Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Prodigals Club (Czech Games Edition)

In order to be a "proper gentleman," you must hold public office, not squander your money, and speak politely at formal dinners. In summation, you must be an absolute stick in the mud. After years of being an absolute bore, you and a group of friends have decided to cut loose and have some fun and create The Prodigals Club. The Prodigals Club is a secret fraternity of young gentlemen trying to tick off the upper crust of society as much as possible. They will do this by losing votes in an election, getting rid of everything they own, and infuriating as many influential people as possible. The Prodigals Club is a game for 2-5 players, aged 14+. It takes 40-90 minutes to play and retails for $49.95.

Setup - There are three separate Competitions included in this game. It is recommended to use two until you know the game really well. I will teach you the setup for two players, using the recommended first game setup Election and Society Competitions.
1. Set up the Central Board by placing it on the correct side for the number of players.
2. Place the Round Counter, Renaissance Man tile, and four Bonus Action Tiles on the Central Board.
3. From the collection of cards, find the five Central Cards that you will use, depending on what competitions you are competing in. Shuffle the two white-bordered Central Cards and place them face down on the Central Board. Then, shuffle the three black-bordered Central Cards and place them face down on top of the white-bordered ones.
4. Place the Society Game Board to the left of the Central Board with the Dame Beatrice Tiles shuffled and placed face down on their spot.
5. Place the Election Game Board to the right of the Central Board with the Political Circle Tiles shuffled and placed in the manner that the single-icon stack is on top of the double-icon stack.
6. Place the Election Scoreboard above the Central Board.
6. Set up Player Boards and Errand Boys by having each player choose a color and giving them a player board and five Errand Boys (top hat tokens) in that same color.
7. Each player then places his Vote Counter on the Election Scoreboard space number 42.
8. Each player places has his own Society Scoreboard and Influence Markers, which are put on the three sixteen spaces (going man, woman, man) with the final woman going on the first fourteen space.
9. Player order is randomly determined and placed on the numbered spaces in the middle of the Central Board and the first player takes a one vote handicap.
Game Play - There are six phases in every round.
1. Setup - Each game board has three to four spaces that require cards. On these spaces, you will see what kind of cards needed and how many. Reveal the cards for the spaces and also turn over the top card on the Central Board. (See Setup #3 above.) Deal four Political Circle Tiles to their space and reveal the top Dame Beatrice Tile.
2. Errands - Take turns placing Errand Boys on unoccupied spaces and immediately perform the corresponding errand.
3. Actions - In turn order, each player gets one turn to play actions. Actions are represented by cards and you can play as many as you want on your turn in any order.
4. Hyde Park - Here you count up the number of megaphones each player has earned this round. The appropriate number of votes lost is then awarded to each player.
5. Dame Beatrice - Here you resolve the Dame Beatrice Tile and move up your Influence Markers as indicated by the tile.
6. End of Round -
a. Check for the end of the game. This happens if a person's score drops below in any competition or if five rounds have passed.
b. Mark the new player order based on whether or not they placed an Errand Boy on a numbered Errand Boy space.
c. Clear the player boards of any white-bordered cards that they played this round. Discard your hand size down to four. Remove all cards and tiles from the game boards.
d. Advance the round marker to the next space and begin the next round with the round setup again.

1. In the Election Competition, your score is marked on the Election Scoreboard. You can have a maximum of 44, and there is no minimum, so your score can be negative.
2. In the Society Competition, your score is based on your player board. Add together all the values under your four markers. This too could be negative.
3. Determine which competition has the highest score. This will be your final score. The lowest score among players is the winner with a tie being broken by the second highest score.

The Prodigals Club is a medium-weight worker placement and hand management style game with a bit of an economic theme. However, the twist in this game is that you are trying to lose points, not gain points. The fact that you are trying to lose points messed with me a couple of times, because it goes against everything I know about gaming. What I really like best about this game is that it is condensed to five rounds. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it is an action-packed five rounds of trying to build your engine efficiently and then destroy it at just the right moments. The theme doesn't always come through with everything you are doing, but it has a strong enough presence that with a little effort on your part and some fake accents, you can make it a funny experience.

As with all Czech Games Edition products, the components in this game are of high quality. You aren't just putting cubes on a board, but placing elegant top hats. The cards are also superb, because the illustrations is very hoity-toity in a good way. I also liked the replay value of this game. With three modules, you can mix and match which two you play with and give yourself three different variations to play with, or if you are feeling brave, go for all three! The game is also a stand alone prequel to Last Will, and if you want an even more ambitious game, it is able to be combined with Last Will.

Where this game suffered for me was the time it takes to play it. Unfortunately for me, my game group seems to be made up of people who suffer from analysis paralysis. The game itself is straight-forward, as are the moves, but you are presented with a lot of choices that can make some very interesting combos. Because of these choices and the analysis of combos, it's no wonder people can overthink this game. The game can play up to five players, but I generally only play it with two because I don't want a game to go on forever. This isn't necessarily a criticism of the game, more a tip to be aware of who you will play it with. So if you are looking for a worker placement game with a somewhat sinister/mischievous theme and a unique scoring system, I invite you to check out The Prodigals Club.

This game was provided to me by Czech Games Edition in exchange for an honest review.