Citadels packs a big game into a small box. The game consists of a couple of decks of cards, a bag of ‘gold’ and a marker to show who the starting player is. Every player has the same aim – to score the most points, and these points come from the buildings. As soon as any player builds eight buildings the game will finish on the completion of the current round.
How are the buildings constructed? Well, each player starts with some ‘unbuilt’ buildings in their hand and the cost to build in gold is the same as the amount of points ithat building will get you at the end of the game. But the canny thing about Citadels is not the buildings themselves, but the roles the players choose at the start of each round.
Before any building is done every player secretly chooses a role from the character deck. The Assassin can kill another character, the Merchant gains money, the Thief can steal money, the Architect helps you build your buildings and so on. Once these cards are chosen they are called upon by the current starting player and reveal themselves in number order. Having been called, it’s that characters turn and they can either pick up more building cards or pick up more gold, and then they have the option of building. At any point on their turn they can activate their character’s special ability.
So the attractive, more-ish thing about Citadels is not the building itself but the way the players go about it – do they play peacefully, or go full-on nefarious; assassinating, killing, or blowing up the other players buildings with the Warlord? Or more likely somewhere inbetween, trying to anticipate opponents moves, and do the unexpected themselves?
At the end of the game players get a bonus for being the first to get to eight buildings and a bonus if they’ve managed to construct buildings in the five different colours they come in. Also some of the buildings come with a special action themselves which adds to the intrigue.
There’s some real gamesmanship and poker play here; choosing the secret roles is key to progressing, but if someone guesses what you go after, it may well blow up in your face. Equally if you choose the assassin or thief but go after a character no-one has picked, they’re rendered ineffective. A clever game.
Citadels invites and indeeds encourages dirty deeds. Players should not take things too personally.
It plays quickly. There aren't endless options, but you should to pause to try and work out what roles the others are taking on any given round.
The thinking is a mix of estimates and guesswork in the main - there is no magical optimum move to be worked out, as you can't be certain what everyone else is planning.
Citadels is reasonably fast-moving and not overly-long