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How to Play Citadels Card Game

Updated on November 26, 2009

The brainchild of Bruno Faidutti, Citadels is a 2-8 player card game usually lasting 20 to 60 minutes requiring bluffs to trick your opponents. A competitive but fun game, Citadels is not suitable for those who hate competition.

It is one of many card and board games from German inspiration that require strategy, planning and a devious mind. If you're familiar with Munchkin, the game is much simpler. For those who have never played any of the German based games, Citadels is simple to pick up but tricky to master. Devising a strategy on how to win and fool your fellow players I leave up to you. I am merely here to provide the basics of how the game works and introduce you to a world of fun in a game many have never heard of.

Citadels Video Guide

The Basics

Citadels comes with a pile of gold pieces, a king counter, a stack of district cards and character cards. A new game always begins with the king counter in front of the oldest player, making him king, who will deal out four district cards and two gold pieces to each player. Players can look at their own district cards. The rest of the district cards are placed face down in the center of the table. The game can finally begin!

The King randomly shuffles the character cards and places a certain number face up or face down on the table, depending on the number of players. Then he or she looks at the remaining character cards and chooses the character they want to be this round. The remaining cards are then passed to the next player and so on until everyone has received a card. Remaining character cards are placed face down on the table.

At this point, you'll already be planning strategies and trying to figure out what character card your fellow players could have drawn for each character card has a special ability (see below),

The King then calls out the first character and the player with that card reveals it. All the character cards have a number 1-9 in the corner and that is the order they will be called, beginning with number 1. It is the called character's turn. They can do the following in any order:

  • Use their character's action and

Choose one of the following:

  • Draw two gold pieces from the general gold pile
  • Play a district card by paying the appropriate gold cost on the card (only 1 district of each type can be played). At the end of the game, the gold cost on all your played cards will be added to your point total, one gold icon for one point. So a 3 gold piece district = 3 points.

When the player is finished, the king calls out the next number or character and so on until everyone has gone. If someone took the King card (#4) that round, they will finish the character roll call after their turn and be the new king until someone else draws the card. The King token will be placed in front of them. One advantage of being King is to choose which character card you want first.

After the final number or character has been called, the King is given all the character cards, shuffles and repeats the above process, getting to choose which character he wants to be before passing the character cards to the next player.

The game continues until someone has played their eighth district, which is harder than it appears.

Note: If a Character Card or played District Card states something in opposition to the rules, follow the card. There are some cards that can alter the game rules.

Ending the Game

Citadels ends when the final character or number has been called after someone has built 8 districts. Being first to place eight districts does not guarantee a win but instead only signals the end of the game and providing two bonus points for the player. The winner is ultimately determined by a point system with points earned for how you performed, meaning it may be better to wait and sabotage an opponent before placing that final district.

Players can receive the following points:

  • 2 points for having 8 districts
  • 2 more points for being first to build 8 districts
  • 3 points for having a district of each color
  • * Points equal to the Gold Value of all your played Districts

The player with the most points wins. Any remaining gold pieces are worthless as only the played district cards count for points. A player who played all three cost districts could easily be the first to eight districts but lose to someone who played five five cost districts.

Basic Citadel Characters
Basic Citadel Characters

Character Cards

The rules are simple and the end goal is easy to understand. Strategy, bluffing and trickery all come into play with which character card you choose. Each character has a unique special ability, listed below, that can be used once per turn and provides the entertainment of the game. Choosing the right card and figuring out which your opponent may have chosen form the crux of strategy.

  1. Assassin - Player names a Character. That character is skipped when king calls out that character name.
  2. Thief - Names a character and steals all that character's gold when their character card is called (Cannot steal from Assassin, Assassinated, Witch or Bewitched characters.)
  3. Magician - Swaps the entire hand of their district cards with any player or place one to all of their cards on the bottom of the draw pile and draw an equal number from the top
  4. King -Player receives the King marker, receives one gold for all Noble (Yellow) Districts they own and continues calling out the characters in order.
  5. Bishop - Receives one gold for all Religious (Blue) Districts they own and cannot be affected by Warlord's ability.
  6. Merchant - Receives one gold from the general gold pile and receive one gold for each Trade (Green) District they own
  7. Architect - May build an extra two districts their turn and draw two additional cards from the pile after they have built their districts (No drawing the bonus cards and then building the districts)
  8. Warlord - Can destroy one opponent's district (Except Bishop's and/or a player who has played their eighth district) by paying gold equal to district's gold cost less one and receive one gold for each Military (Red) District they control.
  9. Queen - (Technically an expansion pack card) - Receives three gold if player sat next to the King with the Crown Counter.

Dark City Expansion Character Cards

The Dark City Expansion provides a new set of characters that can be used to replace the corresponding number in the original deck, including two number nine cards that players can choose from (only one being put into play).

  1. Witch - Names a character to bewitch, which ends her turn (Cannot build district or draw gold). When named character's turn occurs, the Witch acts like they're the Bewitched Character. The Bewitched loses their turn and the Witch can now draw gold, build a district and use that character's abilities.
  2. Tax Collector - If any player builds a building, they must give the player one gold at end of their turn if able.
  3. Wizard - May play a copy of the same district and look at another player's hand and choose one district card to put in their hand or play immediately. This does not count as their build action.
  4. Emperor - Receives one gold piece for each Noble District they control and names another player to receive the King Counter, that player must then give a district card or gold piece back to the Emperor if able.
  5. Abbot - Receives one gold for each Religious District they control and one gold from a single player with the most gold.
  6. Alchemist - Receives refund of all gold spent on building a district but must have required gold to build district.
  7. Navigator - Cannot build a district but may draw four gold or four district cards.
  8. Diplomat - Receives one gold for each Military District they control and may switch one district they have played with an opponent's played district (Except Bishop's), paying the difference if the district is worth more than their own.
  9. Artist - May "Beautify" a district by placing one gold piece on it, making it cost one more to destroy and adds one point at end of the game.


Great re-playability with the ability to switch out as many original cards with expansion cards as you choose and the quick game play make the game a fun way to pass the time. There are many strategies you can use to bluff your opponent, the key being which character card you choose. Whether you go first and know which cards were placed face down or go last and know which cards remain to chose from, it's a matter of guessing, bluffing and doing your best to out think the other players. Citadels small game box makes it easy to transport and many strategies a great gateway game to Munchkin and other unique German card and board games.


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    • profile image

      Cheryl Aday 

      7 years ago

      Meet Bruno Faidutti, designer of Citadels, in person this weekend at Orccon 2011 in Los Angeles!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There's an error in your text.

      Choose one of the following:

      * Draw two gold pieces from the general gold pile

      * Play a district card by paying the appropriate gold cost on the card (only 1 district of each type can be played)

      >>> the second action is not playing a card but taking two cards in the pile and keeping one of your choice.

      Paying to build a district is not a choice but something anybody can do during their turn.


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