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You're the leader of a great nation which is currently expanding. Over the course of the seven decades covered by the game, you will have to invest in infrastructures and industries, provide your country with energy and finance the mercurial forces of research in order to remain competitive.
But prosperity has a price. You owe it to future generations to leave them a healthy world. Pollution lurks, but will you be able to limit it?
Prosperity has players building up their countries on a grand but abstract scale, with them needing to balance concerns over energy and ecology with the constant need for capital and the long-term goal of prosperity points.
The game starts with 24 tiles available, half on the energy side of the shared game board and half on the ecology side. Two tiles on each side are placed on levels 1-6, with the players each having two research markers – energy and ecology – that start at level 1. Each player has an individual game board with color-coded spaces for tiles, a pollution track, and tracks for energy and ecology. A stack of 36 tiles – with tiles arranged by decades: the six from 2030 on the bottom, then the five from 2020, and so on to the five from 1970 – is set up during the playing area.
On a turn, a player draws the top tile from the stack, then everyone resolves the symbol highlighted on the tile:
Energy – for a positive value, earn money; for a negative value, lose money or increase your pollution
Ecology – remove or add discs to your pollution track
Capital – earn money for each capital symbol on the tiles you own
Research – advance one research marker one space for each research symbol on tiles you own
Prosperity – score points for each prosperity symbol on tiles you own, but only if your pollution isn't maxed out
Once everyone has done this, the active player takes two actions, repeating an action if desired. The possible actions are:
Remove one pollution marker.
Move forward one space on one research track.
Buy a tile, with the amount owed being based on whether the tile is energy or ecology and the level of your corresponding research marker. If you buy a tile of the same level, the cost is €100; if the tile is of a higher level, you pay €100, plus €100 for each level; and if the tile is lower, you pay a flat €50.
Players have limited space for tiles on their individual boards, especially since the tiles and spaces are color-coded, but players can cover existing tiles, if desired, losing any benefits (or penalties) in the process. Some parts of the individual board are off-limits to new infrastructure until you first provide transport; toll roads, highways and even train systems have drawbacks of their own, but ideally you'll be able to build your way past those trouble spots without causing too much pollution.
When the final tile is drawn, that player finishes his turn, then everyone scores: twice for their energy and ecology levels, one for capital (with money being converted into prosperity points), once for research on both tracks (with points for those researching the most), and once for prosperity. Whoever tallies the most prosperity points wins!
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 60 or more minutes
Ages: 13 and up
Weight: 1,118 grams
Average Rating: 3 in 1 review
With a name like "Prosperity", you would think this game would be an economic game of high finance with the goal being to amass the largest personal fortunate as possible. Not exactly. Rather, players assume the roles of emerging nations who must invest in infrastructure and industry in order to pull their nation out of third world status and into the realm of economic giants. However, one must also be concerned about the environmental impact of such progress lest pollution create a hazardous atmosphere, making life there far from desirous.
For such an elaborate theme, the game is actually easy to learn, but quite challenging to play well. Each player receives a board that has space for up to eleven technology tiles. Several are pre-printed on the boards, so players do not begin from scratch. Players will place newly acquired technologies onto this board, sometimes covering existing technologies in their quest to move their nation forward. The boards are double-sided, offering different start-up options and difficulty levels. The board also provides charts wherein players track their energy, ecology and pollution levels, as well as helpful but cryptic charts listing the possible actions and final scoring sequence.
The central Research board serves to track players' progress in both energy and ecology research, as well as their prosperity (victory) points. Technology tiles are set in rows beside both sides of the research tracks, and players must progress to the appropriate levels in order to purchase various tiles. Of course, tiles at the higher levels are more valuable, but can cost more and require players to make tremendous progress on the appropriate research tracks. The game begins with twelve tiles beside each track, two on each level.
Technology tiles are at the heart of the game, so they warrant some explanation. Tiles are divided into separate stacks by decade, ranging from 1970 - 2030. Each tile depicts a unique advancement--solar power station, internet data center, atmospheric filtration, etc.--but unfortunately this is not named on the tile. Rather, one must consult the rules appendix to discover the names of the tiles. This is disappointing, as few will take that step. Having the actual names on the tiles would have added greatly to the atmosphere of the game.
Tiles have a specific color (usually blue, pink, yellow or green) and when acquired, must be placed on the player's board on a space of the matching color. Sometimes this may require covering a previously placed tile. There are a handful of special tiles which are not placed onto the player's board, but simply discarded after reaping the instant benefits they provide.
Additionally, each tile will depict positive and/or negative energy and/or ecology symbols. When a player acquires a tile, he must adjust his markers on the energy and ecology tracks on his player board accordingly. For example, if a player acquires the wind farm technology, he increases his energy three spaces, but is forced to decrease his ecology one space. Why a wind farm decreases ecology is beyond me. Most tiles will also depict symbols for research, prosperity and/or capital, which will benefit the player during the course of the game. More on this later.
The game turn follows a set action sequence.
