I remember the day that we bought Citadels well. It was our last day in Cape Town and I had four people to see at different ends of the city. That, and Mr. Geekess and I really wanted to stop by Wizards’ one last time to see if there were any games that we had missed on our first trip. But time was short, and I left him to wander the shop on his own while I raced to meet a friend in Sea Point. I returned an hour and a half later cursing Cape Town traffic and holding thumbs that we’d make it to the airport on time to catch our plane since I still had to visit my gran and drop off the car and if I’d thought that time was tight before, it was practically throttling us now! Which meant that I barely had time to gawk at the two bags full of games that he bundled into the car before we were back in the traffic and heading to our next stop.
That Cape Town trip, we bought seven board games in total, most of which we’d never even heard of. Citadels was one of those – a last minute purchase that Mr. Geekess thought would fit in nicely with our collection and would sit well with our group of friends. And how right he was!
Citadels is a card game where players try to build up cities by picking roles that will benefit them. Only, the fun in it isn’t really in the collecting and playing cards as much as it’s about reading the players around you and trying to pick roles that will affect them. Who will you assassinate, steal from, swap cards with; whose buildings will you destroy and who is the biggest threat to your city-building schemes?
The game plays 2 to 8 players, making it great for small and big groups, and is made up of 8 role cards and a lot of buildings that can make up your city. Each turn, the first player starts the round by picking a role and the cards are then passed clockwise until everyone has something to do for the turn. Each role is then called up in order with the Assassin going first, followed by the Thief, the Magician, the King, the Bishop, the Merchant, the Architect and the Warlord. Depending on the number of players, some roles may not be active in a particular round, and some may be affected by the Assassin killing them off or the Thief stealing from them. Each role has it’s own benefit which will either lead to you profiting in terms of cards, money, or just from the knowledge that another player can’t take a turn this round!
After roles are chosen, the player has the chance to make some money or get some cards (or both if you’re the Merchant, the Architect or have cards of a specific colour and have chosen the right role for yourself) and then build up your city by playing building cards from your hand (if the Magician hasn’t stolen them all). Then it’s on to the next role in order until you have a citadel of 8 buildings under your control, at which point players tally up their points and decide on a victor.
Where to start?? The artwork is beautiful, as is almost always the case with card based games. But in this case, I love not only the look, but also the feel of the cards. From the roles to the buildings, so much detail has gone into making them that it feels like you’re looking through a window into a city full of life rather than just playing cards. I also love that the “gold” you are playing with are pieces of pearly golden plastic.
The roles mechanic is well thought out and works perfectly. It brings a great player and role interaction element to the game, since with cards like the Assassin and the Thief, you are not targeting another player as much as you are targeting a particular role – the thief may want to steal from the Merchant for example, or the assassin may be planning a hit on the King. That you don’t know which player it is that you are actually targeting makes Citadels a bit of a mind game as well – trying to read which role your opponents may choose, and trying to factor in the possibility that the role you think they may have chosen could be in the discard pile for that particular round.
But I think one of my favourite aspects of the game is how simple it is! It’s quick to learn for new players and very easy to get into. It’s another one of those great teaching games that you can play with your less board-game-inclined friends and it can be pretty quick compared to some of the other options that we have, usually taking less than an hour to complete. It’s a very social game with players interacting with their roles as well as with other players. Take it from a person who was assassinated four times in a row by the same player but with a different role each time, it can also get frustrating. But it’s completely worth it!
To be perfectly honest, I am struggling to think of a single bad thing about the game! It has been designed well, it’s great fun to play and it’s the kind of game that you can play over and over again without getting too bored since it’s the players that make it as fun as it is – the roles giving the players a chance to act their part rather than being the be-all and end-all of the game. It’s even been thought out to the point that whether you play with 2 players or 8, the game works well with enough roles being discarded to make it a mystery what the other players have picked.
Our copy came with the expansion which we have actually yet to play with since we’ve just been having so much fun with the basic game! Included in it are a whole selection of new roles and new buildings, so I suppose that the inclusion of it will just mix it up a little bit and make the game that much more exciting for those who have been playing it for awhile. That being said, it’s been 8 months since we bought it and we’re not tired of the base game yet!
If I am nitpicking, and this time I really really am, I would say that it can get a bit hard-going at times with players taking their time choosing actions and picking buildings, only to have them destroyed by the Warlord or have their cards stolen from them by the Magician. It also depends on the group of friends you’ve got, I guess, and how seriously they take the game.
This is another one of those games where some pokeresque skill is beneficial. If you can correctly identify which players have selected which role, both from what they may need and also from what cards were available for selection when you picked your own role, you can maximise the potential of the Thief and Assassin, since the targets have to be other roles and not players. You should also keep this in mind when selecting your own role, as you don’t want to be the target of an assassination or theft yourself. If you’ve read some of our other reviews, it should come as no surprise to you that I absolutely love this aspect of the game. The role selection is really where the majority of the game takes place, with the actual turn leaving you with a few minor choices, but mostly these will be no-brainers.
The game is beautifully crafted and the artwork is gorgeous and just adds a level of aesthetics to some great mechanics. It can be played with anywhere between 2 and 8 players, so it’s perfect for almost any situation, though it can drag out a bit with lots of players if your friends are prone to umming and ahhing over decisions (this is easily remedied by altering the end game conditions to fewer buildings).
So if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the geeky friend in your life (is it too early to be talking about christmas?) or just want to treat yourself to a new game after a long week, then you can’t really go wrong with Citadels.
So, as you can tell, both Mr. Geekess and I are big fans. Have you played it? What did you think?