Well… It’s been a long time since I did one of these. It’s taken me a long time to settle on which game I want to talk about today, but I finally decided on Citadels.
Produced by Fantasy Flight Games as part of their Silver Line games range, Citadels is card game about building a city.
In Citadels you play a Lord in charge of a city. You can influence various high powered characters to help you out, such as the assassin who can stop other players taking a turn, or the Warlord who you can pay to destroy other players districts. The winner is the first player to complete their city by having eight districts.
The reason I awarded Citadels “Best Box Small Game” last week in my Games of the Year awards was because of just how easy this game is to teach.
Each player starts the game with 4 district cards and two gold. Districts cards look like this:
Each District card has a cost in gold coins on the right hand of the card. Each district also has one of five colours (Purple, Red, Blue, Green and Yellow) in the bottom right corner. Finally, each district has a name, you may only have one of each named district in your city.
At the start of each turn each player must choose a character card, the way this is done varies but in each game there is at least one character dealt face down to the table and only the first player knows who it is. Starting with the oldest player and preceding clockwise, each player takes a Character card of his choice.
Once everyone has a character the King (the oldest player in the first turn and then whoever chooses the King character in subsequent turns) calls out the characters in the following order.
- The Assassin – When the assassin is called he names any other character. That Character may not perform any actions at all this turn.
- The Thief – When the Thief is called he names any character other than the assassin or the assassin’s target. When the named character starts his turn the thief takes all his gold.
- The Magician – The Magician may exchange district cards with the bank on a 1:1 basis, or he may swap his entire hand with another player, even if he has no cards.
- The King – The King always chooses his character first and he also collects 1 additional gold for each Yellow district in the city.
- The Bishop – The Bishop collects 1 additional gold for each Blue district in the city. He is also immune to attack from the Warlord.
- The Merchant – The Merchant collects an additional gold just for being the Merchant and 1 additional gold for each Green district in your city.
- The Architect – The Architect takes 2 cards for free from the bank and adds them to his hand. He may also build 3 districts instead of 1.
- The Warlord – The Warlord collects 1 additional gold for each Red district in your city. He may also destroy any one district, yours or an opponents for 1 gold less than the districts cost.
On your turn you may perform one of two actions. Either take 2 gold or draw two cards and discard one. That’s it. Once you perform your action you can build one district. At any point during either your action or building phase you can activate your character’s power. For example, if you are the King and you had a yellow district in your hand, you could build it, then use the King’s power to claim 1 gold for having a yellow district in your city.
Once one player reaches 8 districts the current round is played out and then each player adds up their points. Each district is worth the number of gold it costs to build. 4 points are awarded to the first player to reach 8 districts and 2 points to each player who managed to reach 8 before the end of the game. 3 bonus points are also awarded to any player with all five colours in their city. The winner is the player with the most points.
My Lack of Success
I’ve played this game four times since Christmas and I haven’t won once, not even in two player. However that hasn’t blunted my enthusiasm for the game. Each time we play the game I notice my family using different strategies, in the last game I was just about to win when I was assassinated, but that is why I enjoyed that game so much.
So what do you get in the box for your £20?
Not a whole lot and that was a disappointment, but the ease of play and complexity of the strategies makes up for it.
- 66 District cards
- 8 Character cards
- 8 Reference cards
- 30 gold coins
- 1 wooden crown marker
- 10 Bonus character cards
- 14 Bonus purple district cards
The cards are linen finished and are beautifully illustrated and very clear to understand with a simple design. The coin counters are beautiful, the wooden marker is simple but nothing very impressive. The box itself is very sturdy with nice compartments to separate the cards. The Reference Cards are very useful, although one card for the King with the order of characters might have been nice.
The current version of Citadels contains the Dark City expansion, which is only 24 cards (not much of an expansion.) and provides some interesting variants to the game, but I have not yet used them… (look out for a Ramble in the future about the additional characters and districts.)
So, this game is simple, so very simple to understand, that I would have no problem pulling it out in front of non-gamers without having to worry about them complaining about the complexity. The reference cards contain all the information you need to know, except for a little explanation about the Characters, but that is something that is easy to do in game during the first round. The game works well with four players (the way I play.) but unlike a lot of games it can support up to 8 or as few as 2 players and that is reasonably unique for a small card game like this.
With 8 different characters in the game your options in each round are certainly not limited, even the player who chooses last gets choice of two characters. The Purple districts in the game, although generally expensive to get into your city can add really interesting special rules. I particularly like the smithy, which for two gold allows you to take 3 cards.
This combination of different districts and the way they interact with the different characters is what makes this game so strategic, but at the same time the simplicity of each turn keeps the game fluid and staves off analysis paralysis. The paths to victory are many and varied. Do you build 8 low cost districts quickly utilising the architect or do you slowly build high cost districts for large points totals at the end of the game. Do you build lots of districts of the same colour to benefit from the extra gold characters like the Bishop or the King can give you, or do you build one each colour for the bonus 3 points at the end?
It really is simple but strategic and that’s why I like it!
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