Where There's a Will
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The Duke is writing his last Will and Testament.. and everything is up for grabs.
Charm, lies, cunning and blackmail -- use all of these to inherit what you deserve.
So leave your good manners and fine breeding behind, in Where There's a Will.
Interesting folks, these Ragnars. Addressing topics as grandiose as the History of the World and as quaint as a hike in the English countryside, this team has created a niche for interesting, often well researched, and nicely if humbly produced games. But card games have not been their style, until now that is. These two games follow the Ragnar's Kings and Castles which was a bit of a fringe hit, and the card games are more casual and family-oriented than most of their other output.
[page 13933#007340]jump to Blooming Gardens review
Where There's a Will
That's because the second game, Where There's a Will, is truly curious. Players attend the reading of a Will, and their goal is to collect the most valuable set of assets from the estate. This is done through the use of two types of Cards - Guests and Damage. Each round, three items from the estate are up for grabs, and the three players with the most valuable single guest cards get awarded the goods. Damage cards are used to improve your own set of Guests or hopefully hurt another player's.
Each player starts with three Guest cards, 10 pounds worth of coins (value, not weight for the non-UK crew), and three Damage cards. The money can then be used to buy up to three more Damage cards, and since these cards are the engine of the game it is likely that everyone will buy at least one extra. Play then commences as players play one Damage card per turn until everyone passes. Then, the Guest Cards are revealed and the Will is disbursed.
The Damage cards rule the day, so understanding some of them will give a better idea of what the game is about. Most are simple: tell another player to discard one Guest Card, draw another Guest Card for yourself, take money from another player, have everyone discard a certain type of Guest, etc. Some Damage Cards say "Block" on them; as you'd expect, these can be played out of turn to block another player's Damage Card effect on you. Some change the value of other cards, for example "Sons" and "Heirs" Guest Cards are typically worth 11 points each, virtually ensuring some of the loot. One Damage Card reduces their value to one from 11, an excellent play if you get the card and don't have any applicable Guests.
The result is a random free for all, where the only real strategy is to get the right Damage Cards and hopefully draw some good Guests to start out. The items from the Will vary from cheap one-value goods like the Chamberpot up to the Stately Home worth eight points on its own. Since three items are available at any time, the order of these is important, as sometimes being second or third place is almost as good as being first, whereas other times this is far from the case. Beyond this, the game is best as a family game where everyone can have some fun but not take anything too seriously. Yet, the theme of a Will reading is certainly odd stuff for a family game, and the Damage Cards promote behavior that most parents wouldn't want to instill in youngsters. This leaves the game in kind of a no-man's land market-wise. It's not that Where There's a Will doesn't work - the relevant question is "why bother?"
Both games are produced with good quality card stock and clear rule sheets, but oddly Where There's a Will comes with three separate booklets, one for a Short Game, one for the Full game, and a Sample Game. Each is only a single sheet folded over, so this is not really excessive, but for the type of game it still seems like overkill. It seems as if Blooming Gardens was the primary game for publication, since it uses more color in the cards and the rules, and clearly requires more thought. I applaud the Ragnars for trying the card game route, but their talents are clearly better when applied to more weighty stuff.