Saturday, November 05, 2005

Review: Citadels: The Dark City Expansion

Citadels: The Dark City Expansion is an expansion for Bruno Fiadutti's excellent card game Citadels. It's been available in Germany for several months now but it's only just reached America.

Inside the box you'll find several things, most of which are of limited value.

First, you'll find replacement character cards for all 8 original characters plus the 10 "expansion" characters which were included in the original English edition but weren't in the original German edition. These cards are only useful if you have the original German edition or if you've played your original English copy of Citadels so many times that the cards have worn out. Unfortunately they didn't think to give the cards a white border this time; they're exactly the same as the original cards which means that their black borders will show wear just as quickly as the original ones did. Strike one!

You'll also find 8 reference cards. One side contains a brief turn summary (draw cards or take money) and the other side contains a brief scoring summary. Again: useless. What these reference cards SHOULD have contained was a list of all the roles in the game and their numbers: the single most important piece of information for people just learning the game. What you do on your turn is so simple that a reference card is hardly needed and the end game scoring doesn't require a card either: you only need that information once at the end of the game so it's not really a bother to go look it up. Strike two!

And then there's the wooden king token that replaces the cardboard stand-up crown that came with the original game. Nice, but hardly necessary. Let's call that a foul ball.

Finally we come to the good part: 14 purple district cards which actually add some spice to the game. Some of the new cards grant special immunities, others give you additional ways to score, all of them are just different enough to spice up the game without being unbalancing. For instance, one of the cards gives the owner a gold whenever the crown changes hands: making it much more interesting for someone to take the "king" role. Each expansion card is clearly marked with a star so it's easy to identify them. This time I think the expansion finally scores a hit. Not a home run perhaps but at least they get on base with this.

Still, at the end of the day, all you get for you money is 14 new cards and some replacement parts. Luckily, the entire package isn't terribly expensive ($9 MSRP; $5.95 at HFoG) but it's still more expensive than it should have been. Is it worth it? Well if you really like Citadels (and I do) and you're looking for some new purple districts to spice up the game then yeah, I have to say that perhaps it is. Just barely. And if you've worn out your original role cards then here's a cheaper way to get new ones than buying a second copy of the original game. But it's a shame that the other things they tossed in the box with these cards don't add value as well. They could have just given us the new cards in a smaller package, saved on production costs and charged us less and I'd have been a whole lot happier.


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