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Board Game Review # 12 – Citadels

2011 March 20
by Michael Schroeder

“A king, thief, and magician walk into a bar …” OK, OK, I’ll stop. No bad jokes. Let’s review Citadels, from publisher Fantasy Flight Games!

Number of players: 2-8 (w/Dark City expansion – included)

Age: 10+

Time: 20-60 minutes


Citadels by Fantasy Flight Games

Citadels by Fantasy Flight Games

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

A medieval city destined for greatness, immense power and importance beckons you. There is only one problem: it isn’t built yet. This vacuum presents the perfect opportunity for you. You must wisely spend your gold, bluff, intimidate and outmaneuver your rivals as you seek to build and control this new city.

Citadels is a game of nobles, intrigue, and cities for 2-7 players, playable in 20-60 minutes. The current printing of Citadels includes the Dark City expansion detailed elsewhere – look for the purple logo on your box lid if you’re not sure if your copy includes the Dark City.

Basic idea in my own words:

Citadels is a easy to carry around card game, that involves some elements of bluffing and intrigue, and the main mechanic is deck building, role selection and an action point allowance system – meaning you can take one of two actions, take more cards, or take money…real simple!

What the heck are you doing in this game? Citadels is a card game by Bruno Faidutti and publisher Fantasy Flight Games. The game includes a slew of cards, the rulebook, a wooden king token and these golden/caramel looking tokens that look like werthers originals.


Citadels Gameplay

Citadels Gameplay

In Citadels, your main objective is to try and complete districts, represented by cards, that amount to the most points at the end of the game. Before I give you the details of this game, let me give you a breakdown of the components, so you can bet a better understanding or the game.


Citadels Merchant

Citadels Merchant

The card above, the mercahant, is an example of a character in the game. In a game of citadels, there are 8 characters to choose from, each having their own special ability.


Citadels District Card

Citadels District Card

This card, above, is a district card, the Church, which is a blue district type, represented, by the blue orb on the left side. Also note, the gorgeous artwork, and the two golf coins on the left hand side. These gold coins (sometimes silver), are what you are after. These gold coins represent your points at the end of the game – so if you had built the church only, you’d have 2 points at the end of the game…not a good score.

So how do you build up your districts? By paying in gold, or Werthers originals. You know the church we talked about above? It costs 2 gold because it had 2 gold on it, which is also it’s points at the end of the game. Note, that some districts will cost less than what they actually cost. You want to go after these.

So, let’s connect the dots, Districts are paid with gold, gold is obtained by…taking the action to take gold, or steal it! On your turn, you have the option to either a.) take 2 gold from the bank, or b.) take two district cards from the draw deck, then you keep one of your choice and put the other on the bottom on the draw deck.

I mentioned stealing gold. There’s a thief character in the game. I’ll explain the characters in a bit.

At the end of your turn, you have the option of buying a district card. So, say, in your turn, you have 4 gold, and you want to buy a district that costs 4, go right ahead and put it in front of you. Please note, you can only buy one district a turn, unless you chose the architect as your character.


So, I’ve been talking about these characters, well what are they for? They represent the other main mechanic in the game, the bluffing and lying, etc. At the beginning of each round, depending on the number of players playing the game, a character card is secretly burned. Then the first player, with the crown, secretly chooses a character, then passes the character deck to the player to his left. And this continues until all players have chosen a character. These characters represent abilities that you can have during the course of the round. For instance, the warlord, can pay a gold, to destroy an opponents district. Whomever chooses the king, will take the crown token and it is the kings responsibility to call the character numbers. What??? How this works is…

After all players choose characters, the player with the crown, is the first player, and is the player that announces 1, 2, 3, 4, etc etc. And when your number is called, for instance the assassin, is 1 – you turn over your card, announce who it is, and do your action, if it is time. It’s pretty easy to tell when you can use your characters’ ability. when your character is announced, this is when you take your actions, such as take gold, and build.

Game end:

When the first player builds his 8th district, the game ends at the end of the current turn. Now, everyone counts up their total gold on the district cards. In addition, it you have at least one district in each color, you get 3 extra points. If you were the first player to build his 8th district, you get 4 extra points. All other players that managed to build 8 districts, get 2 extra points. That’s it!


There is a variant in the game, or expansion, called Dark City Expansion. This expansion adds more district and character cards. If you choose to use any of these, you must remove the same number of cards in the core game.


Component Quality: 4/5

The components in this game are typical, top-notch Fantasy Flight quality. The cards are linen textured – the box, is thick and study and the rulebook is just right. Oh ya, those little gold pieces are pretty neat too!

Theme: 5/5

I like this theme, because it is a medieval-pseudo fantasy based theme but it’s real enough so that I don’t feel weird playing with someones parents, except for my own. The theme works well with the game – in all honesty, practically any theme would have worked, but this one works well, especially with the art. The art is awesome!

Instruction manual: 5/5

The instruction manual is in nice color, and isn’t too many pages long.

Luck Factor: 3/5

The luck in this game is the drawing of the district cards, and the characters that are available to you after other players choose them. But this is also part of the strategy of the game.

Strategy: 3/5

There’s a mild level of strategy in this game. It’s an average weight game. It’s not too complicated for non-gamers to understand, but it should satisfy most gamers. The strategy in this game is to determine who you think has what characters and try bluffing them as well.

Overall feelings: 4/5

I love citadels! It’s a great game in a small box. For the price and for the fun, I’d definitely recommend picking it up. This game has a good element of bluffing and it’s great for a larger crowd. The more people you have playing this game, the more fun it is! Not too many games that are not party games, support this many people.

The only downside of this game is when you are playing with 2 players, or maybe 3, and your character is guessed every turn!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Marc K permalink
    March 23, 2011

    Hi Michael, when you say this game has a deck building mechanic, it makes me think of Dominion, where you get to use cards you purchased over and over in you own personal deck. I think in Citadels I would just call it hand management.
    – Marc

    • March 23, 2011

      You’re totally right, Marc. I think that the term “deck building” has been instilled in us the past couple years now with Dominion that I used the term incorrectly.

      Thank you for noticing!

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