The Prodigals Club is a worker placement board game for two to five players ages 14 and up. It’s designed by Valdimír Suchy and published by Czech Games Edition. It plays in 40 to 90 minutes, depending on the number of players and the configuration of the game.
It is set to be released soon with a suggested price of $49.95. It can be preordered online at several board game retailers for about $32.
The Prodigals Club can be combined with Suchy’s Last Will, but the game stands alone.
In The Prodigals Club, players are rich Victorian gentlemen who are bored and decide that scandalizing society, losing votes in an election their fathers have bought for them, and getting rid of all their money and possessions is more fun than living a respectable life.
So they have a contest to do just that.
How it works:
There are three separate but interworking games in The Prodigals Club. Players can use any two competitions or all three. They may also use Last Will’s board instead of the board for the possessions competition.
In all three competitions, players use errand boys (in the form of hat tokens) to collect cards or do certain actions available on the board. Once those actions are taken — with the exception of a few — no other player may take that action.
There are symbols on cards and tiles that are common to all three competitions and that give players benefits if they’re in combination with the right cards.
In the society competition, players are trying to lose their reputation, moving two gentlemen and two ladies tokens down a three-column grid. They do that by collecting and then playing cards that allow them to move the tokens, often in combination with symbols they’ve collected.
In the election competition, they are using cards and actions to lose votes, the more the better. They can also collect megaphones, hoping to lose more votes and force their opponents to gain a vote.
In the possessions competition, players trade their possessions with others on the board worth less. they can also sell their possessions at a discount, with more discounts available depending on the cards they play.
After sending out their errand boys, players play their cards. Some are permanent and can be used once each turn. Others are one-time use, but often give exponential benefits, depending on which cards they are played with.
At the end of five rounds, players calculate their score in each of the competitions. Only their highest score remains. The player with the lowest highest score wins.
Why you might buy The Prodigals Club:
This is an amazing game. It has a couple of spatial puzzles, it forces you to combine cards. There’s always a good choice in the game, but maximizing your choices and balancing them is key to winning.
The theme and the art are funny and well executed.
It’s not the easiest game to grasp from its 12-page rulebook, mainly because there are three distinct rule sets, but once you understand the game, it’s not hard to play.
That said, it is hard to win.
Because of the random cards, you have to adjust to what’s coming at you, especially at first.
Everything works together. The Prodigals Club could have been a huge mess, and instead it’s seamless.
Why you might not buy The Prodigals Club:
There’s a reason this game is recommended for ages 14 and up.
This is a game about men behaving badly. It’s tastefully done, but there is nudity and drunkenness portrayed in the art. If that offends, you definitely shouldn’t buy this game.
It’s a bit tough to learn. It will take patience and probably watching the instructional video to figure out how to set it up. (The rulebook has a code for the video.) Once you do figure it out, it will run like clockwork, but there are lots of parts to keep track of.
There’s not much interaction with other players. The good thing about that is that it’s not mean. There are no direct attacks. But you may feel like you’re playing alone.
There is quite a bit of luck for a strategy game. If good cards come your way early and you’re the first player, you can have an edge for the entire game.
The Prodigals Club is beautifully designed, and it’s a hoot to play.
The art gets me into the world without having any narrative. (Of course, you’re upsetting the conservative newspapers when you draw a face on the queen.)
The first time I played, I felt completely overwhelmed. The second time, though, I wondered why. Once I got it, I wasn’t sure why I was so confused.
The card art is a small issue for me since I have little kids. It’s tough to decide whether I want to keep this one in the house and just not let the kids near it. But I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to friends without kids — and then ask if I can borrow it from time to time.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of The Prodigals Club from Czech Games Edition. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.