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Subject: Why Fist of Dragonstones is better than Citadels rss

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Tom Chappelear
United States
Kensington
California
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There are a couple of good reviews of Fist of Dragonstones that detail the rules, components, and basic game play. In this review, I want to focus on one aspect of game play in order to make a comparison that I hope people find useful: Fist v Citadels.

First of all, I love both games. Like most people, I've played Citadels quite a bit, as it fills a nice niche in my game collection, and only came to Fist of Dragonstones later.

What I enjoy most about Citadels--and I think most people would agree with me--is the centrality of doublethink and bluffing to the game. (Caveat: we play Citadels almost exclusively as a two or three-player game, which maximizes these tactics.) Due to the Assassin and Thief, role selection is often an agonizing mind game in Citadels:

Player 1: "Well, I'm out of cards, so I'd really love to take the Architect, but since that's the obvious choice I'm going to take the Warlord and hope he takes the Assassin and misses."

Player 2: "Hmm, the Architect was far too obvious a choice, so I'm going to take the Assissin and guess that he took the less useful Warlord..."

[a minute later]

Player 1: "D'oh!"

I actually lost a game a while back when I took the suboptimal choice four times running, and was killed by the assassin all four times. That was a great game...

Now, Fist of Dragonstones has equivalent cards--the Witch acts as a more flexible Assassin, as you can choose which card to kill later in the round. (The Thief targets the second highest bidder rather than another role, which changes its function a bit.) Once an opponent has the Witch, the bidding for the rest of the round is suffused with what I'll call (in honor of Citadels) Assassin-Angst. Is it worth bidding on that great card if it's just going to be Witched? This tension is heightened by the blind bidding--with ten auctions a round and only eight gold, you need to choose your auctions carefully, less you fritter away your gold coming in second. The simplicity of the mechanism--and it is a repetitive bid-bid-bid-bid-bid game--brings the psychological tactics to the fore.

In other words, the bluffing and second-guessing that makes Citadels such a fun game is distilled in Fist of Dragonstones, and a part of every single choice you make as a player. However, the consequences of "losing" a bluff are more diffuse, with small advantages and disadvantages won and lost throughout a round. While there is little long-term strategy to this game, the player with a better head for bidding tactics has a real advantage due to these small accumulations. We've found that the same people win Fist of Dragonstones almost all the time--a surprise for a Faidutti game that feels pretty random at first blush.

The main reason I have come to prefer Fist of Dragonstones, however, is the elegant pace of play. Here is what I mean. You only play to three points, and someone usually grabs a point in the very first round. As you can score two points with one card, someone is usually within striking distance of winning within five minutes of starting the game. In other words, Fist of Dragonstones is almost all endgame maneuvering. It sometimes reminds me of the tension late in a game of Settlers, when people are working trade embargoes to keep the person in the lead from winning.

Once people are close to winning--and this accounts for perhaps 75% of playtime--the bids in Fist of Dragonstones get quite skewed. The Witch starts costing a ton, since you can't let the person with enough stones to go out get the Witch too cheap. High defensive bids become the norm, so those not in the lead tend to catch up slowly--but they do tend to catch up if everyone is making sure the lead player can't end things. The game finally ends when someone makes enough of a bluff to carry the rest of their plan out--say, not bidding at all on the Witch while others bid high.

So, why is Fist of Dragonstones a better game than Citadels? While the type of tactical thinking needed is almost identical for both games, Fist of Dragonstones has more tension, more meaningful decisions, and more consistantly rewards strong play, while taking less time.
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Stephen Groves
New Zealand
Auckland
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I still prefer Citadels that FofD as it is tends to be more social and less tense than FofD. I guess that is because if you know the people playing, and I like to think I do as I've been playing with these guys for years, you can gain an advantage. Note: played 7 player Citadels last night and ended with decidedly average score.

Fist of Dragonstones relies on players to sacrifice their bid tokens on some rounds to prevent others from winning the game. Winning the bid will not advantage the player but if another player gets it they win the game. This sacrifice would logically (my logic of course) fall to the player in 2nd place as they have the most to lose (no prizes for 1st loser!). If people play the selfish game then the outbidding that should hapen does not occur and the game can end prematurely. I guess it is a lesson in human nature but I have seen too many games end without impact as the greedy player tries to maximise personal gain and simply loses the game.
 
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Mark Blanco
United States
Charlotte
North Carolina
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Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)
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Tom, I believe I have to agree with you on every point. It's unfortunate, however, that the elegant bidding mechanism seems to be one of the biggest gripes about the game. Or more specifically, the repetitiveness of it. I personally adore the game, but I know many others who can't stand 'all the bidding'.

But yes...I enjoy a great game of Citadels, but will play FoD over it if given a choice.
 
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Justin Robben
United States
Spring Hill
Florida
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Geese wrote:
I know many others who can't stand 'all the bidding'.


Do they enjoy Modern Art then?

Just kidding.
I own both and have played both many times. FoDS more so and it is indeed, because I enjoy it more.

Also, the "expandability" of it with blank characetrs, free downloadbale contest winners, etc adds another advantage!

J!
 
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Tom Chappelear
United States
Kensington
California
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Definately--if you don't like playing defensively, you won't like Fist of Dragonstones. As you say, progress slows considerably as a lot is spent to prevent someone from winning--although this leads to another form of doublethink, trying not to have too many people waste their gold on such defensive bids at the same time.

We talk a lot during FoD, with negotiations, lying and dealmaking, but not so much in Citadels. Well, we play Citadels almost exclusively as a two-player game, so I guess I wouldn't have much luck trying to convice my opponent to help me out...
 
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