Let’s talk Guilds of London designed by Tony Boydell.
A friend & I played one game, 2p.
Is 2p good?
Yes, excellent for teaching, learning & getting a sense of the game dynamic.
Will it be better with 3 & 4p?
Did I immediately want to play it again?
Is it top 10 material?
Is it interactive?
Yes, a fair bit, more so than Race For The Galaxy (core).
Is it spiteful?
If you want to read it that way, yes. You will be directly manipulating other player’s ‘workers’ as such, often greatly, in order to facilitate sometimes big swings.
The big swings less often - players need neutral workers to do it so you’ll know it’s coming, plus you can spread those out by keeping some yourself. Individual card opportunities to directly wreck face on others are rare, too - it’s pretty balanced.
Tell me more about comparisons with Race For The Galaxy.
Guilds uses the Cards-as-currency system & has a bunch of iconography, but that’s where it ends. Each card can be used for a number of things:
- Any card can be used to recruit a worker from the general supply into play into the Guildhall.
- A card can be used to move a worker to a guild that matches one displaying the suit displayed on the card.
- The card itself will display a unique action that may cost discards to utilise, or, if rather powerful, may cost the return of a worker to the guildhall or general supply (out of play).
In Race For The Galaxy, you’re building a permanent tableau & engine, but in Guilds, your engine only lasts for one turn before you redraw. If you play any cards, you only redraw 2 cards at the end of your turn. If you effectively pass, you draw 4. End of turn hand limit check is 7 cards unless you are the guild master of the University in which case it’s 8. The good thing is as a part of your card actions, there are often things you can do that get you more cards via checks by the end of your turn, such as playing cards whose abilities are ‘if you move at least three workers by the end of your turn, draw three cards’.
Wait, so I don’t score off a tableau like Race For The Galaxy?
No. All the action happens on the eponymous Guilds. Every few rounds, the guilds will be evaluated. Depending on the guild, if its minimum worker count has been met ie. present on the guild, including the Beadle, it will be resolved - majority holder wins (there are some nifty tricks to this you’ll have to learn via the rules or play). The winner gets the first place reward plus master of the guild meaning they leave a worker on it when the tile flips over. Sometimes part of the reward is to move a worker to another unresolved guild which, if it’s still coming in order, might make it meet its threshold & suddenly you have a cascading combo. Never shirk off 2nd place tho, as the randomised 2nd place rewards are often significant VP rewards.
Hang on, what does being the master of a guild get you?
Immediately nothing, & you can move your master off a resolved guild later if you wish, but there are 21 endgame Mayoral Favour cards you’ll be vying for throughout the game that you can access a number of ways that score you in several interesting ways - masters in specific guild types, guild variety, no adjacent guilds, workers remaining in the Guildhall at endgame etc. even cards in hand at endgame. Usually you’ll be drawing 2 to 4 of these & keeping 1.
You mentioned the Beadle…
The Beadle begins on the most important guild - they’re all numbered, so whichever is highest ranked (smallest number/closest to 1) & counts towards the worker resolution threshold. However there are cards that allow players to move the Beadle, some even allow you to resolve guilds outside of resolution rounds & even without meeting the worker threshold. Again, there aren’t tons these cards, but enough to make it interesting. Imagine moving the Beadle just before the end of the round before resolution so that a previously unresolving guild now reaches threshold. After it resolves, the Beadle returns to the next highest guild which may be where it was anyway - you get a nice double resolution.
People are talking about Race For The Galaxy level iconography.
Yep, it’s about on par with Race, but it makes just as much sense. Your first two, maybe three games will have folks fumbling around with the card guides, but even during the first game, there’s a logic that’s easy to pick up & you won’t need the guide… IF you also don’t struggle with Race For The Galaxy icons, which I don’t. If that’s a hurdle you can’t overcome, perhaps this isn’t the game for you. Reducing the play time & developing a swift, organic experience will depend on learning those icons which granted, is easier for some than others.
Oh yeah, there’s a ‘colonies’ or ‘plantation’ tile or whatever it’s called that lives on the scoreboard that’s resolved about the same time the guilds are. It also has a first & second place, you can choose which side of the tile to play in your session, either two tiered VP rewards, or an opportunity for endgame cards & a VP consolation. Also other than the 2p game, after each evaluation, more guilds are drawn & the board grows offering more opportunities & rewards, so each session will vary. Aside from the 21 endgame scoring cards, there are 105 main game action cards.
All of this I’ve remembered entirely from one rules reading & one play, much like Race For The Galaxy, so for me, the game is an extremely logical, organic & exciting, especially given the interactive elements. If there’s one thing I don’t quite like it’s the measured endgame with no way to accelerate it, as it ends after a set number of rounds. That disempowers the players a fair bit in ways that other games offer but I’ll have to see how much it affects the overall dynamic. Like all card games, many will be tempted to blame bad draws but I feel you have enough options here, even passing for a pass & full 4 card draw & discard down to set yourself up for a power move. If there’s something I quickly realised in our game, it’s don’t waste time, execute your power moves when you have them, spill & fill for careful setups later. The fight for guilds early can be vicious but it’s also when the board is arguably most open. Anyway, it’s been one play so I’m sure it’ll change & I look forward to other players forcing my own dynamic to change, & a game that facilitates that is a great game.