Recommend
25 
 Thumb up
 Hide
13 Posts

Citadels» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Citadels + The Dark City Expansion: Review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Michael Cheong
Singapore
Singapore
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Overview:
Citadels is a 2-8 player game by Bruno Faidutti and part of Fantasy Flight's Silver Line games. The basic objective of the game is to be the player who builds the most valuable buildings in your Citadel, using the special powers of the game characters, rotated every round, to gain certain bonuses and abilities that either help you build up faster or ruin your opponents. The Dark City expansion adds 14 new buildings that add new dimensions to gameplay with the abilities they have. Later releases of Citadels bundles the expansion with the base game.

Aesthetics:
If you bought the bundled version as I have, the first thing you'll notice is the texture of the box, which feels like "woven" cardboard. You have to feel it to believe it. Inside, there is a simple blue cardboard divider with the illustration of the cover, which looks good but is a bit of a hassle if you have an OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) like me and sitck the cards straight into card protectors. The cards themselves are made of the same "woven" feel and, unlike the original, have colour-coded backs to differentiate the character cards from the building cards. The illustrations bear a hint of gothic influence, particularly the bonus characters and expansion buildings. There is also the yellow wooden crown counter and the plastic orange pieces used for gold, nothing exceptional but of good quality. Overall, the game looks good and the material feels as if it's made to last.

Rules:
Every building has a build value from 1-6, representing the cost in gold for each building. They come in 5 different colours: red, blue, green, yellow and purple. The first 4 colours are tied to certain characters, but more on that later. Purple buildings are buildings that have special powers or confer bonuses to the owner once they are built. The objective of the game is to have the highest value buildings in your Citadel. However, you cannot build two of the same building. The game ends when any player has built 8 buildings.

Characters are what add the real strategic element to the game. There are 8 basic characters for the game numbered from 1-8 with different abilities. There are characters like the Assassin (can remove any character from the round), the Merchant (gains a lot of money that round) and the Warlord (can destroy other players' buildings). There are also characters associated with colours, namely: King (Yellow), Bishop (Blue), Merchant (Green) and Warlord (Red). These characters earn bonus gold income from buildings of the same colour in the player's city if they are chosen by the player for that round. For an 8 player game, there is the optional 9th character card.

The game begins with every player receiving 4 building cards and 2 gold. From the stack of character cards, one card is discarded facedown and a number of cards (dependent on the number of players) is discarded face-up. Starting from the player with the crown counter, each player surveys the character cards remaining, chooses one, places it in his hand and passes the rest to the next player, who does the same, and so on. Essentially, the last player will have a choice of two cards, of which he will choose one and discard the other facedown.

Once the characters are distributed, the player with the crown counter will call out the numbers in numerical order (from 1-8 or 9). When a player's character number is called, he must place the character card face-up and take his turn. The turn consists of the following:
1) taking an action: you choose to draw 2 gold or draw 2 building cards, place one in your hand and place the other at the bottom of the deck.
2) building phase: you can pay the cost of a building from your hand and build it in your city. You can only build 1 building each turn, unless you have the Architect, who lets you build 3.
3) using the character's ability: at any time during your turn, you can use your character's special ability, outlined on the card itself.

When all this is done, your turn is over. The player with the crown then calls out the next number to take his turn.

When all the characters have been called out, the round ends. The player with the crown counter takes back all the characters cards, reshuffles them with the discarded character cards and repeats the steps oulined above and a new round begins.

Once any player has built 8 buildings, that round becomes the last. The rest of the numbers will be called out until the last player is called, they will take their turn as per normal, then the game ends. Scoring is done by counting the value of each building. Also, there is a +4 bonus for the player who finished the 8 buildings first and a smaller (+2) bonus for other players who managed to finish 8 buildings within that round. There is also a +3 bonus for players who have built at least 1 of each of the 5 colours. The winner is the player with the highest score.

Gameplay:
Despite the seeming complexity of the rules, Citadels plays briskly, even among non-gamers. In the bundled version, FFG has done players the service of summing up the rules of turn-taking and scoring neatly on a separate game card for the uninitiated. In any case, the rulebook is extremely clear and there is hardly any murkiness in interpreting the rules. For those who still can't get it after reading through everything, Citadels is one of those games that is easily picked up after a round or two.

The constant redistribution of the characters provides enough leeway for strategy, and also prevents players from monopolising the stronger characters. The game also has an in-built mechanism to limit the powers of the stronger characters. Characters like the Assassin and Thief are 1 and 2 respectively, meaning that they can weaken the characters with better abilities like the Merchant and Architect, who come later. The strength of these characters, however, is such that players find that it is worth the risk to choose these characters anyway, so a nice equilibrium is achieved. Since the crown counter moves almost every round (the player with the King receives the crown), the choice of characters is also rotated well among the players. Every player has an inkling of what character the people before might've taken, but the lack of certainty adds an exciting element to the game, especially considering the facedown discards.

The best part about Citadels is that it is difficult for any player to run away with the lead. Where some players may draw better building cards than others, the character powers help to dampen that advantage, particularly the Warlord, who can destroy buildings for its cost minus 1. Once again, equilibrium is achieved in-game because the Bishop character prevents a player's buildings from being destroyed that round. The Assassin and Thief also cannot specifically target a player, only his character, so some second-guessing is in order. Essentially, Citadels really excels because runaway leaders are kept in check, but there isn't the exasperating 'whack-the-leader' syndrome that plagues games like Munchkin.

Strategy:
I would say that Citadels is 3/10 Luck, 7/10 Strategy. There are elements of luck, like the building cards you draw or simply being stuck last in line for choice of characters because the player next to you took the crown and they get passed around the other way. Nevertheless, the game compensates for these bits of luck by making it possible to overcome their effect through use of clever strategy and allowing the game mechanism to work on its own. Barring a Friday 13th scenario, you're unlikely to permanently get stuck with a raw deal.

