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Board Game Review – Prosperity

prosperityI am firmly convinced that games should be pretty. In fact, I am introducing legislation that will require that unattractive games be sent immediately to professional government artists who will make them all sexy so that they can be consumed by the public at large, and not offend those of us who have an aversion to mismatched color palettes and poor font choices. Overuse of faux-metal gradients and inconsistent illustrations will incur fines and possibly visits from NSA assassins. And the first game to be sent to a rehabilitation camp will be Prosperity, because it is too big a title to be this homely.

Prosperity is designed by Reiner Knizia and another guy. I don’t recognize the other guy’s name, but the game has Reiner’s stink all over it. Fortunately, the other guy managed to wedge his own work in there, so while this is still a game without luck where you often find yourself doing basic math, it also has something resembling a theme that could not be easily replaced with sewer rats competing to steal poop. Sadly, neither of the designers is an artist, or if they are, they didn’t put much effort into this one, so Prosperity is a very clever game with some tough decisions that looks like it should not be any fun at all. It is a good game. It just doesn’t look like it.

In Prosperity, you’re all various European nations competing to become the best country. Of course, this is like that thing where Americans like to claim that we are the best country, but can’t point to any particular thing we do better than everyone else. So instead of having various barometers like access to healthcare and infant mortality rates, you just have a single gauge, which, interestingly enough, is called prosperity. So the goal of Prosperity is to have the most prosperity. Which just stands to reason.

Various things will improve your prosperity, like a clean ecology and high energy output. Research capability and adequate transportation networks will help, as will a high gross national product. If you ever wanted to be the mastermind behind the leadership of a major world power, now is your chance. It’s especially appealing because you can still cheat on your wife with a hot intern and nobody will so much as bat an eye (unless you’re doing that in real life, in which case you may be worried about something besides building up a fictional version of Italy). You will buy a power plant with great energy output, then create hydrogen vehicles to reduce the pollution. You’ll need research labs to improve your chances to build a space elevator. Everything is a balancing act – the toxicology institute is great for improving your research, but it shoots out pollution like the Exxon Valdez.

You’ll have a chance on every turn to acquire bigger and better improvements to your country. The game takes place from 1970 to 2040, with new stuff coming out all the time. You have to keep yourself prepared for whatever happens, so you’ll be watching your ecology and energy, your research and capital and, you know, prosperity. Because the game is called Prosperity.

This is all very Reiner. There’s no luck except what shows up on your turn, and the player who wins is the one who balances everything the best. You’ll look at a tile and go, ‘hmm, plus two energy with a cost of one ecology will improve my energy output to balance the penalty when I buy this tile that will improve my capital.’ If that kind of cost-return analysis sounds like fun to you, Prosperity might be just what you want to play.

On the other hand, if you’re like me, you will not enjoy Prosperity. It’s a good game. I just didn’t like it. There’s no interaction short of buying the tile another person wanted. I’ve never wanted to be a government brain trust, and managing smog output versus capital investment is not a job I want, either in real life or when playing a game. And the game is just not easy on the eyes. Functional, sure, but not attractive, and my upcoming law will force games like Prosperity to undergo radical enhancement surgery in specially created camps placed on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas.

[DISCLAIMER: Just jokes, people. Just jokes.]

Summary

2-4 players

Pros:
Intense nation-building game where every decision matters
Takes the same time to play no matter how many players you have
Keeps everybody engaged and thinking the whole time
Actually a very good game

Cons:
Dry like microwaved turkey
No interaction
Should be prettier

I played Prosperity several times, and everyone else loved it. I didn’t because nobody died. You can get one here:

PROSPER BY GETTING THE MOST PROSPERITY TO BE THE MOST PROSPEROUS

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