Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Citadels - A card game by Bruno Faidutti

I picked up Fantasy Flight's Bruno Faidutti's Citadels on a whim. It was a good choice.

I am not familiar with Mr. Faidutti's previous games, amongst his previous credits are Knightmare Chess, Mystery of the Abbey and Diamant; however, I admit to being a Fantasy Flight Game Boy-Whore, so the fact that this little gem was made by Fantasy Flight Games was good enough for me.

The premises is simple: two to seven players control various characters and attempt to build a city.

The basic game has eight numbered characters, one through eight. The Characters are, number: 1. the Assassin, 2. the Thief, 3. the Magician, 4. the King, 5. the Bishop, 6. the Merchant, 7. the Architect and 8. the Warlord. Each character has a different power. Part of the strategy of the game is deciding which character's power would be most beneficial to you this round and at the same time, determining which character your opponents will most likely select to use against you and/or your other opponents.

I have played this game now on two seperate occasions and both times have had three players, so I will be reviewing the three player style. There are different rules for two players, and four to six players and eight players. There is also an option for seven players. The game is optimal with four, five, six and eight players.

The object is to build a city consisting normally of eight districts, but it could be as few as seven, depending upon which cards are in play. Districts are purchased with gold coins, some cost more others cost less. Those costing more, are worth more points towards winning. There are various "purple" districts which often give their possessors various powers that can be used to score more points against her opponents. The game consists of "turns" and continues until the first player has built enough districts to constitute a city; after-which, points are added to determine a winner.

At game set up, each player is given two gold coins and is dealt four district cards, then the eldest player (a common Fantasy Flight Games rule) starts as the "Crown" player and she possesses a wooden yellow crown piece -- later the Crown player will be selected by who ever chooses the King character, if anyone does at all. The Crown player first randomly selects one character of the eight (she should do this with the cards face down so even she does not know which character is selected), this character is placed face down, and will not be an option for anyone that turn. After doing this, she then secretly selects a character for herself. After selecting her first character, the crown player now passes the remaining six cards to the player to her left. That player secretly selects her first character, then passes the remaining five to the third player. This continues until the last two cards are handed off to the third player. At that point, she has last picks for her second character, and then places the character she didn't pick face down on the table, this character also will not be an option for anyone that turn.

Game set-up now complete, the crown player calls out each character by number; thus the Assassin goes first, if in play. If the Assassin is not in-play, the crown player goes to the next character, the Thief. This continues until a character is found that is in play. Each character's turn is taken in order of lowest number to highest number. When it is a players turn, that player first has the option of either selecting two cards from the top of the discard deck. She may look at both cards, decide which one of the two she wants for her hand, keeps that card and places the other at the bottom of the deck. If this option is not wanted, she may instead receive two gold coins from the bank. Early in the game, most players will choose gold over districts; however, after two or three hands, district cards become short in order. After doing this, she then may build a district from her hand, if she wishes and if she has enough gold to do so. At any time during her turn, she may opt to use her character's power. As an example, the Assassin may select any character she wishes to be assassinated. Whoever possess the chosen target character, if anyone at all, looses her turn when that character is activated.

That is the game in a nut-shell. We found it simple to learn with just enough strategy to keep in interesting. Both times we played, in a two hour period we played three games each night, so each game takes approximately thirty to forty-five minutes to play.

The set I purchased also comes with the Dark City Expansion included. The expansion offers ten new characters, two of which -- characters numbered "9"-- are only usable with seven players. The expansion also offers a number of new "purple" districts.

In short, Citadels is a fast learning strategy game with much replay value. I highly recommend it.

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