Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about running your own Guildhall along comes a new generation of “professionals”. Sure, some of them are hard working and may even build you a new office but you’re still going to have to watch your back and try to help everyone get along. And just wait until the new help mingles with your old workers, I don’t imagine you’ll have enough room for everyone!
How It Works
Guildhall: Job Faire is a standalone expansion for Guildhall providing six new professions along with all of the victory cards and tokens from the base game. I looked at Guildhall here so check that out first if you’re not already familiar with the game, in this review I’ll only be looking at what the expansion adds. Job Faire can be played by itself with the six included professions forming the main deck or you can mix it with the original Guildhall by selecting six professions from the twelve included in both sets. There are no suggested sets in the rules so it’s up to the players to pick the six professions they are going to use. The rules do mention that if you are feeling particularly crazy you can even mix all twelve professions together with the disclaimer that it may result in a long game. I haven’t tried that yet (and I’m not sure the designers have either) so I can’t say how bad of an idea that is.
Since there aren’t any new rules in Job Faire we’ll go right into looking at the new professions. The cards all follow a similar format to the base game, they provide a tiered benefit based on how many of that professional you already have in your guildhall. So who might you be looking to hire this time around?
First we have the Bricklayer hard at work, he’s the trusty card drawer of this set. When played you draw a number of cards, add them to your hand, and then take a smaller number of cards from your hand and place them back on top of the deck in any order. Nice and simple.
Moving inside we see the Scholar, best friend of the Bricklayer. Playing the Scholar will reveal a number of cards from the top of the deck and either add them to your guildhall (if you don’t have them yet) or discard them (if they are a duplicate). Playing him after the Bricklayer is a pretty obvious 1-2 combo having the Bricklayer seed the top of the deck and the Scholar adding them to your guildhall.
But what good are these dedicated citizens without a Tax Collector to come take some of their hard earned wages? Unlike the lovable, honest, and hard working (and ugly) Farmer, the Tax Collector gains VP tokens in large quantities. But bringing their kind into your guildhall comes at a cost as your honest workers leave to join more upright establishments. After gaining your piles of VP tokens you must move one card from your guildhall to an opponent’s guildhall. That’s the cost of doing business these days!
All these taxes are forcing some to more desperate measures to make ends meet, a life of crime. The Robber lets you take a card from another player’s hand (initially at random but later by looking) and add it to your guildhall. Sure, it may not sound as nasty as the Assassin but the Robber actually steals rather than just killing.
If having your hard earned money taxed and stolen wasn’t bad enough then maybe ending up at the wrong end of a Peddler’s deal may do you in. The Peddler lets you exchange cards from your hand with those in an opponent’s guildhall and then provides you with an additional action to use your acquired goods. Unlike the Trader who does an even exchange between guildhalls, the Peddler lets you put the exchanged cards directly into your hand to be played immediately.
Maybe you just need a break from it all, head way out in the wilds and you’ll find the Hunter. When played you swap a number of cards between your guildhall and the discard pile. Since this is a swap it does not add any cards to your guildhall it just lets you improve what you have if you’re willing to hunt through the potential dismal discard pile.
Now get to work! Can you organize this ragtag group of “professionals” into a VP generating machine and claim 20 precious VP’s before your rivals? You know the drill, you just have a different workforce to boss around this time. Or maybe you’ll bring along some old friends to show them the ropes?
Now Hiring or Laying Off?
If you’ve played Guildhall before then Job Faire will be extremely easy to pick up because they did such a good job with the simple ruleset and consistent iconography. There’s no need for fancy bits or rule clarifications with the new cards because there are plenty of new things they can do within the framework that they already created. They stick to the concepts of moving cards between the various locations (deck, hand, discard pile, guildhall) and throw in extra actions and vp tokens for added variation. Since all of these abilities and locations were used in the first game there are no new icons so you should be able to figure out what all the new cards do without even looking at the rules. Now I’m a bit of an icon junky and I can understand that some people might look at the new cards and not be able to figure them out without referring to the rules. Even so, the cards are easy to explain and don’t introduce any new concepts so they will be very easy to pick up. That pretty much nails elegant design in my book, this expansion introduces great variation within the context of the original game.
As could be expected the cards in this set are slightly more complicated overall and as a result, less intuitive to use. The main reason for the added complexity is that the new cards give the players more choices. If you compare the cards from Job Faire with their counterparts from the base set, most involve an additional or more complicated decision. The Tax Collector has you transfer a card in addition to the Farmer’s VP token gain ability. The Bricklayer adds putting cards back to the Dancer’s draw ability. The Hunter has you swap cards with the discard pile as opposed to the Historian’s more straightforward ability to simply take a card. I would argue that the Robber generally offers a more involved decision than the Assassin and the Peddler is more nuanced than the Trader. That leaves just the Weaver being more complicated than the Scholar.
Another reason for the added complexity is that this set deals more with hidden information, specifically they put more emphasis on the deck (Bricklayer, Scholar) and hand (Peddler, Robber). In the base set there was only one card dealing with the deck (Dancer) and one with the hand (Weaver). This leads to both making decisions with less information and a possible need to track information that didn’t matter before (top of the deck, opponent’s hand).
Since Job Faire is more complicated I would probably recommend using Guildhall to teach the game and then switching to or mixing in Job Faire for variation. It’s certainly still simple enough to introduce as a standalone set but most players will have an easier time learning the flow of the game from the simpler base set. Teaching aside, Job Faire plays excellently as a standalone set. These cards were very much designed to be played together with the added bonus of adding variation once mixed with the base set. This isn’t to say that being able to mix the sets wasn’t important, I just think that these cards were clearly intended to be played together and this is a very good thing (I’ll come back to my thoughts on mixing the sets later).
