Developer: Bruno Faidutti
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
I had a whole schedule of CCG reviews planned out, but my list went out the window when I was introduced to Citadels. I had so much fun playing Bruno Faidutti’s brainchild that I simply had to write about it. More of a board game than a traditional CCG, the title uses a small amount of cards and reduces the luck factor so prevalent in the genre, thereby allowing you to focus on formulating a strategy and countering your opponents’.
The goal of Citadel is to build the most majestic city by placing districts on the board. At the beginning of the game, each player receives four random district cards and two gold pieces. Every turn, you’re given the option to receive two additional gold pieces or keep one of two drawn district cards. Once your choice is made, you can resume constructing your citadel, investing the necessary sums to place your various districts on the board.
Once a player has built eight districts, the others finish out the round, and points are tallied. Four bonus points are awarded to the person who filled out his or her board first. Then one point is given for each gold piece invested in a district. That means a player with fewer districts can still win the match if his or her board includes expensive real estate like castles and banks. To master Citadel, you’ll have to strike a delicate balance between building fast and building rich.
Citadels would be a snooze if not for the character cards, which are selected at the beginning of every round. Each character has a special ability, and part of the fun lies in guessing which your opponents would most like to use. Let’s say I’m short on gold and see Bob there sitting on a mountain of riches. To steal his loot, I select the thief, who can take gold from any other character (not player). Now I just need to figure out whom Bob chose: did he take the architect to build multiple districts, the king to select his next character first, or some unlikely card to throw the thief off his scent? I boldly announce, “The thief steals from the king!” only to learn that Larry picked the king and that he’s flat broke.
As you continue playing Citadels and learn your friends’ patterns, you’ll eventually master the art of figuring out whether your opponents know what you know they know, making your matches together increasingly predictable. At this point, you can replace a few characters with bonus cards included in the base set. It’s crazy how swapping the king (who gives you first dibs on the next round’s characters) for the emperor (who transfers that privilege to another player) can turn the game on its head. I only wish expansion sets focused on adding new characters instead of district cards.
Otherwise, I can’t recommend Citadels enough. Because of all the strategy and psychology involved, I fell in love with the game instantly. It only takes a few minutes to learn, and, shortly after, you’ll find yourself messing with everyone’s tactics, capitalising on each of your opponents’ mistakes to lay out your districts. Just make sure to invite as many friends as you can for a massive CCG party full of calculated mayhem, clashes in strategies, and awesome competitive fun!