Ohne Furcht und Adel (Citadelles)

A card game for 4-7 players by Bruno Faidutti, published by Hans im Gluck (Germany)
These comments copyright 2000 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated December 11, 2000 - added link to new 2- and 3-player versions

What a devious game! This card game has lots of bowbing opportunities, as well as ways to help yourself, of course. In some ways it has the same twisted humor as Illuminati, but isn't nearly so complex.

The game comes with 65 District cards (things you build and possibly destroy), 8 character cards, a king counter, and 30 gold counters. The art is excellent, invoking the mood of the game perfectly. That is, the characters all look like back-stabbers ...

The game is in German, but don't let that stop you from buying it! There are only a few cards with German text, and I have a Player's Aid sheet which translates them available at BoardgameGeek. English rules can be found there, too, and that's all you need to enjoy this very enjoyable game. (My file there also explains the German title, if you have any interest that. Basically it means Fearless and Ignoble.)

The Play of the Game

Shuffle the District cards and deal out four to each player. Give each player two gold to start the game. Select one player to be the starting King, and give him/her the King figure. This player shuffles the Character cards, randomly puts one face down on the table, and selects one of the remaining ones to be his character for that turn. He then passes the remaining character cards to his left. That person selects one, passes them to the left, etc. When all have chosen a card, the King asks that all characters, in sequence, reveal themselves and take their turn.

Your turn consists of taking either two gold or another District card, possibly building a District, if you have enough gold to do so, and possibly performing your character's special action.

Once everyone has taken their turn, the Character cards are shuffled, and the King (which may be a different person than last turn), begins the round again, as above. Repeat this process until someone has built eight districts (or only seven, if playing with 5-7 players), then total up scores. That's all there is to it.

Well, that's all there is to the general play of the game, true, but there are some idiosyncrasies in the Districts and Characters that make the game very interesting.

The Districts

There are five types of Districts:

  • Noble Districts (Gold circle in the corner)
  • Trade Districts (Green circle in the corner)
  • Religious Districts (Blue circle in the corner)
  • Military Districts (Red circle in the corner)
  • Special Districts (Purple circle in the corner)
Each District shows its name, as well as a cost to build, represented by small circles. Each circle on the card requires one gold to build, and districts range from the very cheap (1 gold to build) to the very expensive (6 gold to build). In addition, the Special districts all have text on them, as they have some specialness about them, of course, or they wouldn't be called Special Districts, now would they? This can range from the simple, "Cannot be destroyed by the Mercenary" to a more interesting, "When you draw a District card, draw two and keep them both."

The number of circles on a card, showing cost to build, also represents victory points. The cheaper buildings can be erected quickly, but aren't worth as many victory points at the end of the game. You may be able to build three Taverns, one per turn, before I can build my single University, but at the end of the game, my University is worth more than your three Taverns ...

The Characters

Now here's where it gets really interesting! Each character has a special ability, and every turn you choose a character from those offered you. You'll probably play a different character from turn to turn - if you choose the same one too much, you'll be a target to the other players.

There are eight characters, who take their turns in the following order and have the following special abilities:

  1. The Assassin: you may assassinate one character this turn, without knowing which player has which character. An assassinated character may take no actions.
  2. The Thief: you may steal the gold from one character this turn. You won't get the gold until that character's turn, and you don't know who it will be at the time you announce your theft.
  3. The Magician: you may discard any number of District cards and draw the same number, or you may swap hands with one player - that is, you can say, "Steffan, give me your hand, and I'll give you mine."
  4. The King: you will have first pick of characters next turn, and get one extra gold for each Noble district you have built.
  5. The Preacher: you get one extra gold for each Religious district you have built, and you are immune to the Mercenary.
  6. The Merchant: you get one extra gold, plus one extra gold for each Trade district you have built. (There are about twice as many Trade districts as any other type, by the way.)
  7. The Architect: you may draw two additional District cards and may build up to three Districts in one turn. (Everyone else is limited to one per turn.)
  8. The Mercenary: you get one extra gold for each Military district, and you may destroy any one district by paying one less gold than it cost to build.

The Bowbing

Just from reading that, you can see the bowbing opportunities, eh? Well, actually playing it is even better - or worse, depending on your point of view.

No one really knows exactly which character any other player has. The second player to pick a character has a pretty good idea what the first player took, true, and the second from last player has a pretty good idea what the last player took, but even then you're not 100% certain. Much of the game the game then becomes one of judgement and psychology. A typical Assassin thought process might be:

Hmm - I need to stop Dave at all costs - he's too far ahead of me. He's likely to be the Merchant, since he has three Green Districts built. But he's a little too smart for that - he knows someone will be gunning for him and expecting that. No, I think he's the Preacher this turn - that "immune from the Mercenary" bit would appeal to him. So I'll assassinate the Preacher this turn.
Or something like that. Of course, Dave was probably one step ahead of you and thought you'd do that, so he took the Thief this turn, and is still ahead of you ...

Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?

There are some reasons, but they can be avoided. It can be too long if you play with seven players, or with six and play to eight districts. There can be a bit too much downtime between turns. On the other hand, the game doesn't work for three players at all, even though the box lists it as a possibility. Even four players makes for an awkward game: two of the characters are discarded face up at the start of each turn, making it less rich. The game plays best with five or six players, and only to seven districts.

Some people don't like bowbing games. Avoid this one, then, if that's you.

Some people don't like psychological games, as described above under the Assassin's thought processes. Avoid this one, then, if that's you.

It might be a bit light for some people. If you prefer something cerebral like Euphrat & Tigris, this might not be your style of game.

Summing Up

I love this game.

New Rules Since This Review

The German second edition has added some new rules to be used in two- and three-player games. I haven't tried them yet, but they read well. They can be found at Bruno Faidutti's Citadelles page.

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