Monday, May 10, 2010

Guillotine review

Historically the French Revolution seemed like a chaotic mess of death and mob rule, yet Guillotine puts an orderly spin on it. In this card game usurped nobles wait patiently in line for their date with Madame Guillotine. As the heads fall the players collect them, gaining more points for such high valued nobility as Marie Antoinette. The game is played over three days of slaughter and at the end of this time the player with the most points wins. It is for two to five players and should take about a half hour, though it can certainly go faster than that. I had just finished reading the Scarlet Pimpernel and felt that I should buy this game. So I did.

Like with a lot of card games the game play of Guillotine falls into the very easy category. Basically the cards are shuffled and then a row of 12 cards are dealt out on the table. This represents the daily menu of nobles that are being led to execution. Each unfortunate member of the upper class has a point value, as well as a colored border which represents their background (church, military, government, etc..) Player are also dealt a starting hand of five cards. Each player gets to play one action card from their hand, and then takes the card at the front of the line. That’s it. The action cards wreak havoc on the line order, give bonus points for certain types of cards, and all sorts of other things that really make your opponents mad. The day ends when there are no more nobles queued up, and then it starts all over again for two more days.

I’ve done fairly well at Guillotine, but I will be the first to admit that this game is more skill then luck. The cards in your hand make all the difference, and while you can certainly play them poorly you can’t do all that much if you were stuck with a beat hand. I always prefer a good mix of luck and skill in games, but I think that Guillotine tilts things a little too far in the luck department.

The art of Guillotine is very nice and bubbly, in stark contrast to the rather grim nature of the game. It’s actually rather easy to forget that one is collecting heads in this game, the smiles on the faces of everyone almost makes it seem as if you are just making new friends. They are also on nice, thick paper and shuffle very well. You know, it’s really the little things that go a long way. The cards also have a great sense of humor. The actions cards in particular got a couple of chuckles out of me.

I am also a fan of extraneous game components and in this regard Guillotine does not disappoint. It comes with a charming little pop up guillotine that goes at the end of the line to serve as a reminder of just where it is that the nobles are headed. It also folds back up very easily and fits back into the game box without a problem.

I do like Guillotine a lot but that never stopped me from having a couple of criticisms of the game. One is that for a card game it takes up an awful of space on the table. It shrinks as each day goes on but a row of 12 cards is bigger than you may think. A good aspect of card games is that they usually travel well and have a small footprint on the table. Apparently the French Revolution is a bit more high maintenance than that. My other gripe with this game is that it is only for five players. The two best things about this game is that it is quick and that it is really easy to learn. It just screams out to be a party game, but since it can only support five players it falls a little flat in that area. I’m sure that you could probably squeeze in a sixth, but anything more than that and I suspect that the game card supply will be exhausted before the player’s hunger for blood.

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