Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of Prosperity

Prosperity

  • Publisher: Asmodee/Ystari GamesProsperity Box Cover
  • Designers: Sebastian Bleasdale, Reiner Knizia
  • Artists: Arnaud Demaegd, Neriac
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Playing Time: 60min
  • Languages: English
  • MSRP $49.99
  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Review Copy
  • Number of Plays: 1 x 4 player, 1 x 3 player, 1 x 2 player

Introduction

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? (From the back of the box.)

Rules Summary

The goal of Prosperity is to earn the most points by efficiently managing a country. Mainly this is achieved by keeping down pollution, advancing research, making money, and directly earning points.

There are several symbols in the game: white/black lightning bolts representing positive/negative energy, white/black trees representing positive/negative ecology, magnifying glass icons representing research, globe icons representing prosperity, and Euro symbols representing capital (money). These symbols will be found on tiles as well as each player board.

Before the game starts, the Research board is placed in the center of the table and the starting tiles are placed around it to form a display (the starting tiles have a picture of the Earth on their backs; the other tiles have a decade year on their backs). The starting tiles are placed either on the left or right side depending on the color and placement of the level number located on the bottom of the tile. The blue level numbers will be found on the bottom left of the tiles; they go next to the energy research track (i.e. on left side of the Research board) at the corresponding level. The green level numbers will be found on the bottom right of the tiles; they go next to the ecological research track (i.e. on the right side of the Research board) at the corresponding level

The players will have a marker on the score track (point track) at the top of the Research board, as well as one marker on each of the research tracks themselves (energy and ecological). The research tracks are broken down within each level, getting progressively more difficult to gain levels as players move up the tracks. For example, level one has only two spaces, level two has three spaces, level three has four spaces, and so on. This means that a player must advance two times to get to level two but three more times to get to level three, etc.

Players will each have a player board representing their country (from four choices). The silver side is easier to play; the black side ratchets up the difficulty. Players start with 8 black pollution markers on the pollution track of their player board (how did we get so dirty? The game just started!). The player board comes with 6 or 7, depending on the side, beginning “tiles” printed on the board. Finally, there are two tracks, one each representing the country’s current energy and ecology; one marker on each that is adjusted whenever there is a change in state.

Prosperity

At the beginning of the game, a stack of tiles is created, sorted by the decade numbers on the backs of the tiles. Each tile will have one highlighted symbol that will score before the active player takes her turn. Scoring is based on the five icons in the game: lightning bolt for energy, tree for ecology, magnifying glass for research, globe icon for prosperity (points), and Euro for capital (money). There are five tiles for each decade (1970, 1980, etc.): one for each type of scoring, except for the last decade, 2030, in which there are six; there is a bonus prosperity (point) tile in that decade. Thus tiles are randomized by decade. Players may track what scoring is left until the next decade starts (provided they have a better memory than I do).

A player’s turn consists of drawing the next tile, announcing the highlighted symbol for scoring (all players), placing the tile in the appropriate place in the display (same rules as setup), and taking two actions. Play then passes to the left.

Scoring:

  • Energy – each player checks his energy track. If the track is positive, he gets 50 Euro for each positive point. If the track is negative, for each negative point he chooses to either take a black pollution marker for his pollution track or pay 100 Euro (any combination is acceptable).
  • Ecology – each player checks her ecology track. If the track is positive, she removes a pollution marker for each positive point (once there are no more pollution markers on her track, she takes 50 Euro for each positive point). If the track is negative, she adds a pollution marker for each negative point.
  • Research – each player counts the number of magnifying glass icons on his player board. For each symbol, the player may move up one space on the research track of his choice (any combination).
  • Prosperity – each player counts the number of globe icons on her player board (this includes any uncovered on the pollution track – another reason to keep pollution down!); she moves that many spaces forward on the main score track. Note: if a player has so much pollution that one or more disks cover the globe icon at the top of the pollution track (with the X on it), that player does not score points no matter how many globe icons she has.
  • Capital – for each Euro symbol the player has on his player board, he takes 100 Euro.

Energy and ecology markers track the differences between the black and white lightning bolts (energy) or tree icons (ecology) on each player’s player board so those are easy to see at a glance. White is positive; black is negative. The other icons must be totaled every time but since they are all positive, they are just counted (i.e. no subtraction necessary).

Actions (two per player turn; an action may be repeated as the second action):

  • Cleanup: the player may remove one pollution disk from her pollution track.
  • Research: the player may move up one space on one of the research tracks.
  • Revenue: the player may take 100 Euro from the bank.
  • Purchase a tile: the player may purchase a tile from the display. The cost depends on the tile’s position relative to the player’s research level. If the tile is at the same level, it costs 100 Euro. If the tile is higher, it costs 100 Euro plus 100 Euro per research level higher. If the tile is lower, it costs 50 Euro.

