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Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Review


Quick Look: Crusaders Thy Will Be Done


Designer: Seth Jaffee
Artist: Adam P. McIver
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 40-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review:

tl;dr: Lighter game than the box or table presence suggests. Mancala rondel action wheel is inspired.

Getting to the Game: Setup is a little bit fiddly with so many moving parts to the game; it belies very simple gameplay, though, so stick with it. Give each player their color board and all of their wooden pieces. Arrange all of the pieces on the player board, and then have one player randomly arrange the action wedges on the rondel. Every other player uses the same arrangement on their rondel. Put the enemy armies randomly on each flag space and the building bonus tiles on their spaces on the board. Each player gets two Knight tiles, chooses one, and returns the other to the box. Add action hexes to the rondel according to the knight tile. In player order, have each player place their starting knight on the board in a starting space of their choice. Finally, our bodies and souls are prepared.



The goal of Crusaders is very simple: earn more Influence than your opponents. Influence is gained through nearly every action, and there's a limited pool of it. Once the pool runs out, you can still gain more, but the game ends at the end of that round. You get bonuses for having defeated the most of each of the enemy armies, and more bonuses for having four of a single type of building built. Add up all the influence and see who wins. Easy peasy.

Playing the Game: On your turn, you have the choice of two actions: upgrade a wedge on your rondel, or take one of the actions that you have action tokens on. Upgrading a wedge is easy; you choose a wedge and flip it over, giving you access to two actions per wedge, instead of the base of one. That's really it, and it's pretty standard, so I won't spend a lot of time on that. The other action, though... oh my...



By setting up the rondel, you're assigning a power to every action on it. Every time you want to take one of the game's five basic abilities - Influence, Muster, Travel, Build, or Crusade - you're going to add how many tokens are on that space to how many bonuses you're getting from your buildings, take the action, and then pick up the tokens on the rondel. Then, you'll drop one off at every space as you move clockwise around the wheel. It's this mechanic that is the game's centerpiece, and it's almost worth the price of admission by itself. It's such an elegant and fun component.

The rest of Crusaders leaves a little bit to be desired. At its heart, this is a move-and-improve game, with lots to do on every turn, but with very little player interaction. You can't fight each other, and while you can fight ever-increasingly difficult enemy adversaries, there's surprisingly little combat for a game based on the Crusades. What you'll mostly be doing is moving to a space, clearing out the enemy that's there, building a building, and then moving on. Eventually, you'll get access to another knight or two, but that's all they'll be doing, as well. You do this for 6 to 10 rounds, and then the influence is used up and the game ends. Don't get me wrong, Crusaders isn't boring or un-fun; it has this amazing mechanic at its core, but I wanted more from the rest of the game, as well.

Artwork and Components: McIver's art does a phenomenal job not only at being instantly clear from a glance as to what actions are available to you, but also for evoking a feel that suits this game perfectly. The art sets a universal tone across both the player boards and the game board that feels like a world run by these knights. The background of the rondel features a really nice white spark backsplash, and the orders of knights themselves feel like propaganda art made by recruiters. They look so cool; you absolutely want to sign up.

  

The components are equally nice, chunky wooden buildings and action hex tokens which do their job nicely across the table, alongside decent punchboard influence tokens and army markers. Everything does a wonderful job of staying in theme and serving the table presence, so it all gets a big thumbs up from me. I love the way this game looks on the table.

The Good: Quick gameplay, rondel with mancala action feels amazing. Artwork sets a high bar for the rest of the game.

The Bad: Game ends just when it feels like you're starting to groove with it. Sometimes you're limited to actions you don't want to take to set up a better choice later.

Score: Crusaders brings in a simple, wonderful new mechanic to the genre of things-on-a-map, and overall presents a deceptively gateway game with the guise of a taught wargame. If you're fine with the former, you'll love this one. If you were hoping for the latter, you'll feel a little let down, though the art and overall gameplay go a long ways towards making up for that. I'm giving Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done a score of Holy. 





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Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Review Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Review Reviewed by The Madjai on March 08, 2019 Rating: 5

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