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Tabletop Game / Guillotine

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Guillotine is a card game printed by Wizards of the Coast. In the game, 2-6 players get to take the role of guillotine executioners during The French Revolution of the late 18th century. The players do their best to execute as many high-ranking Nobles themselves as they can before the revolution runs its course, while trying to force rival players to execute the petty nobles.

The first deck is the Noble deck. It contains cards with various French Nobles drawn on them (anything from a lowly Piss-Boy to His Majesty King Louis XVI). These are the nobles to be executed, and the players fight over who gets to execute the "best" ones during the game. At the start of the game, twelve of these nobles are dealt out on the table, forming a "queue" for the guillotine. The players then take turns collecting executing the first noble in the queue, earning a number of points shown on the card's face. Naturally, Nobles like Marie Antoinette or Robespierre are worth a high number of points, and thus all players crave to chop their heads off personally, leaving scum nobles like the Coiffeur or Heretic to other players. Once all nobles on the board have been executed, the "Day" ends, and a new line of twelve nobles is dealt out. Rinse and repeat for three "days", and then tally the final score.


The second deck of cards is the Action deck, which is really the meat of this game. Players draw action cards to their hands, and during their turn (before executing the first noble in the queue) they can play a single action card. For the most part, these cards will change the order of the line in one specific manner (as written on the Action card itself). This may include moving any of the nobles a specified number of places backwards/forwards, removing or replacing a noble with another one, randomly rearranging part of the line, etcetera. The idea, of course, is to choose an action card that moves a more "valuable" noble to the front of the line for the pickup, or to rearrange the line so that the other players get "lousy pickings" (and preferably both at the same time, if possible). Some action cards are far more devious, and can cause other players to lose some of their collected heads, switch hands with other players, or add fresh nobles at the back of the queue. Other Action cards are "permanent", remaining on the board after being played and assisting the player who placed them down by increasing his score, or decreasing an opponent's score.


The cards themselves are colorfully illustrated, and feature humorous depictions of the goings on at the scene of the guillotine. Chaos in line, the bloodthirsty crowd, political meddling, and of course the Nobles themselves playing underhanded tricks on each other to delay the inevitable. All this adds to the humorous and back-stabby atmosphere that the game tries to generate between players.

Unfortunately, despite all its potential for complexity, the game remains largely based on luck-of-the-draw. Both short-term and long-term strategies tend to collapse quickly. This has prompted many Guillotine players to develop their own devious house-rules to make the game more interesting. In addition, while the game is supposed to support up to 6 players, the great variety of Action and Noble cards and combinations - coupled with no "cap" on the amount of Action cards a player can hold in his hand at any time (and no requirement to play any of them during his turn, either) - can slow the game down to a crawl pretty soon. It is best played in small groups of 2 to 4, and again, home rules are pretty much encouraged.


Examples of tropes in this work include:

  • All Crimes Are Equal: The King and his Piss Boy are standing in the same line together, with the same fate awaiting them at the front.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Which is why you have to execute them all. The degree of their "evil" pretty much determines their point value, so a Royal Cartographer isn't worth as many points as a Regent or General.
    • And some "Aristocrats" are wrongfully accused. The Martyr and Hero of the People are thus worth negative points when you pick them up, so all players try to avoid executing them like the pox! Or better yet, force someone else to execute them, hehehehe.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: You're an executioner. Get chopping for the good of the people.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: This is why getting Military Support increases the execution value of all the army officers, from Lieutenant to the General.
  • Hanging Judge: Supposedly, the Unpopular Judge is this. When he gets to the front of the line, none of the players can move him away due to public demand. The next player will therefore inevitably execute him. He's worth a couple of points, though.
  • Historical Domain Character: King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre all appear as executable Nobles. Scarlet Pimpernel is an Action card (see below).
  • Moral Event Horizon: invoked Executing the "Grey" nobles, who are favoured by the people, and cause you to lose points. The Tragic Figure is the worst, as it can cost you a LOT of points if you also executed many other Grey nobles.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: "Bribery" is one of the action cards for rearranging the queue, with the card art showing the guard covertly accepting a payment.
  • Set Bonus: Each "Palace Guard" is worth points equal to the total number of Palace Guards you have at the end of the game (so the total value equals the square of the number you collect).
  • Sinister Minister: Or at least, the public seems to think so. Which is why you need to execute them all, including the "Heretic" along with the "Arch-bishop" and "Bad Nun"!
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The revolutionary guards at the execution square are completely unreliable, which is why the players can do so much to rearrange the queue as they see fit.
    • Then someone plays the Callous Guards card, and suddenly the line becomes unmodifiable, frustrating everybody. (Including the player who played it, most often! Though they can discard it if they decide it's no longer worth keeping it in play.)
    • Sometimes the guards want their own say about who gets executed first (Opinionated Guards), rearranging the queue randomly.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The L'Idiot Action card - a Noble voluntarily moves forward a considerable distance towards the front of the line.
    • Also, to a lesser degree, Was That My Name?.
  • Villain Protagonist: You, basically. Look at all those poor nobles!