Game Buzz: Guilds of London

Today’s game is something I’ve been hearing about for years, and is finally being released:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Guilds of London is a new game from designer Tony Boydell that is being published by his own Surprised Stare Games in conjunction with Tasty Minstrel Games.  The game is for 1-4 players (solo rules aren’t out yet) and plays in about 45 minutes.  In Guilds of London, you are trying to become Master in as many Guilds as possible in London in order to become the Lord Mayor.  This game has been in development for years, and now it’s finally coming out.  So let’s take a look.

The game comes with 40 guild tiles, 2 Guildhall tiles, 5 special building tiles, one plantation tile, one double-sided scoreboard, 64 liveryman pawns in player colord, 8 player markers, 8 neutral liveryman pawns, one round marker, one beadle piece, 30 second place reward tokens, one compass rose tokens, 105 action cards, and 21 mayoral reward cards.  To begin the game, you place the two Guildhall tiles in the center of the play area, then shuffle the special buildings with the guild tiles and deal out ten tiles starting side up around the two.  More tiles will be added throughout the game, unless you’re playing with just two people.  With two, you start with one Guildhall tile, and then surround it so there is a 5×5 grid with the four special buildings on each side of the Guildhall.  In both versions, you’ll put randomly selected second place reward tokens face up on each guild/special building.  The beadle piece goes on the guild with the lowest number, and each player is dealt six action cards.  Each player places four liveryman pawns of their color on the Guildhall, with remaining liver man pawns kept in a general supply.  Each player is dealt three mayoral reward cards, and keep one – this is a secret objective for you.

Guilds of London plays over the course of 12-16 rounds, depending on the number of players (12 with 4, 15 with 3, 16 with 2).  In each round, players will get to take one turn in descending order of victory points (randomly in the beginning).  At the end of the round, tiles will resolve and growth may occur.

On a turn, a player may play any number of action cards from their hand.  Each card can be used to take one of three actions:

  • Hire a liveryman.  Play any action card to move a liveryman of your color from the general supply to the Guildhall.
  • Move a liveryman.  Play any action card to move a liveryman from any space (including the Guildhall) to another that matches the suit of the card.  Some tiles show multiple suits, and any of those suits can be played to move there.
  • Use a special ability.  Every card has a special ability, plus a cost.  The cost must be paid by discarding that number of cards or removing the indicated pawns.  This cost may also be nothing.

After taking your turn, you draw two cards from the action deck.  If you played no cards this turn, you draw four cards.  There is a hand limit of seven cards, so you may need to discard after that.

After all players have had a turn, tiles are resolved (this only happens every other round in the two-player game).  This is done from left to right, beginning from the top.  Any tile containing a number of pieces equal to or greater than the number is resolved in the following sequence:

  • Negotiation: Each player may replace any number of colored liverymen on the tile with neutral liverymen from their personal stock.  Replaced liverymen are returned to the Guildhall.
  • Voting: Count the number of pawns in each color.  If you have the majority, you win the vote.  Ties are broken by adjacent tiles with one of your master pawns on it, though if there’s still a tie, no one wins it.  After voting, all neutral liverymen are returned to the general supply.
  • Rewards: The winner of the tile scores 1st place points and the resolution bonus.  The winner also may carry out all or part of the 1st place abilities.  The second place winner scores the 2nd place reward.  The tile is then flipped face down, and the winner places one of his pawns on the tile as the Master.  All other pawns are returned to the Guildhall.

After resolving tiles, you do a Growth phase.  This only happens every third round in a 3-4 player game, and after every fourth round in a 2-player game.

  • Resolve Plantation Tile: This is much like resolving other tiles – Negotiation has you replacing pawns with neutral ones (though they are returned at the end of this phase instead of Voting), and Voting awards the win to majority.  Rewards are scored based on first and second place, and you return a certain number of pawns to the general supply, with others remaining.
  • Add New Tiles: In a 3-4 player game, you’ll draw 5-6 new tiles and add them clockwise, beginning from the North.  A random 2nd place reward goes on each.
  • Move the beadle.  He goes to the lowest numbered guild.
  • Check for the end of the game.  If the marker has reached the end of the round track, proceed to final scoring.

In the Final Scoring, players reveal their mayoral rewards cards and add bonuses to their score.  You also get one point per orthogonally adjacent pair of tiles where you have a master pawn.  The player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user pawnpusher
image by BGG user pawnpusher

As I mentioned, I’ve been hearing about this game for a long time.  It seems like every time I hear someone talk about it, they have nothing but good things to say.  From all accounts, it seems to be Tony Boydell’s masterpiece.  His earliest published game is from 1999, and his biggest success is 2012’s Snowdonia (which is the only one of his games that I have played – it’s a pretty good worker placement game, but I was frankly expecting more snow).  I have a feeling that this game is going to surpass that one easily.

Guilds seems to be essentially an area control game, and one with a lot of push and pull.  Boydell calls it a hybrid between El Grande and Blue Moon City, and I can see how that type of comparison makes sense.  There is a lot of variety in the game – 44 possible tiles that will always be in a different order ensures that you’ll never play the same way twice.

So, in short, this is a game I’m looking forward to trying out.  Should be a good time.  Thanks for reading!

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