Guildhall, from Hope S. Hwang and originally published in 2012, just got re-themed, expanded and split up in three boxes, named Fellowship, Alliance and Coalition.
Instead of a medieval theme it has a fantasy theme and with theme I mean illustrations, because Guildhall, despite the re-theme, is far from a thematic game. The illustrations are nice, but they do not add anything special to the game. It’s dry as can be, but that doesn’t matter. Today I review the first box; Fellowship.
And the game goes as follows. In your turn you have two actions. You can choose to play a card and execute its action, you can discard cards and draw back to six cards in your hand, or you can discard a completed chapter, more on that later, and take a victory point card. The game ends when the active player has twenty points or more at the end of his turn and he is then considered the winner.
This is all wonderful, but the real meat of the game lies in the actions you can trigger with your cards. Every guild, every type of card, exists in five different colours. The abilities are the same, just a different colour. A chapter consist of five cards, in different colours, of the same guild. So, when you have five Monks in different colours, you have completed a chapter. You can never have two chapters of the same guild and you can never have two cards with the same colour in a single chapter.
When you choose to play a card from your hand in your action space you look at how many cards from that guild you already have in your guildhall, your collection of cards on the table. So, when you play a Monk card, you check how many Monks you’ve already collected. This determines which action you can do.
Taking the Monk as an example, you can place one card from your hand in your guildhall when you have collected one monk or less, you can exchange two cards from your hand with one card from your guildhall when you already have collected two or three monks, or you can exchange an infinite amount of cards from your hand with two cards from your guildhall when you already have four Monks in your guildhall. You can always choose to do a ‘lesser’ action if you want to.
The actions you can do with the different cards are all very different, so it’s important that you realize that when focusing on completing one or more chapters. The Monk you already know, but the Fighter focusses more on letting other players discard cards from their guildhall. The Druid lets you take more cards in your hand, or even in your guildhall. The Ranger lets you take victory point tokens, but that costs you a card of your own. With the Bard you can exchange guildhall cards with cards from the discard pile. And lastly, the Sorcerer puts one card from your guildhall back into your hand and then you can execute another action.
As you can see, it really matters when you play a card from a certain guild. Another player better have a card you want when you play your fourth or fifth Sorcerer. When you play a Monk or Druid you can place cards in your guildhall, but do you want that? They can’t be used as action cards, but they do expand your chapter, and thereby maybe improving the action when you play a similar card in the future. Timing is essential in this game.
It is sometimes frustrating when you see your opponent creating these action chains and you keep struggling with completing even a single chapter. But when you are that person where other player jealously are looking at, it is very satisfying.
Once you’ve completed a chapter, you can use one action point and discard that chapter in exchange for a victory point card. The fun thing is that some victory point cards also have a bonus action, which makes you think about the value of the card. You can go for the bigger points, or you can choose to take a three-pointer that has a nice bonus action that you can immediately use. Some victory point cards require you to discard two completed chapters. They are worth loads of points though.
Again, the timing of this exchange is important, because the victory point cards with a lower value and an action can be worth much more than the cards with bigger points if you get them at the right time. The fact that you can do another action, or can exchange one of your guildhall cards with one of your opponent’s, and thereby maybe completing a chapter, can be the difference between winning or losing.
Guildhall is, although the box says two to four players, especially suitable for two players. Three players is OK, but already takes a bit too long and feels already to swingy. There are more players which means more players can mess with you by taking away cards from almost completed chapters. It slows the game down quite a bit and you just get the feeling that you never get your engine running.
Talking about building your engine. That is quite fun in this game. The way the card actions work makes that playing some guild cards during your turn will be more beneficial than others, because you have more of them already on the table. However once you’ve completed a chapter those more beneficial actions go away and you have to start over again or rely on other guilds.
Ideally you want to slowly build up multiple chapters at the same time, but that’s not always possible because of the cards you’ve drawn. So, make sure that you keep an eye on your opponents, they might have exactly what you need, or, if not, keep drawing new cards.
Guildhall Fantasy Fellowship is a very good game. The card combos are very cool and there’s a bit of take that, so it’s interactive in that aspect. Like in many other games that have a ‘take-that’ element, people who like to keep everything nice and peaceful might not like the idea of messing with each other’s guilds.
Do you need this one if you have the other version? No, probably not. Already a big fan? Then why not?
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