Its the French Revolution and heads are rolling! As if the work day wasn’t hard enough to get through, try clocking in and out as a guillotine operator. Guillotine is a game in which each player plays the role of an executioner, cutting off heads and collecting notoriety.
As a friendly competition between co-workers, the players try to collect the heads of Nobles with the most prestigious titles. For example, if you behead Marie Antoinette or King Louis XVI you score the maximum amount of notoriety points (5) not to mention gain bragging rights with the other executioners back at work. On the other hand, lopping off the head of the Sheriff, Tax Collector, or the ever so appropriately named Piss Boy (the boy whose job is to empty the chamber pots of other noble members of society) doesn’t gain you very much clout. There are also people that can hurt your reputation as a prestigious executioner. Martyrs, Innocent Victims, Clowns, Tragic Figures, and Heroes of the People are all “nobles” that can hurt your objective. These nobles represent figures in the society that resonate with the common folk and don’t mean much to the nobility. The game takes place over a “three day period” (rounds). Long lines of Nobles are waiting to be executed each day and the days dont end until everyone in the line has been killed. After the end of three days, the executioner with the most notoriety points wins.
The mechanics of the game are really simple, but quite elegant. Each player has a small hand of action cards. A player may play one action card per turn to manipulate the line of nobles waiting to be executed. Once the player has used their action card (or waived their right to use one) the player takes the noble at the front of the line and adds them to their score pile. The action cards say things like “Move a noble backward up to 2 places in line” or “Rearrange the first 4 nobles in line any way you wish”. The strategy is in arranging the line in such a way that gets you high scoring nobles and sets up the next person to get a low scoring noble. Once the noble has been added, the player draws an action card and passes the turn. As with all great games, there are cards that can help you and cards that can hurt other players, this dynamic makes for great competitive banter and revenge gaming. Its not unlikely to hear things like “Oh, you gave me that -2 point noble earlier —well I’ll use this action card to take your highest point noble card”. Karma can really be a b*t©h in these types of games.
The biggest draw of this game is its simplicity and off the wall theme. Guillotine won the Origins award for Best Traditional Card Game in 1998, but traditional is not the best word to apply to a game about lopping off heads…obviously they mean traditional in the sense of a shuffle up and deal game with a small learning curve, either way this game is award worthy. I’ve taken this game to friends houses or played with people who would never consider themselves “table top gamers” and I’ve always managed to have a good time and get everyone else to enjoy something new. Its really great to start the game with “alright guys, this a game about cutting off peoples heads”.