Prodigal Ambition

After a quick rematch of Small World with 8-year-old J (he beat me again, 105–95 this time, even with my Ghouls), John Sh and I met for our now almost weekly Corbridge Gamers. Essen – and my birthday – having just passed, there was new stuff galore to choose from. We started with the newest arrival, which had turned up on my doorstep that very morning: the new Roll for the Galaxy expansion, Ambition.

Choosing to leave out the optional Objective tiles for now (as John pointed out, it’s not like it doesn’t get played a lot, so there’s plenty of opportunity to add them in future), there wasn’t a huge amount of new stuff to explain. It’s really just the addition of double-phase Leader and Entrepreneur dice, along with the many, many new starting faction and home world tiles. (Five new tiles to the draw bag doesn’t really seem worth mentioning.)

And so it played out feeling pretty much like vanilla RollftG, with the exception of very occasionally getting to put a black or orange die straight back into the cup. The black Leader die we each started with obviously added a tiny bit of flexibility to our dice assignments (after all, the double-phase faces give you a choice of two places to put the die), so it did feel a little bit easier to do what I wanted and to the extent that I wanted to do it. Also, the Leader die behaving like a purple die for shipping purposes is a pretty major thing; I racked up some early VPs that way.

You start with a black die (replacing one of the five white dice in the base game), so that's a wild face from the outset as well as the extra flexibility afforded by the dual-phase faces.

You start with a black die (replacing one of the five white dice in the base game), so that’s a wild face from the outset as well as the extra flexibility afforded by the dual-phase faces.

I kept myself in cash by completing planets with pairs of green and red dice (my faction gave me $2 when I did so), plus occasionally shipping from my yellow world for $6, and John stayed solvent with his faction power which gave him $2 for each good on a green world at the end of the Produce phase. Plenty of cash meant I could settle new worlds pretty quickly, giving me extra dice and new opportunities to Produce and Ship; a development giving me +1 VP for shipping from a brown world was a handy bonus. I just skipped ahead on the Shipping game which, along with my relatively expensive worlds, tipped me just ahead in the final scoring, triggered by the VP pool running out.

Final score – Me: 38 / John: 36

Like I said, fairly vanilla-feeling. Adding the Objectives next time should shake things up quite a bit.

We followed up with a follow-up: Vladimir Suchý’s The Prodigals Club, his 2015 sequel to 2011’s Last Will. I’ve enjoyed Last Will a couple of times, although reliance on a random card draw did irk me last timeThe Prodigals Club mitigates that randomness hugely. There’s no opportunity to draw blind from a deck of cards; rather, all available cards are drawn at the start of each round. That means it’s all meaningful, tough worker-placement decisions from the outset, and plenty of them.

The Prodigals Club comes with three modules (Election, Society and Possessions), of which you can choose two for each play, or you can play with all three, or even play with two modules and use Last Will in its entirety as the third. (That final option seems to me like a special kind of madness.) We went with the suggested first-play option of Election and Society modules which naturally means, in true Last Will style, that we were trying to lose an election and offend everybody in polite society. Of course, just doing one of those things isn’t good enough, so there’s scoring à la Knizia: your final score that actually counts is the worse (i.e. higher – start thinking backwards now) of your two module scores.

The fun comes from queueing up big combos of cards, so that this thing gives you that, which moves those down to there so you can do the other with these… Getting to that point is a bit of a battle, but all in a good way. Everything’s interconnected, so decisions you make to primarily influence the election competition can also have a knock-on effect in society and vice-versa. I took an early lead in losing the election and managed to start my four society markers on their journey down the scoring ladder. (This is where I wish I’d taken pictures. There’s a fun little geometric shuffling game there, wanting to keep the four markers out of each others’ way while also paying attention to Dame Beatrice – who can apply “penalties” every round because she thinks that you’re really a lovely person at heart – and positioning markers to take advantage of the icons they land on.)

John eventually managed to string together the mother of all combos, involving offending Conservatives and Liberals while getting into several arguments and annoying everyone in polite society too. My previously unhealthy-looking election score was suddenly far too healthy, and John managed to get both of his scores under zero in the fourth round. Just one score hitting zero is enough to trigger the end of the game, so I didn’t get the chance to stage a comeback (not that I’d have been able to).

Final score – John: -6 / Me: 9

Yes, the worse of John’s two scores was -6. I think the other one was -9. My society score was down to -2, I think, but my election scuppering slowed down in the third and fourth rounds. Overall, I liked The Prodigals Club substantially more than Last Will, and I already liked Last Will a fair bit. Looking forward to another shot at it!

The week ended with the arrival of my Sierra Madre Games (i.e. Phil Eklund) pre-order package, containing Pax Porfiriana Collector’s EditionPax Pamir (sequel of sorts to Porfiriana) and Neanderthal (sequel/prequel of sorts to Greenland). That should take up my entire rules-learning brain quota for the month. Getting them played is another matter – EklundFest 2.0 on the horizon, maybe…

2 thoughts on “Prodigal Ambition

  1. John

    There’s some gloriously fine engine building in The Prodigals Club… it gives you a real sense of glee when you manage to pull off a particularly convoluted string of interlocking moves. I’ve only played it twice so far (and both times with the society/politics combo), but I’ve really enjoyed both games – there’s a deceptive amount of weight to it.

    Reply

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