Citadels: Is it smart to assassinate the King?

Many beginning Citadels players assassinate the king when they are the Assassin. In this post we discuss whether this is a smart decision.

There are some reasons to assassinate the King. The most important reason is that the King is a strong character and is therefore picked often. Therefore, if you assassinate the King you have a high likelihood of at least assassinating someone.

But, what many beginning players miss, is that the King has the least valuable turn of all characters. Like all other characters the King can take income and construct a building, but all other Characters have an extra ability. The thief can steal, the Magician can swap cards, the Bishop is protected from the Warlord, the Merchant receives extra gold, the Architect gets extra building cards and building actions and the Warlord can destroy a building. Of course, the King’s special ability is that he can start during the next round, but the King keeps this ability when he is assassinated. Therefore, assassinating the King is a bit of a waste and you might be better of assassinating a character that gets a higher value from his turn.

One more argument for assassinating the King though, is that next turn, the King will probably have a strong turn, because he gets to pick a character first. You could therefore try to punish the King now proactively, so that he doesn’t gain too much of an advantage during the coming two turns. This argument is a bit of a stretch but in some cases it may be a valid consideration.

So if you shouldn’t assassinate the King, who should you assassinate? Generally you should assassinate one of the two characters that adds value to the game, the Merchant or the Architect. Strictly speaking the Magician can also be used to add value to the game because it grants a player the ability to swap unwanted cards with new cards from the draw pile, but generally speaking players use the Magician to swap cards with another player, which is neutral to you as long as you are not the player getting swapped with.

You don’t want to assassinate the Thief because this character can only gain value by taking it away from one of your other opponents, so the net result is that you lose nothing compared to your opponents. You especially shouldn’t assassinate the Warlord, because it extracts massive value from the game: one of your opponents pays money to destroy the building of another opponent (unless you suspect the Warlord’s ability will be targeted against you of course, in which case it is great to assassinate it). And the Bishop you shouldn’t assassinate because it usually doesn’t gain value from its ability.

(Note that the considerations above are meant to hold in general cases, in specific cases they may differ. For example, if one of your opponent’s had three blue buildings, he would gain a lot of value from picking the Bishop, in which case it may be smart to assassinate the Bishop.)

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