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Subject: A Year With Citadels rss

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I played Citadels for the first time at one of my monthly meetup groups and really enjoyed it, enough that I ended up buying it the following month. It's not the deepest game, but there is plenty of double-guessing, and is a very small and portable package that works for a wide range of player counts.

I've got seven plays of this game under my belt now. The version I have is Fantasy Flight Games' most recent printing with the Dark City Expansion. Other than an extra character from the expansion that we use when we have at least 5 players, I have not used any of the other expansion characters or buildings, so this review will will mostly discuss the base game.

The Premise:
Each player is expanding their city by building new districts. They are doing this with the help of prominent nobles and figures in the area, characters that give different benefits based on who they are and what types of districts have been built. At the end, the player with the most valuable city is the winner.

The Components:
This game is primarily card based. The cards are divided into three types: districts that the players will build into their tableau, characters that give benefits to the player once chosen, and a reference card that shows what you can do on your turn on one side and the game end and scoring procedures on the other.

Little round plastic butterscotch-looking tokens are used as gold coins, and a wooden crown marker keeps track of who is first to select from the characters that round.

The Gameplay:
The game is fairly easy to explain and play, it is in the choosing of the characters that make the game tense and exciting, as the character you choose will determine the bonus or abilities you get that turn as well as the order you will act in.

Every player starts with a hand of four district cards and two gold. Every round, the player with the crown will secretly choose from the available characters, and pass the rest clockwise, with each player choosing from the dwindling characters that are left. The character cards are numbered, and once everyone has one, the characters chosen will determine the order everyone plays in that round.

On a player's turn, they take an action, and then may build a district. An actions consists of either taking two gold from the supply, or drawing two district cards, keeping one, and placing the other on the bottom of the draw pile. If the player decides to build a district, they simply pay the cost and put it in front of them. The cost of the district is also the number of points it is worth at the end of the game. Any time during a player's turn they may use the ability/bonus of their character.

The districts themselves come in five colors and range in cost from 1-6 gold (worth 1-6 points). Red districts represent the military, yellow districts are the noble areas, green are the merchant districts, blue are the religious districts, and purple districts all have special benefits written on the card. The district types a player has built will affect the bonuses from some of the characters. Bonus points at the end of the game are also given to players that build at least one district of each color. The game will end at the end of a round that at least one player has built their eighth district.

As mentioned, before players start taking their turns, characters must be chosen. In the base game there are eight characters (#1-8) and an optional ninth character can be used from the expansion. Before choosing characters, the character cards are shuffled and one is placed face down in the center of the table which cannot be chosen this round. Then a number of characters are placed face up which also cannot be chosen, with the number of face up characters depending on the number of players. Basically, the number of characters that CAN be chosen will be one more than the number of players. For example, with 5 players using the main 8 characters, one character will be placed face down, and one face up. This leaves 6 characters to be chosen by the 5 players.

The player with the crown chooses first. As this player gets to see the full set of selectable characters this round, this first player will know exactly who is available and who was left face down. Once a character card is chosen, the rest get passed clockwise to the next player. This second player will have a little information on who the first player chose by the cards that are missing, and will also know what cards are left for the players that are left. As each player gets the cards, they will all have different amounts of information available to them on who might be selected and who was not. This is important because some of the characters must call out other characters (not the specific players) for their benefit to work, and if they choose a character that wasn't taken, they lose out. Obviously, the player with the crown has the advantage of choosing the character with the power they most want to use.

The last player will only have a choice of two characters, and the one not chosen will be placed face down on the table. Then the round will begin using the numbers on the character cards to determine the player order to take actions and build districts.

The first player that gets to act is the one that chose the Assassin. The Assassin's power lets the player name any other character, and the player that chose the assassinated character does not get a turn this round. They are simply skipped over and will not get to take an action or build a district. The Assassin brings no inherent benefit to the player that chose it, but it can be used to slow down players that are ahead if you can guess which character they may have taken. The more powerful characters are often a target. The Assassin is also useful in that this player goes first, so cannot be assassinated or stolen from by the Thief.

Next up is the Thief. The player that chose the Thief can call out a character. When the player that chose the called out character gets their turn, they must first give the thief all their gold before doing anything else. If the player that chooses the Thief can guess the characters of the players that are hoarding gold, than it can be a very valuable character. Not only by receiving gold, but depriving others of it as well. However, since this player cannot use the gold on their current turn (since their turn will be over, and won't receive it until the turn of the player they stole it from), they have to be weary that it doesn't get stolen from them on the next round before it can be spent.

Third up is the Magician. The Magician can choose to do one of two things. They can choose to trade their hand of cards with another player (they do not choose a character, they can pick any player at the table), or they can place any number of cards at the bottom of the district deck and draw a replacement for each one. The Magician player may swap hands with another player even if they have no cards at all, so be wary if someone runs out of cards and you're holding a handful...

Fourth up is the King. The King immediately takes the crown, which means they will get to choose their character first next round (even if assassinated). The King will also earn the player a gold coin for each yellow (royal) district they have built. Now remember, a character can be used at any time during a turn. So you can get the gold from yellow districts you already have in order to help build a new district that turn. Or if you can build a new yellow district first, than you can use the power and get the extra coin from this newly built district. This choice also works for the other characters that gain gold from certain colors.

Up fifth is the Bishop. The Bishop gets a gold coin for each blue (religious) district the player has built. The Bishop is also protected from being attacked by the Warlord, explained later.

