Looking for something relatively easy to play with a lot of depth? Enjoy playing games with a medieval theme? Like earning gold? Have multiple personality disorder? Well, you’re in luck…
Citadels tasks players with building the best city by way of constructing districts. Districts come in various forms and are worth different amounts of gold, so players will need to decide what kind of city they want to build as it will affect their score at the end of the game. Players will also be assuming the role of a character each round that each have unique abilities, aiding them in their goal and possibly slowing up others.
Editor’s Note: The version I purchased and linked through Amazon at the end of this article includes the Dark City expansion, which I’ll be referencing on occasion.
Character Cards – Players will be choosing between character cards every round, which allows them to do unique things. Ten of the eighteen character cards are marked with a star, signalling that they are part of the expansion set. Each character card has a rank, indicating in what order players take their turn during a round.
District Cards – Players will be trying to build these to signal the game’s end. Some are expensive, some are cheap, and some do special things that aid players during the game. They come in different colors as well, affecting how they might interact with a particular character card and factor in with endgame scoring.
Reference Cards – These cards assist players during the game, as well as assist with endgame scoring.
Gold Pieces & Crown Marker – Players will be earning gold to purchase districts. The crown marker is awarded to whoever chooses the King character card and has the first pick of character cards in the next round.
Setup & Gameplay
To simplify the review process, I’ll be opting not to include the expansion pack in the following rules overview. Curious parties can check out the manual, which I’ll link later on.
Players start by removing the cards with a star on them as they represent the cards in the expansion. The character deck and district decks are shuffled individually. Each person gets four district cards and two gold. The oldest player receives the crown marker.
The steps in a round are fairly basic, but change a bit depending on how many players are playing the game. So that players do not get lost in specifics, I’ll simply list the steps along with a brief overview of what is all entailed.
1. Remove Characters – Depending on how many people are playing, some cards are placed face down and face up on the table to indicate that they are out of the draft for that round.
2. Choose Characters – The remaining cards not placed on the table are chosen by players, starting with the person with the crown marker, going left.
3. Player Turns – The person with the crown marker begins by calling out characters in numeric order, starting with the Assassin (rank #1). As character cards are called, players announce that they are said character and perform their actions.
A player, on their turn, can:
A) Take two gold from the bank -OR- take two district cards from the deck, choose one, and place the other back into the bottom of the deck.
B) Build a district by paying the required gold as shown on the card.
C) Perform that character’s special ability.
4. End of Round – After all characters have been cycled through, the round ends and the character cards are shuffled again for a new round.
Play continues until one person has constructed eight districts. After the current round is over, the game ends and scores are tallied. Scores are derived from a number of things, from the gold cost of the district cards to being the first player to build eight districts.
The above is just an overview and to keep the review moving, I left some things out. If you want to learn more, then please check out the manual, located here:
Having owned and played Puerto Rico (review coming eventually), I was comfortable with how characters swapped out every round. As a newcomer to the game, however, I was unprepared by the amount of different strategies one could develop and didn’t know which ones actually worked. My initial thought process was to acquire as much gold as possible by choosing to build the same colored district and then choosing a character that provided me with gold for having them. I quickly realized however that an observant player could utilize the thief and / or assassin and have their way with me every round as they’d be able to guess which character card I had picked.
I was also a bit confused at first as to why one card was placed face down and two face up, with the King mixed back into the deck should he show up. After a few turns as the King (and thus, the crown marker), I felt reluctant to give it up mainly because I enjoyed the power of having the first pick. Then again, always choosing the King will leave you an easy target to be robbed or assassinated. I began to understand the benefits of being the King, but also why it was necessary to diversify when choosing characters. Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn.
As for the cards themselves, they are simple and colorful. I enjoyed the art on the cards as well as their color tones…I found them to be sharp and eye-catching. The bag that holds the gold pieces and the crown marker was small and resealable via the glue on it, but I would have prefered a zip baggie…though that’s minor in the grand scheme of things.
The game has a lot of replay value, especially since the expansion pack is included. Once we master (or at least become competent with) the main game, we’ll have a whole new array of characters to try out and new districts to build that will no doubt change the way we play. Even without the expansion pack, the way the cards are removed and chosen changes depending on how many people are playing, which may affect the strategies one might employ. Vinnie (11) and I, for example, played a two player game and we each got to choose two characters instead of one. This opened the door for different strategies that weren’t possible with say, four players, as they only get to choose one character.
Overall, Citadels was an enjoyable experience. There’s a lot to it that will keep me coming back for a good while. The kids enjoyed it too, mainly because they got to steal my gold and assassinate me from time to time…guess who’s not getting ice cream after dinner tonight?
Final Verdict: 7/10