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In Citadels, most versions that are currently available for sale also include the Dark City expansion. Since those extra characters are available, what arrangement of characters do you find the most balanced and competitive? Please clarify your response by indicating why you've chosen to add or remove these particular characters to balance gameplay.

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Nice question - I've only ever played with the "basic" configuration myself, so I'd be excited to hear if anyone has any favourite alternatives! –  thesunneversets Nov 24 '10 at 4:57
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3 Answers

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I've found the default characters are the most balanced set of characters. While I haven't played with all of the extra characters, some of them significantly change how the game plays. Bruno Faidutti, the creator of Citadels, says he prefers the default characters on the game's Rules FAQ on his website. Quote:

Q: What is your favorite character mix?

A: The 8 basic characters, plus the Queen or the Artist when playing with 6 or 7 players.

Q: What's the best character mix?

A: Many players prefer the Witch over the Assassin, but I disagree. The Assassin is simpler and naughtier. I prefer the original set, sometimes with adding the Queen, and sometimes with replacing the Merchant with the Alchemist.

For the extra characters I have played with, I have a few impressions I can share with you.

Tax Collector: I found without the threat of the thief, people started hoarding money. This reduces some of the tension in the game. Since players can't get robbed, they can save to build up to build the most expensive district. Players were also careful to not have money to pay the tax collector after building.

Emperor: Since you can no longer take the crown for yourself, most people gave the crown to the player to their right. This gave them a better choice of cards in the next character draft, while benefiting the player to the right. The Emperor does make it fairer though how the crown is distributed, but it's also the only character ability the benefits someone else in the game.

Alchemist: The ability to get all your gold back you spend is great, but the Alchemist replaces the Merchant. Since the Merchant can tax green properties and the Alchemist can't, this makes green districts the most worthless ones in the deck. They can't be taxed and provide no special benefit. Green also happens to be the most common color in the district deck

Finally while i haven't played with it, the Diplomat seems to be one of the most powerful characters in the game. It will definitely change the dynamic of the game and make it harder to hold onto powerful purple districts. That doesn't mean that any of these characters are bad, and the opportunity to try them out was a bad inclusion in the game. I just think the default set of characters is the most balanced.

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Nice. I always start with the normal characters, and then switch new characters into the game one by one to keep the game fresh. Usually, the assassin is the first to go, but I will keep these comments in mind. –  Zoot Dec 5 '10 at 20:06
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I thought the tax collector made it so if the other player would have no gold at the end of their turn when they built the district, they would be unable to do so. Can you get out of paying the tax collector if you have no money? –  Gordon Gustafson Feb 5 '11 at 2:37
    
I think the official rule interpretation allows you to build without paying taxes if you are out of money after building, but that seems to make the Tax Collector worthless. Enacting some sort of house rule for the Tax Collector has always seemed like a good idea to me. I actually asked a question about enacting a Tax Collector house rule on this site, but the question was closed. –  Zoot Feb 11 '11 at 22:32
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I prefer the standard set with the Diplomat.

The Diplomat improves the game in two ways:

  • There's less luck. If I happen to get a great purple building, I can't expect to run away with the game because the Diplomat may take it from me. Also, 1-cost buildings are no longer complete garbage.
  • The Warlord's ability is worthless in a large game. Paying to harm an opponent just hands the game to everyone else.

You can also use the Navigator, but you should then switch the Magician for the Wizard --- drawing 4 district cards makes you so tasty a Magician target that you de facto don't have the option.

Other than those changes, I find it best to stick with the base set.

Incidentally, in my group the Witch is completely broken. Player 1 almost always chooses the Witch and is very likely to get the role she wants and avoid the Thief.

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The warlord can destroy 1-cost districts for free, which isn't worthless at all! (If you pick on the leader, removing a colour grouping +1 cost is 4 points. And if you delay them getting 8, that's another 4 points.) –  Nick Aug 29 '12 at 11:09
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I like to choose randomly to have a different setup each time. I agree with other commenters that the base set is easier, so I tend to just choose two of the expansion characters randomly before the game. I then put them in with the base set and remove their equivalents (e.g. if the Witch is randomly chosen, remove the Assassin). Each time I play the setup is a little different so it keeps the game quite interesting.

In my play experience, I've found that I'm not a fan of the Witch or the Emperor. The Witch is more powerful than the Assassin, who I think is powerful enough as it is. On the other hand I find the Emperor to be a little weak. The King is a good out if the start player keeps taking Assassin, or Thief if there is no Assassin, but at least then the King puts themselves in the driving seat, whereas the Emperor seems unnecessarily weaker.

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