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If you could build a structure for free (thanks to the chain noted on the card), may you choose not to and use resources (whether your own or bought from your neighbours) to build it instead?

This is relevant for cases where you would earn money when "buying" from your neighbours, or where you would have to pay taxes when using the chain (Babel tile 13).

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As correctly stated by @unor, you may opt not to use the chain building, but normally pay for resources (English Rules, p. 4):

If the player has built the structure named there during a previous Age, that player can build the structure for free, meaning without having to fulfill the resource cost.

Both French and German rules confirm the above. The German rules are even more elaborate, as they state (German Rules, p. 4):

Wenn der Spieler, der das Gebäude errichten möchte, auch das auf der Karte erwähnte andere Gebäude aus dem vorangegangenen Zeitalter in seiner Stadt besitzt, muss er die Kosten nicht bezahlen, sondern kann das Gebäude kostenfrei bauen.

(English) When the player, who wants to construct a building, has also other buildings from a previous Age mentioned on the card that already exist in his city, he does not have to pay the cost, since he may construct the building free of charge.

If it was obligatory, the German rules would state darf er die Kosten nicht bezahlen, i.e., must not pay the cost.


It should be noted, however, that when you're playing the "Free City" 2-player variant, the Free City has to use chain building, if the chosen card benefits from one (English Rules, p. 7).

If the card chosen for the Free city can benefit from a free construction (chain), this free construction MUST be performed.

The existence of this rule in the 2-player variant merely confirms that during the normal game (3-8 players) you may either choose the chain or build normally.

Also note that, if you're playing a Team game, you are not allowed to purchase resources from your teammate, if you can build a structure through chain (English "City" Rules, p. 10).

It is forbidden for the teammates to :

  • share coins,
  • trade cards,
  • not pay for commerce between them,
  • buy resources from each other while they can build a structure through a chain.

Note that you are not able to buy resources that you can already produce, but only the resources you're missing (English Rules, p. 4).

Often, a player will want to build a structure requiring resources he or she does not produce. If these resources are produced by a neighboring city – players sitting directly to the left or right of that player – the player will be able to purchase the missing resource(s) through commerce.

This is also confirmed by the "City" expansion rules (English "City" Rules, p. 10).

A player must use their own resource before buying one from their neighbors.

  • Great, thanks! -- Regarding your last section: I had created this question before your answer, May you choose not to use your own resources and buy them instead?. So maybe you want to give an answer there. However, the quoted rule from Cities is for the team play, so it’s not necessary also the case for the normal game, right? – unor Apr 4 '15 at 0:32
  • @unor The last section mentions "from your neighbors", not just "from your teammates", so it's more general. In any case, the base game rules are clear, I think: "the resources you're missing". I had seen your question during googling, so I'll add the related response there, as well. – Adama Apr 4 '15 at 17:11
  • According to a user on BoardGameGeek, the game designer Antoine Bauza has said: "You have to build for free if you can." … which confuses me. – unor Apr 5 '15 at 19:15
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(I’m not sure about this interpretation and welcome insight/corrections.)

The rules say about "Free Construction (Chains)" (English PDF, page 4):

Some structures in Age II and Age III have, to the right of their resource cost, the name of a structure of a previous age.
If the player has built the structure named there during a previous Age, that player can build the structure for free, meaning without having to fulfill the resource cost.

It says "can build" (instead of "has to" or "must"), so I guess you are free not to use the chain.

  • 2
    That is correct, however you have to use the chain if you're controlling the "Free City" player in a 2-player game. Otherwise, you can indeed choose not to use the chain. – Adama Apr 3 '15 at 17:31
  • @Adama: Ah, that’s a good note! Do you want to add this as an answer, or should I incorporate this in my answer? – unor Apr 3 '15 at 17:58
  • I've posted an answer, since I've found more relevant info. – Adama Apr 3 '15 at 18:45
  • According to a user on BoardGameGeek, the game designer Antoine Bauza has said: "You have to build for free if you can." … which confuses me. – unor Apr 5 '15 at 19:15
  • I can't evaluate information from a second-hand post; if it was the actual designer himself, it would be fine. In any case, as the rules are currently worded, it's not mandatory to use the chain; for this reason it's "can build" in the normal rules and "must build" in the 2-player rules. Of course, if it makes sense for you (it does, for me) to enforce chain buildings, you could house-rule it. – Adama Apr 5 '15 at 19:55

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