Guildhall: Fellowship Review - Reprint, Re-Paste & Tweak

I never got to try Guildhall before and it wasn't just due to the horrible box cover as some would say (seriously the guy holding the pig is just creepy). It was mainly because it didn't sound much different from most combo card games and on top of that, nobody owned it. It really didn't get a lot of buzz yet players who had it liked it. Never saw it on 2nd hand sales so whoever owns it must be hanging on to it for dear life or perhaps it just never sold that well. Doesn't stop Sam Healey loving it on the Dice Tower, he's kind of the Guildhall champion in that regard.

One thing that was apparent was the lack of any theme. You could remove the theme entirely and it would make no difference to the game play, it was essentially like Dominion. And it wasn't even a fun theme, random medieval characters. Now it's been revised with a new fantasy theme, but I don't even need to explain it below you know that it's just generic pasted fantasy and has no relevance here, but that's not the reason you're reading this review, you want to know how it plays. And I'm coming in from the perspective of someone brand new to Guildhall so even though I've done my research on the old version, I'm not going to be tarnished with my views on it.



Designer: Hope S. Hwang
Publisher: AEG
Age: 10+
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-45 min
RRP: £23.99


Rally Men! Form An Orderly Queue!


From BoardGameGeek:

Do you have a thirst for adventure? Is your middle name "danger"? Do you just like treasure? Form a party of adventurers to help you be victorious! The more members of each class you have, the greater the bonus they'll give you - but be careful, your opponents might try to poach your party members!


In Guildhall Fantasy: Fellowship, 2-4 players compete to create the perfect party by recruiting adventurers into their guildhall chapters. Collect sets of cards with unique abilities to control the table, and complete a full chapter to gain victory point cards. Will you for for points quickly or build up your special powers? Which will lead to ultimate victory? Only you and the gamemaster know!


No More Pigs


We've now got a set of 3 revised Guildhall boxes released, which contain all the cards from the original Guildhall and its Job Faire expansion plus a few extras. The problem is however is that you can't simply buy one box to get the particular set you like because they're all spread out. So if you own the two original sets, you'll have to buy all 3 boxes to get the new cards, though given the aesthetic change, you'd have to be one hell of a completionist to want to do that.

The box is now fit to hold all the cards without being oversized like before, but again, there's a potential issue or two. AEG have released a box designed to hold all 3 sets of the new Guildhall lineup, but this might be a limited release as I've only heard of it in the US and certainly nothing has arrived in the UK, but maybe it's been saved for later, who knows. But if you buy the separate sets, yes the box is more compact but it's also fiddly to store being a perfect cube. I can't squeeze it easily on my IKEA Expedit shelf in alongside other games and that's a bit of a hassle, especially if you end up buying all 3 sets without this mythical big box.

The card stock is still a little flimsy, but chances are you'll be sleeving this anyway given the constant use of the cards. Be warned if you use premium sleeves though, the deck gets to ridiculous levels in size meaning you might have to split it in two to have it stand up properly. The tokens are standard affair and the artwork is colourful, despite being generic fantasy all over again. That being said, there's plenty of symbology on the cards to distinguish them from each other making it a lot more accessible for colour blind players. Also it's a fairly low price tag on its own, though you will have to factor in sleeves as well.


Combo-tastic!


Once you know how to play Guildhall, you'll be up and running within minutes of opening this box (unless you've got others and want to merge sets, but let's just stick with this one), but if you're teaching it, be prepared for a slight delay because you have to explain all the different abilities on all the cards as well as every different symbol and there's a lot, not all of which are that intuitive. Some claim it's easy to teach, but it's highly dependant on the players you're with, don't for your sake try to pass this off as a gateway game.

The meat of Guildhall is all about the combos. The order in which you discard cards, the chapters you leave open, the colours you have available, the victory point cards available, they all add to the depth of Guildhall and you'll have more than enough meaningful decisions to make on your turn. Of course I believe that if a game doesn't reveal it's depth in the first game it's failed (yeah sorry all you die-hard Heavy Euro players), but thankfully once you've grasped the abilities, you'll quickly see that Guildhall gives the brain cells enough of a test without being overwhelming.

Now given the pleathora of combos available, you will see some analysis paralysis forming among players, which is why I would actually cap this at 3 players max if no-one is new and possibly even restricting it to 2 if possible. It's designed as a quick card game and I'm telling you that with 4 players it outstays its welcome and is far too chaotic. With two however you get a nice feel of back and forth with your opponent and everything plays out quickly. Three adds a little bit of openness, but in both cases the interaction between players is high. just be comfortable that you can get messed over frequently especially from fighters who just straight up remove a card from your Guildhall.


Mechanics > Theme


As mentioned above, the theme is non-existent here. It doesn't matter if one is a fighter, one is a monk, etc, it's just a card with a special power on it and at no point during the game will you feel like you're building up an adventuring party. It doesn't even make sense from a RPG perspective, how many groups do you see that take along nothing but 5 monks to the dungeon? Go back and read that first paragraph in the Board Game Geek description and tell me your gut doesn't cringe when it asks you about danger and treasure and adventure and you know it means nothing at all!

In terms of the actual abilities, they're very varied. One gets you victory points, one discards opponents cards, one draw cards, one does hand-based shenanigans, and so forth and they all seem quite balanced overall, though I wonder if maybe the Ranger is a tad better due to gaining actual victory points while you build up the chapter as that seemed like quite a powerful strategy to follow despite having to give your opponent cards. Less of an issue in a two player game, but in higher player counts when you can spread those cards around, it lessens the downside of a Ranger.

However I hate the Bard, he's incredibly annoying. Being able to look through the discard pile and swap a card out is all well and good, but when that discard pile gets big, your game length exponentially increases as you keep having to wait for someone to spend ages trawling through this giant pile of cards hoping to find the exact profession and colour he wants. Combine this with anyone who has analysis paralysis and frustration sets in quickly. I wish they capped how many cards the Bard could look through, that would be a simple fix.


Customise Your Guildhall


When considering one set on its own, the game is nicely balanced, however when you inevitably grab the other sets on top, you have the option of mixing the cards up. In the original Guildhall, this was a problem, because doing so randomly meant that some combinations got unbalanced beyond belief. Here it seems AEG have listened and split the sets into classes, one card for each of 6 different classes in the box. Now when you mix other sets you can simply change the selected card for a particular class and still retain a balance approach. Of course you can simply just combine every card in all sets for the 18 profession "epic" experience, however I will seriously be concerned for your mental health as I can't even fathom the amount of time such a game would take.


You've also got rules for having shorter games and variants a plenty and that's not even including what people have come up with online. There's a good amount of variety in how you can customise Guildhall and that's one of its biggest selling points. It's very adaptable to your needs. Annoyed that your buddy roped in that 4th player? Play with less victory points. Too much for new players to handle? Reduce the number of professions and victory point cards available thus reducing the choices they have to filter through.

All of this helps to add to the replay value, which for me is a little hit and miss with just one box. Playing the same 6 abilities every game will get very repetitive and almost force you to consider grabbing additional boxes just to change things up a bit. So suddenly that low price tag becomes a much higher one.



Verdict on Guildhall: Fellowship



If you're a fan of the original Guildhall, I don't feel you need to go mad and grab every set of this new version, you will only gain so much in doing so and probably already have plenty of cards to choose from. However if you're a newbie to this franchise, this is a good cheap entry point to begin with. It's had its original issues tweaked and refined making it more accessible, minus having to teach a lot of iconography. It's not just simply slapping another generic theme on and pushing it out the door. The issues with storage though might mean I'm less inclined to pick up individual boxes until I catch sight of a bigger storage solution for all the sets in the future.

The game play is solid and will satisfy anyone who enjoys building combos with cards, so if you like games like Elysium or Deus, this will be right up your street. The depth isn't apparent until you've played through a whole game and noticed how some professions work well with others and how timing your actions right can yield great rewards. That said it has enough luck from the card draw that a new player doesn't have to feel he's getting beaten down constantly.

The lack of any kind of theme may affect how often I get it to the table coupled with the difficulties in teaching all the iconography, but otherwise if I need a relatively quick card game for up to 3 players, this fills that requirement nicely and will likely be a sleeper hit for AEG. Don't however bring in the 4th player. . . . just don't, play a different game then.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE GUILDHALL: FELLOWSHIP IF:


You're a fan of building combos and conducting hand based shenanigans.


You prefer the artwork and generic theme here to the original as much as it's pasted on.


You want something nice and quick for 2-3 players max.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE GUILDHALL: FELLOWSHIP IF:


You play regularly with 4 or more players - too much time and chaos to be fun then.


You can't easily store it. Yes the box is more compact, but wait till you get more sets.


You're only going to keep one box. Despite the variants, the card variety isn't enough to last.

0 comments: