Review: Cadwallon – City of Thieves

Posted by James (admin) on November 10th, 2010

In Cadwallon: City of Thieves, each player has a team of 4 thieves and they attempt to steal as much treasure as possible from around the city and from each other.  The board shows the corridors and rooms of an area of the city – a treasure tile is placed on each room, the players place their thieves on the board edges and 2 militiamen are placed on the board too.  Before the game begins, one of the 8 adventure boards is selected which sets special rules.  Players take turns comprised of moving a militia man, drawing an arcana card and spend 7 action points (APs) to move/use their thieves.

The militiamen are neutral city guards who block player movement and can attack other player’s thieves.  The current player rolls a dice to see how far the militiaman they choose moves.  The loser of a fight with a militiaman is moved (by the winner) 3 spaces and pays 2 ducats (cash) to the bank too.

Arcana Cards
Next, a player adds an arcana card to their hand.  Arcana cards let players roll more dice in combat, gain extra cash when picking treasure chests, use secret doors to move through normally impassable walls, move extra spaces, etc.  Some cards can be used to hinder other players too like making them re-roll dice.

Action Points
Finally, a player spends their 7 APs.  Each character can move once and/or use 1 action.  It costs 1 AP to move one of their thieves up to 4 spaces – thieves can’t move through other thieves so players can attempt to block or hinder other players’ movements.  It costs 1 AP to attack another thief and the winner steals a treasure carried by the loser plus moves the loser’s thief.  Combat is decided by rolling 2 dice and highest single dice wins.  A thief in a room with a treasure tile can try to gain it by picking the chest’s lock (2 in 3 chance of success for 1 AP)  or by bashing open the chest (auto success for 2 APs).

Treasure, Ducats and Game End
At some point in most games, players will be allowed to move their thieves off the game board securing the treasure they carry which is worth ducats at game end.  Treasure value is often based on how many of each reasure type the player holds.  Once per turn, a player can spend 3 APs to complete one of the 3 current mission cards which earn ducats equal to the value of the treasure shown on the card that their gang currently holds.  So, this can earn lots of cash.  At the end of the game, The player with the most ducats wins; however, thieves still inside the city are worth minus 3 ducats each and any treasure they carry is worthless.

Overall, City of Thieves is a light tactical game which is very fast to learn and easy to play.  The game wants players to attack each other and interfere with each other’s plans which is when the game is at its most fun.  We played a test round with 2 players and then a full game with 3 players – having more players definitely added more to the game as it meant there was more competition for treasure tiles and more thieves nearby to attack and block.  I was surprised that there aren’t any special rules for 2-player games to ensure interaction remains high because the board size and number of treasure tiles is the same regardless of the number of players.

Most (if not all) of the player interaction comes from players assaulting and annoying each other.  I always like games with some good-natured ‘screwage’ and City of Thieves certainly contains this.  The game starts with a rush to grab treasures but then players start to steal them from each other.  We had lots of very funny moments when players humourously screwed over their competitors with well-timed card play, treasure stealing or mission use.  The Arcana cards add extra options and variety to the game.

The 8 adventure boards are a really nice mechanic as the scenarios and extra rules on each have a big impact and are very varied.  One has an assassin moving around the city hindering players, another has hostages to rescue, another has zombies rising from the ground.  The adventure boards themselves are very thick and sturdy too.  In fact, the game has a very high physical quality – The plastic figures are very nice and the artwork is great too.

Each thief has a character card showing their stats (movement, number of combat dice , lock picking chances) as well as a special ability.  The abilities are all different and varied but I was surprised that every thief’s stats are exactly the same.  I expected stats to vary; however, the abilities may be enough to make them each different.

When I read the rules, I thought the game sounded quite tactical with a lot of route blocking.  However, the game board offers a lot of possible routes so it’s not as easy to block other players as I expected.  Also, picking locks, combat and some treasure values are dice-based so there’s a luck element in the game.

Turn order never changes (apart from one scenario) and I wonder if maybe it should as the first player places their thieves first, moves first and can leave the board first.  Maybe a bid system each turn to determine turn order would help – Players could bid APs (breaking ties with cash).  However, City of Thieves is a light, fun game so maybe this level of depth isn’t required.

The game mechanics encourage you to go after other players which is where the humour is and I think you would be missing the heart and entertainment of this game if you avoided those elements.  With a group of players that want some fun action, City of Thieves works well.


[Played with 3 players]

4 Responses to “Review: Cadwallon – City of Thieves”

  1. Josh Says:

    I take it that this game shares the same fantasy world as the Arcana deck building game (which I was not a huge fan of, and so seems to be a down side to me). Does it share any other aspects?

  2. James (admin) Says:

    Yes, I believe Cadwallon is the fantasy setting that Dust Games created (I think for a role-playing setting) and have used for Arcana and City of Thieves. I remember reading the rules for Arcana some time ago and, as far as I recall, I can’t remember any similarities. There’s no deck-building in City of Thieves and is completely different in its scope and mechanics. The setting purely serves as the backdrop and a source of artwork, so I’d view the two games as completely separate.

  3. Mark Says:

    The game actually takes place in the world of Rackham’s Confrontation.

  4. James (admin) Says:

    Thanks for the correction.

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