Review – Guildhall: Job Faire

                One of my favorite games from 2012 was the original Guildhall. Job Faire is a standalone expansion for Guildhall, and is like the original designed by Hope S. Hwang and published by AEG (as usual for a standalone expansion, this review will contain information for those who have never played the original – luckily for me, this involves a lot of cutting and pasting this time; if you’ve read the original, you can just skip to near the bottom of this review). Job Faire is a hand management and set collection game where players take actions to play six distinct cards for an effect and attempt to accumulate multi-colored sets of those cards. A full set is flipped over, and can later be cashed in for a victory point card. Job Faire retails for about $30.

The Quick Take: Good, but the original was better. Guildhall was excellent, and I’ve had a lot of success playing it with gamers and family alike. The cards in Job Faire are just a bit more complicated and prone to AP/confusion, which matters in a light game like this.

The Basics

You get two actions a turn, and the basic one is playing a card from hand. When you play a card you put it on the table in front of you, and execute some sort of action. You cannot play more than one copy of a particular card per turn. At the end of your turn, each of the cards you played that turn goes into your guildhall, where it stacks up with other, different colored copies of the same card (you may not play a color/card combination you already have in your guildhall). Each stack is called a chapter. When you get a set of the five different colors in one of the six different cards, you flip it face-down.

The second possible action is to cash in one or two of those face-down stacks for one of the five victory point cards in a center row (it refills as soon as anyone grabs a VP card). The VP cards are worth from 2-5 for single-stack cards, and 7 or 9 for ones that require cashing in two stacks. Most of the VP cards also give you some sort of non-VP benefit when you grab them (the 5 and 9 VP cards are just raw points). First to 20 VP wins.

The third possible action is to pitch some or all of your hand and draw up to six.

The Cards

There are six different cards in Job Faire – Tax Collector (give away a card to collect VP),  Scholar (put cards from the deck into your guildhall), Peddler (trade cards in your hand with cards from another player’s guildhall, and take an extra action), Hunter (trade cards in your guildhall with cards in the discard pile), Robber (steal a cards from another player’s hand and put it in your guildhall), and Bricklayer (draw cards and then put a smaller number of cards back on top of the deck).

Each card gets better the more of them you already have in your guildhall when you play it. Most of the cards have three “levels” of ability – one for when you have no existing copies, a better version when you have two, and an even niftier version when you already have the other 4. For example, the base Historian grabs the top card of the discard pile and puts it in your guildhall, the 2 version lets you dig through the discard pile for a card of your choice, and the 4 version lets you grab any two.

The strength of the abilities on the VP card is, unsurprisingly, tied to how many VP they are worth. So, for example, there are 4VP cards that let you steal one card from another player, but also 2VP cards that let you steal an entire guild out of someone else’s guildhall.

Iconography/Components

The iconography on the cards is solid – you won’t immediately know what every card does just by looking at it, but once you generally know what a card does you’ll always be able to glance at the icons and know the details. Your hand is represented by a picture of a white hand. Your guildhall is a little white house. An opponent’s guildhall is a little black house (and his hand is a black hand). The discard pile is a tombstone. The deck is a little pile of cards. An extra action is “+A.” A number in a card means that many cards. So, for example, when the Scholar’s ability has the number 3, a picture of the deck, then an arrow pointing to a little white house, that means put three cards from the top of the deck into your guildhall.

The cards and thick VP tokens are the only components, and they’re both of good quality. The container is improved from the original Guildhall – the box is a bit bigger than necessary, but it and the insert have space to store Job Faire, the original Guildhall, and at least one (probably two) more expansions.

Opinions

OK, this is supposed to be something of a standalone review because the expansion is standalone, but I’m having a hard time formulating my opinions in that way, so let start by reproducing the beginning of my Opinions section form my Guildhall review, and then work from there:

“I’ve played this one with 2 and 3 and 4 players, and it works at all of those numbers. Playtime does get longer as you had more players. The box says half an hour, and that’s a reasonable estimate, but it should be less with 2 and more with 4.

Guildhall is just really fun. I know that’s not the most helpful adjective in this context, because you want to know why it’s fun. But, seriously, it’s fun. Easy to grasp, plays quickly, luck’s definitely in there (like any card game) but also actual strategy. It’s adversarial and has enough ‘take that’ to keep things interesting without being too combative. There’s also some amount of beat on the leader, but it’s hard for everyone to have the cards to constantly pick on whoever is in the lead, so it’s more about slowing the leader down than pinning him in place.”

I said up top that I like Job Faire less than the original Guildhall. The only thing that’s different are the six professions, and so, yes, that’s where the less fun lies. Basically everything is more complex in Job Faire. The Tax Collector is a more complicated Farmer. The Hunter is a more complicated Historian. The Bricklayer is a more complicated Dancer. And in all of those cases, the difference is more trading, which takes up a little more brainspace and a notable increase in thought time. The Peddler seems the most problematic, as people seem to take forever deciding which card(s) in their hand to trade for which card(s) in an opponent’s guildhall (and then forgetting half the time and trying to put the card in their own guildhall) – the Trader was the only trading card in the original Guildhall, and people grok trading cards in play for other cards in play a lot more easily.

Peddler can also highlight another difference, which is that it’s harder to interfere with other players. Base Guildhall had the straightforward Assassin to destroy cards from the enemy guildhall, and also the Trader. Job Faire has only the Peddler. Because there’s less ability to nuke almost-complete sets, there’s a greater chance you’ll actually get to use the “4” ability on your cards.

Another strategic change in the card game is that Tax Collector ends up being much stronger than Farmer – winning Job Faire seemed to almost always involve sitting on 7-9 VP tokens. Getting the extra VP for when you already have 2 or 3 in your guildhall just makes a much bigger difference than one might think at first glance.

So, I still think Guildhall is great. If you don’t have it, and you like light card games, I’d still recommend checking it out. So what if you already have Guildhall? Well, you can mix and match the two sets (you can even just combine them if you want a really, really long game of Guildhall), so that could add more variety to your game, and you could make the game go in rather different ways by piling on the interactive cards or restricting things to focusing on your own guildhall. Personally, I wouldn’t mind swapping away the Weaver, since she isn’t much loved. But, really, unlike a lot of card games, I haven’t in any way, shape, or form gotten bored with the cards in Guildhall yet, despite a lot of plays. The curse of a tightly-designed product like that, I guess, is that there might not be as burning a desire for expansions.

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.

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