Category: Worker Placement
Designer: Vladimír Suchý
Publisher: Czech Games Edition (2011 English edition)
Year Published: 2011
Playing Time: 45-75 mins.
To Play or Not To Play: Play
Your wealthy uncle has died, and now you and your cousins have gathered to hear his last will. Impending mortality made him realize that you can’t take your money with you . He never had the chance to truly enjoy the fruits of his labor. The only worthy inheritor of his fortune will be someone who understands what it means to seize the day and live life to fullest. To that end, a small portion of the inheritance will be paid out to each descendant, and they will have seven weeks to spend as much of it as possible. The first one to spend it all, or whoever has spent the most after seven weeks, wins the rest of the fortune!
I love explaining the premise to Last Will. Just read that paragraph again. Carpe diem! Sure, it’s wasteful and decadent, but it’s also a delightful fantasy! And even better, Last Will is one of those rare games that turn traditional gaming expectations on their head. You don’t want to earn money; you have to spend it! And yet, Last Will does not make it easy as easy to spend your money as you would expect!
Mechanically, Last Will is a worker placement game, but it doesn’t follow the conventional pattern of worker placement games like Agricola, Lords of Waterdeep, or Ex Libris. You don’t just have a set of workers who you send out to take actions for you. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first thing that happens each round is the players have to each select a plan for the week. They do this by taking turns placing a marker on the plan board. This board is arranged into several columns, each with a different value listed for each of the three phases of the week. The first is how many cards you’ll draw at the beginning of your turn. The second is how many errand boys (1 or 2) you’ll be able to use to conduct business in town. And the third is how many actions you’ll be able to take at the end of your turn. Additionally, your position on the planning board also determines the turn order for that week. The marker furthest to the left goes first, and so on down the line.
Cards in Last Will come in multiple varieties: properties, events, helpers, and companions. Each of these can help you spend your money in different ways. For example, events generally cost money to throw, but will cost even more money if you bring along some companions. As soon as you select a column with your planning marker, you immediately draw that many cards from the four decks in any combination.
Once the planning phase is finished, the players collect their errand boys (the markers shaped like top hats). Starting with the first player, they each take turns placing one errand boy on a space on the town board. Most of the spaces hold face-up cards that the player can add to their hand. Some of these cards are just extra cards from the four decks, some are from the “special deck” that you’re not allowed to draw from otherwise, and one is a “wild” companion card that you can use if you just can’t seem to draw the right companion.
But there are other places your errand boys can go too. You can send them to purchase opera tickets, which just lets you spend two bucks. Or you can send them to the real estate market to make some adjustments. Remember, your goal is to spend as much money as possible, so buy high and sell low! You can also send an errand boy to draw a random card from one of the decks, or to add an extension tile to your player board. Why is that useful? You’ll see . . .
Once all the errand boys have been placed, we move to the action phase. This is the meat of the game. Based on the planning board, each player will have some number of actions. A player can use their actions to play a card from their hand or to activate a card on their player board. Helpers and Properties are permanent cards. They generally have a cost to play them, and then they sit on your player board for the rest of the game. Once they’re on your board, you can spend an action to use whatever effect is printed on the card.
Events are one-time use cards, so you use an action to play them and then they are discarded. Generally, events will give you the option to discard companions to make the event more expensive. Some events let you spend additional actions to make the event more expensive as well.
At the end of the round, each player has discards down t just two cards in hand before returning to the planning phase once again. The first player gets first pick of the planning options, but they cannot pick the same column they were in last time, so another player could take the first player space. Not going first isn't a huge drawback in this game, though, and you can still win even if you spend the entire game shut out of the early turn order options.
What makes Last Will so much fun is how it taps into conventional board game strategies while also flipping the standard gaming narrative upside-down. Your goal isn’t to build the most efficient farm or to craft a long-term engine. Your goal is to squander your money as quickly as possible. And, at the end of the day, that’s just a really fun puzzle to solve.
For an hour, you get to be a wealthy socialite: someone who has so much wealth that they can afford to squander it without any risk of harm. Who care where it came from? It’s time to pour it into the local economy! Buy expensive properties and ignore any upkeep or maintenance until property values hit rock bottom. Invest your money in expensive ventures like horse- and dog-racing stables. Throw lavish parties! This is not the kind of game where you have to worry about feeding your workers, they’ll be fine. Just focus on planning the perfect boat ride with a beautiful romantic interest, your horse, and a world-class chef. Yes, that’s a thing you can do in this game.
Last will is silly and delightful, but it conceals a remarkably challenging puzzle. It can be quite difficult to spend your last ten bucks if you don’t plan your turn correctly! So while you’re having fun throwing parties and making dinner reservations at fancy restaurants, you need to think through your plan to next week’s expenditures.
This game also features some delightfully cheerful art of wealthy nineteenth century European people. They’re all having a grand old time because you are paying them a lot of money and throwing them some delightful parties. How can you resist?
Last Will is a delightful piece of escapism. For an hour, you can spend some time in a world where your bad decisions are rewarded and your most decadent fantasies can come true. And, if you start finding the game’s basic puzzle a little too simple, you can throw in an extra twist where each player starts the game with a different amount of money! The player who starts with the most will have a more challenging puzzle than the others, but everyone’s money total is secret, so you never know how close someone might be to ending the game. There’s no room for dillying or dallying! You’ve got to spend spend spend!
One final note: this game has an expansion too. I’ve never played it, but the premise alone sounds really fun. In the expansion, you also have a job. That’s right, now you also MAKE money each turn. And your boss is extremely sympathetic to the loss of your beloved uncle, so he’s remarkably willing to overlook your mistakes, late arrivals, and other faux pas as you try and get yourself fired! It sounds like a challenging and hilarious addition to a delightful game.
If it’s not clear already, I like this game a lot. The combination of a hilarious theme with a challenging puzzle makes it stand out among many other worker placement games. You should absolutely play this game.