Technology Tile. The top technology tile is revealed and the scoring symbol (if any) on the tile is announced. There are five types of scoring symbols: energy, ecology, capital, research and prosperity. Each decade has the same number and type of scoring symbols, so players can make some planning and calculated risks. Each player will reap the rewards--or pay the penalties--of this symbol based on their status on the appropriate tracks or their collection of technology tiles.
For example, if the scoring symbol is energy, a player will gain 50€ for each positive level of energy they have, or lose 100€ for each negative level. The ecology scoring symbol allows the player to remove markers from their pollution track for each positive level of ecology they have. This is important as it increases a player's prosperity points. If the player has completely emptied his track--an admirable feat--the player receives 50€ for each disk he would still need to remove if they were present. Failure to pay enough attention to ecology, however, will force the player to add a marker to their pollution track for each space below zero they are on their ecology track, usually resulting in lost prosperity points if the pollution level is too high. The capital scoring symbol rewards a player with money for each capital symbol they possess on their technology tiles, while the prosperity symbol rewards the player with a prosperity point for each prosperity symbol on their tiles. The research symbol allows the player to advance on the research tracks a number of spaces equal to the research symbols they have on their tiles. Advancing on the research track will allow the player to acquire more advanced technologies and at a cheaper cost. After resolving these adjustments, the tile is placed next to the research board on the appropriate side and level.
It is immediately evident that there are numerous factors a player must balance and attempt to optimize. Like all good games, however, it is nigh impossible to do them all, so decisions must be made.
Actions. Each player performs two actions.
Revenues. Take 100€ from the bank. Money can be tight, so this is occasionally a necessary action.
Cleanup. Remove the top marker from your pollution track. This is one method, albeit a slow one, to lower one's adverse impact on the environment.
Research. Move forward one square on one of the research tracks. As mentioned, steady advancement allows a player to purchase technology tiles at a better price and ultimately acquire more advanced technologies.
Tile Purchase. The player may purchase a technology tile. The cost of the tile is dependent upon the level of the tile and how far a player has advanced on the appropriate track. For example, a tile at the same level as the player's marker costs 100€, while a tile at a higher level costs an additional €100 per level. Tiles at a lower level cost only 50€. As mentioned, the higher level technologies tend to be more advantageous, so advancing up the research tracks is highly advantageous and financially wise.
A purchased tile, with the exception of the special tiles, is immediately placed on the player's board. It must be placed on a space of the matching color and can, if necessary or desired, be placed over an existing tile. The player must make any adjustments to his energy and ecology tracks, including deducting those depicted on any covered tile.
Players continue following this sequence, moving into new decades of technology tiles as needed. This continues until there are no further technology tiles remaining in the stacks, after which a final scoring is conducted.
Money is earned and tallied first. Both energy and ecology levels are tallied twice, as described above. Capital is tallied once, and players then receive one prosperity point for every 300€ they have amassed. Players then move forward on each research track a number of spaces equal to the number of research symbols on their technology tiles. The players furthest along on each track receive three prosperity points, while the players in second on each track receive one point. Finally, players earn points for the prosperity symbols on their tiles and pollution track. The player with the most prosperity points is victorious, with his city winning acclaim as the new utopia.
Prosperity is a juggling act, with players constantly forced to balance numerous factors. There is a constant need and desire for high energy production, but usually that results in an adverse ecological impact. Poor ecology translates into high pollution, which can be costly in terms of prosperity points. Conversely, boosting one's ecology level and reducing pollution is important, but usually results in lowering one's energy output. It is the classic "Catch 22". Likewise, players are constantly striving to increase their research, prosperity and capital levels, but acquiring tiles that allow the advancement in one of these categories often results in the covering of a previous tile, which can force a decrease in other areas. These dilemmas often result in tough choices.
Choosing which technology tile(s) to purchase can also be tough. In addition to the symbol dilemma mentioned above, players must also factor in the cost of the tiles as well as placement issues. The board has some spaces that only become available when an adjoining space is occupied, so it is usually a priority to get those spaces filled. More advanced technologies are always attractive and beneficial, but generally cost more until a player makes marked progress on the research tracks. Money is tight, so spending too freely will quickly deplete one's capital.
Prosperity is an engaging game, and quite difficult to play well. I enjoy the challenge of trying to balance all of the various factors, even though this sometimes can be frustrating. For me, however, it is not a terribly exciting game to play. There are dozens of turns in the game, most of which occur quickly, but each feels very similar to the previous turns. There is not much variety as the game progresses. There is no changing of gears or focus. As a result, there is a sense of sameness that develops. Further, there is a lot of record keeping and chart adjustments, which can grow a bit fiddly and tedious.
Fortunately, the game plays fairly quickly, playing to completion in an hour or so. There are important decisions to be made throughout, and a player's ultimate fate is predominantly determined by his own actions. Luck, which is only present in the order the technology tiles appear, plays only a minor role. The theme is certainly of current relevance and should appeal to many folks. Prosperity is certainly a fine game, one that I would be happy to occasionally play. It doesn't send my gaming juices flowing, but it is still a pleasant way to spend time at the gaming table.
Prosperity is designed by Reiner Knizia and Sebastian Bleasdale, and published by Ystari Games.
Special thanks to Lacxox for the excellent photos of the game, as well as his permission to use them in this review.