guillotine box

Sometimes the theme of a game seems totally arbitrary; the theme does nothing to guide, instruct, or illuminate game play. Guillotine (Wizards of the Coast, 1998), however, is not one of those games; the game play fits precisely with the theme, and does so in a humorous, fun, and slightly bawdy way.

In Guillotine, players are rival executioners in revolutionary France vying for heads. Heads vary in terms of point value, and some heads are more valuable if they are collected along with particular other heads.

There are three rounds, each representing a day of executions, in which 12 “nobles” (see pics below) are lined up for execution, beginning at a cardboard gallows. Players have a hand of “Action” cards, and are free to play one at the beginning of each turn. Action cards can do many things, such as rearrange the lineup, pull nobles out of the lineup, add nobles to it, allow the player to steal or swap a head from another basket, etc. After they have played the action card or passed, they then collect whatever noble is next in line for execution, and then draw another action card.

guillotine cards

It’s the use of action cards that make the game so much fun; since heads that have been collected are on public display, face up in front of each executioner, all players can gauge each others’ worth and play action cards with that in mind.

This is a fun and relatively quick game, and it’s small enough to travel with. It’s recommended for ages 12 and up, but if the sometime risque humor is not an issue (chances are it’s too subtle to be easily noticed), it can be played by ages 8 and over. The humor makes it a great ice breaker, where players may not know each other well, and I recommend it for light-gaming situations, or perhaps as a pastime when waiting for some bigger event.

Buy Guillotine on Amazon!

6 thoughts on “Guillotine”

  1. Ha, got this game just recently. Certainly does have a fun macabre theme! Feels a little like “Sitting Duck Gallery”.

    Good to know I’m not old and jaded – I’ve completely missed the risque humour. Still in ignorance I’m afraid! Unless “Piss Boy” counts as risque? (not in my book!)

    My quandary with this sort of themed game is – how do you enforce people to stick to the theme? Ideally I don’t want to *force* anything, but it makes me sad when there’s a good, fun theme like this and yet players will slap down their card and say merely “move forward three” or “shuffle line” instead of reading the card’s title eg “shove” or “mistaken identities” etc. You can tell them to read it, but that never seems to stick.

    1. Whether people stick to the theme or not is really a function of the people you play it with, which is kind of the beauty of this game. The hard core gamer in me can play competitively with the ones who think in purely functional terms and still enjoy it for the sake of the competition, but the fun-loving part of me allows me to enjoy the theme, and actually be there as the executioner, greedily trying to rearrange death row to my own sick advantage. The more people you have that can do both, the more fun the game is on a social level. BUT the game’s mechanics make it fun even without the theme, so if you find yourself surrounded by board game geeks who couldn’t care less about whether it’s revolutionary France or just a variation on a trick-taking game, you can still enjoy it.

      I did find this link to Wil Wheaton, famous for a role in the movie Stand By Me and a role in Star Trek: The Next Generation:

  2. (Also should note my girlfriend insisted we get this game as apparently some North American tv personality called “Wil Wheaton” is obsessed by it, and carries it around everywhere)

  3. Looks like fun, I look forward to coming across this game some time.

    STAR TREK… not Wars. Or have you heard of a new movie…. to wikipedia, just to be sure…

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