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Citadels: Should You Kill The King?

M Updated
Citadels: Should You Kill The King?

Game Information

Game Name
Players
2 - 8
There Will Be Games

Do you kill the king in Citadels? Should you? I argue there's better targets - read here which names should be on top of your list when you're the assasin!

Many beginning Citadels players assassinate the king when they are the Assassin. In this post I discuss whether this is really the best strategy for Citadels.

 

Why You Might Kill The King

There are some reasons to assassinate the King. The most important reason is that the King is a strong character and is therefore picked often. Therefore, if you assassinate the King you have a high likelihood of at least assassinating someone.

 

Why You Shouldn't Kill The King

But, what many beginning players miss, is that the King has the least valuable turn of all characters.

Like all other characters the King can take income and construct a building, but all other Characters have an extra ability. The thief can steal, the Magician can swap cards, the Bishop is protected from the Warlord, the Merchant receives extra gold, the Architect gets extra building cards and building actions and the Warlord can destroy a building.

Of course, the King does have a special ability, namely that he can start during the next round. But the King keeps this ability when he is assassinated. Therefore, assassinating the King is a bit of a waste and you might be better of assassinating a character that gets a higher value from his turn.

 

Is Killing The King Ever Right?

One more argument for assassinating the King though, is that next turn, the King will probably have a strong turn, because he gets to pick a character first. You could therefore try to punish the King now proactively, so that he doesn’t gain too much of an advantage during the coming two turns. This argument is a bit of a stretch but in some cases it may be a valid consideration.

 

But Who Should I Kill Then? Value Add vs. Value Transfer

So if you shouldn’t assassinate the King, who should you assassinate?

Generally you should assassinate one of the two characters that adds value to the game, the Merchant or the Architect. Strictly speaking the Magician can also be used to add value to the game because it grants a player the ability to swap unwanted cards with new cards from the draw pile, but generally speaking players use the Magician to swap cards with another player, which is neutral to you as long as you are not the player getting swapped with.

And the Bishop you shouldn’t usually assassinate because it doesn’t often gain value from its ability.

You never want to assassinate the Thief because this character can only gain value by taking it away from one of your other opponents, so the net result is that you lose nothing compared to your opponents.

You especially never want to assassinate the Warlord, because it extracts massive value from the game: one of your opponents pays money to destroy the building of another opponent (unless you suspect the Warlord’s ability will be targeted against you of course, in which case it is great to assassinate it).

 

Does It Matter Who's Playing?

All of these considerations change a little bit depending on the group size. Especially with only 2 players many thing change because the game then becomes zero sum. You can read about that in our Citadels strategy guide for 2 player games.

Other than that, if you have specific information about which characters your opponents often pick, that obviously changes your considerations. If someone literally always picks the king despite you killing him every time he does, then by all means you should kill the king. This article is just meant to give a general overview of who theoretically are the best characters to assassinate.

 

Now You Know Who's On Your List

With this information you'll know who to kill next time you're the Assassin in Citadels. Happy hunting!

Author: Max from BoardGameTheories

There Will Be Games

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ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #311867 10 Jul 2020 12:44
When I used to play Citadels my strategy was always the same. When choosing a role I'd shuffle the cards and draw a random card. If it was the King or Assassin I put it back and drew again. Of course never told anyone which cards I'd return. By basically ignoring that aspect of the game and focusing entirely on income and building I won almost every time and was close-second in the others. Was never a fan but now I find it to be pretty boring and hope to never play again.

Edit: Thank you for the strategy article. I wish we got more of them here.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #311949 12 Jul 2020 14:49

ChristopherMD wrote: When I used to play Citadels my strategy was always the same. When choosing a role I'd shuffle the cards and draw a random card. If it was the King or Assassin I put it back and drew again. Of course never told anyone which cards I'd return. By basically ignoring that aspect of the game and focusing entirely on income and building I won almost every time and was close-second in the others. Was never a fan but now I find it to be pretty boring and hope to never play again.

It's a good gambit because the "random" aspect of your selection makes you difficult to target with role-based effects like Assassin or Thief. You could probably nudge things a little by picking more optimally when you are not as obvious a target. If I see someone accumulating cash turn over turn and I pass them Architect, I know what the Assassin I am holding is going to do and they will get wrecked. But you pay a cost for this strategy by playing "slow" compared to folks that are better at optimizing and dodging. Hence the second places.