The Alexandrian

Tagline: Who can resist a card game where you’re competing to see who can decapitate and execute the most people?

Guillotine - Wizards of the CoastI have to admit that I sickened of the collectible trading card market before getting beyond my first addictive encounter with Magic the Gathering. After spending $70 to get a complete set of one of the early supplement sets I realized I had spent $70 to get a bunch of cards which, if WotC wasn’t actively attempting to rip off its consumers, should have only cost $15 to get and wouldn’t have created a detritus of cardboard. I also thought about how much potential enjoyment I was going to get out of that $70 investment and realized the money could be better spent just about anywhere else I cared to think about spending it. As a result of these bad experiences I ignored the card section of the roleplaying store entirely.

Ironically, however, it was Wizards of the Coast which brought me back over there once more with their highly addictive game Twitch. I am very glad they did this because in addition to the other three games in the WotC’s line of “family card games” this was also where my store was keeping the excellent line of Atlas card games (Once Upon a Time, Lunch Money, Spammers, etc.), but also all of the Cheapass Games. So, although I have not since returned to CCGs (and never will, although I am occasionally tempted to just pick up the starter decks – which would render them into normal card games for all intents and purposes) I have discovered one positive spin-off from them: They’ve gotten people experimenting with alternate types of games and they’ve also (re)introduced a number of mechanics which have been adapted into many interesting uses (notably the concept of having cards with unique instructions guide gameplay).

So when I picked up a copy of Guillotine I was looking forward to getting a chance to play it. I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s the basic mechanics:

Each player represents an executioner during the French Revolution. Your goal is to be the guy with the best bragging rights when you go back to the locker room at the end of things – so you want to be responsible for bagging the biggest heads around. The game is made of up three days. On each day twelve nobles are lined up for execution (twelve noble cards are laid down sequentially from left to right). Play goes around the table and consists of each player playing a single action card (if they so desire) and then taking the noble card which is first in line, so to speak. When all the nobles have been executed the day comes to an end. Each noble card has a point value and the action cards modify gameplay in various ways (changing the order in which the nobles are executed, effecting point totals of nobles, etc.). The goal, therefore, is to play your action cards in such a way that by the end of the three days you have the highest point total.

The game, it must be admitted right from the start, will never be addictive enough in the way that RoboRally or Twitch are in order to get a strong following of support. The concept is original and intriguing, but the mechanics (while being very good and providing strong gameplay) simply don’t grab you strongly enough.

The place where this product really shines, though, are the card designs. Illustrated by Quinton Hoover and Mike Raabe under the direction of Christopher Rush the cards are cartoony in style, original, creative, and (most importantly) funny. The action cards are more than amusing, but the caricatures of the noble cards are drop-dead hilarious, if you’ll pardon the pun. The Piss Boy card, in particular, became the favorite of the group I played with.

Overall I can say that I strongly recommend this game. Although it can’t be counted among the “best of the best”, it definitely deserves recognition.

Style: 5
Substance: 4

Writers: Paul Peterson
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Price: n/a
Page Count: n/a
ISBN: 1-57530-534-8

Originally Posted: 1999/04/13

Unlike Before I Kill You, Mister Bond…, which I reviewed around this same time, Guillotine still sees occasional play at my house. Of the other games I mentioned in this review, Twitch, RoboRally, and Lunch Money still get played a lot. Looking at my reviews for these games with the benefit of a decade’s hindsight, I’m actually quite pleased that I was generally fairly accurate in picking out the long-term winners from the short-term losers.

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

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