[Originally written back in July 2007]
Citadels is a light to medium weight card game about medieval city building for 2-7 players. Each player tries to build up the districts in their city by taking on the roles of various influential characters. The game ends when someone builds their 8th district and then the winner is the player who has the greatest value in the districts in their city.
I have the version with the Dark City Expansion already included and the butterscotch version of the money. The money in this version is very nice gold coloured plastic. The cards are of decent stock but the character cards themselves get a lot of use and tend to wear a little on the edges. There is also a wooden crown to represent who is the King.
The rulebook is a fairly small colour booklet. The rules are pretty straightforward for the most part, with a large section devoted to explaining the different characters and their abilities. Everything is laid out and explained well and the detailed character section should hopefully clear up any queries. The special district cards have all the text required to understand them written right on the cards so these are not dealt with in the rulebook.
Game set up –Each player is given 2 gold and dealt 4 district cards. The oldest player is given the crown and starts the game as the king.
Turns – The game plays slightly differently with different numbers of players. With less players each player may end up taking more than one role and playing out each of them. With 4 or more players each player will pick just one role. What is always the case is that the King randomly places one of the character cards face down on the table. Depending on the number of players they may then also have to randomly place one or more cards face up. They then look at the remaining cards, pick one and place it face down in front of them, and pass the remaining cards to the player to the left. This player picks one and puts it face down in front of themselves and passes the rest to the left. This continues until the last player who will have a choice of two cards to pick from. They pick one for themselves and put the other face down with the first card that the King laid aside earlier.
Each character then has a number and the King calls out the numbers in order from 1 – 8. When a player is holding the character with a number that has just been called they reveal themselves and get to take their turn. If nobody reveals themselves then the character must be one of the unchosen ones and the King proceeds to the next number.
A turn consists of:
a) Either take 2 gold from the bank OR Draw 2 district cards, keep one of them and discard the other.
b) Build a district card from your hand by paying the gold value on the card to the bank. The district is played face up in front of you. You may not have duplicate districts in your city.
c) Use the special ability of the character card you chose.
These actions may be taken in any order and may be skipped if desired.
After all 8 numbers have been called and everyone has taken their turn, all the character cards are shuffled together again and given to the King to start the next turn. The different characters all have abilities to either give the player some sort of benefit (more gold, extra card draws, etc.) or to penalize another player (assassinate a character who then misses their turn, steal gold from a character, etc.)
When a player builds their 8th district the game ends at the end of that turn. Each player then totals the values of all their districts, with bonuses given for the first player to build 8 districts, any other player to build 8 districts, and for any player who has built at least one district in all of the 5 colours. The player with the highest score wins.
- Review of Gameplay:
The gameplay is quite straightforward – choose a character from those available, and then take your turn when it comes, with only a few possible actions on your turn. The crux of the game comes from choosing which character to take. Some characters have quite strong abilities which will give a player a great advantage, but they will also be likely targets for assassination or thievery. Sometimes the draw of the district cards is unfavourable but for the most part it is possible to work with whatever cards you get. The magician allows for a quick change of cards if needed.
Trying to out-think your opponents and guess their choices is the best way to do well at this game. Keeping an eye on the districts people have built and how much gold they have may give clues as to their intentions. I love the mind games involved in Citadels, it makes for a very involved and enjoyable gaming experience, all packed into the space of about 45 minutes. Given that it plays very well with the full range of 2-7 players it’s definitely a great game for gamers and non-gamers alike.