Board Game Review - An Organized Evening with Guildhall
January 09, 2014
I should be playing Guildhall more often. I played it once many, many months ago and had great time, then never bothered to play it again until recently. I guess it was the same way with Terra Mystica and Seasons, so maybe that's the proper formula for getting me obsessed with a game.
Not that I'm obsessed with Guildhall. It's a fun, well-designed game, but I'm not clambering to go and find some place to play it on the Internet. I'm just saying maybe I should.
Anyway, so Guildhall is a pretty simple game in which you are trying to complete sets of cards to earn points. There are six types of cards, each in 5 colors or suits, so you've gotta get a single type in all 5 colors placed out in front of you, and then you can turn those cards in to score points. On each player's turn, they can perform two actions, and actions consist of playing a card, discarding any number of cards and drawing up to six, or purchasing a victory point card with completed deck(s).
And that's it. The fun comes in with the fact that each type of card has a specific ability that you use when you play the card, and that ability becomes stronger the more of that type of card you already have in front of you. For instance, when you lay down a farmer, if you don't have any in your guildhall, nothing happens, but if you already have 1, you score a VP, and if you already have 3, you score 2 VP.
Farmers are the most boring card, though...except that they are holding pigs. Pigs are adorable.
But anyway, you've also got assassins that kill other peoples cards (sending them to the discard), then you've got the historian (necromancer?), who takes cards out of the discard and puts them in your guildhall. There's the trader, who lets you swap cards with other people, and the weaver that lets you put extra cards on the table. Finally, there is a dancer that lets you draw more cards and gives you another action.
So why is it so great? Well, it's just really well designed. All the cards work well together to create a very dynamic struggle between you and your opponents to complete your sets and stop them from completing their sets. Do you play that weaver to get more cards out on the table and increase your set of historians so that the next one you play will have a greater effect? Maybe, but if you end up with only a set of 4 historians, one of your opponents is surely going to to mess with it so you can't complete it next time around. Maybe it's better to save that weaver and historian and draw 4 new cards, or turn in your completed stack of farmers for some points or other actions.
There are just a lot of interesting decisions that crop up with this very simple set of cards. Every card in your hand has the potential to do something awesome, you've just gotta figure out what the most awesome thing is. I don't know, maybe I'm devaluing the word awesome here...you are just collecting set of cards after all. STILL - it's good fun, as long as you're not playing with someone prone to analysis paralysis. I'm looking at you, Brian.
So, other thoughts: I've only played Guildhall in 4-player games, which I think works well. You have less control over things, though, and it's hard to use each card's more powerful ability. Most types of cards have something really cool you can do when you play that type while you already have 4 of that type in your guildhall, but, since cards played don't go up into your guildhall between your two actions, that means you've gotta hang out through a full turn with a stack of 4 cards, and, like I said, an opponent will surely mess with it. Maybe this is mitigated somewhat with a lower player count, but that just gives your opponents more incentive to mess with you because there are fewer of you.
I keep thinking about Guillotine as I write this review. Both games have very simple game play that becomes complex due to the cards that you are playing with. I love Guillotine with 2 people because you have a lot of control over the situation - it's all moves and counter-moves between you and your opponent, but your are restricted by your hand of action cards, which is great because it makes it play very quickly. This is also the beauty of Guildhall, but what's even better about Guildhall is that that sense of control doesn't break down with a larger player count like it does in Guillotine. Even with 4 people, there are enough valid choices plus the fact that you get to take two actions on your turn - you still feel like the master of your own destiny even though your draw of cards is completely random.
And that's called a good game. Somewhat light, but still solid fun.
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