I’ve heard so many good things about Citadels (Ohne Furcht und Adel) over the past year that this game had some very high expectations to fulfill, and it completely exceeded all of them. I have played the game with six and seven players, and it’s a damn fine gaming experience.
The object of the game is to build the best set of buildings in your kingdom. Gold is used to build these structures and it’s a very limited resource. Buildings range in cost from 1 to 6 gold, and the first person to build 8 buildings triggers the end of the game. On your turn you may choose to take 2 gold, or 2 building cards returning 1 to the bottom of the deck. Then you can activate your character’s special ability, and build 1 building. You can also gain more income through your character’s related buildings. 4 of the characters in the game have aligned buildings that provide extra gold (King = Yellow, Priest = Blue, Soldier = Red, Merchant = Green). For example, if you are the Priest for the current turn, and you have two Priest structures, then you can get 2 extra gold to help you out building on your turn. There are also special buildings that may be built which give an extra ability to the player that owns it. Example: The Library allows the player to keep both cards that they draw for income. Special buildings are purple for use in the end game bonuses.
At the heart of Citadels lie the eight characters that the players can choose from. At the beginning of a round, the (current) King picks up the stack of characters and picks one of the characters and passes the stack to the next player. That player then has a pick of which character they want to be (except for the one that the king picked) and passes the stack to the next player and so on, until the stack reaches the last player who has a (very) limited choice of the characters that are left over.
Each character has a special ability associated with him, and the order of the game is played in character order (Assassin, Thief, Mage, King, Priest, Merchant, Architect, and finally the Soldier). Since the choosing of the characters is somewhat secret, part of the fun of the game is trying to guess who your opponents have chosen for their characters, and not be obvious in your choice of character.
Here is a rundown of what each character can do when their turn comes around:
<li>Assassin – names a character that he kills for the round. The player who picked that character loses their turn since their character has been assassinated.
<li>Thief – names a character and steals all their gold when their turn comes around.
<li>Mage – exchanges hands with a player
<li>King – gets first choice of characters when the next round starts
<li>Priest – Is immune to the Soldier’s ability
Merchant – Gets 1 extra gold
<li>Architect – May draw 2 cards and build up to 3 buildings in one turn. (Note: The architect also gets his normal income of 2 gold or 1 card from a draw of 2)
<li>Soldier – May destroy a building for 1 less than the face value of the card. Buildings worth one gold are free to destroy.
When a player builds the eighth building, the end of the game is triggered, and point values are totaled for the game. Bonuses are given to the players who reach the eighth building, and a bonus is given for having 1 building of each of the 5 colors.
So how does the game play? It succeeds on just about every level for me. Players need to strike a balance between building structures, deciding when to draw cards, when to get gold, which character to pick, and which other players to screw over. There is a bit of backstabbing in this game and part of the fun is trying to figure out which character each player will choose. There is a considerable skill in “reading” players to see what they will pick based on their current situation.
Another aspect of the game I love is the artwork. I find that I am just staring at the cards admiring the quality of the images. Check out the pictures on <A target="_new" href="http://www.3dgamegeek.com/boardgamegeek">Boardgamegeek</A>, they are absolutely stunning.
There are however a couple problems with the game that keep this from the “perfect” game but they are very minor. First problem is the length of the game. It takes over an hour and a half to play with six players, and a tad longer with seven. I haven’t had a chance to play with less than that to see what the game is like. A variant has been made that ends the game when the seventh building is played. This tends to shave about 20 minutes off the game. The second problem is the turn downtime when other players are choosing their characters. Some players take up to 1 minute to choose, multiply that by seven, and there’s seven plus minutes of downtime between playing out the turns.
Those small problems aside, Citadels has made a place in my current Top 10 list, and I look forward to teaching it to more friends! Too bad there won't be an English version in the forseeable future.