I have a soft spot for games that remind us that “let them eat cake” is not a sentence one wants to utter when times are tough. Say, during a recession?
Guillotine, by Paul Peterson and currently published by Wizards of the Coast (although I’ll be damned if I can find a link), is set at the height of the French Revolution, where royalty was popular – for the sport of chopping off their heads.
This game is very well designed – from the humor of the rules, to the very well thought out and wonderful artwork – the theme is carried over very well, and you hardly think about all the blood that’s on your hands.
This is a really fun, straightforward game with plenty of complexity. A single session can last as long as an hour, depending on how many players you have, and is a great game for two players.
Setup is as follows: one end of your game table is where the guillotine lives (the game includes a cardboard one if you like the visual). Make sure all the included cards are divided into Royalty and Action decks and shuffled. Deal 5 action cards to each player (2-5), then deal out 12 Royalty cards starting furthest from the guillotine first.
Action cards and many Royalty cards have rules of some kind on them. Some change the order of the executions. Others effect players hands. Still others add or subtract points. Every Royalty card has points on it, and the goal of the game is to have the most points at the end. You get points every time you take a royal from the board and put it face up in front of you. Oh, and by doing so, it means you’ve killed them. How lovely.
The real fun of the game, though, is working out not just how to maximize points (kill royals), but also how to screw over your opponents! There are so many ways, but here are some examples: steal a royal from an opponent; change the order of the royals so that they are forced to take a royal with negative points; play a card that prevents anyone from playing Action cards; and so on. A good deal of your Action cards are dedicated to moving royals of your choosing forward or backward in line. My favorite cards are the Palace Guards, whose points multiply the more of them you have; and Military and Church Support, Action cards that add a point for every card of that type you have in front of you.
Once all of the royals on the board have been captured, er, killed, the day ends. The game lasts a total of three days. By the end, you’ll have a lot of royals in front of you! Count up the points to see who is the best player (ahem, executioner)!
I really like this game because of the wide variety of strategies you can use. This is a strategy game first and foremost, and it’s great fun to pit different choices against each other, especially in a two player game. My least favorite part are the cards that ask you pick cards at random or randomize the line. Just seems like a hassle to me. But other than that, it’s such a great game. If you like strategy even a little bit, you’ll love this game, and even if you don’t, give it a shot. The pleasure of knocking some royals down a peg will give you at least a little joy. If it helps, pretend they’re bank executives. Or ex Enron energy barons. Or Congresspeople. Or, you know, French Royals, they’re plenty fun.
Guillotine: The Revolutionary Card Game Where You Win By Getting a Head!
2-5 players, Wizards of the Coast
8 out of 10 chopped heads, due to the randomizer cards.
Eliot has been orbiting show business for over 20 years as an improv comedian, video director, and general guy you might barely recognize. Currently best known for his work on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny: The Jimmy Pardo Podcast. He wrote previously for MacEdition.com, and is working on a collection of short sci-fi and weird tales that will probably be published someday. He is also one of three principals in Modest Games.