If the purchased tile has a solid color background, it must be placed on the player’s board in a matching colored background square. The new tile may be stacked on a matching (colored background) tile but the tile underneath is basically out of the game – its effects are canceled. The player adjusts her energy or ecology tracks if necessary to reflect the new tile’s attributes (also removing effects of a covered tile). The only other tiles are considered special tiles; these have a one-time effect then are discarded. One-time effects are: gain 1 point, gain 2 points, or remove 3 pollution disks.

Some of the spaces on the player boards are inaccessible until the level above has been covered. These are linked to the upper level by drawn lines. An X marks the upper level’s space to remind players that its space must be covered before the lower levels are usable.

The game ends after the turn of the player who draws the last decade tile. A final scoring takes place, per player using their own player boards, in this order: energy is scored twice, ecology is scored twice, capital (money) is scored once, money is counted – for every 300 Euro a player has, he gains one point then discards the money (if there is extra, it is kept as a tie-breaker), research is scored for both tracks, for each track on the Research board – whoever has a majority scores three points, second place gets one point (if there is a tie for first, each gets two points, no score for second place; no one scores if there is a tie for second place), finally prosperity is scored – one point per globe icon as usual.

The player who has the most points is the winner; the tie-breaker is money left over.

The full rules for Prosperity are available in pdf form at Ystari.

Thoughts

Prosperity is a somewhat abstract economic strategy game with an environmental theme. I like the streamlined aspects of the game. There are only two actions per player turn. Actions match nicely with scoring. Scoring every round is somewhat unusual and may take some planning, although sometimes it is impossible to do much planning, either because it is a new decade, where all five scoring choices are possible, or because it is not your turn thus you do not get to perform actions before the drawing player announces a scoring category. This becomes more annoying the more players there are in the game. I did not like the four-player game for this reason – during three of the scoring rounds, you have no actions and can only take what you get, good or bad. With three players, it was less of a problem – only two scoring rounds between your actions. I think I like the game the best with two players. The breakdown is: 2 player – each player gets 18 turns (36 actions), 3 player – each player gets 12 turns (24 actions), 4 player – each player gets 9 turns (18 actions). You can see the number of turns/actions varies greatly with the number of players.

There are a decent number of choices in the game, especially considering the variety of tiles (note: it is not a complicated or heavy game like Power Grid or Agricola). In addition to the initial display of tiles, each turn another tile is available for purchase (i.e. the one that is drawn and announced for scoring). Here is where luck might mess you up – the drawing player has first crack at the new tile (given she has the money to purchase it). With more players, competition becomes more intense and luck of the draw plays into the game more often… another reason I do not like the four player game. Prosperity does not scale by players – you do not remove or add tiles to the display based on the number of players. The game simply becomes more difficult and more luck dependent with more players. I am hoping the designers will add some sort of expansion set of tiles/rules so the game can be better scaled. We accidentally played part of a four-player game with each player taking two actions per tile draw (we passed a start player marker around to track the active player); when the tiles started becoming ridiculously scarce, we figured something was wrong (we started over with the correct rules). Had there been more starting tiles, I think this sort of variant might be interesting (much speculation was done considering if this option was play-tested).

Prosperity might make a good gateway game or one step above. The rules are simple enough to make it easy to teach and learn. But it is not for the faint of heart; pollution can run rampant if not constantly kept in check. This involves a number of variables such as keeping energy and ecology under control, while still making enough money to buy tiles and produce research. Most tiles have some sort of negative impact, either on energy or ecology (i.e. via black lightning bolts or black trees) so you are constantly having to consider their deadly effects. The color background matching further limits your placement choices for tiles on your player mat. Sometimes you end up covering up something you would rather not (oh it hurts when this happens!).

I can see a variety of strategies to explore, e.g. you could trash your ecology and/or energy for money in the first part of the game to gain better tiles, then clean up in the latter part, or even temporarily trash energy/ecology when you know it won’t score again before you take some more actions (timing). You could also try the balanced approach, maybe clean up your pollution and concentrate on a couple scoring tiles near the beginning of the game.

The production is high quality – thick cardboard player mats, Research board, and tiles, nice wooden pieces, and colorful paper money in the form of oh-so-cute little Euro bills (although we usually use poker chips). I don’t like the scoring part of the Research board though; it snakes back and forth every three squares and is both difficult to see how many points a player has and tricky to move in the correct direction. I would have preferred for it to snake lengthwise if at all (maybe it could have been a long loop). The rules are well written, with plenty of examples and colorful graphics. The box is a standard size/quality for Ystari games. There is quite a bit of air space inside but it isn’t unreasonable (here’s hoping for an expansion!).

Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers:

Dan Blum: Prosperity is not spectacular, but it is a good solid game. I have seen people complain about replayability, and I suppose if your tastes demand that every session of a game be wildly different from the last, it won’t have much, but it has enough for me; the constrained randomness of the tile draws and the inevitably varying choices of other players make the choices interesting. And of course you can always play on the more difficult side of the board if you get a bit bored with the game.

