Guillotine was designed by Paul Peterson for Wizards of the Coast. The tag line for the game is “The revolutionary card game where you win by getting a head.” It’s a wonderful play on words for a game about beheading nobles during the French Revolution. The game is for two to five players and claims to take around 30 minutes to play. The game comes with two decks of cards, a guillotine and instructions.
The game plays thusly. The two decks – action cards and noble cards – are shuffled, you deal out five action cards to each player, and then lay out, beginning at the guillotine, a line of twelve nobles. On your turn, you can play an action card if you want, then you behead the first noble in line, and finally you draw an action card. You always draw an action card, even if you didn’t play one, and if you collect the head of a noble that contains special instructions you have to do whatever it says. The real meat of the game is in the first segment of your turn, because action cards contain all sorts of things, like rearranging the line, so you can use them to collect the best head you can or try to prevent your opponents from collecting them. Anyway, once the line is depleted, the day is over. You repeat the cycle for three days of beheading. There are no special rules for two player games.
We begin by shuffling the cards. (Wife: Does this guillotine actually do anything?) Of course. It cuts off heads. (Wife: How?) Oh, you mean does it actually DO anything… no, it doesn’t. It just marks the head of the line. (Wife: So it’s just a prop then.) Yes. I deal out the action cards and she deals out the line of nobles. She always wins (Wife: Hehe!), so she goes first. (Wife: So, I always get a guy from the front of the line?) Yes, unless the action card you play says you don’t.
She takes the early lead by causing King Louis to be discarded and collecting the Cardinal for 5 points. (Wife: I am winning!) I play Mass Confusion – which lets me re-deal the line – and then collect a Palace Guard. (Wife: He’s not worth any points.) Oh, but he is. The Palace Guard is worth as many points as you have Palace Guards. Since I have 1 now he’s only worth 1 point, but if I get a second one, both of them will be worth 2. (Wife: And if you get 3 then all of them will be worth 3.) Exactly! (Wife: You don’t have to be so excited when I understand math stuff.) Yes I do! (Wife: Just play.) It’s your turn. (Wife: Oh.)
So, play goes back and forth like that for day one, the last noble to meet the Guillotine is The Clown, and she fights desperately to not have to take him, until we realize that the action on his card says that if you collect him you get to give him to another player. (Wife: That’s you!) And that’s me. So I get The Clown, worth -2 points. (Wife: That’s MINUS two points.) And we deal out another 12 nobles for day two.
I said there weren’t special rules for two player games (Wife: Did you forget to tell me all the rules again?) and there aren’t, however a number of the action cards target an opponent which if you are playing with more than two players means something, but in two player it just means (Wife: You.) the other player.
I spend days two and three trying out various strategies (Wife: Strategy. Haha!) but she out plays me and when we total up the score she has 45 points to my 27. (Wife: I win!) Not so fast! Since the game only took about 25 minutes to play, we decide (Wife: You decide.) to play best two out of three. (Wife: You just want to steal my victory.) No, these are the rules. We play best of three for short games. (Wife: Whatever.)
For the second game, I give up on strategy. (Wife: You are learning, young Skywalker.) Did you just make a Star Wars joke? (Wife: Yes.) I’m so proud! (Wife: You have taught me well.) Okay, now you are just showing off. (Wife: Punch it, Chewy!) What? (Wife: I am your father.) Just stop. So, without strategy I do much better and score 42 points. She performs about the same (Wife: Because I never use strategy.) and gets 44 points. (Wife: I win!) Let the wookie win. (Wife: Did you just call me a wookie?!) No, I… it was a Star Wars joke. (Wife: Sure it was.) Seriously. (Wife: Whatever.)
From my brief experience with the game, I’ve determined that playing a long game is useless. This is definitely a game of instant gratification. Stick to playing cards that help you right now, or hurt your opponent right now. Trying to lay in wait and bide your time just results in you losing by a large margin. And once we get more familiar with the cards, the game will go much faster. (Wife: I like this game.) Because you won? (Wife: No, because it’s fun.) Good.
Man, 0. Wife, 5.
(Wife: I win! Five! In your face!)