Are you good at spending money? I mean lots and lots of money, enough to buy mansions and hire out butlers and still have more to blow. But that’s the whole point, you’re uncle made it his last wish (or will) that his relatives should enjoy the vast wealth that he never got to enjoy himself. And whoever is the best at spending his hard earned cash the fastest will inherit the rest of his fortune. So get ready to go for broke. Like they say, you’ve got to spend money to make money.
How It Works
You can start off the explanation of most euro games by saying “the goal of this game is to get the most points/money/prestige.” Last Will puts a twist on this by tasking the players to instead spend all of their money. In fact, the winner is the player that has gone furthest into debt at the end of the game.
The players start the game with a randomly determined amount of money which they may spend by using the four different types of cards in the game: Events, Properties, Helpers/Expenses, and Companions. But before doing so they must first plan out their day by selecting a spot on the planning track. Beginning with the start player each player selects an available spot on the track. This track sets turn order and provides various different bonuses for the following turn, the spots further to the left go sooner but provide fewer bonuses. The bonuses provided are card draw, a number of errand boys to do your bidding, and a number of actions that may be taken.
After planning their day the players may send out their errand boys to do various takes on the board. Most of the tasks involve gaining a specific card that is face up on the board, some of which are very powerful and can only be acquired this way. Other tasks include spending money at the opera, manipulating the property market, and receiving personal board extensions.
The last part of the turn is when the players get to use the actions provided during the planning phase. These actions allow players to play and activate cards which is the main way that they will be spending money. There are three categories of cards in the game each with a different colored border to help distinguish how they are used. First are white bordered cards which represent Events that incur a one time expense and are then discarded. These cards indicate how many actions will be used up and how much money will be spent by doing so.
The second type are black bordered cards which are played to a personal board (for an action) and once in play may be activated for a price. Helpers, a type of black bordered cards, also provide a special ability while in play such as spending more money when using certain types of cards. Properties, another type, must be payed for when they are played and allow for a maintenance expense or can be neglected and depreciate. Either way before a player can go into debt they must sell all their Properties (hopefully for a lower price than they were purchased for).
The last type of cards are blue bordered and represent Companions that can augment both white and black cards. When used with an Event (white) they are discarded along with the Event to make it more expensive, such as taking a lady out for dinner. When used with an Expense or Property (black) they are discarded and a token is added to the card to indicate that a Companion has joined you, such as getting a horse for your farm. This makes activating those cards more expensive.
The game ends after the action phase in which at least one player has no money left and no properties. The player that has gone the furthest into debt is the winner and inherits the fortune promised in your uncle’s will.
Will You Inherit The Fortune?
One of the things that I enjoy about Tableau Building games is that they provide the players with many different paths to victory by allowing them to build up a unique engine. Last Will provides lots of different ways for the players to spend their money through the various different card types. The central engine components lie in the Helper and Companion cards both of which boost the efficiency and spending power of your cards. There are Helper cards for lots of different strategies and they will often help set a player’s focus. Getting them into play early is often key and will really help maximize your actions.
It’s possible to view the idea of spending money rather than earning points as a bit of a gimmick. After all there’s not much difference in racing for a high score versus starting at a certain value and racing down to zero. However I would argue that this system creates a number of unique advantages. First of all it acts as an intuitive timer for the game, when someone hits zero money the game is over. It’s easy to keep track of how much money everyone has and give you a good idea of how quickly the game is going to end. Second of all it reflect the theme extremely well and makes explaining the various cards in the game very easy. It’s pretty intuitive to understand that buying a property costs money and after that you can either pay someone to maintain it or neglect it and sell it for a loss.
Additionally the presence of properties creates an interesting tension in building up your engine that is designed to make you broke. You can use properties as a source of expense but at some point you’re going to need to sell that property before you can go into debt, but without the property you no longer have the expense that it provided. Investing in properties early is the easiest way to spend money quickly but it soon becomes unreliable when your engine falls apart as you sell off your properties.
Last Will heavily utilizes icons which nicely reflects interaction between cards but as with most games that use icons it provides for a bit of a learning curve. I’m generally a fan of using icons instead of text so I might be a bit biased in praising Last Will for it’s intuitive and clean use of icons. To me both the board and cards are designed in a very clever and consistent way to get across all the necessary information simply and still leave room for the fantastic artwork that immerses you in the game. Whenever you are required to use an Action for something there is a red “A” reminding you to do so. Likewise a blue “A” indicates that you will be gaining actions. All cards have their associated expense at the top along with any companions that might be used to boost this cost. There is also a symbol in the upper left corner of all cards that indicates what type of card it is for easy matching with cards that boost expenses for certain types.
However I will note that the icons will either cause a longer rules explanation if your group likes to know exactly what everything means or require liberal use of the icon reference sheet during your first couple of games. This can be slightly disappointing because I think that the game could go over very well with a variety of audiences due to the theme but the presence of icons can alienate some people before you even start playing.
Another unfortunate consequence of the design is that the planning phase can cause some amount of AP and will often be the only point at which the game slows down. The reason for this is that you will often want to consider what you’re going to do on your turn (including what you want to do with your errand boys and what cards you want to play and activate) before you can know how many cards, errand boys, and actions you might want or when in the turn order you’d like to go. In essence you can almost plan out your whole turn in your head during the planning phase and then the rest of the turn flies by as you execute this plan. It’s almost an unnatural pause in the game as everyone thinks really hard rather than just playing. It can be a bit taxing and definitely benefits those who are willing to take a little longer to think out their turn.
In the end I think it’s worth the break in action for the planning phase since clever planning often ends up being the key deciding factor in Last Will. As players gain experience the planning phase tends to speed up since certain spots are obviously better for pursuing specific goals. The natural flow of the planning phase into the rest of the turn can be thought of in a similar way to how role selection comes at the start of the turn in many games and largely dictates the strategies being pursued.