When it comes to anything in life, there are usually three sides to every story: Side A’s viewpoint, Side B’s viewpoint, and the truth which is usually somewhere in the middle. This is especially true when you have your children trying to tell you who started a fight, and it can also be true with historical events as well. The Crusades are a great example of that, as many books have been written both defending and demonizing the Catholic Church. Now, I am not here to get into a discussion on the ethical nature of the Crusades, but instead offer you a game suggestion if this a historical theme that is of interest to you.
The game is called Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done. It plays 2-4 players, ages 14+, in about an hour and retails for $60. Within this game, you will control an order of knights, moving them across Europe to defeat enemies, erect buildings, and spread your influence. Eventually, King Philip will grow suspicious of the orders and have the Pope disband the orders, thus ending the game.
Setup. Setup is done in two phases. In the first phase of setup, you will set up your area by taking a player board, six action wedges, three knight tokens, sixteen building tokens, twelve action tokens, five troop tokens, and two random knight orders. All your tokens will be populated on your player board. One person will randomize their six action wedges around their action wheel with everyone else placing theirs identically. Finally, you will pick between one of the two knight orders.
The second phase of setup seeds the game board for everyone. This involves randomly distributing enemy tokens and building tokens on the map. In reverse turn order, each player will pick their starting region. Finally, you will create areas for enemy majority award tiles and influence tokens (also known as points). When the influence runs out, that round is finished and the game ends, but let’s talk about how to play the game.
Game Play. Game play in this game is pretty straightforward as you have two general options each turn. You are either going to resolve an action or upgrade a tile. As upgrading is the most straightforward, let’s start with that. Temporarily remove the action tokens from a wedge and flip the wedge to the upgraded side. Return the action tokens to the wedge, and you may distribute action tokens from any wedge as normal. Upgrading is a good strategy when you can’t resolve the action wedge you want, as it makes a wedge more powerful by giving you two actions to resolve on a wedge as opposed to one. Let’s get to resolving actions.
The normal thing you will do on your turn is resolve an action. There are five actions: Travel, Muster, Crusade, Influence, and Build. Travelling moves your knights across the map. Mustering lets you recruit new troops. Crusading allows you to battle your enemies (Prussians, Slavs, or Saracens). Influence lets you collect influence tokens. Building lets you construct different edifices on the map such as Castles, Churches, Farms, and Banks. To resolve an action, count the number of action tokens on a wedge (as well as any bonuses from your player board, erected buildings, or troops. This number will determine the strength of the action you are able to resolve. After your action is resolved, all the action tokens on that wedge will be distributed around your action wheel in a clockwise motion. (Note: If you resolve an action on an upgraded wedge, you can decide how many action tokens will apply to each action.)
When the final round has been played, you will add up your influence tokens, be awarded for majority of crusades against each enemy, and also gain influence for each of your level four buildings. Most influence wins.
Review. Playing through this game was a quick and crunchy experience. There are very few actions you can take, which helps cut down on overthinking your turn. However, you’ll want to take a little bit of time to consider not only this turn, but setting yourself up for future turns as well. If you don’t do this, you’ll have some turns idling and rearranging your action tokens, which isn’t very efficient. You’ll also want to pay a bit of attention to what your opponents are doing each round, because while you aren’t battling them in Europe, you are competing with them for glory and influence. The replay value in this game is also high, as you have ten different knight orders, each with their own special way to play. Couple this with three variants on how to play, and no two games will be alike for many, many plays of this game.
The components in this game are top-notch. There was a Kickstarter which made a lot of metal and plastic bits, but even the retail version is full with great art and nice chunky wooden components. A lot of people were turned off by the map and the redness of it. I think it is appropriate when you think about it, as it feels like a map that has been soiled with blood.
In addition to the art of the map, the theme has been another sticking point for some people. You have one camp of people who don’t want to think about the brutality of the Crusades or get into an argument about it, and then you have another camp of people who say the game is not historically accurate enough. To the first camp, I will say that while the theme is there, you feel more like you are building up Christian Europe, as opposed to wiping out a group of people. To the second group of people, the designer gives an introduction in the manual about how he took artistic license and more based this game on the Knights Templar than the actual history and numerous different crusades. With that said, the different orders of knights in this game also come with a brief history for each of them.
As I said at the opening of this review, if you like the theme, enjoy a rondel mechanic, and are looking for a quick and crunchy game, Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is a solid choice for your next game night!
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Copyright 2019 Stuart Dunn
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