The highlight of this set for me is the ability to deal with duplicates in your hand, meaning cards that you have in hand that are already in your Guildhall. In the base set you usually had to just discard them to get rid of them and this mostly resulted in wasted actions. This could be very frustrating and create the feeling of “luck of the draw”. Job Faire, however, has 4 professions that let you move cards from your hand or guildhall to a separate location (Bricklayer, Hunter, Peddler, Tax Collector). This is a significant improvement from just the Trader in the base set. Most of the game you’re going to have multiple options for dealing with your duplicates and could even go a whole game without needing to discard a duplicate. I can’t overemphasize how much of an improvement this is as that was perhaps my main complaint with Guildhall.
As I touched on earlier, Job Faire deals more with hidden information. There has always been the uncertainty that comes with drawing random cards from the deck and how your opponents are going to mess with your guildhall (Trader, Assassin). However, this set creates an additional risk/reward dynamic with cards that can have varying degrees of success based on hidden information. The Scholar plays cards from the deck directly into your Guildhall but duplicates are discarded and of the cards that make it into your guildhall are out of your control. The Robber lets you steal a card from your opponent without the knowledge of what is in their hand ahead of time. The risk for both of these cards can be controlled somewhat but generally not completely mitigated. This is a dynamic that could appeal to some and frustrate others based on how much control you want to have during the game.
Another interesting result of moving the focus to the hand and draw pile is that it is slightly more difficult to control your opponent’s Guildhall. This change is very subtle and can be looked at by comparing the two sets of control cards: attacks (Assassin vs Robber) and swaps (Trader vs Peddler). Comparing attacks, the Assassin has you react to what your opponent is playing and the Robber has you preventing them from playing. Both attacks can prevent an opponent from completing a chapter and making powerful plays which is a big reason for playing them. The Assassin gives you more direct control as you can see what cards can be attacked but is relatively easily countered (Historian or Trader). The Robber on the other hand has less knowledge before the attack is made since you are targeting a hand but gives you more benefit by letting you put the card into your guildhall instead of the discard pile. The swaps are much more closely related and differ mainly by the source from which you are swapping, the Trader uses your guildhall and Peddler uses your hand. You will often have more cards in your guildhall than your hand so the Trader has a larger pool of cards to pull from. However, the Peddler lets you swap from a hidden source so it is harder to account for. Both variants are subtle in creating the experience of having less control and making for a slightly more tactical experience.
The one card that I found the most problematic in Job Faire was the Scholar. With the Bricklayer around you could ensure that you would at least be drawing some cards that you could use but I don’t like how limiting this is for the Scholar. Either you use both actions in your turn to play Bricklayer-Scholar or you take your chances based on how full your guildhall currently is. This simply isn’t a very interesting decision in my opinion and leads to more swingy moments than I care for. Once you mix the sets this problem becomes worse when the Scholar shows up without the Bricklayer and you’re forced to gamble whenever you play him.
This brings us to one the major draws of acquiring Job Faire as an expansion to Guildhall, the variation of mixed sets. I’ll start by saying that I was quite disappointed that there were not any “recommended sets” provided in the rules. I don’t find that totally random sets of professions work as well as the two core sets provided by Guildhall and Job Faire. There are some cards that will interact really well with others but at the same time some will conflict by overcrowding a role such as VP token generation or attacking. Maybe you could enjoy a game with both the Farmer and Tax Collector or Assassin and Robber but probably not as often as they would come up in a random selection. More problematic for me would be games without any form of control, particularly swaps (Trader, Peddler). Without having any professions with direct interaction between the players creates more of a race and heavily favors the score cards that allow for interaction. These scenarios do not play to Guildhalls strengths.
So let’s assume that you can always create a nice mix of cards from the two sets, does this add significantly to the game? I would say yes, initially the main variation between games was the scoring cards that came up. Now, you can have drastically different experiences based on what professions are in the mix. Just as the two sets put an emphasis on different areas having a random mix could make it more important to track or pay attention to certain areas such as your hand, guildhall, or discard pile. Also, it’s fun to see the interaction between certain cards as they show up in the same set. Much like the Assassin and Historian or Bricklayer and Scholar work together, there are other combos to be discovered such as the Hunter and Historian or Peddler and Weaver. This adds even more replayability and fun discovery to a game that already has great variation.
Another advantage to being able to mix sets is that you can play without cards that you or other players dislike. Don’t care for the Assassin with 4 players? No problem, there are still 11 professions to pick from. Think the Tax Collector is overpowered? Throw him back in the box and never take him out. Mixing the two sets will provide more options and even if you hate 6 of the professions at least you’re left with another 6 that you might like.
The only downside that I see is that this could create a “more of the same” sort of feeling for this expansion. Especially since there aren’t any new rules or concepts it really is just an exploration within the system that was established in the base set. I find this to be really elegant but I could see how others, especially those who wanted something more drastically different could be disappointed.
Job Faire adds a lot for players that enjoy Guildhall in a simple and easy to learn package. In addition to providing a completely new experience with six different professions it provides the possibility for additional variation by mixing in with the base set. If you felt like Guildhall was too dependent on lucky draws then this set might just change your mind. If you already loved Guildhall then you’ll find plenty more to love.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Alderac Entertainment Group for providing a review copy of Guildhall: Job Faire.