The Merchant is goes sixth, and is a pretty powerful card. The Merchant not only gets a coin for each green (merchant) district that the player has built, but also gains the player an extra coin after they take their action.

The Architect is seventh and is also quite powerful. After the player takes an action, they get to draw and keep two district cards. This player is also allowed to build three districts this round instead of one. Keep an eye on players that have five or six districts, the Architect can allow them to end the game by building up to eight before anyone is ready for it.

Going eighth is the Warlord. The Warlord gets the player a coin for each red (military) district built, and also lets them destroy (discard to the bottom of the deck) any one district in the game for the cost of one coin less than it took to build. A 1 coin district may be torn down for free. A player with the Bishop cannot be targeted by the Warlord. This is useful in hindering players that are jumping ahead in districts, or to help remove certain colors that a player might be benefiting from. It must be noted that once a payer builds their eighth district to end the game, they cannot be targeted. So don't wait too long to start attacking.

As I mentioned, I usually play with a ninth character from the expansion. The character we use is the Queen. If the player with the Queen is sitting next to the player that chose the King, then the Queen player gets three gold. Not too useful, but fun to throw in and is usually a safe pick to not get assassinated since the Queen is a gable and not very powerful.

At the end of the game which happens at the end of a round where someone built their eighth district, scores are added up. On top of adding together all the values of the districts, there are bonus points to be earned. The first player to build to eight districts get 4 extra points. Any other players that also built to eight will each get 2 points. Any player that has at least one district in each of the five colors will get an extra 3 points. Most points wins.

Final Thoughts:
The fun of this game is in the choosing and guessing who has which characters. All of them are useful under different circumstances, and you have to be careful not to paint too big a target on your back. Having too much of anything (gold, cards, districts) will often make you the target of the Assassin, Thief, or Magician. Also building up a lot of districts of a certain color will raise suspicions, and the character that gets a bonus of that color will often be targeted. However, you can also choose non-obvious characters to throw others off, but you may lose out on more valuable benefits.

One of the down sides of this game, especially with higher player counts is downtime. The downtime usually occurs as players decide which character to choose. More players adds up to more decision making, which can't be done until they get the cards and see what is available. There is really no planning ahead on this part. Once the turns get underway, they usually go quick. Deciding what to choose (cards or coins) or what to build isn't too difficult a decision to make. However, some of the character powers can add some extra time, like deciding who to steal from, who to assassinate, or which district to destroy.

Another downside can just be bad luck. It is a card game, so luck is already inherent in the system. But some players can have a bad experience if they get unlucky. For example, I played in an 8 player game once. One player got assassinated and did nothing four turns in a row! The odds of the same player out of eight getting chosen four times in a row is astounding, especially since it was a different assassin each time, and he also chose different characters. It was just a bunch of bad luck, and nothing he could do about it.

Despite the downtime that can happen, I think this game works great with a larger group. After a couple rounds, the character powers are pretty easy to remember, and things start flowing. It's a simple game to play, and not too brain burning, yet it is more involving than a filler. And even though I haven't used them yet, having more variability with the expansion cards is great as well. Some of the replacement characters really change things up in interesting ways and I should get to trying them out.

It's not a deep strategic game, but I find it a lot of fun, and it has me thinking about things differently than my other games. Based off the BGG rating guidelines, I give this one a 7.5.

Thanks for reading, and catch my other reviews at A Year With My Games.
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patrick somers
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wyandotte
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Nice review. Citadels is one of our favorite games because it is fun and there are some different characters to swap in with the expansion. Its always an option on game night here.
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James Cheng
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Taipei City
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The four dead turn thing happened to one of my friends in his second game as well. After the first game, my friend called Citadel to be a super fun game. After the second one, he decided it's just a random card game
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J J
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Without any malice, just simple curiosity - why, when you own the game, have you played it only 7 times in a full year? We play it at least 7 times each time we open the box...
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JasonJ0 wrote:
Without any malice, just simple curiosity - why, when you own the game, have you played it only 7 times in a full year? We play it at least 7 times each time we open the box...


When I first got into games and only had a few, and was also the only one amongst my friends that had the games, we played them a ton. In my first year we played Arkham Horror and Carcassonne probably 50 times each.

But as new games got added to the collection, each game got played less overall to keep them in rotation. And now that I had my friends hooked, they started getting games that went into rotation. And even joining with monthly meetup groups, everyone has games they bring and want to play, but we can't get to them all.

So amongst me and my friends, we have probably 100 or more games that we want to keep playing. So as we rotate through them, we might not get back to a game for 4 months or more, unless we specifically want to play it again immediately. 7 times in one year is pretty high, some games aren't going to reach that. Of course there are exceptions, since my parents play only a small handful of what I have, and there's only about three different games my wife and I will play by ourselves, so they see play more often, otherwise it's the eternal struggle to play them all.

I'm at about 60 gamer games (non-party/trivia games) right now, and I am done buying more. The only way I will allow myself to get new ones is to either trade, or sell one before buying a new one. Even if I happen to win one in contests, or raffle drawings at conventions, etc. I will still try to sell off my unwanted games to make up for the new acquisitions.

Sorry for the long diatribe, basically too many games, not enough time. And there are so many awesome games constantly coming out that I would love, but then I look back at what I have that I wouldn't get to play. So hopefully by trading, or buying/selling, I will slowly refine my collection into the ultimate set of 60 or so games.
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