Often, the player who finishes first wins. Therein lies the careful balance between constructing the uber 5-6 gold buildings and churning out the 2-3 gold ones. Big builders lose out on the finishing bonus while quick ones never accrue enough points to overcome those focused on quality. The +3 bonus for one of each colour also adds an incentive for players to avoid a one-dimensional building policy, a tempting one when the purple buildings have such good bonuses.

Choice of character also plays a big role in Citadels. The later characters are very powerful. The Architect draws two cards after your action, meaning that you can get gold and cards in the same turn. The Merchant gets 1 gold for each green district and an extra gold after your action, meaning lots of funds for building projects! However, the earlier characters are good stuff as well. The Thief can steal money from any character once that character is called, but cannot use it on his turn. The Magician lets a player discard his whole hand for an equal number from the deck or, better yet, swap hands with another player (even an empty hand). All in all, the game encourages a balanced use of different characters depending on the circumstances. While dependent on your choices, picking the right character for your circumstances consistently plays a BIG part is a winning strategy.

The expansion buildings also add diversity to your strategy should you choose to include them. Other than the ego-trip Ball Room, the other new buildings can change gameplay quite a bit. The Map Room, for instance, gives points for cards in your hand at the end of the game. The Armory, costing only 3 gold, lets you destroy any building if you self-destruct it. These stretch gameplay time a bit, but I find that they don't imbalance the game unduly.

Company:
You can pretty much play this game with anyone. I first learnt the game with non-gamers and we all got hooked. The blend of strategy and luck makes it a nice light game that doesn't have too many mind-boggling decisions to make but enough to make you feel in control. If you're playing with more experienced gamers, the game also comes with the advanced characters which you can use to dramatically alter gameplay strategy. Using these makes the game a lot more complex and decisions become a lot more difficult, so save them for better players and be prepared to spend up to 1.5 times as long as you normally spend for each game.

I love playing this game with 3; each player gets 2 characters and there's a lot of room for small mistakes and compounding the abilities of the two characters for a superior strategy. The game also wraps up more quickly, in 30-45min. Good for beginners or a quick play. I've never played with 2, but with 5 or more, every decision you take becomes crucial and the game is less forgiving. It's not a party game by any measure so either keep your crowd small or be prepared to play a long game (for a card game, that is). My record is 1h 40min with 5 players using standard characters, though I think it could drag even longer.

Closing Thoughts:
Citadels is by far my favourite game. It scales well from 3-8 players other than costing your time; though I've not tried, I think 2 players would work just fine. Despite its apparent complexity, it's an easy game to pick up and play, even for non-gamers. The theme is carried well through the game and the level of competition pretty much hits a sweet spot for me. I'd already give this game 9/10 for gameplay alone, but the well-designed aesthetics of the bundled version top it up to just touch 10/10. Yes, as you can tell, I love this game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
bruno faidutti
France
PARIS
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
I won't comment on the game itself, but I must say that I am also impressed by the qality of the new US edition. It looks now even nicer than the french or german one.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexander B.
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
mbmb
faidutti wrote:
... but I must say that I am also impressed by the qality of the new US edition. It looks now even nicer than the french or german one.


Yes, I just bought the new FFG edition of the game and the cards look great. The paper they are printed on feels really nice too.

I'm very happy with it
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ronster Zero
United States
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
<------------- Is an AVID fan of the game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
RIK FONTANA
United States
St. George
Utah
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Excellent review Michael. Thanks much!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Patterson
United States
Iowa City
Iowa
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I just have to remember now not to eat those delicious-looking "gold" coins. The "not for age 0-3" warning on the box has rarely been more apt.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Thingamagummy
United States
Oakland
California
flag msg tools
Don't make me bust out the drama!!
badge
Panda is a Werewolf. The Village wins!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I lurve this game! I wish they'd program the expansions on BGG. the original German version they have their has very anti-climatic endings.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
KK Su
Australia
Melbourne
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jpat wrote:
I just have to remember now not to eat those delicious-looking "gold" coins. The "not for age 0-3" warning on the box has rarely been more apt.


We've learnt never to put the bowl of M&Ms next to the coins. There have been a couple of close calls
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Javi Hernández
Spain
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review, thanks a lot. Though I'm not an experienced player cry of Citadels, may I add that in my opinion it actually works fine with two players?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Cheong
Singapore
Singapore
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
TaleSpinner wrote:
jpat wrote:
I just have to remember now not to eat those delicious-looking "gold" coins. The "not for age 0-3" warning on the box has rarely been more apt.


We've learnt never to put the bowl of M&Ms next to the coins. There have been a couple of close calls


we could persuade M&Ms to release a special "Citadels" range in honey-lemon flavour to double up as gold counters and an in-game snack. Then we could modify the powers of the Thief by letting him eat other people's gold instead
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex Martinez
United States
Irving
Texas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
This is why I love BGG. It's great to have a detailed, thoughtful review of a game that I've considered buying more than once. Sometimes, it's hard to get motivated though. Your review was the final push to get me to decide it will be worth a shot.

Thanks.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Reeves
United States
Georgetown
TX
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review! This changed my Hold decision to a Buy. Actually, it went on my Christmas list, so I look forward to some great gaming during the holidays!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jose silva
United States
Glenshaw
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
redeemedegg wrote:
Overview:


Strategy:
I would say that Citadels is 3/10 Luck, 7/10 Strategy.


If you permit, I would elaborate a little different. I would subdivide it further in 3/10 psychology/bluffing, 3/10 strategic thought, 2/10 politics and 2/10 luck
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.