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Published on July 2nd, 2015 | by Justified Croak

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Citadels Review

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Average play time per game: 20-60 minutes
Suitable for ages: 10+
Number of players: 2-8
Mechanics: Hand Management, Bluffing, City Building

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A game of cities, nobles and intrigue. So like Game of Thrones the card game then? Yes, Except that’s already a thing. In fact there are several Game of Thrones card games out there, most of them more intriguing than Citadels too. Tsssss burn. This week I drop the painted smile and reveal my self for who I truly am. A nerd who likes to complain online about other people’s achievements and successes which vastly surpass my own.

Citadels puts you in the place of a medieval ruler type trying to build a city before your opponent can do the same. Each turn players will take on a different roles such as Bishop, Merchant, Architect, and Evil Eldritch Cultist (not true sadly, although a clear oversight on the designer’s part) to help establish their city as the biggest and bestest. Perhaps this is more of a Carcassonne the card game? So the concept of building a medieval city is some what of a golden oldie to us nerdy/geeky people but then why is this one so meh? Well let’s have a quick look at how to play first.

Setup

Get a refund.

OR

Remove the bonus character and district cards from the game (those marked with a white star) These are intended for use with some of the alternative rules featured later in the manuals. You may be tempted to opt for some of these options after a game or two in a vain attempt to make the game enjoyable.
Shuffle the remaining 8 character cards in to one deck, referred to as the character deck. Then shuffle the remaining district cards in to one deck, referred to as the district deck.
Each player is dealt four random cards from the district deck for a starting hand and then receives 2 gold each from the bank.
The oldest player receives the crown. This is used as a first player token.

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Gameplay

The game play will vary dependant on how many players to your game. This example is for 4-6 players. Details for playing with 2,3 and 7 players are found later in the rulebook.

Citadels takes place over a series of rounds, each with 4 steps.
(I) draw one card from the character deck and place it face down in the centre of the table. Do not look at this card. Then draw X amount more character cards and place them face up in the middle of your play space (X is dependant on the number of players. e.g. 1 card for 4 players) If the king character card is drawn in this step then reshuffle him back in to the character deck and draw again. Repeat if necessary.
(II) The first player (owner of the crown token) takes the entire character deck and selects one card in secret to keep for that round. They then pass the remaining character cards to the player on their left who does the same and again, passes to the left. Once all players have chosen a single character card in secret, the single remaining card is placed face down on the table with out being viewed,
(III) The first player will now call out the name of each character card in order of the numbers printed on them, starting with Assassin (#1). Players must reveal their card when called and place it before them face up, they then take their turn. When their turn is over the first player continues to call out characters in numerical order until the next player reveals to take their turn etc.
On a player’s turn they must first take an action. They may either:
Take two gold from the bank, or
Draw two district cards from the district deck of which they choose one to keep in their hand and the other is discarded to the bottom of the district deck.
Once an action has been performed that player may then play one district card. To play a district card, that player pays the gold cost indicated on the upper left hand side of the card, and then places that card before them in their play space. At no point may a player have two of the same district cards in their city (e.g. Two castle cards)
Each player may also use the ability printed on their chosen character card at any point during their turn. For example if a player has the architect character, then on their turn after they take an action, they draw 2 additional district cards and put both in their hand. They may build up to three districts during their turn.

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(IV) After all characters have taken their turn in the correct order, each player returns his character card to the character deck which is the shuffled. A new round begins.
End of game
When a player builds their 8th district the game ends. Each player is then scored points on the total combined gold cost of all completed districts in his city.

Players receive additional points for:
Having at least one district card of each colour (total of five colours)
Being the first player to build 8 districts
Having built 8 districts In their city (but not the first to do so)
The player with the highest point total gets to keep the game cards for use as coasters.

 

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Opinion

Okay, there are worse games. Did you know Donald Trump released a board game in 1989 entitled “Trump”? That was a worse game. However the fact remains. I did not like this game. Here is why.
Firstly the rulebook. It’s a mess. Very poorly laid out, and i had to flick through it several times to find the rules for 8 players. it turns out that this is only possible with the 3rd edition as with this version of the game an 8 player expansion is included. After a quick google, it seems some people straight up couldn’t find it and just googled the 8 player rules. how is a book that poorly laid out? sigh. This is a bugbear of mine – game rules can be hard enough to pick up. It should always be a priority of the designer to make their manual as approachable and easy to follow as possible. With a game as uncomplicated as Citadels, that should be all too easy.
The next failing for me was the down time. Citadels is often pushed as a light and easy card game. I played with 8 people, some had played before and hours later we were still sat there. Hours. On one occasion another player used the assassin ability to kill my character for the round. The way the round went I ended up not doing anything at all for over 30 minutes. Spectating for half an hour in a game you’re supposedly taking part in is tedious. I spent most of the games we played shuffling or watching others take their turns.
Aesthetically, the artwork is very stock Eurogame, with consistency throughout. Not my preferred style but that is of course, like the rest of this review, entirely down to personal opinion. The quality of the components is the usual Fantasy Flight standard, that being nothing elaborate but durable enough.
This is a geeky site so I am reviewing this as a geek. I can see how its simplicity and easy learning curve could appeal to those with children so long as you don’t play with more than 4/5 players. For me however I couldn’t pack it away fast enough. If I am going to spend two hours on a game I want something more meaty, something I can get my teeth into, something that I can actually take part in! When I did get my turn it was over too quickly, and there was no sense of achievement. I didn’t really feel like I was doing much at all. RRP is about £20.00, which would buy you Infernal Contraption, Carcassonne, Dominant Species the card game or one and a half Fluxxs – all games I certainly got a lot more fun out of. For my money, citadel would have been a wasted purchase, if the box had not been just the right height to slide under my bedside table after it lost a leg.

Justified Croak

Justified Croak loves nothing more than books, miniatures, board games, RPG supplements and clever Ikea storage that helps me cope with all of the above.

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