I enjoy Citadels, but find the game can often quite a long time. Since players must draft their role card in sequence, there ends up being a lot of down time while other players make their selections. The game is particularly prone to analysis-paralysis. Even limiting the game to a small number of players (4 or 5) and triggering the end game sooner (first player to build 7 buildings instead of 8), the game can still draw out. Any more ideas on how to improve the flow of this otherwise great game?
I played this game intensely a few years ago with 2 and 3 players (sometimes up to 4) and the analysy-paralysis problem disappeared after, say, 2-3 games with the same group. I tried the same solution of lowering to 7 buildings (in fact, it is even suggested on the rulebook) and worked quite well for 2 players, never tried it with 3-4 players.
I personally think the hard time-limit is a too crude option. I'll try instead to insist on the players to 'think fast' in order to make a more agile game.
Notice that you can begin to think about which characters are the best for you on advance, while other players make their choose. And never forget that a little randomness on your decissions are desirable, as you'll be a perfect target for assassination and/or robbering the moment you become too predictable.
This is a crude instrument but you could try running a timer on decisions then deducting a player one gold OR their lowest value building if they exceed say, 2 minutes on a decision. I'll be honest and say I haven't tried this myself but my group tend to play quite fast.
Citadels is more likely to drag due to the experience level of players vs. number of players involved.
I too have had some lighting fast games with 2-4 players, but ultimately the speed of those games came down to myself and the other players being highly experienced with the game, knowing each role available, its power, and being able to make those choices (as well off call the roles as the King) in a short manner due to our experience.
The one time I played an 8 player game as well as my experience with 6-7 player games is that there will be 1-3 new/rusty players who do not remember the roles and are unable to make truly informed decisions and thus deliberate for awhile. They tend to forget which role they choose and do not immediately respond when their role is called out during play. Likewise if they happen to become king then they take a long time to call of the roles even with them in front of them.
The solution is simply to try to play more often and with experienced players, your time issue should self-correct over time. Additionally I've found that just about any competitive strategy game like this can drag if people tune out when its not their turn vs. paying attention and planning/thinking ahead as the turns progress.