This game should be called "Guilds of Looking at the Reference Sheet a Bajillion Times".
Every single person I know has noted what an achilles heel this is for an otherwise enjoyable game.
Yes, yes, I know that with a few plays that won't be necessary but it's seriously dampening player enthusiasm which hinders even getting it back to the table.
I totally get that being language independent is a major boon for the international market but if this game simply had the explanation right on the cards like San Juan I'm convinced it would be getting a lot more love. (already many reviews and negative comments focus on this)
I'll gladly tip generously in Geek Gold anyone with more basic graphic design skill than I who takes this little project on and I'm certain countless others will follow suit once it's uploaded!
I agree. I find that it dampens my desire to break this out and it may cause it to go to the sale pile because of this very thing. Makes me think of Feld's original Roma. The icons were so terrible that I had to make paste-ups, which allowed me to enjoy that great little game. They eventually released a newer edition with English text, which makes one wonder why they didn't do it sooner. This game is in a similar, if not the same, boat.
This is a cheat sheet that I made when I was teaching GoL to my group. I found that people could generally decipher any card by piecing it together an icon at a time, but the original "Common Icon" list in the rule book was incomplete, so I added enough of the other ones that pretty much every card was covered.