These comments copyright 1998 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated October 10, 1998

Guillotine is a fun, fast, light little game from Wizards of the Coast. It's a card game, complete in one box, in which players are executioners during the reign of terror in the French Revolution. Whoever gathers the most prestigious heads wins the games.

While this sounds gruesome, it actually isn't, as the art work makes light of the subject and keeps it at a silly level.

The game consists of two decks - one of nobles waiting to be executed, and one of action cards for the players to play. Most of these action cards allow you to rearrange the line of nobles. This is important because you normally only get to "collect" the noble in the front of the line. Since the nobles are rated anywhere from 5 points (for King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Cardinal) to -3 (for the Hero of the People) and since you want to collect the most points, you really want to rearrange that line sometimes!

There are three rounds in the game ("days" of execution), in which twelve nobles are lined up randomly in front of the guillotine (a stand-up guillotine is included, but not a working model, alas). Each player may play an action card, then must "harvest" the first noble in line, then draw another action card. When all nobles are removed from the line (either through execution or escape via an action card), lay out twelve more for the second day, and so on until three days have been played.

Most action cards allow you to rearrange the line in some way. Others allow you to gain more points for collecting certain types of nobles, and others allow you to do a variety of things, such as remove a noble from a fellow player's collection, or draw more action cards, or prevent another player from playing an action card, etc.

While certainly not deep, the game doesn't pretend to be. It's an excellent filler game for times when you want something quick and light. I have only two minor complaints, and, of course, a fix for them:

  • The action card Callous Guards is way out of line with the other cards. This card prevents anyone from changing the line order (including adding or subtracting nobles) until you discard Callous Guards - which may mean for the rest of the game. This means that well over half the action cards become useless! It also makes for a boring game, since rearranging the line order is the most fun part of the game. Therefore, I have a house rule that Callous Guards must be discarded after one round of play. (I had originally tried one day, but even that was too long. Brian Bankler suggested one round, and it works well.)
  • (This next fix is actually from Bruce Allen, but it's one I use.) The Noble card Master Spy has the ability to move to the end of the line whenever an action card is played. I'm not sure if the intent is to make sure he's the last card harvested that day, or simply to create some interesting interactions. Since the latter is more fun, that's how we play it. That is, the Master Spy goes to the end of the line when an action card is played, as stated, but the action card is then resolved after the Master Spy has thus moved. So, for example, if you play The Long Walk, first the Master Spy is placed at the end of the line, then the line is reversed, then the Master Spy is executed!
At any rate, a fun game, recommended for those who like lighter fare.

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