- Designer: Christian Giove
- Publisher: Giochi Uniti / Stratelibri
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 60-90 mins
- Review copy provided by Giochi Uniti via Asmodee NA (who distributes here in US)
Description from the publisher:
The bloody War of the Seven Kingdoms has been over for more than thirty years, and the kingdom of Anderis is experiencing a period of great expansion, thanks in part to its central position which has quickly transformed it into an important commercial crossroads. New roads have been built in the kingdom, with a new city founded at their meeting point which has grown so much that the King has decided to move the capital there and build a new castle.
Numerous corporations of craftsmen were already present in the city, but now guilds are forming, which are larger and more wide-ranging, powerful and in competition with one another. With the goal of obtaining favor with the King, the guilds will gather together the most prestigious personages within them, not to mention those who can bring the largest influx of money or useful talent.
What better place than the central square to find new members? For this reason, each guild places its tents in the central square every week, inviting the persons it considers most interesting to sign up by incentivizing them with precious gifts. This is certainly not a low-cost operation considering that it can cost many pieces of silver to put together the most convincing gift.
At the same time, each guild must build its headquarters, spending large amounts of gold to enlarge it with a range of luxurious rooms suitable for its members; if this were not enough, the guilds must also take into account the King’s current tastes on what is most important for a guild worthy of his approval.
Will you manage to make your guild stand out so that it becomes the most important in the city? Which means will you be willing to use in Guilds to win the King’s favor?
To setup the game, the somewhat confusingly named (and hexagonally shaped) Central Square board is placed in the middle of the table. Characters are placed around the hexagon as the player count demands – see the diagram in the rules. Each player takes their own player board and puts the Entrance Hall tile on the starting position. Objective cards are chosen at random and placed face up on the table. There is a handy chart in the rules that tells you how many of each of these things is needed based on the player count. The game will be played over 8 rounds (in a 3 or 4p game), and each follows the same pattern of 5 phases…
First, at the start of the round, each player takes their income – seen on their rooms in their guild building as well as on their character cards. Large and small rooms are revealed for the round as well as the required number of characters. The Characters are organized around the hexagonal Central Square in a specific way.
Second, there is an Auction. Each of the six possible wedges of the Central Square has a colored area for each player. Bids will be placed on the corresponding spaces during this phase – note that ONLY SILVER coins can be used here. Each player has three options – they can Pass (which does not preclude them re-entering the round), they can make a bid – but in doing so, they must place two bids so that they are winning in both areas, or they can choose a card – if they start the round with the highest bid on any character card, they can take that card, discarding their bid to the bank. All losing bids remain on that space of the square. The round ends if all players pass consecutively (or when all the Characters have been bought).
Third, there is a money changing phase. At this time, any unused bids are taken back from the Central Square. Then, all players can convert 5 Silver to 1 Gold (as many times as they like). While Silver was used to bid on characters, Rooms must be bought with Gold. Additionally, any remaining Silver will be discarded, so conversion to Gold is the only way to preserve currency. However, I would caution you to consider not converting all of you silver… The amount of silver left over is what determines the start player in the next round, and this can be a crucial decision as that first player gets to make the initial bids in the next round, and this can be a huge step towards getting the cards that you want.
Fourth, in clockwise order, players may choose any one available room, pay its cost in Gold, and then add it to their building. It must be placed so that it is in contact with another room and all the doors make sense. Players could possibly buy more than one room, as the phase continues until all players pass – but you can only build one room per turn.
Fifth, and finally, the week ends. Each player gets the chance to place a single Silver coin on top of any unpurchased Room tile to save it for the next round (there is no obligation to buy it, the coin simply prevents the room from being discarded). Then, all unsaved rooms are discarded, and the First Player token goes to the player with the most Silver remaining. Once this is accomplished, all players discard any remaining Silver.
If there are still rounds to be played, start another round. If this was the end of the final round (again 8 rounds in a 4p game OR the end of any round where one player has filled in all the spaces on their building site) – then the scores are calculated – there are three main ways to score VPs
- Each character card has a VP value
- Each Room in your building has a VP value
- Each Objective with is met has a VP value
The player with the most VP wins, and ties go to the player with the lowest income
My thoughts on the game
Guilds in an interesting game that challenges the players to both gain valuable and useful people to join their guild as well as buying suitable rooms to enlarge their guild headquarters. As each of these goals requires money, and that is something that is in relatively short supply – you have to make the best of your opportunities as they arise.
The fairly unique auction phase takes a bit of getting used to – the system that requires you to make two bids each time leads to all sorts of possibilities. First, you have to manage your money well so that you have enough money to make your bids. You also have to make sure that you don’t end up paying for something that you don’t want! If you’re particularly good at bidding, you might also be able to cleverly disguise your true intentions and fake out your opponents. There is also some interesting interplay with jockeying for position. In the 3p setup, some of the Central Square positions get multiple cards, and there are times that you want the second one in line… If you can time the bidding right, you can have a second highest bid which suddenly becomes the highest once someone buys the first card!
You also need to watch your funds carefully. The two-currency system is a little complicated/fiddly, and there will certainly be times when you wish you had more Silver, but all of your wealth is already locked into Gold. If you are too aggressive in the card buying auction, you might not leave yourself enough money to get the room that you want! And, this will probably happen once or twice when you end up winning an auction you weren’t planning on winning – and therefore, you don’t’ get to take the money you bid at that location and must instead take the card that you “won”.
While trying to bid on the cards, you should be looking at both your own guild members as well as those of your opponents. I’ve found that the special actions on the cards are not balanced; that is, there are some cards which are way better than others. I don’t think that it’s an unbalancing thing in the game because, after all, players will bid and pay what the market deems the cards are worth. But, it is definitely possible for a player to get a killer combination of cards, and some thought may need to be placed into defending against that. Of course, that’s a hard pill to swallow if you don’t particularly need this second half of the killer combo that someone else is going to get.
The room puzzle is also interesting; trying to get your rooms to fit into the building with the doors lining up just right. In the later stages of the game, be sure to look at the layouts of your opponent’s buildings – it may turn out that they can’t even bid on particular rooms as their layout will not allow the legal placement of said room. This could help you budget your money better…
My games so far have been closer to the 90-120 minute range, but I suspect that some of that is due to lack of familiarity with the cards/rooms as well as having at least one person new to the game in each game so far. The actions that come on the cards can add up, and there is a lot of information to process at times. If you have an AP prone player in your group, 2+ hours would not be out of the question at all though.
My one big complaint here is the rulebook. For some reason, the rules are split up into two shorter books, but I really don’t see a good reason for why they have been separated as such. It made it a bit harder to find stuff, and any time that we had questions, we had to look in two different places to make sure we had the answer. I know that some people love this sort of thing – with the main rules in one place and then explanations/examples in a second; but this style doesn’t work as well for me. I want all the information on a game phase to be in a single place. That’s just the way my brain works. The translation is also a bit stilted at times, so you do have to kind of wade through the language in certain points…
Overall, Guilds gives the gamer a challenging game with a really interesting bidding system. As with many Italian games, it’s on the heavier side, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. This is the sort of game that you’re going to have to look at all of the card actions closely to figure out what works best for you. You’ll be able to plot different strategies based on these actions that you acquire, and it is the sort of game that will take a number of games to wrap your head around the different possibilities and interactions. I definitely still have room to explore in Guilds, and I hope to play it over the course of the winter to see what else the game has to offer.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor