Wednesday 16 May 2012

Cadwallon Gangs - A Strategy Guide

This is an article that I first published on back in February 2011. It is a strategy guide for using the gangs that are included in the game Cadwallon: City of Thieves.

All characters (including militiamen and special characters) in Cadwallon: City of Thieves have three basic stats, and the 16 thieves that make up the gangs also each get a special skill (interesting fact - some skills are active all the time, some require you to burn a card from your hand, and some require you to use an action point, more on all this later).

The basic stats are: COMBAT (how many dice to throw in a fight), MOVE (how many spaces to move on an activation), and MIND (the number you have to roll equal to or less than to pick the lock on a treasure chest).

Each thief is COMBAT 2, MOVEMENT 4, MIND 4.
Each special character is COMBAT 3, MOVEMENT 4, MIND 4.
Each militia is COMBAT 2, MOVEMENT 1-5 (determined by a die), MIND NA.

So, there is some variance in the stats. It may not seem much, but that extra combat dice for the special characters makes a MASSIVE difference.

Anyway, the real difference between characters is the special skills they have. Each character gets one skill, and the skill of your four thieves dictate how you are going to play the game. Even though every character has the same base stats, there are clearly characters in each team that should fight and others that should pick locks and others that should move quickly to secure certain treasure chests. In practise, this plays really nicely - each character has basically the same chance to win a fight or pick a lock, so they are all basically good at being a thief, and yet each one has an ability that makes them a bit of a specialist in a certain area.

Some of the skills available to certain characters are the same as skills that can be found on arcana cards (skill cards that are drawn each turn and can be used by any character), so sometimes other thieves will get to use a special skill belonging to a different character. However, some character skills are unique.

Let's look at the gangs:

(NOTE: Each gang has a name and a bit of fluff in the rulebook explaining their general motives and ideologies. This is nice, because it indicates which teams are "evil" and which are Robin Hood types. Also, each individual gang member gets a brief biography.)

(ANOTHER NOTE: Although I am discussing each gang, I am not going into huge levels of detail regarding strategy. I'll leave that up to you to figure out. I just wan to illustrate how the team's feel different to play with based on their available skills.)


Cadwallon: City of Thieves blue team

Sanaris - If he attacks another character and wins, draw 1 arcana card (free action).
Valdur - Receive 2 extra ducats for each treasure he carries out of the district (free action).
Faras - Move through a wall when moving (1 action point).
Drokan - Add +1 to his highest combat roll (free action).

Blue team are a slightly odd bunch, they have two guys that focus on combat, and two that can or should avoid it.

Drokan has a solid power that works in any fight, so he is perfect for mugging other characters. In this game, a combat is resolved by rolling the number of dice indicated by the COMBAT value, and selecting the highest roll as the attack value. Each character involved can play ONE arcana card before rolling to improve the chances of winning. Attacker normally wins ties. The winner steals one treasure from the loser (or two ducats if the loser has no treasure). Bearing this in mind, it is obvious to see that Drokan's power is incredibly useful. If he plays a combat-based arcana card before rolling, he has a very good chance of winning any fight, so he can gather valuable treasures from opponents and will rarely be attacked.

Sanaris doesn't get any combat bonus, but he can draw extra arcana cards through fighting. It is a good idea to use him to farm arcana cards for the benefit of his team mates, in particular...

Valdur. Valdur gets no "in-game" bonus. His bonus applies when the game is over. You can carry up to three treasures, and he scores extra money for each treasure he carries. This will make him a magnet for enemies who will want to prevent him from scoring those bonus points. He should be avoiding combat at all costs, and gathering treasure from treasure chests. If you use Sanaris to farm arcana cards, then you can use those to keep Valdur out of trouble - the more combat bonuses, or skills to avoid combat, that Valdur has at his disposal, the more likely it is he will score big points for you. Keeping Drokan close by as a body guard is also useful.

Faras has a powerful movement ability that allows him to sneak past guards into areas of the board that might otherwise be out of reach. Use him to scoop the best treasures and then dodge into positions that are out of reach (the board is not very big, and sometimes getting a wall between you and the enemy is the only way to hide) - but remember, his skill costs one action point, and you only get seven in a turn, so use his power only when necessary.


Cadwallon: City of Thieves yellow team

My boys (and girls). This is the team I always use because I think they have the best skill set.

Kaldern - May move through a space occupied by another character (1 action point).
Elise - If rolling a 1 or 2 when picking a lock, collect 2 extra ducats (free action).
Sarys - Steal one random arcana card from an adjacent character before or after moving (1 action point).
Tortok - Re-roll one combat die when fighting (free action).

This team is much more about stealth and lock-picking, with the exception of Tortok the orc; however, the team has more skills that require actions to activate, so they are more situational and not for use every turn.

Tortok has an incredibly powerful combat skill, and when combined with an arcana card, he can win most fights. He doesn't have to decide to re-roll his die until he has seen the result, so it is a no-risk skill. Bashing other guys over the head and taking their treasure is a good call. Also, he has the added bonus of being one of the guys you can use to assassinate special characters. Special characters roll three dice, so they are hard to kill; but if you can take them down they can score you massive bonus points in certain scenarios. Tortok is the only character who can meet them on a level playing field (he basically gets to roll three dice for combat). If he also has an arcana card, he has a half-decent chance of scooping a fat bounty. True, there is an arcana card that allows any character to use Tortok's skill, but you only get to play ONE arcana card in a combat, so Tortok still comes out on top by being able to use his own skill PLUS another arcana card as well.

While Tortok makes a scene, the rest of the gang play it stealthy. Kaldern's ability is unbelievably useful. For one action point he can move through another character. It costs an action point, so you don't want to do it unless you have to, but it can get you out of situations where you are pinned in a corner, or just out of reach of a valuable treasure.

When a thief finds a treasure chest, he (or she) has two choices: use one action point to pick the lock (roll a D6, if result is equal or less to MIND value then the lock is opened), or use two action points to bash open the lock (no dice roll required). In many cases, it is better to play it safe and bash the lock; however, the yellow team really need to conserve their action points (for the characters that have action point-based skills such as Kaldern). Just as well they have Elise on their team. She gets bonus treasure if she rolls 1 or 2 when picking a lock. Okay, there is always the risk she will fail the dice roll, or she will roll a 3 or 4 and just get the basic treasure, but it always pays to let her lock pick rather than bash. Two extra ducats can win the game in some cases, especially as ducats are usually "safe" (unlike treasure, which can be taken away, ducats can only be lost if you have no treasure when you lose a fight or if losing a fight against the militiamen). It is one of the weaker skills, definitely; but it does encourage you to take more risks with treasure chests - it can be worth the gamble. Plus, there is a limit to the treasure you can carry, but no limit to the amount of money.

Sarys is a little voodoo girl who can steal arcana cards for one action point. This is a skill that isn't always worth using. The benefit is, the fear of losing good arcana cards will often prevent enemy characters from getting too close to her, so even though she has no real combat power, she can actually secure areas of the board if playing against faint-hearted opponents. If she starts next to an enemy, it is usually worth taking a card from them and then moving away. Harvesting arcana cards is useful, as it prevents your opponent from using them against you; it also increases your chance of getting the arcana cards that give you bonus ducats for picking the locks of treasure chests, which is how this gang will acquire most of its treasure. Use her with caution though - it is probably best not to end your turn next to an enemy to steal an arcana card if she is carrying treasure (unless you are confident you have the cards to keep her out of trouble).


Cadwallon: City of Thieves green team

Leona - May swap places with an adjacent character before or after moving (1 action point).
Harid - Discard 1 arcana card to draw a new one (free action).
Iris - Discard 1 arcana card to re-roll her combat dice (1 arcana card).
Davitto - If he attacks another character and wins, steal 1 additional treasure.

These guys burn resources like no-one's business. Leona has a great skill that can really hurt the other team. Swapping with another character to put them in a bad situation is great fun. You can actually swap them into a corner so the only way they can get out is to fight you, and if you have been using Harid's skill to acquire a good set of arcana cards, you could have the edge. Swapping places can also put an opponent just out of reach of a treasure, just out of reach of the edge of the board (resulting in them being stuck on the board when the game ends and losing points), or it can plonk them close enough to Davitto so he can mug them. Of course, swapping also gains Leona an extra movement space (so she basically moves 5 spaces instead of 4), and that little burst of speed can be the difference between getting off the board and being stuck when the last turn ends. Her ability costs an action point, but it has lots of uses.

