Simple and nasty – a combination I like in games. An easily understandable rule-set mixed in with an opportunity to regularly mess with your opponents is a wonderful thing to experience, and one that many designers strive to achieve but often fail to attain. Citadels, designed by Bruno Faidutti, is one of those games that hits the mark – a simple game of choosing roles, purchasing buildings and stabbing your mates in the back. Lovely!
Catering for anything from two to eight players (though best with five or six, in my opinion), players begin each round – starting with the King, who gets to keep a chunky yellow crown in front of them – by secretly selecting a role card and passing the deck to the player on their left. Each card is numbered and each role has a special ability – the trick to Citadels being that you must reveal your roles in order, not knowing what ones your opponents have chosen. For example, the Assassin always goes first, and must announce a role they wish to kill (who then takes no further part in that round) – if they choose one that has been taken, excellent! However, if their choice is still left in the deck, it’s pretty much a wasted turn. You must deduce what roles your opponents have and act accordingly, all the while watching your own back.
After you have revealed your role and taken your action, you then get the chance to spend some gold. The main objective of the game is to purchase a selection of buildings, and the first person to collect a set of eight automatically triggers the endgame. They may not necessarily be the winner, however, as each building card has a number of gold coins down its side – as well as being the cost to buy them, they translate into victory points. Whoever has the most is declared the victor and even more can be earned by hitting bonuses – collecting a type of building from each of the five colour sets, for example, nets you more points. Some buildings also have special abilities, so always be aware of what’s available…
It’s very difficult to pick up an original Citadels nowadays as the game now automatically comes bundled with the Dark City expansion. This set of extra cards have new roles but must be switched out for the same numbered ones is they are used – for example, exchanging the King for the Emperor. They all have new powers and really add an extra element into the game, as do the special buildings that are also included. As many or as few Dark City cards can be included in your game as you like – it’s a perfectly enjoyable experience without them, but a great way of giving Citadels some longevity. I really appreciate Fantasy Flight including them in the sets now – there are far too many companies out there who’d be happy to charge you over the top prices for what amounts to just a few extra cards.
As I said in the beginning, Citadels is simple and nasty. It’s a game which is very easy to pick up but still filled with bluffing, strategy and skill – who could really ask for more? The amount of fun you’ll get from it far outweighs its size – seriously, the box is tiny (and could well be even smaller). Just make sure you get a few card protectors sorted out, if only for the role cards – they get handled so much, it’s good to keep them safe and under plastic. Citadels is a great little filler game and well deserving of a place in your collection.
Citadels was designed by Bruno Faidutti and published by (amongst many others) Fantasy Flight Games in 2000. It was also nominated for that year’s Spiel des Jahres. Between two and eight people can play, with games taking around thirty minutes to an hour. This review is based on the third edition released by FFG, currently available online or in your friendly local game store!