Gain money, buy things (resources/cards/items), get victory points, winner is the one with most victory points. A standard set-up for a lot of games these days, dressed up with various themes and tweaks to gameplay. A lot of worker placement games employ this model and there are some good worker placement games out there that I really enjoy. However, Last Will turns this on its head.
Yes, it is a worker placement game with a board containing worker placement spots. Yes it contains various action cards that you can acquire and place in your own tableau that are only available to you, but where Last will is different is that the main goal of the game is to spend all your money.
Last Will is a 2-5 player game designed by Vladimir Suchy, also the designer of Pulsar 2849 and Shipyard, with an average play time of about 45 minutes for two players.
In Last Will you are the niece/nephew of a recently deceased rich uncle who has left his fortune to one you in his will. Whoever can spend their money the quickest is deemed the rightful heir of the inheritance. It is a small twist but it is one that makes for a fun game and story. Invest in a property just to watch it depreciate and then sell it on for peanuts, hire a chef but go out for dinner and take him with you, take your horse to the theatre, host lavish parties, hire old school friends who fleece you of money.
Whatever you do make sure you spend as much money as you can and hopefully go bankrupt all in a bid to be the heir to your uncle’s fortune.
Last Will Gameplay
Each player starts with a set amount of money, a player board, two errand boys and two cards. There are several different decks of cards, the basic decks include companions, property, events and helpers and expenses. There are also wild cards and special cards.
The game lasts for seven rounds and each round has five phases;
The main player board in Last Will is populated with a combination of the basic, wild and special cards depending on the round. The main board helpful details what cards are need in which round which is great addition and makes the set-up phase easy and quick.
Each player then chooses a plan for the day, which includes a combination of cards drawn, errands to send your errand boys on (in effect worker placement actions) and the number of actions that can be performed. As soon as a player decides on a plan they draw the corresponding number of cards from the events, helpers and expenses, properties and companions deck.
The player who is furthest to the left on the planning track is the first play. However, the planning space furthest to the left is not necessarily the best one. A careful balance between being first player to grab the best errand spot and limiting yourself to only one action or one card is essential.
Once all players have planned their day, the first player sends one of his errand boys out to arrange the next excursion, reserve the best restaurant or arrange the biggest and best party. Errand boys are placed on the relevant action space and the players takes the corresponding card in to their hand. There are also spaces for player extension boards, spaces to manipulate the property market, going to the opera (costs two money) or drawing a card blind from one of the four basic decks.
In turn order players perform the number of actions that they have planned for. Some cards give you extra actions, free actions or can be activated without using actions.
Depending on the card, depends on how it is used. Events have white boarders and these are played and immediately discarded, paying the relevant number of actions and money. Event cards represent you going on a trip, going out for dinner, hosting a ball. Some of these events allow you to take a companion with you, thus spending more money. These companion cards are played from your hand at the same time as playing the event and do not cost extra actions to play. You can take your own personal chef with you on a boat trip or take your horse to the theatre, costing additional money and getting you one step closer to bankruptcy. Wherever possible it is best to utilise the event cards and companion cards in combination resulting in big expenditure for minimal actions.
Helpers and expenses have black boarders and these typically cost an action to be placed on to a player’s personal player board. These stay on a player’s board until discarded and can be activated once per turn, assuming a player has enough actions. Some of these cards give you extra actions, allow you take actions for free or just generally cost you money every turn. Typical cards include a standing reservation at a restaurant, going on a carriage trip and the school chum which fleeces you one pound every turn for no actions and lets you have a bigger hand size at the end of the round.
Property cards are also laid on to a player board for the cost of an action and the cost of purchasing the property based on the property market. There are two types of property, houses (Mansions, manor houses and town houses) and farms. Players can visit their property at the cost of an action and pay money for upkeep. If players do not visit the property then it depreciates in value and is worth less. Players cannot go bankrupt if they own property and it costs and action to sell it.
Farms do not depreciate as with the other property types. They still cost money and actions to maintain them and you can play companion cards on them (dogs and horses which live on the farm). The more companions you have on a property the greater the cost of upkeep. As with the other properties players cannot go bankrupt whilst owning a property and it costs and action to sell the farm.
The final phase is the clean-up. Each player must discard down to two cards (unless another card lets you keep more) and the companion wild card must be returned. Any properties that have not been visited deteriorate. Any cards used on the player's board are reset. All cards remaining on the main board are removed and replaced with new ones based on the current round. All players gather their errand boys and planning markers. The starting player marker is is passed to the left.
The planning stage for Last Will has a two-player variant where the first player places a dummy marker (to represent another player), then the second player places another dummy marker and then their player marker, with the first player placing their player marker last. This small variant makes this planning stage very interesting as players try to figure out the best combination of placements based on what the other players might want and the cards available.
It is sometimes worth sacrificing actions and cards to go first and get the card in the errand phase that is perfect. I think this addition to the two-player game was a really good idea.
A Frivolous Spend, or a Sound Investment?
Spend, spend, spend…. that is the name of the game in Last Will. I have several work placement games in my collection. In each one players are struggling to scrape by for money or resources, everything is tight and you feel like you just need one more action. In Last Will this is not the case, players are given a large sum of money and should spend it as quickly as possible. It turns the concept of “just having enough” to “Arghh…I have too much, how can I spend it all” on its head.
Being able to take your horse to the theatre (because why wouldn’t you if you have money to burn), throwing a massive ball to bun through your funds, buy a property just to let it depreciate or taking a boat trip and bringing your own chef can make for some interesting and fun stories.
I really enjoy playing Last Will. With two players we can complete the game in around 45 minutes so it is a quick game. There is enough strategy involved to keep it interesting without being too much of a brain burner. I found all the cards are very thematic and in keeping with the game concept. I really like the theme of the game as it is something a bit different. The only slight downside is the tie breaker, if two payers go bankrupt in the same round the winner is decided based on who is furthest left on the planning track. I think something else could have been done here.
Despite that, the game is still a great and it does not put me off playing it. In fact, it adds another element of strategy to the game. If you can see that you and another player are going to go broke the next round then you need to make sure you are going to win the tie break. This might mean taking a lesser effective space on the planning track to ensure you are the furthest left. But this space might not give you enough actions to perform to be able to go broke, so the tie breaker does offer interesting decisions.
All in all, I really enjoy playing Last Will. It is a fun, fairly light, worker placement game with quick gameplay that offers a neat twist on the most other worker placement games.