I agree with Mary that the scoring track is badly designed; next time I play I will probably ignore it and just score on paper. Other than that I have no major complaints, although it would have been nice if the tile reference at the back of the rulebook had been printed separately to make it easier to pass around. Unlike Mary, I like the four-player game just fine; I have played once with three and four times with four players (once on the black side), and have enjoyed it every time.

Larry (1 play):  Prosperity is a bare bones design based on balancing multiple objectives.  I like the way that most of the tiles that advance you in one area reduce you in another.  It feels very Knizia to me and is an interesting intellectual challenge, without being all that heavy.  It also plays pretty fast.  On the down side, there’s almost no player interaction.  There’s also a reasonably high luck factor, although I suspect skill will win out most times.

While I agree with Mary that quality components were used, I think Ystari made some puzzlingly poor physical design decisions.  Specifically, the scoring track is a mess.  I’m also very disappointed that they didn’t give the players a simple way of showing what tiles have come out each round; this is vital and saves a lot of time (so much so that we came up with our own makeshift solution, but it should have been provided with the game).  Finally, the game has an attractive theme, but because they didn’t label the tiles to show what they represent, it comes off as very abstract.  I understand the reason this was done (the scourge of language-free components once again raises its ugly head), but it really detracts from the gaming experience, so it would have been nice if they could have found some way of giving the tiles an identity.

Overall, I liked the game, but if you were hoping this represented a return to greatness by Knizia, you will be disappointed; instead, just set your expectations for a good solid game.

Craig (6 plays): Prosperity looks the part of a recent release, but has the feel of a game from a decade earlier.  In a market where the trend is 90-120 minute games with deck building, worker placement, or whatever else is the mechanic du jour happens to be, Prosperity gives you plenty of choice and tension in a 30-45min game with a simple tile drafting mechanic.  As such and despite claims to the contrary,  I’m not sure replayability deserves to be a concern here.  Same with luck as the game really is about risk management.  Managing the various elements requires you to ignore something so the luck of the draw on tiles feels extremely appropriate. Yes the score track is ill-conceived, but really is a minor nit.  I actually think this game fills a niche (think Web of Power) that has been largely ignored by the market lately. It feels underrated and for me at least it will hang around much longer than many other more lauded 2013 Essen releases.

Patrick Brennan: Basically a tile drafting game, but where you’ll often want to take actions other than taking tiles to accumulate money or research in order to get to the better tiles in the draft. The tiles are added to your tableau, and your energy and eco go up/down depending on the icons on the tiles you buy. Having everything up is good. Sadly the tiles don’t make that easy, as there’s lots of combinations where something goes up at the expense of the other going down. And anytime you want to buy a tile which awards bonus money, bonus research or bonus VPs, its usually at a cost of your energy and eco going down as well. So the game is a balancing act. But it’s a tactical balancing affair … you’re taking from the tiles that are left you and that’s that. There’s no sense of “I’ll leave that tile until next time because no one else will want it until then”. With 20+ tiles to choose from, it’s hard to get any sense of what other people might take or want, so just take what’s best for you at a reasonable price for the moment. You can try different strategies like money rich or research rich, but other than that there’s a sense of sandbox play, just doing the best you can as best you can. It’s pretty light and ticks along nicely, being at the lighter end of the Euro spectrum. Not sure how much replay there is though given that the same tiles come out in much the same order each game. Pleasant game fodder.

Lorna:(4 plays) Easy and pleasant to play. Some interesting choices but not a brain burner.

Mark Jackson (1 play): I loved my one play with 3 players… but I can see where some of Mary’s concerns could become a reality with 4 players.

It’s a “super-filler” in the grand tradition of Web of Power, Through the Desert or Ra… though I’m not suggesting that Prosperity is related to any of these games. It’s simply a 30-45 minute game that plays quickly, cleanly without over-taxing the brain.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:

  • I love it!
  • I like it: Mary Prasad, Dan Blum, Larry, Craig Massey, Patrick Brennan, Lorna, Mark Jackson
  • Neutral:
  • Not for me…
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About Mary Prasad

More about me at: http://artbymdp.blogspot.com
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One Response to Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of Prosperity

  1. rprasadusa says:

    Yuck!

    2 plays: 4er and 2er. The whole time, I was annoyed when I didn’t get a tile flip that I wanted at the right time, or when someone else did! Sure, it’s a game about maximizing your odds to take advantage of whatever happened to come up next. But to play well, you have to know the tile distribution, what’s coming up and when. The info is right there on the back of the rulebook, but that seemed too much of a bother. It’s like Carcassonne in that way: you’ll do better if you know how many tiles are left with the configuration you need/want. But I don’t find that very enjoyable. I think I’d have more fun writing a program — that would know all the tiles, calculate the odds for what was going to come up next, and make the most optimal play each turn — than I had actually playing this game. And I’m not even a programmer.

    Having said all that, I think there’s definitely an audience for this game. It’s just not me.

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