Feats of architecture rise alongside new prisons and slums. Nobles intrigue relentlessly, constructing fortresses and palaces, squeezing the districts of the city for the last ducats. In the shadows, the refuse of the underworld preys on the nobles, with tales of new murders and robberies appearing daily. They say the King will aid a new city in ousting the Merchant Guild, but if the city strongboxes are inexplicably emptied, they may need the Merchants more than they thought…
Citadels is a game of city-building and intrigue for two to eight players. In Citadels, each player is striving to complete his own city, consisting of eight separate districts. As the players labor to build their cities, they are also forced to vie for the benefits granted by enlisting the support of certain formidable Characters. Timing and careful planning take vital importance in the uncertain business of city construction, and a successful prelate must be willing to bluff and able to switch his plans at a moment’s uneasy notice.
When a game of Citadels begins, each player starts with nothing but a hand of District Cards—potential new districts in his city. At the outset of each round, players secure the influence of a Character who can help their city. The reputations of these Characters range from the well-known and proclaimed virtues of the highborn King or Bishop to the more sinister, and no less powerful, notoriety of the Assassin and the Thief.
When the cards are passed around, each player must select one Character card to claim as his own, but he may also be allowed to discard a Character card, denying other players the opportunity to benefit from it. Without a cool hand at the helm, a player may unwittingly give his opponents the very tools they need to gain the lead. In each consecutive round, the players’ Characters are returned, and they can choose a new Character to help them with their plots.
Even when players have chosen a Character for themselves, their information about the identities of the other players’ Characters remains imperfect and unrevealed until each Character’s turn. With the shadows of uncertainty laid over their enemies’ plans, politics in Citadels quickly become nasty and vicious guesswork, as each player strives to fool his opponents and determine their plans.
After the Character Cards have been chosen, the players take their turns in an order predetermined by which Character they have chosen this round. All players must consider this prearranged turn order if they are going to predict their opponents. Shady operatives like the Assassin are able to strike first, whereas more “law-abiding” nobles and dignitaries must wait their turn. Players will have to decide whether it is more beneficial to strike swiftly and blindly, or wait until all is revealed before moving on with their schemes.
On each player’s turn, they are first given the opportunity to take an action and wield their might as rulers of a budding city. They are allowed to either generate gold to build districts, or expand their knowledge of potential districts by drawing District Cards from the deck. Gold provides the more immediate benefit, but rulers must remain vigilant, and shy away from the temptation to monopolize. Chests bursting with wealth do no good if a ruler lacks the necessary plans for building.
After taking an action, players are allowed the opportunity to expand the glory of their city by constructing one district. Districts are paid for with certain amounts of gold, and the more expensive a district is to add to a city, the more victory points it is sure to produce at the end of the game. Each district is coded as belonging to a certain faction—Noble, Religious, Trade, or Military. Some Characters can use their leverage with these districts in order to offer the players an increased income: the Noble districts, for example acknowledge the overlordship of the King, while the Bishop is always able to secure more tithes from the Religious districts.
Diversity is a vital consideration in the construction of a new city. Although focusing on a single color can yield impressive income benefits if you are able to select the right Character, there can be no guarantees in a land abounding with Assassins and Thieves. A more diverse city is less predictable, and easier for bluffing. As an additional incentive, there can be score boosts in store at the end of the game for players whose cities feature every kind of district.
Some districts can serve more purposes than simply garnering victory points or offering a golden rain of coinage, but instead are able to offer game-altering abilities to the ruler who completes them. These districts are many and varied in their effects, ranging from the kindly Hospital, which allows a player to speedily recover from a personal attack, to the awe-inspiring University, which generates even more points for its owner than its already staggering cost would suggest.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the player’s turn is determining how and where to use his Character’s special ability. More benevolent Characters, like the King, can offer a regal prerogative, claiming the royal right to a first choice of Characters. On the other hand, a Character like the Warlord is able to raid and sack opposing districts, burning them to the ground for a small, mercenary price.
After each player has completed his turn, the Character cards are regathered and secretly chosen again, until one city is finally complete, causing the game to end for everyone. As the cities draw nearer to completion, each player must divert all of his efforts into the creation of new districts—at the game’s end, gold left in coffers has little value compared to the soaring arches and balustrades of your neighbor’s palace. With a game as tense and fast-paced as Citadels, the seemingly well-ordered business of building a clean, unsoiled city becomes rather dirty and chaotic indeed.
Despite its compact and easily portable size, Citadels has a lot going for it. It can function easily as a fill-in game between other games, whether as a part of a weekly gaming group, or between events at a convention. Featuring unparalleled replayability and a high amount of player choices per turn, Citadels deserves a place in every game library.
|10+||2 - 8 ||20 - 60 min|
The copyrightable portions of Citadels are © 2000 Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc. Citadels and Fantasy Flight Supply are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.