Posted by: gschloesser | August 9, 2011

Ohne Furcht und Adel (Citadels)

Design by:  Bruno Faidutti
Published by:  Hans im Gluck / Fantasy Flight Games
3 – 7 Players, 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

Back at the 1999 Gathering of Friends, I first had the opportunity to play Bruno Faidutti’s prototype, which was then known as Citadelles (and still is, in the French edition, and in the new English edition from Fantasy Flights).  Quite frankly,  I wasn’t as smitten with it as most were.  I found the game had a considerable amount of down time and I never fully understood the powers of each card (there wasn’t an english translation at the time).  In fairness, we had played with a full contingent of seven players, all of whom were as unfamiliar with the game as I was.

At Gulf Games 5 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jay ‘Rio Grande Games’ Tummelson brought along a whole slew of games, including Ohne Furcht und Adel, the German version of Citadelles as released by Hans Im Gluck.   I was happy to give the game another opportunity, and am happy to report that the second time around was MUCH better.  Familiarity with the rules and card powers was a tremendous benefit, as was the English player aid cards that Jay brought along.  I’ve since played many more times with various numbers of folks and can unabashedly state that his is a wonderful game with some wickedly fun interaction.  Hats off to Bruno for a truly fantastic game.

The only bad news is that the game is currently only available in Deutsch and, as I understand, French.  Bruno hopes there will be an English version, but this is still tied up in legal purgatory.  A bit of advice:  don’t wait.  The German edition is splendid with some stunning artwork.  Plus, with the aid of the English player aid charts available on the Games Dumpster, the language on the cards presents very little problem. 

UPDATE:  An English version has finally appeared!  Citadelles has been released by Fantasy Flights and includes some new characters.

I’ve seen the many comparisons to Verrater, which are due mainly to the mechanism of selecting the individual characters each round.  Bruno has even flatly stated that he lifted the mechanism directly from that game and, in my opinion, it is used to much greater effect here.  What I  haven’t seen is the obvious comparisons to Groo.  As in Groo, players each attempt to construct a village of buildings, while attempting to ward off the evil intentions of their opponents.  However, Ohne Furcht und Adel is smoother, easier (not that Groo is all that difficult) and far less chaotic.  Players don’t have to balance various resources in order to construct buildings (as in Groo), but there is added emphasis on constructing various types of buildings as these earn more victory points and grant more flexibility when choosing characters.  I enjoy Ohne Furcht und Adel far more than Groo as the utter chaos present in that game often renders careful planning useless.

In OFuA, there are eight characters present, ranging from the evil assassin to the benevolent king.  Sandwiched in between are the merchant, preacher, architect, thief, magician and soldier.  Each character has his own unique power.  For example, the magician can switch his hand of cards with any other player, or freely discard and replace cards from his hand.  The soldier can destroy any building for 1 gold coin less than it cost the player to construct it.  Plus, he gets an extra coin for each ‘red’ building in his village.  The king gets to choose the character he desires first in the next round, while earning an extra gold coin for each ‘gold’ building he has in his village.  The thief names a character (not a player) and when that character’s turn arrives, he steals all of that player’s gold.  Each of these powers is desirable at various points during the game and choosing which character to select for a round is an important, and often tough decision.  The choice of a character also influences the actions you will take during a turn and often affects your play for several rounds.  Choose wisely, grasshopper!

The method of choosing the character is directly lifted from Verrater.  The deck of eight character cards is shuffled and one dealt to the player to the king’s right, who will choose last in the round.  The king then studies the remaining seven cards and selects one, passing the remaining cards to the player on his left.  This process is repeated until the final player, who only has a choice of two cards in a seven player game, selects one and places the remaining card face-down out of play.  This method is brilliant, as it does give limited knowledge to each of the players as to who possibly selected which power.  This knowledge can be critical, especially when choosing the ‘thief’ or ‘assassin’ character, as it is essential to have a good idea of which cards have been taken.  Armed with this knowledge, one can use some logic to deduce who selected which card, targeting the appropriate individuals.  No, it’s not a certainty, but one can narrow down the possibilities and increase the chances of success. 

One’s first impulse when choosing a character is to select one which will grant a power you desire to utilize that turn.  For instance, if you are low on building cards, the first temptation may be to choose the Baumeister, which grants the power of securing two extra building cards that round.  However, astute opponents will recognize that this would be your likely choice and could easily target you with the assassin, thief or even the soldier.  Having a good idea which character was selected by a player can be powerful …. and deadly knowledge. 

The ‘choosing of characters’ method also prevents someone from doggedly pursuing one path.  The method forces players to choose different characters on most turns, thereby altering their strategies and actions.  Each and every round is a bit different for each player, and each and every game is certainly different.  Adaptation is the key word.

Once characters are selected, each player takes their turn in a specified ‘character’ order.  On a turn, a player may either select two gold pieces or two building cards.  If he selects cards, he must keep one and discard the other.  Then, the player may construct ONE building (unless he is the Baumeister, in which case he can build up to 3 buildings).  The cost to construct a building is listed on the card itself and is paid for in coins.  At any time during his turn a player may utilize his character’s special power, but he is not required to do so.  Play continues in a like fashion until all players have had their turn.  The player who possessed the character who was targeted by the assassin (if any) loses his turn, while the player targeted by the thief loses his stockpile of gold.   

The game ends when one player constructs his eighth building, at which point the round is finished and points tallied.  Each building is worth a number of victory points equal to the cost to construct it (with a few exceptions).  Further, there are bonus points:

  • 4 points for being the first player to construct his eighth building;
  • 2 points for constructing eight buildings by the end of the game;
  • 3 points for having constructed buildings in the five different color classes.

The player with the most victory points achieves the victory.

Believe it or not, that’s about it.  The mechanics are VERY simple and easy to learn.  There are some ‘special’ buildings which alter play a bit, but they are few and easy to understand, especially with the aid of English player aid charts lifted from the Games Dumpster.  It’s one of those games (along with Taj Mahal) that takes longer to explain the rules than it does for a player to understand the game after just one round of play.

To be sure, there are decisions to be made along the way, the most important of those being in the selection of characters.  Further, racing to construct eight buildings may not necessarily be the best tactic.  There are an abundance of ‘cheap’ buildings which cost only one or two gold pieces to construct, but an entire city of low-rent buildings won’t amount to many victory points at game’s end.  Further, these buildings are easier to destroy by the mercenary soldier, so you are an easy target if your town is comprised of these bargain basement buildings.  Often, the wiser play is to save your gold and build more ‘valuable’ buildings.  The danger here, of course, is the threat of burglary from the dastardly thief.  Ahhh … choices and decisions. 

Still, in spite of these choices, one isn’t overloaded with decisions to make.  One doesn’t get those knots in the stomach which occur when playing games such as El Grande, Torres or Taj Mahal.  That isn’t a bad thing as it helps make Ohne Furcht und Adel more accessible to a wider range of folks.  There’s enough here to appeal to just about every class of gamer, with the possible exception of the hard-core, “German games are fluff” war gamer.  An added bonus is that the game can accommodate seven players, an all-too-rare commodity in today’s market.  That factor alone will insure that Ohne Furcht und Adel enjoys regular table time.

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Responses

  1. Good game. There is a problem if you get assassinated more than other players. To stop it, you need to stop taking the role that has the potential to get assassinated. The randomness doesn’t bother me though. 7/10


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