The Average Gamer

Friday Night Unplugged #1: Cadwallon: City of Thieves

Welcome to week 1 of Friday Night Unplugged, where we take a weekly step into the world of tabletop games. This past week I’ve been delving into the seedy underbelly of the city of Cadwallon.

Originally printed in 2010 by Fantasy Flight games, Cadwallon: City of Thieves gives the players control over several bands of thieves hired by the infamous Guild of Thieves to infiltrate and escape one of the most luxurious districts of the city. Of course the main goal is to steal as much loot as possible during your adventures and make it out of the city alive. Now the game is back for sneaky fun with the 2012 revised edition

The Stats:

City of Thieves is a 2-4 player game designed for ages 14+ and lasts for roughly 60 minutes. In practice we feel that City of Thieves could be played with slightly younger players involved so long as the main themes of theft and combat are handled correctly by the adults. The aim of the game is to collect treasure from chests and then survive long enough to get the treasure off the board.

Gametime!

This Orc is apparently a nimble and sneaky thief.

Everyone loves a box full of stuff right? Luckily, City of Thieves’ first impression is that it’s heavy. Heavy boxes in the tabletop world are usually made by Fantasy Flight Games, filled to the brim with figures, tokens and cards. City of Thieves doesn’t disappoint, with 20 different character miniatures cast from a lightweight resin. Sadly, while the thicker parts of the miniatures remain undamaged from storage, a few of the thinner parts come out of their bags a little bent. While annoying, this is nothing a little warm water and careful bending can’t handle.

After separating out all the tokens from their sheets and spending 30 minutes figuring out which pieces were supposed to go in which colour bases it was time to go. Myself and two of my intrepid testing team, Jake and Josh, set to playing our first game.

The board itself shows an alley filled district in the city of Cadwallon seperated into houses and streets with the latter again split into smaller squares. After shuffling out Arcana cards (action cards) and divvying out teams, Josh chose an undead-themed team with Jake choosing a more combat-focused team of executioners. I took on command of Kaldern’s Gang, a band of master thieves from within the higher ranks of the Guild itself.

Cadwallon contains several adventure cards to add extra missions and foes to the board. This card also acts as a turn marker. I think we drew the short straw with the first card and landed an adventure that placed a mercenary on the board which moved at the end of each player’s turn. We didn’t even know what we were doing and we were already in trouble. Great.

The first few turns were a little shaky while we got used to the action points. Each team is given 7 action points with which to spend on their turns. Moving costs 1 point and performing an action like breaking open a chest or picking a lock costs another. Opening chests and combat is based on dice rolls set by your character card. At the beginning of each turn you also roll to move the city’s militia. We decided to play nice for the first turn and just kept the militia in a corner out of the way. This didn’t last long.

By the end of turn 3 we knew what we were doing and started forming some tactics. With the 3 of us, there was plenty of treasure to go around so mostly we tried to stay out of each other’s way. None of us wanting to risk the loss of treasure that comes from losing combat. I made a shock upturn by defeating the mercenary in combat and gained 15 ducats. By the time it reached turn 5 we were, for the most part, fully laden with our maximum 3 treasures per character and feeling fairly confident for it. However our deeds had not gone unnoticed. We had hit the ominous red turn; the militia had been alerted and barriers had been erected covering up the majority of the districts exits.

It was race to escape, having cunningly left a group of exits open together we had no choice but to venture into the bottleneck. What expired was shocking. Over a space of several turns myself and Josh were stripped of what valuables we had in combat to both the militia and Jake’s neverending supply of +1 to combat Arcana cards. With a last minute bid for a quest card (these are added to the adventure sheet and add bonuses to certain treasures) Jake took a shocking win by amassing treasure equal to 53 ducats against mine and Josh’s mere 20-odd each.

An unlucky thief (red) get’s cornered by the Militia (grey)

So What did We Think:

We’ve now played a fair few games of City of Thieves. We’ve beaten mercenaries, avoided zombies and rescued hostages and it’s safe to say we all enjoyed sneaking through the streets, grabbing treasure and attempting to outwit each other. Despite its competitive nature, it’s light hearted enough to stop any hard feelings and it’s even enjoyable to lose. The swathe of adventure cards and downloadable scenarios makes for a large number of possible games.

There were a few points we didn’t like. While our groups were made of different races and builds of character there was no difference to any of the base stats, I know it’s all in the name of equal footing but different skills in a team make for more interesting play right? I felt my Orc could have done with a better combat rating and that the more classical thieves could have done with a greater Mind rating for breaking locks. After finishing our last game we sat down and managed to refine our list of likes and dislikes.

What we liked:

  • Miniatures and character art are interesting to look at and do their bit to really set the scene.
  • 8 different adventure cards allows for different game variants and the rules are simple enough to create your own adventures easily.
  • Easy to grasp rules and a well laid out rulebook. Hours of page flicking won’t be needed here.
  • Playtime is long enough to allow for depth without dragging it out too much.

What we didn’t like:

  • Having to reset some of the miniatures was annoying.
  • Having the same stats for characters of different races some variance would have allowed for a more interesting game.

Conclusion:

City of Thieves is a well thought out well presented board game that is worthy of the reprint it finds itself blessed with. Easy to pick up for not so beginner tabletop gamers but with enough to keep it interesting for those with experience I find it difficult not to recommend City of Thieves to anyone and with the King of Ashes expansion adding more adventures, new characters and a larger campaign there is plenty to try without getting bored.

Cadwallon: City of Thieves is out now.

NEXT WEEK

We’ll be trying to find our way with two of our favourite family games – Tsuro: The Game of the Path and the newly-released sequel, Tsuro of the Seas.

One Comment

  1. Ulkreghz

    9th Nov, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    That Josh fellow sounds like a pretty cool guy.

    4/5 Would play again but some issues with character stats.