In Guildhall players attempt to collect complete 5-card sets of profession cards in their Guildhall to form Chapters that when completed are exchanged for Victory Points. That’s about it! But each profession type endows the player with a special abilities depending on the number of that profession already in the Guildhall. These abilities allow players to steal, trade and search for cards from their deck and from other players! The more of that profession you have, the more powerful the effect. Once a player collects all five colors of a certain profession they complete that Chapter but lose that profession’s special ability. They can then use that completed chapter to purchase Victory Point cards from the center of the table. The first player to 20 Victory Points wins!
The 120-card profession deck (four sets of six professions in five different colors ) is shuffled and placed in the center of the table. Players are dealt nine cards to form their starting hand. The Victory Point cards are shuffled and one at a time, five of these cards are dealt face up in a straight line. This is called the “center row.” A first player is chosen. The first player then may discard as many cards as they like from their hand and draw back up to nine. Then, that player places three of those cards face-up onto the table to their right. This forms that player’s starting Guildhall. All cards of the same profession are grouped together and form a Chapter. Then, each player in turn completes this special set-up turn. The game is ready to play but first, let’s have a look at the Profession cards.
Guildhall is played using Profession cards. There are six different types of professions. When played, each has a game effect specific to that profession. In addition, each ability has up to three levels of effectiveness based on the number of professions of the same type already in their Guildhall. The special abilities of each profession card are written out using a “euro-esque” icon system. The Professions and their abilities are…
The Assassin allows a player to discard cards from another player’s Guildhall. With 0 Assassins already in the guildhall, one card can be discarded. With 2 Assassins in the Guildhall, 2 different cards can be discarded but from two different chapters. With 3 Assassins already in the guildhall, any two cards can be discarded.
The Farmer allows a player to earn Victory Point (VP) Tokens. With 1 Farmer already in the guildhall, the player receives 1 VP token. With 3 Farmers in the guildhall, the player earns 2 VP tokens.
The Historian allows a player to place cards from the discard pile into their guildhall. With 0 Historians already in the guildhall, the top cards of the discard pile is placed in the players guildhall. With 2 Historians in the guildhall, the player looks through the discard pile and places any card into their guildhall. With 4 Historians already in the guildhall, any two cards can be taken from the discard pile and placed in that player’s guildhall.
The Trader allows a player to swap cards from their guildhall with cards from another players guildhall. discard cards from another player’s guildhall. With 0 Traders already in the guildhall, one card can be swapped. With 2 Traders in the guildhall, 2 cards can be swapped. With 4 Traders already in the guildhall, an entire chapter can be swapped.
The Dancer allows a player to draw a number of cards equal to the number of other Dancers in their guildhall. Then take another action.
The Weaver allows a player to exchange cards between their own hand and their guildhall. With 0 Weavers already in the guildhall, one card can placed in the guildhall but no cards are returned. With 2 Weavers in the guildhall, exchange 2 cards from the hand with 1 from the guildhall. With 4 Weavers already in the guildhall, any number of cards can be exchanged with 2 cards in the guildhall.
Now we know what the Profession cards can do, let’s dig into the gameplay.
Each turn a player has two actions to spend. With these two actions a player can do any combination of the following:
1. Play one card
A player plays one card from their hand into their Action area face up and uses its ability. A player cannot play a card of a given profession and color if that profession is already in their guildhall. And a player may not play two cards of the same profession in the same turn. After the player activates and uses the card’s ability (based again on the number of matching profession cards in their Guildhall), that card remains in their action area until they complete their second action.
A Player can discard any number of cards from their hand. The cards can be placed on the discard pile in any order. Then the player and draws back up to six cards.
3. Buy one Victory Point
A player may discard completed chapters from their guildhall to buy one Victory Point card from the center row. Chapter icons on the top of the card denote the cost of the VP card. The large number on the VP card is the number of Victory Points awarded to the player who has claimed it. And some VP cards have abilities that trigger immediately when bought. The empty space in the center row is then filled by drawing the next card from the VP card deck and pacing it face-up in the center row.
When the player has completed their two actions and all effects have resolved, all the cards in the player’s action area are moved into the guildhall and added, if possible to an existing chapter. Gameplay continues until one player’s Victory Point total reaches 20 or more and they are declared the winner!
As with all AEG releases, the game art by Mike Perry is excellent. The cards are sturdy and the multi-lingual rulebook is organized and well written. The iconography and graphic design give the game a nice “euro-feel.” Upon opening the 9”x 9” box, and removing the rules, there was mostly plastic, air and two deep cubicles for the cards and VP tokens. It’s a bit of waste of space (sales and marketing considerations aside) especially since the cards almost fit completely into the compartments. Even with the rules, the top most cards slide around inside the box. Argh!
Moderate. The game play is amazingly simple. In striving to be language friendly, icons are used on the profession cards to denote their specific game play effects, and it does take a bit of time to know what these icons mean at a glance. Once learned however they are easy to understand. In addition, multiple strategies emerge later into the game and require several plays to master card effect combos. While not overly taxing, it may give some players pause.
Who would enjoy this game?
With original design by Hope S. Hwang, Guildhall introduces a few card game elements that are fresh and fun. Though the game is basically a set collection card game, the professions deck is designed in a way that so that four players will be able to (with a little luck) create their chapters regardless of the other players. Unlike most trick-taking games where all available cards are split between the players, in Guildhall, there are four complete sets of all six professions, so the availability to create chapters (sets) and utilize their special abilities is much more attainable. Players are free to pursue their own strategy. However that accessibility can work against you and your strategy may not be long lived. So many cards mess with your guildhall that often times card play is more tactical: reacting to the other players’ turns when your turn comes around again.
A unique quality of the game is the crucial decision a player must make when deciding to go for VP instead of utilizing the abilities of that profession card. All of the profession cards’ abilities hit their stride when a player has two of the same profession in their guildhall. For all but one of the professions, their major ability kicks in at four. With the Assassins and Traders running around, getting to four is difficult. (and here the game can get a bit cutthroat). In most cases, the only way to use that highest level ability is to play the matching profession, which of course completes the chapter and flips it – effectively losing that special ability. Players must constantly balance their desire to manipulate cards in play using abilities with the decision to trade those chapters for VP. And it all comes down to Victory Points eventually. There can be motivation for going for Victory point cards. Some of the cards have special abilities that kick in when purchased; including a 2-point VP card that allows you to outright put a chapter from another player’s guildhall into your own and a 7-point VP card that lets you take 2 more actions. It’s like wishing for more wishes!
The game is incredibly balanced. As a player, you can feel it from the start. This comes from the game play choices available. The turn actions allow a player to manipulate cards in hand (discard and draw), which should be the primary focus of any trick-taking game. The special abilities of the different professions allow the rest of the play areas to be toyed with: The Trader affects cards in players guildhalls; the Assassin sends cards to the discard pile; the Historian moves them from the discard to a player’s hand; The Weaver sends them from hand to Guildhall and so forth. The Dancer feels like the more powerful card granting card draws and an additional action. In games with more than two people, there never seems to be one player who is running away with the game because of this multi-faceted structure.
The use of the icons give the game a unique, almost “euro” feel; perhaps the influence of Jeff Quick (Hero-clix and Thunderstone) who developed the game for AEG. All in all, the game is accessible, but challenging. With a high replay value due to the randomization of the VP cards, Guildhall will find a place in most players collections. This game can be a bit cutthroat at times, so if you’re a player that doesn’t like to get too confrontational, you may not enjoy it to its fullest. But hey, it’s all in good fun when it comes to progress!
Be sure to check out the expansion: Guildhall: Job Faire!
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