Friday, March 14, 2014

Guildhall, By Alderac Entertainment Group

Overview
Guildhall is a set collection game from Hope S. Hwang and published by AEG. In Guildhall, players recruit various professions into their guildhall.  Once a player completes a chapter of their guild, they use it to buy cards that provide victory points.  The first player to 20 victory points wins the game.

The Basics
Players in Guildhall get two actions on their turn.  They choose from three: play a card into their action area, discard any number of cards and draw back up to six, or purchase a victory point card.  When playing a card into the action area, the player will resolve the effect printed on the card.  Each effect has different power levels.  The power level a player resolves depends on how many of that profession they have in their guild hall.  Players can always choose to use a lesser power or not use the power at all if they wish.

When discarding, players discard any number of cards, even zero, and draw back up their maximum hand size of six.  A discard action is the most consistent way to get more cards into your hand.  There is a profession that allows you to draw cards as well.  When one or more chapters are completed, players can use them to purchase victory point cards.  Victory point cards vary from two to nine and cost one or two completed chapters.  Some also have bonus powers you can use immediately upon purchasing.  When done with their turn, players move any cards played into the action area into their guildhall and play passes to the left.

The Professions
There are six professions in the game - farmer, assassin, weaver, historian, trader, and dancer. Each profession has a special ability associated with it.  The weaver can place cards from your hand directly into your guildhall.  The historian lets you take cards from the discard to place into your guildhall.  The trader allows you to trade cards with other players, taking something you need and giving them something they can use, but maybe don't want!  The dancer lets you draw cards and take an extra action.  The farmer gets you victory point chips - the only thing in the box that aren't cards.  Finally, the assassin lets you force another player to discard a card from their guildhall.

In order to complete a chapter, and therefore purchase victory points, a player must have all five colors of a profession in their guildhall - red, blue, green, yellow, and purple. As soon as this condition is met, the cards are stacked, turned face down, and set to the side for later use.  If a player has a matching color card of a profession in their hall, they cannot play that card into their action area.  For example, if you had a red, blue, and green historian in your guildhall, the only color historians you could play into your action area are purple and yellow.

After playing an assassin, this player
 moves it to his guildhall.  This completes
 his chapter of assassins.
This is what a completed chapter looks like,
ready to buy its way to victory.

Victory Point Cards
To start the game, five VP cards are laid out face up to provide a store to purchase from.  These cards cost one or two completed chapters and you must spend an action for each VP card you wish to purchase.  Each time a card is purchased, it is replaced from the deck of VP cards.  Some cards are just worth victory points while others provide victory points and additional effects, such as being able to play any number of cards from your hand immediately or taking an extra action on your turn.  The numbers on these cards are combined with any chips you acquired from your farmers to get your victory point total.  The first player to finish his or her turn with 20 victory points is the winner.

Interaction
Guildhall has a decent amount of interaction - that is, ways for players to attack or affect another player's guildhall.  The assassin is the most noticeable, eliminating an opponent's card (or several).  The trader can be useful as well, allowing you to take an opponent's card and give them one of yours.  The catch to this is that it has to be a card they can use.  You can't give them a red farmer if they already have one in their guildhall.   But just because the trade has to be legal, doesn't mean it has to be fair!  Maybe you take their fourth historian in exchange for a weaver, a profession they don't have in their guildhall yet.  That player just went from almost completing a chapter to starting one from scratch.

The upside to this is that all powers are optional.  If you don't want to trade or assassinate, you don't have to.  You can also downgrade the power level of the card.  When you have four assassins in your hall, playing an assassin into your action area allows you to eliminate two cards in any chapter from one opponent.  Instead, you could decide to just eliminate one or just skip the power and move the assassin into your guildhall at the end of your turn with no effect.  Some players prefer to offer up a fair trade to their opponent.  While not indicated in the rules, sometimes a more friendly game is better for the entire table. 

Final Thoughts
Guildhall is a great, light game.  Its right on the border of filler/light-weight.  If played with two or three, its definitely filler material if players play quickly enough and plan ahead.  Once you hit four players it becomes more thinky, with a lot of information to review.  My preferred game size is two players.  This makes the interaction more natural and less "take that".  It plays very quickly at this size.  Three players is nice as well but you run the risk of ganging up on a single player. 

Different professions shine in different size games.  The trader, in a four player game, is very strong because you have a smörgåsbord of cards to choose from.  Somewhere, someone will have something you need!  In a four player game, the assassin tends to fall a little short with so many traders flying around.  But in two and three player games, the assassin can be essential to slowing your opponent, allowing you to complete your chapter first and claim the big VP card you've had your eye on.  This is a solid game you'll come back to, especially once your familiar with it, to fill the gap between bigger, more brain burning games.  Be sure to check out your local merchant for your own copy of Guildhall!

Check out the Miami Dice review of Guildhall.

See what Ryan Metzler of the Dice Tower thinks of Guildhall.

Here's a review from Elliot Miller, The Voice of E.

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Donny is a music educator in the suburbs of Dallas.  He has an obsession with all things Star Wars and, when asked what he wants to do, will always respond with "board games".  You can find him at Nerd Night events in the Dallas area, Dallas Games Marathon, or at his second home, Madness Games & Comics.  He spends far too much time on social media, be it Facebook or Twitter, and comments or suggestions can be directed to kelann08@gmail.com.