The King looked out across the green and verdant land. It was filled with peace and tranquility. The Merchant was trading goods in the market, the Architect was quietly thinking on new designs in the library and the Bishop was tending the poor houses. Wait… Where is the Assassin?! The King’s realisation came to late…
That’s right, the Game Night Guys are playing Bruno Faidutti’s Citadels. When I began games night I had six players and one of my first thoughts for games that would work was Citadels. Citadels holds an enormous amount of nostalgia for me, being one of the first games I bought when I first started getting back into board gaming. Does that mean it was a great choice though?
A Quick Overview
Citadels is a role selection game. Players will choose from a selection of 8 roles, but not all roles will be available every round. Once each player has chosen a role the King calls each role out in order. If a player has that role they announce it and take 2 actions.
The roles are:
The Assassin - Choose a role that role does not activate
The Thief - Choose a role, steal all the gold from that role when they take their turn
The Magician - Swap hands with another player or discard your hand and draw as many cards as you discarded
The King, First Pick of roles and 1 gold for every yellow card in your city
The Bishop, Cannot be targeted by the Warlord and 1 gold for every blue card in your city
The Merchant, Gain 1 gold and 1 gold for every green card in your city
The Architect - Draw 2 cards and you may build up to 3 districts on your turn
The Warlord - Pay to destroy a district, gain 1 gold for every red card in your city
The actions you can take on your turn are either:
Take 2 Gold or,
Draw 2 Cards, keep 1.
Then you may build one district (card) into your city. The player may also use the power of their chosen role before or after they build.
Play continues until one player has built 8 districts. The game is then scored based on the coin values of your districts plus a few bonuses such as first to 8 districts and having districts of each colour.
Why Choose It?
For me Citadels is a simple but very cutthroat game that I like very much. It has a short playing time but invites a lot of table talk. It introduces the idea of role selection too which opens up other more complex games such as Mission Red Planet down the road. It is also a Bruno Faidutti game, I love Bruno and he puts out a lot of larger player count games, if they liked Citadels that would suggest they might also like other games with Mr Faidutti’s patented brand of chaos.
So let’s talk about game length…
I picked Citadels as a quick intro to an evening of construction style games. My past plays of Citadels with 3 or 4 players have taken 20 minutes for a long game. This was supposed to be the starter, an aperitif if you will. But with 4 players who had never played the game before… it took us an hour and a half!
You see what I hadn’t counted on was that none of these players knew what the 8 roles did, or how they interacted with the city districts. Each time they received the hand of role cards they needed to read each card and process it. If each card takes twenty seconds to read that’s 2 minutes for player one, 1:40 for player two etc. That’s 48 minutes of people just reading cards over the eight rounds of the game, nevermind choosing actions and taking their turn.
With players who know the game, you know what roles you can make use of that turn, so choosing a role takes seconds, but with new players who are struggling to understand the game, it’s going to take a lot longer. Throw in the concept of double and triple bluffs and what should have been a simple filler becomes a full blown game and while I love Citadels, it’s hard to justify it taking up more than half of the evening’s play time.
Did They Like It?
I think everyone was happy when it was done. Which is a shame, but it is understandable. As the game drew on I attempted to speed things up but I don’t think it helped. I’d like to try and bring Citadels back, but perhaps I’ll try it with the new shorter play rules and maybe four players not five.
Personally I still have a soft spot for Citadels. I know for many gamers other games have come along that replace it but personally I like the simplicity of Citadels. Once you lock in what the special powers are of each character the rules can take a backseat to the bluffing and the double bluffing.
The end game bonus points scored for being first to 8 districts and having cards from all 5 colours in your city allow for players to build low scoring districts quickly or to build high scoring districts slowly. Or you can go for gold generation, building multiple districts from the same colour to benefit from certain roles, as long as you play it smart. All this gives multiple paths to victory.
Roles like the assassin and thief allow players to attempt to attack the winning players, acting as a balancing mechanism, while also allowing cunning players to outsmart everyone at the table by taking unexpected roles.
It’s not a game for everyone, it’s full of chaos and you could end up skipping your turn round after round, but for me Citadels brings a gleeful glint to my eye as I scheme and plot and assassinate my way to a perfect city. Long live the King and long live Citadels!