You have a rare opportunity. The kingdom has achieved an unprecedented level of prosperity, and as one of its great builders, you have been commissioned to build a new city from the ground up. However, this is a competition. If your city surpasses those of the other builders, you will earn the title of master builder and achieve lasting renown. If it does not, you will be rewarded with nothing at all. As eager as you are to shape the city of your dreams, you must also watch out for your opponents. They will do anything to ruin your plans and stop your city from being completed. You shouldn’t hesitate to do the same to them if you truly seek victory.
In the two-to-eight player card game Citadels, you and your opponents vie to build the most magnificent medieval city. Designed by Bruno Faidutti and first published in 2000, Citadels has become one of the most popular and greatest games of the modern era. It boasts a thoroughly approachable mechanical framework that is easy-to-learn but nevertheless rich in strategy, deception, and intrigue.
Noble and Nefarious Characters
What is the city, but the people?
Citadels is just as much about who you recruit to build your city as it is the districts within it. The kingdom is filled with personalities of all kinds who can fund your building projects, enable you to build multiple districts at once, or undermine your opponents by robbing them, stealing their work, or even killing off the characters they have recruited.
At the top of a round of Citadels, a number of character cards are passed around equal to the number of players plus one. The player who possesses the crown chooses their character first and has the chance to see all the characters that will be in play that round before passing the cards on. Once all characters have been chosen, players take turns in order of the number on their character card.
This simple structure, together with the characters' abilities, can create a lot of suspicion, bluffing, and intrigue, as well as some challenging choices. Do you focus on building districts, but leave yourself open to attack? Do you try to protect yourself, even if that means sacrificing districts and gold? Do you aim to take the crown and choose first, simply so you can have first pick and see all the characters in play? Do you lie about what character you have in an attempt to manipulate other players’ actions? The best answer to those questions—and even the questions themselves—changes every round.
Secrets and Sights
Divine nature gave us the fields; human art built the cities.
–Marcus Terentius Varro
As important as carefully choosing characters is, the only way to win Citadels is to build the city that is worth the most points. That said, game end is triggered once any city grows to seven districts, so you need to build efficiently and wisely. Each district gives you points equal to that district’s cost to build in gold, but those are far from all the points available. You earn points for completing your city, and more for completing it first. You also earn points for having one of each kind of district (noble, religious, trade, military, and unique) in your city.
Noble, religious, trade, and military districts are all tied to their own character. The Trader for example, brings you gold for your green districts, like the Tavern, and enables you to build any number of them during your turn. Purple unique districts offer another means to make your city greater than the sum of its parts. Each offers a special ability that can grant you additional points, lessen how much districts cost to build, or put additional gold at your disposal and cards in your hand.
As you plan your turn, work from the districts and gold you have, and then think in terms of combinations and timing. What character pairs best with the districts that you can build this round, or that you’ve already built?
What purple districts might work well together? Do you have a hand now that makes it worthwhile to take the crown next round? Do you have a district that you want to build only at the last minute, lest it reveal your strategy or worse, be destroyed? If the Assassin kills of your character, can you still make a productive move this turn? Even then, you can never look to far into the future. Next round there may be different characters. You’ll have different resources, different choices, different opportunities.
A Kingdom of Possibilities
Citadels was first published in 2000, with eight characters and fourteen unique districts. In 2004, the Dark City expansion introduced more characters and unique districts which were soon included in all printings of the game. The Windrider edition of Citadels now contains a total of twenty-seven characters and thirty unique districts, all developed and refined by Faidutti and the Windrider team. Such rich diversity enables you to customize your game by selecting which characters and unique districts you wish to play with, resulting in literally thousands of possible combinations. Whether you prefer to focus on building districts or outwitting your opponents, whether you seek a family-friendly after-dinner game or a few rounds of intense, no-holds-barred competition against your friends, you will find it in the vast kingdom of Citadels.
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