Welcome to The Prodigals Club! You and your fellows are proper Victorian gentlemen who have realised that the lower classes have more fun. Now you are in a friendly competition to see which of you can destroy his own social standing most thoroughly.
In The Prodigals Club, you compete in three separate competitions: trying to lose an election, trying to get rid of all your possessions, or trying to offend the most influential people in high society. You can play any two competitions in combination or play all three simultaneously. Each competition interacts with the other two. To win, you need to balance your strategy and play all the competitions well. You do not need Last Will to play as Prodigals stands alone; that said, the rule book also explains how to combine the two games together should you desire to do so.
The aspirations of many youngsters these days is to have fame, fortune and influence. For some people this dream is a reality, and life is very boring. Does this sound like you? If so, then you are cordially invited to join The Prodigals Club.
Basic Overview and Set-Up
For people of a certain age, and comedy film lovers alike, the description above should bring back memories of Brewster’s Millions (a nickname that the board game has been given), a 1985 film where the premise was to lose 30 million dollars in a month, in order to earn 300 million dollars from a rich recently deceased uncle. In order to help lose the money Brewster decides to run for the Mayor of New York.
Digression aside, the idea of The Prodigals Club is to lose political influence, popularity and money all at the same time, and within five turns. Each player is given a number of errand boys (top hats) dependant on the number of players and must place them across the three competition areas to cause maximum damage to your overall reputation. The person with the worst overall rating at the end is the winner.
The Prodigals Club is a 2015 game by Vladimír Suchý, and is the successor to Last Will, a 2011 game also by Vladimír Suchý, which can be played either as a standalone game or as an expansion pack to Last Will. The game is suitable for two to five players.
As previously mentioned, there are three main areas to compete in, and each area has its own separate board for players to place their errand boys (or top hats). The overall board also contains a triangular area to register your influence (or lack of), and once your money and popularity is factored in, it is the section of the board where the overall winner is determined. In the middle of the board is a trapezium central hub, which keeps track of basic game functions, such as who goes first and what turn it is, as well as a few other player options. However, we will touch more on this later.
Each player is also given a popularity scale ranging from -3 to 16 across three colours using two male and two female counters. The boards are very self-explanatory, telling you which card needs to be placed where on which turn. Each card has different effects, for example moving all Women in the yellow column down one square, or losing one, three, five, seven or nine votes based on the number of beer cards in your possession.
There is also a board for you to play up to a maximum of five blue bordered cards which last until they are discarded. Alternatively, you can play white bordered cards which can only be used once. For all new players the instructions recommend that the money element is removed from the game. My review of The Prodigals Club is based upon this suggestion, for reasons which will become clearer later on.
Each person is also given a tile which has up to four of 10 symbols on it, which will be explained later. However, to balance the game out a bit, there is the elderly Dame Beatrice. She loves a controversial rogue such as yourself, and will increase your popularity if your male and female characters are in certain locations on your board based on which turn it is. Also, there are megaphones to collect, with the quietest person in that round gaining votes.
Who Doesn’t Want To Be A Millionaire?
There are three main strategies that you can utilise to cause maximum damage to your reputation. You can focus on destroying your popularity through the society competition and collecting the selected cards, which will allow you to decrease the popularity across either gender generally or for those who are in select colour columns.
Alternatively, you can apply the same strategy across the election competition, which will decrease your popularity. These range from down votes for having a political card (as indicated by an envelope on the corner of the card), down votes based on the number of beer cards you play, or based on the symbols in your collection.
You may remember I mentioned a tile with a combination of four out of 10 symbols earlier. On the election competition, you can pick up more of these tiles and add them to your collection. With the exception of question marks, which can represent anything but another question mark or blank spaces, tiles must be placed next to a similar icon to create a pair. If you get a complete square you can damage your reputation further. Each pair that corresponds to a blue card entitles you to 1 x the action on the card.
On the central board is a table which will allow you to select two symbols of your choice to create a new pair or finish two existing pairs to obtain their bonuses. Speaking of the middle area, in the middle are special cards which have multiple effects, such as Tea with Moriarty, where you lose two votes for each man in the orange column and can move them in any direction one space too. However, the only drawback is that you initially have to sacrifice a second errand boy, and take your pick from whatever spaces are available at the end.
The third strategy is not surprisingly a mixture of the both. Each round is split in to six phases. Set-up, errand boy placement, action phase (playing cards and losing popularity), Hyde park (losing influence), Dame Beatrice (unless you chose to negate her effects for yourself), and end of round (discarding any unclaimed cards on the board). The game is over when either someone reaches 0 reputation or influence or if the five rounds have ended.
Final Thoughts on The Prodigals Club
When I first played The Prodigals Club, the guy whom I brought the game from explained the game brilliantly and I fell in love with it straight away. I think it helped that I loved Brewster’s Millions. However, when I brought the game home, it was a different story. The game caused nothing but rows and headache’s the first few times that we played it. And we are a group that don’t usually argue.
The problems were caused by the number of different components to the game and the rule book being complicated for us simple folk to understand. We found that the rule book seemed to jump from place to place and left us with more questions than answers. However, as we played it more, we seemed to get the gist of the game.
The illustrations on the board and cards are of really high quality, the only bug bear was that I found it difficult to distinguish between the happy and angry / disgusted gentleman, but this does not detract from the game overall. The number of pieces in the box and the somewhat confusing rules to us, made it a very daunting game to play, and may put a few people off buying what is a very good game. However, the more you play it, the better the game becomes and the rules become a lot clearer. Either that, or we became better at improvising.
I really enjoy playing this game, but to be honest I am not the best person to explain games, which makes playing this game challenging with new people. If you are thinking of buying The Prodigals Club the best advice that I can give is to let the those who are clever at explaining things read the rules and explain it. The full version may be absolutely fantastic. However, at this stage I much prefer keeping the money out of the equation.