As already mentioned, Harid can be used to filter out cards that aren't useful to you and improve your chances of getting good combat cards. You will need those because...

Davitto will want to be getting into fights whenever he can early in the game (and then running away a lot later on). If Davitto wins a fight he takes two treasures, but he doesn't get any combat bonus, so has to rely on good arcana cards. It will be Harid that gets him those cards. Davitto will very quickly acquire his maximum number of treasures, and then he will become a target. Luckily, you can help to defend him with possibly the most powerful combatant in the game...

Iris. For discarding one arcana card, she can reroll all of her combat dice, making her an absolute cow to beat in a fight. It Harid can't find you decent arcana cards, then at least you can use the poor cards to power Iris.

As you can see, this team is quite confrontational, with two characters that will be looking for fights and one that will be trying to reposition enemies into dangerous positions. Harid can be used to gather treasures from chests and sift through the arcana cards until you find the good stuff.


Cadwallon: City of Thieves red team

The red team comprises the real evil villains.

Jehlan - Enemies cannot play arcana cards when fighting him (FREE!!)
Dorak - When attacking another character, he he wins steal 2 additional ducats (free action).
Anays - May move directly from any pentangle space to any other pentangle during movement (1 action point).
Torham - If rolling a 1 or 2 when picking a lock, gain an arcana card (free action).

An interesting split of skills. Jehlan is brutal for taking down most of the other characters as they are denied the use of arcana cards, and his ability costs nothing. He is a brutal, murdering, nasty piece of work. However, against special characters and zombies (who don't get to use arcana cards anyway), and characters like Tortok, he is suddenly less impressive and becomes no better in a fight than most of the other characters. One of the most powerful combat powers, but only of use in specific situations, so pick your fights wisely.

Dorak gets extra money for mugging people, but doesn't have any skills to help do this, so relies on arcana cards to get an edge. He needs to hunt out someone with no special combat powers, and then bully them ruthlessly, hoping that Torham has used his ability to acquire a good range of arcana cards. Unlike Davitto, who gets extra treasure, there is no end to Dorak's malice. You can only carry a limited amount of treasure, but you can carry unlimited money, so Dorak can keep on racking up the money by smacking people around, and even if he loses a fight and loses a treasure he has acquired, the money he has made will be safe.

Finally, Anays can teleport for one action point. This is quite limited, as there are only four pentangles on the board; but as the board is not huge, and the pentangles are well spaced, it still means that Anays is the best character for covering wide distances. Great if she is stuck on the wrong side of the board with only one turn left to make it to an exit. Fill her up with treasure and then use teleports to keep her out of harm's way.

What I hope I have helped to show in this stupidly long article is that each gang member has a different way of being played. Some gangs are made up of people who work well together; other gangs are made up of loners who just happen to be in a pack.

Cadwallon: City of Thieves miniatures

Despite having all the same stats, there is definitely a different feel to each gang, and a different way to get the most out of each gang member.


  1. Just to say thank you for your article. I didn't find it "stupidly long", in fact I found it precious and thoughtful. I just discovered (and bought, of course!) Cadwallon - city of thieves, and after playing a few games I think it's brilliantly designed, easy to grasp but deep enough to grant lots of fun. Your article just helps understand some of the "subtler" nuisances of the design.
    Keep up the good job!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

      I believe Cadwallon is underrated (unfairly). I have had lots of fun with it, and it is one of the few games for which I own an expansion. If you really like the game, I would suggest you at least check out the expansion to see what you think. It basically adds lots of cool modular elements, so you can pick and choose which parts to introduce. It also has rules for making the militiamen a bit more dangerous.

    2. King of Ashes is on my "review" list. However, that list is really long, so I don't know when I will get around to it. This blog is supposed to be about older, more obscure games, but recently that focus has started to shift. I would like to redress the balance and catch up on some older games I need to review first.

      I actually already have Lords of Waterdeep (or Legends of Watership down, as it is known in my group) and I rank it in my top 10 favourite games of all time. I don't have the expansion yet, but it is definitely one I need to get, and I agree with you that it is a game that everyone needs to play.


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