Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Vladimir Suchy

CGE Games

No. of Players:
2 - 5



Gamebox author Doug Adams writes about the game:

The Prodigals Club is a board game, for two to four players, designed by Vladimír Suchy, and published by CGE Games in 2015. The game is a medium to heavy complexity European board game, themed in Victorian England. The players are young, accomplished and well-to-do gentlemen who have a wonderful, entitled future in front of them. The trouble is they don't want that, and compete to destroy their wealth, political prospects, and reputation in society!


The game is very reminiscent of an earlier game from the same designer, Last Will. In that game, players are set to inherit the fortune of an uncle, but only if they can prove their wastrel ways by losing a stipend in as fast a manner as possible. This game is pitched in the same manner, and indeed, you can combine the two games together to play a large enhanced version of The Prodigals Club.


The game is nicely produced, with solid European production values. The game box is a standard bookshelf sized box, and it contains a lot of components. Full sized cards, nice "top hat" wooden playing pieces, lots of cardboard counters, and fourteen game boards!


Three of the game boards feature three aspects of Victorian society that these player/gentlemen inhabit. These three boards are to do with the Election Competition, the Society Competition, and the Possessions Competition. In any one game you use any two of these boards, in any combination, or if you want to play a full game, you include all three. The rules recommend playing two competition games when first learning the rules, and this is sound advice, as the three competition game is quite busy, and takes a lot of table space.

Each of these Competitions are a bit like a mini-game in isolation, with their own scoring rules, however they interact with the other boards and game components through the use of symbols representing a player's holdings - horses, wine, dogs, yachts, manor houses, and so on.


The Election Competition represents the gentlemen in their local constituency trying to get elected. You begin the game with around 40 votes "in the bag". Your job is to destroy your chances by lowering your votes through a series of boozy, drunken speeches in Hyde Park, that offend both the Liberals and Conservatives. As with all three competitions, the lower you can get your votes, the better your chances are of winning.

The Society Competition pitches the gentlemen into the world of Pride and Prejudice type balls, soirées, picnics and so on. You have four acquaintances who begin the game thinking the world of you, and move and jink up and down a three column scoring track. Through a series of faux pas and generally boorish behaviour, their good opinion of you will fall. In the words of Elizabeth Bennett, once this is lost, it's lost forever. The interfering Dame Beatrice attempts to prove the exception to this rule, though.

The Possessions Competition begins with the gentlemen having wealth, and the finer things in life. A superb horse, hunting dogs, a yacht, manor, and so on. Your job is to dispose of all this by the end of the game through trades, sales and generally dodgy dealings.


The Prodigals Club initially appears to be a complex looking, busy game. However once you begin playing, it flies along. It is one of those games that is mechanically quite straightforward, but the complexity comes from how the various mechanisms interact. Personally, I tend to enjoy these sorts of games - you leave the rule book on the table, and concentrate on the strategy.

A turn of The Prodigals Club flows like this, and let's assume we are playing the full, three competition game.

  1. At the beginning of each turn, you reset the various game boards. You deal new cards and components onto the three competition boards, as well as reset the master game boards in the middle of the table (these record the game turn, and have a few components that influence the other three game boards).

  2. Players then take turns sending out their "Errand Boys" to the various game boards around the table to action actions. This is standard worker placement stuff - you place a nice top hat pawn, take the action which earns you some cards or tiles, and denies it to your opponents. In the full game, there are a lot of options here, and many different strategies to explore. You generally want to acquire components that complete sets of icons (horses, yachts, etc), which makes you more efficient when it comes to taking actions .... which is next.

  3. Players, in player order, then take all their actions that they want. Taking actions generally means playing cards collected in the Errand Boy phase, or held over from previous turns. Cards can either be black or white - black cards are held for as long as you like and grant actions and trigger abilities for the remainder of the game, while white cards are one use cards. Actions are where you "lose your stuff" in the three completions - votes, standing in society, cash and possessions. This is the meat of the game, and it's very rewarding to pull off wonderful combinations of icons and card play to make a huge gain .... err ... loss in the game.

  4. If the Election Competition is in play, players resolve the Hyde Park phase. Here players total any megaphone symbols they had in play during this turn, which players losing or gaining votes based on their relative standings. These represent inflammatory speeches to the locals, which of course lose you votes.

  5. If the Society Competition is in play, Dame Beatrice comes out and tries to talk you up to your acquaintances. This is precisely what you don't want. The interfering biddy is represented by a tile that indicates which of your four acquaintances actually think better of you and increase your score, rather than sending it in the desired direction (down!). You get the entire turn to see what Beatrice has planned, and can move your acquaintances out of her range, to minimise the impact of old trot.

  6. At the end of the turn, you clear the board of any components that were not taken this turn, in anticipation for the next turn.

The game ends after five turns, but can be triggered earlier if a player reaches zero or lower in any of the three Competitions. Players total up their score in the Competitions, and their final score is their highest of these. The player with the lowest score wins the game - a very Knizian thing that has been appearing since Euphrates und Tigris - nearly 20 years ago.


I have found The Prodigals Club to be a very amusing and entertaining game. It is an "engine building" game where you are trying to be efficient, however you are running this engine in reverse. Essentially you are running three seperate engines as each Competition has specific rules, and feature spatial/positional play, tile laying, and so on. In some ways it reminds me of a less complex version of Bruxelles 1893, or one of the designers previous games, Shipyard - lots of systems interacting here.

If you distill the game down, it is mostly about builing up sets of symbols, that will interact with your cards that you collect during the turn, or have previously collected. You are allowed to hold over four cards from turn to turn, and store six black reusable cards, so planning "super turns" that feature nice combinations is something to strive for. When you pull it off, you get a nice little burst of gaming endorphins - which is a little odd considering you are destroying your wealth, as well as political and society prospects!


The presentation of the game is very well done, and I found the art on the cards to be highly amusing. The series of illustrations on the cards on the Possessions Competition are a particular highlight - be careful where you put your plate of food down! The Victorian period is delightfully spoofed here - we just need a rakish Harry Flashman card to complete it for me.

Despite being daunting on first inspection, The Prodigals Club is a straightforward Euro game. You only need one turn to see how it all hangs together and you will be fine. We dove straight into the three competition game and had no problems after the first turn. The rules recommend playing a two competition game for the first game or two, and that is sound advice to new players, or gamers not used to heavier games. Veteran players can jump straight into the full game, and will find a challenging, thinky game awaiting them. Allocate two hours of you gaming budget for your first game, but expect playing time to rapidly drop as you become accustomed to the mechanics and components.

I have not played the game combined with Last Will, so I can't comment on that. Personally, I have no inclination to try that out, as there is plenty of game inside The Prodigals Club box for me.

The Prodigals Club is an amusing, and excellent, game. Thoroughly recommended.

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Copyright © 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany