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Subject: Red Player One Reviews Guilds of London rss

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Curt Frantz
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The Game

Guilds of London is a game of area control wherein 1 to 4 players (2 to 4 recommended) strategically appoint liveryman pawns to different guild positions in the city and thus gaining significant power when tiles mature.



The Board and Components

In this game, the main game ‘board’ is made of tiles surrounding two guildhall tiles. At the beginning of the game, 10 tiles will be placed around the guildhall. A random 2nd place token will be placed face-up on each non-guildhall tile. As the game progresses, more tiles will be placed around the growing city, opening up more options for pawn placement.



There are a number of things to take note of on each tile. The number in the upper left-hand corner indicates the majority value, or the number of liveryman pawns that must be present for the tile to be resolved. When resolved, the 1st and 2nd place rewards depicted are distributed. In some cases, the 2nd place reward can be as appealing as the 1st place reward. Each tile also contains at least one guild association, as seen in the upper right-hand corner. Many have two guild symbols and there are five special building tiles that have four guild symbols.





There is a side board which tracks the game round and contains the neutral liveryman pawns (two per player), mayoral reward cards (end of game VPs), and the plantation tile. The plantation tile is double sided and either side can be chosen.



Each player has 16 liveryman pawns which they will be placing into the guildhall throughout the game. There is also the beadle piece, which will start on the lowest numbered tile but move from tile to tile as tiles are resolved. The beadle counts towards the majority value of a tile, but is owned by no player.

The player aids are important, and will commonly be passed between players. They are extensive, and help to explain the many and varied actions granted by action cards in the game. Unfortunately, they can slow the game down the first few times a group plays the game together. Not all cards are present on the aid (i.e. they might be there in a different color or value, leaving you to dig).





The Gameplay

Once the board is set up, each player is dealt six face-down action cards to keep and three face down mayoral reward cards, of which they will keep one. Each player will also place four liveryman pawns on the guildhall.

The game is played in a number of rounds, which is dependent on the number of players (2p = 16, 3p = 15, 4p = 12). Each round progresses in the following order:

Start new round (advance round marker)


Player actions

This is where the bulk of the game takes place. In descending order of victory points, players will take actions using the cards in their hand. Each card can be used in three ways:

1. To hire a liveryman pawn: any card is discarded to hire a liveryman pawn. The player simply places a pawn from their stock into the guildhall.

2. To move a liveryman pawn: the player may move a pawn (or master) from the guildhall or any other guild or special building to a different guild or special building, as long as the color of the card played matches the tile being moved to. For example, if the player wants to move a pawn from the guildhall to a building tile with a yellow guild symbol, he or she must discard a yellow card.



3. For its special ability: each card contains a special ability, which can be triggered by discarding the card and paying the cost in the upper left-hand corner of the card. Sometimes pawns or other cards (as gold) must be discarded to satisfy the cost. Many of the special abilities involve drawing additional action or mayoral reward cards, moving pawns, gaining neutral pawns, or adding pawns to the plantation tile. In the below example, the player must discard this card and pay 1 other card to satisfy the gold cost, and they will gain 2 victory points.





Each player will take as many actions as they would like, as long as they have cards in hand. Once finished, they will draw two action cards from the deck. If no cards are played in a turn, four cards are drawn instead of two. If above the hand limit of seven, the player discards down. Play continues to the player with the next highest VP total.



End of round phase

1. Tiles are resolved

In 3-player and 4-player games, tiles are resolved at the end of each round, while in a 2-player game, this takes place every other round. Starting in the top left of the board, tiles are resolved from left to right, moving down each row successively. When a tile is reached that contains pawns equal to or exceeding the printed majority value that tile is resolved. All player pawns and the beadle count towards this value.



For each tile being resolved, the following phases are carried out:

a. Negotiation: in current turn order, the players will choose whether they would like to replace any pawns on the tile (their own or another players’) with neutral liveryman from their personal stock (possibly affecting 1st and 2nd place winners) or pass. In the below example, the yellow player chose to replace two red pawns with neutral pawns, thus tying for 1st place.



b. Voting: the pawns are counted. If there is a tie, each tied player adds one for each orthagonally adjacent master pawn (explained below). If there is still a tie, the tile does not resolve this round.

c. Rewards: the winner of the tile collects their first place reward and carries out any granted actions. The 2nd place finisher gains their reward. If there is a tie or no 2nd player on the tile, nobody gains this reward. The resolved tile is flipped facedown and one of the winning player’s pawns is left on the tile and is considered to be a ‘master pawn’. In the below example, the yellow player won the resolved tile, and left a maser pawn behind.



A master indicates that the player now controls the tile, which may be important for playing action cards or scoring mayoral reward cards later in the game. All other liveryman pawns are returned to the guildhall. If the beadle was on the resolved tile, it is moved to the lowest numbered tile on the board. It’s important to note that this may trigger the resolution of other tiles, but only if they’re below and/or to the right of the tile just resolved.

2. If the round marker is on a grey space, carry out a growth phase. Otherwise, proceed with the next round.

Growth phase

In each growth phase, the plantation tile is resolved. Certain action cards allow players to move pawns from the guildhall to the plantation tile, which grants 1st and 2nd place bonuses as the building tiles do.



The resolution of the plantation is carried out the same way as with the building tiles – with negotiation, voting, and reward phases. Again, this allows players to use their neutral liveryman pawns to affect 1st and 2nd place winners. If there is a tie for 1st place, the tied players each get the 2nd place reward, and ties for 2nd result in no rewards. Players return as many pawns from the plantation tile to the general supply as indicated on the tile.



If the round marker has reached the end of its track (or in a 2p game, if all tiles are resolved), final scoring takes place. In a 3 or 4-player game, 5 tiles (3p) or 6 tiles (4p) are added to the board clockwise starting in the North (round 3), East (round 6), South (round 9) or West (round 12) positions.

The beadle is then moved if there is a lower numbered tile now present. A new round is started.


Final scoring

The final scoring consists of VPs collected throughout the game, points from mayoral reward cards, and 1 point for each set of a player’s orthogonally adjacent master pawns (from tiles they won).

Final thoughts

What I liked

Neutral liveryman: the decision of whether or not to use neutral pawns during the negotiation phase adds a really juicy element to this game. Often tiles are won due to sheer intimidation. A player holding 2 or 3 neutral liveryman pawns has a lot of power, especially if they’re late in turn order.

Cards can be played many ways: this is personally one of my favorite mechanics (looking at you, La Granja). Cards can be used to place pawns, move pawns, use a special ability, or pay gold cost. There are so many different ways to play a hand of cards in Guilds of London. Each player is dealt only 6 cards to start, but I really feel that a player can choose to pursue any number of routes from the outset.

Second place rewards can be as good as first: this isn’t often the case, but when it is, another layer of strategy is added. Instead of engineering a victory, maybe it’s more important to be 2nd. Or at the very least, maybe it’s not worth expending resources (neutral pawns) to take first place. Neutral liverymen are valuable and should only be used when the time is right.

The game scales well with 2, 3, and 4 players: I don’t often think of area control games as playing well with 2 players, but the alterations made by Boydell for a 2-player game keep it interesting. It may not be best 2-player game on the market, but it’s certainly fun.


What I didn’t like

Rulebook is poorly written: certain things were referenced (master pawns, beadle, etc.) in the rules but were never fully explained. It took digging through the context clues to determine how certain mechanics functioned.

Convoluted iconography: this is going to be a major hurdle the first two or three plays with a group. The depicted actions are simple, but translating them is often difficult. The player aids help some, but not all cards are even explicitly explained. Expect turns to go slow due to the constant referencing of the aids. It’s really a pretty simple game to be so confusing, at first. Games involving first or second time players will always be a bit slow and frustrating. Expect these games to take at least 90 minutes.


In summary, there’s a pretty good game here. There are some pretty major hurdles to overcome in the form of the rulebook and iconography, but I think Guilds of London worth it. After I translate cards in my hand, I feel like I’m capable of some really cool actions. As I’ve played more I’ve gained a familiarity with the symbols, which has made the game much more enjoyable.




If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE

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Brad Keusch
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It's hard to remember we're alive for the first time. It's hard to remember we're alive for the last time.
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nice review, I've only played once but I definitely enjoyed it and I forsee myself picking it up at some point. While the neutral liverymen adds an interesting wrinkle, as you've said, it can definitely be quite mean and I think some groups will be a little turned off by it. I'd definitely make clear how powerful they are when explaining the rules to new players.
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Curt Frantz
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anatana wrote:
nice review, I've only played once but I definitely enjoyed it and I forsee myself picking it up at some point. While the neutral liverymen adds an interesting wrinkle, as you've said, it can definitely be quite mean and I think some groups will be a little turned off by it. I'd definitely make clear how powerful they are when explaining the rules to new players.


You're definitely right about the neutral liveryman pawns. The burden is on the teacher to make sure the players understand the huge implications of these pawns. A lot of the strategy in GoL is in the collecting and strategic use of them.

And no, it's not what I would consider a friendly game
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Daniel King
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Nice review. I played for the first time last night and I've been thinking about the game all day today at work which is a sign that there is a pretty strong game here. I agree with both of your negative points about the extensive iconography and I think the rulebook is rough. That being said, the game really left a strong impression on me and both of those negatives are really only an issue on the first couple of plays. I think that if you have a group that has already played you get a pretty deep game in a relatively short amount of time.
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Curt Frantz
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wkufan89 wrote:
Nice review. I played for the first time last night and I've been thinking about the game all day today at work which is a sign that there is a pretty strong game here. I agree with both of your negative points about the extensive iconography and I think the rulebook is rough. That being said, the game really left a strong impression on me and both of those negatives are really only an issue on the first couple of plays. I think that if you have a group that has already played you get a pretty deep game in a relatively short amount of time.


I think you're also on the mark. There's definitely a good game underneath the iconography hurdle. It can be challenging to prevent players from being quickly turned off. It is helpful to play with the same group semi-regularly, so you're not always teaching new players. Even one new player turns the game into a bit of a tutorial.
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