Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Published by Black Locust, this was a game that launched last year on Kickstarter. It is probably going to be hard to find through retail channels. It’s a game set in the The Roaring Twenties: the era of Prohibition.
There are mobsters in this game but it isn’t essentially a game about gangsters and bootlegging. There is no ‘take that’ element in the game; no stealing from or wiping out the opposition. 'The Opulent' in this game is the name of a high-class Atlantic City speakeasy which players are collectively operating. That means this game is fully co-operative: players are working together as a team to make a not-strictly-speaking-legal livelihood.
The game looks sumptuous. While the folk posing on the cards don’t all look wholly convincing, the art nouveau black and gold design is carried off exceptionally well. Set this game out on the table and you’ll have people begging to play.
The Opulent is made up of interlocking mini-games, with players taking on the four key roles in the speakeasy: doorman, bartender, band leader and manager. Customers turn up at the door with three wooden nickels to spend (the wooden nickels are the game’s currency, although the rules also seem to refer to them as dollars). The doorman rolls dice hoping to match the colour rolled to the background colour of the patron. When they succeed, the customer can make their way to the dance floor or the bar. Patrons left and passed over in the queue show their annoyance by losing a nickel of their potential spend. They may even walk away altogether. The doorman can spend dice to reroll and he can spend dice to schmooze customers (adding to their potential spend).
At the bar, the different types of customer demand different drinks. The mobsters drink beer. The politicians drink whiskey on the rocks. The bartender has to roll a number equal to or higher than the total number of ingredients. He can take the risk of holding back dice to spend on replenishing supplies or he can chance his arm at watering down the drinks (spending ice but saving on whiskey).
At the dance floor, the band leader has a target song (key and number of notes) and draws cards with the aim of having enough notes in the right key for the song to be played. The patrons want to dance, so they will be dissatisfied (nickels lost) if there is no music or if the song is out of tempo or in the wrong key.
The Manager has to look after any visiting celebrities. He actions and responds to the Event card revealed each turn (which could mean the speakeasy is going to be raided by the Prohibition Agents), and he can help out in other locations (for example, adding dice to those available at the door). The Manager also negotiates the club’s liquor contract, which can be either with the Irish or Italian mob. When the club is buying its liquor from the Irish, it loses beer or liquor any time an Italian mobster enters the speakeasy, and vice versa.
There is more to the rules than I’ve alluded to here. For example, there are awkward ‘regulars’ who are something of a club liability; there are club and staff upgrades; and there are newspaper headlines for each year of the 1920s that establish a scenario rule. All of this adds up to a game with a lot of replayability.
With its mini-games in different locations, you may be put in mind of games like Space Cadets (Stronghold Games) but The Opulent differs not just in theme but also in the fact that actions are strictly sequential and not played fast and furious. That means that The Opulent can be readily played as a solitaire game rather than as an up-to-four-player co-operative. In fact, the very limited interaction between players means that it is arguably at its best as a solo game.
The Opulent is a visually striking game that is fun to play. It is light enough to introduce to non-gamers intrigued by its artwork but remains engrossing throughout despite the impact of random good or ill fortune from a fortuitous die roll or an inopportune card draw. This is a game that deserves to be seen and played. It’s just a pity it’s not more widely available.