

· Go to the Opera. You only spend £2 but crucially it doesn’t take any Actions and if you are lucky enough to have the Tailor card this increases to £5. This should be paid now! Don't do what we were doing for a while and omit to pay the money during this Phase, picking it up with all the other expenditures in the Action phase.

· Take one of the face-up cards on the Offering Board. This is the only way of accessing the more powerful Special Cards or you can go for a card that fits into your overall strategy; blocking other players can be a useful tactic here too.

· Acquire 1 face down card from one of the four regular decks. This may not be your first choice for an Errand Boy but again may be useful if you preferred options have already been taken amongst the face up cards on the Planning Board.

4. Actions
Last Will - The Action Point control on a Player BoardHaving made your choices the players, again in the order determined at the planning stage, carry out their various Actions i.e. play the various cards they have acquired or activating the ones with an Action cost on their player boards. The players start by placing their Action Token on their Player Board against the number of Actions they have this Turn. Then move this down to zero as they use their Actions up. Examples include:

a. Playing a White bordered card and spending the associated Actions (indicated by an A in a red box on the card) and Money (indicated by a Gold Coin) e.g. A Soiree or Dinner card with a cost of £2 or one of the Ball cards with increasing levels of expenditure depending on the number of Actions used, up to a maximum of 7 Actions and a Cost of £25.
Last Will - Example Event Cards
b. Placing a black bordered card onto your Player Board e.g. buying a property by placing a Mansion card at a cost of £15, a Farm at £10 (adjusting the costs by the figures on the Property Market and placing the depreciation marker on the top most value figure on the left hand side of the card) or one of the School Chums which allow you to either retain extra cards at each round end or take extra cards at the planning stage (and can also help you spend your money); the Gentleman’s Club which costs 2 Actions to place it but will allow you to spend £5 per turn for the cost of an Action.
Last Will - Example Helpers and Expenses Cards
c. Using a Companion or Companions with a white bordered card e.g. The Boat Trip will cost 2 Actions and £2, but if you can take along the Lady, A Dog and The Chef the expenditure could rise to £9. Alternatively depending on the type of Farm then using a Companion Card with a Horse and Dog can significantly increase the expenditure on the Farm every turn.
Last Will - An Example Event with Possible Companion Cards
d. Activating a card on your Player Board, even those placed this turn e.g. the previously mentioned Gentleman’s Club. Having activated it expending the Actions and paying the Money over to the Bank the card should be slid down on the player board to reveal the Tick to indicate it has been used.

e. Selling a Property; typically Town and Manor Houses and Mansions will have depreciated whilst Farms won’t. However with timely manipulation of the Property Market it is possible to loose £6 on a single property simply by swinging the market from +3 at the time of the purchase to -3 when you sell it. If you are lucky enough or can engineer the situation of having two or more of the same property type this could prove very helpful.

f. Removing non Property Cards from the Player Board costs no Action points.

Once you have expended all your Actions it is worth having a quick look at your Player Board to see if there are any cards where you can spend money without expending any Actions.

5. End of Round
During this phase players:

Last Will - A Depreciation Token on a Property Card
· Depreciate any properties by moving the depreciation marker down one increment on the left hand side of the card - note some properties have a lot of increments whilst others have only a few and that there are some Helpers and Expenses cards that allow you to accelerate the rate of depreciation. This will apply even for properties bought during this Round.

· Reset any cards activated this Round (slide them up) on the Player Board

· Remove to the discard piles any cards not acquired from the Offering Board.

· Retrieve your Planning Markers and Errand Boys.

· Discard your hand down to 2 cards (4 with the School Chum on your Player Board);

· Advance the Round Counter.

The game is played over 7 rounds and the winner will be the player with the least money at the end of the last round or the player with the biggest deficit at the end of any round when one or more players go Bankrupt, remembering that you cannot go bankrupt if you have a property on your player board, that it costs an Action to remove a Property Card from the Player Board and that you need cash (money tokens ) in order to spend money ergo don’t get into the position of having a property, with no money and no actions left.

What Did We Think?
Last Will - The Game Boards in the distance and a Player Board in the foreground
We really liked Last Will and it worked quite well as a two player game. You can’t like all the games you review but we were keen to play it a number of times as part of the review process.

It was interesting with challenging decisions but we felt would not be a game prone to analysis paralysis and had a playing time even on only our second game of under an hour.

Is it interesting enough to become a staple game? I am not sure. I suspect that this very largely depends on what you already have in your collection and the degree to which the theme or game play grabs you. It is certainly worth giving serious consideration and definitely on our current favourites list.

That this is a well constructed game that has a clear well illustrated set of rules and in the main excellent artwork on the cards. The colouring is broadly dark and gives a Dickensian almost dour feeling which is presumably intentional given the Victorian setting. 
Last Will - The Game Boards in the distance and a Player Board in the foreground
A small gripe was that I didn’t understand why the player’s Action Token was in a different colour to the rest of the player tokens.
We felt there is a lot to take in (we play a lot with Social Gamers) and the game would have benefited significantly from a quick player sheet that as a minimum explained the symbols on the cards.

As previously mentioned it will play faster and be far more enjoyable on subsequent plays i.e. it gets better with repeated play.

Whilst we will need to play more games to be certain of this our feeling at the moment is that 3 or 4 players would be optimal.

If you like this game then it may be worth taking a look at another game by Vladimir Suchy and published by CGE that we have enjoyed, League of Six. Read more of how we got on with League of Six at one of our games evenings earlier this year by clicking here.

Who Do We Think Will Like It?
Anyone with a playful cat!
Last Will - The cat was really getting into the game!
With the combination of cards and the game play around acquiring them we felt there was plenty of replay-ability in the game and I would agree with Paul Lister (of Boardgameguru) that once you are familiar with the rules it would offer gamers a “go to fast playing card game with a strategic punch..." similar in that respect to Race for The Galaxy or Dominion.

Gamers who like worker placement games but are looking for something a little different.

Social gamers who are looking for something with a little more depth than the gateway level games. 

Anybody who like board games centred around money.
Last Will - The Money Tokens
With more interesting and balanced game play it may well also appeal to those non gamers who like Monopoly and are prepared to venture beyond the familiar.

If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here

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