Saturday, May 14, 2011

Board Game Review: Citadels

Here we go with another board game review. This time, I tackle the game Citadels. Once more, we start with the ratings:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 1
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: Average.
Expected Length of Game Play: 1 hour.
In this game, you are competing to build your city by playing district cards. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

At the beginning of each round, each player chooses a character. Characters are important for two reasons: they determine the order of play for that round, and also grant special abilities. One player takes the stack of eight character cards, discards one or two at random depending on the number of players, and selects one from what's left. He then passes the stack to the next player, who chooses one and passes them on again, until everyone has a character.

Then each player takes it in turn to take up to three actions:
  1. Take either two gold from the bank OR take a district card from the deck (in a draw-two-choose-one fashion).
  2. Build a single district; that is, pay the cost in gold of a card in his hand and place it into play in front of him.
  3. Use his character's special ability.
The first action is the only mandatory action. The third action can be done at any point in his turn, before his other two actions, between them, or after them. Actions 1 and 2 must be done in that order, however.

As mentioned previously, the character cards determine the play order for the round. The order is marked on the card, so you don't have to remember. The characters are, in play order:
  1. Assassin. Special ability: Choose another character (not player). The player with that character loses his turn.
  2. Thief. Special ability: Choose another character (not player), aside from the Assassin or the Assassin's victim. At the start of that character's turn, he must give the Thief all his gold.
  3. Magician. Special ability: You may discard your hand and draw an equal number of new cards, or you may trade your hand with another player, even if you don't have the same number of cards.
  4. King. Special ability: You gain an extra gold piece for each 'royal' district (marked with a yellow icon) you have in play. Also, you choose the first character card on the next round.
  5. Bishop. Special ability: You gain an extra gold piece for each 'religious' district (marked with a blue icon) you have in play. Also, you are immune to the Warlord's special ability.
  6. Merchant. Special ability: You gain an extra gold piece for each 'trade' district (marked with a green icon) you have in play. Also, you receive an extra gold coin on your turn.
  7. Architect. Special ability: You draw two extra district cards at the start of your turn. Also, you may build up to three districts this turn.
  8. Warlord. Special ability: You gain an extra gold piece for each 'military' district (marked with a red icon) you have in play. Also, you can pay x-1 gold to destroy any district in play (except those owned by the Bishop), where x is the cost to build that district.
Once a player has eight district cards in play, you finish the current round and then total your points. The point value of your cards in play is equal to the cost to build them. You get three bonus points if you have all five district types in play (royal, religious, trade, military, and 'special'). You get four bonus points if you were the first to have eight cards in play, though all other players with eight cards at the end of the game get two bonus points.

The strategy for this game is fluid and somewhat chancy. Do you go for a character with a powerful ability, and hope that the Thief or Assassin don't target you? Do you go with the Thief or Assassin and hope you can target a dangerous opponent? Do you go with a lower number character in hopes of playing first, or do you delay your turn in exchange for the chance at using a more powerful special ability?

As if this wasn't enough excitement for you, the basic set comes with an expansion set; there are nine additional characters that can be used to replace the ones in the basic game. With the alternate rules provided to choose from, you can customise this game in a variety of ways. Even playing the basic version can provide a lot of fun for hours on end.

I like this game because I find it rather exciting to choose a new character each round. It's fun to see which characters are available when the character cards get around to me. But it's also fun to weigh my options and decide what strategy I'm going to use this turn.

But, of course, that's just my opinion. Others will differ. So hopefully, I've given you enough information to decide if you think this game would be worth a try. And as you decide whether to try, remember of course to

Game on!

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