Recommended Game — Citadels

by A.J. Coltrane

citadelsTitle:  Citadels (now sold with the Dark City expansion)

Game Type:  Card – hand management/ Bluffing/ City Building Game

Number of Players:  2 – 7 (8 with Dark City)

Complexity of Rules:  Low – Medium

Time to Play:  20-60 minutes.

The Concept:  From Boardgamegeek:

“In Citadels, players take on new roles each round to represent characters they hire in order to help them acquire gold and erect buildings. The game ends at the close of a round in which a player erects her eighth building. Players then tally their points, and the player with the highest score wins…

At the start of each round, the player who was king the previous round discards one of the eight character cards at random, chooses one, then passes the cards to the next player, etc. until each player has secretly chosen a character…

The characters then carry out their actions in numerical order: the assassin eliminating another character for the round, the thief stealing all gold from another character, the wizard swapping building cards with another player, the warlord optionally destroys a building in play, and so on.”


This is the “cheat sheet” that we use when we play — it contains a brief description of each role’s unique abilities. Using a 10-point font it just fits inside the box.

#1 Assassin: Announce a character that you wish to murder. The murdered character misses his entire turn. The murdered player must remain silent and not reveal his character card when called.

#2 Thief: Announce a character from whom you wish to steal. When that card is revealed, take his gold. You may not target the Assassin or the character that the assassin murdered.

#3 Magician: Either exchange your cards with another player or discard any number of cards and draw an equal number of cards.

#4 King: Receive one gold for each of your Noble (Yellow) districts. When the King is called you immediately receive the crown. Exception:  If the King is murdered you receive the crown at the end of the round as his “heir”.

#5 Bishop: Receive one gold for each of your Religious (Blue) districts. Your districts may not be destroyed by the Warlord.

#6 Merchant: Receive one gold for each of your Trade (Green) districts. After your action, you receive one extra gold.

#7 Architect: After your action, draw two district cards and keep both. You may build up to three districts during your turn.

#8 Warlord: Receive one gold for each of your Military (Red) districts. At the end of your turn, you may pay to destroy one district that is not your own. The cost to do so is one gold less than the cost of building the district. The Warlord may not destroy the 8th (“winning”) district in a city.

citadels - roles

Why I Like It:  It’s an easy game to teach and learn, but it has enough strategy (and bluffing) to keep it interesting — the Architect and Merchant are often “best plays” every turn, but that also makes them obvious targets to be assassinated and lose their turn. The game can be shortened by playing to fewer than eight districts. There isn’t much downtime, which I value in any game I play of anything.

prison and palace

To (maybe) quote Sid Meyer: “A game is a series of interesting decisions.”  Citadels qualifies on that front. We’ve had a lot of fun with it.

Link to a Sid Meyer speech at the Game Developers Conference. There’s some fascinating stuff.