Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
I got a chance to play one of Tasty Minstrel Games' newest offerings "Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done." I have a decent amount to say after our plays, but in case you'd rather just have a quick recap of my thoughts, I'm offering both
- Great, Chunky, Cardboard Bits. I love how thick the components are in this game. It causes them to have a high quality feel and makes me feel like I have a deluxe version. If you’re going with cardboard bits, I feel this is the way to go. It simply feels like I have something of substance when I hold it.
- Stylized Buildings/Knights. I had to double check that I wasn’t sent a deluxe version when I first saw these “meeples.” Each of the 4 buildings has a unique look that clearly distinguishes it from the others. Since the buildings have no value after they are placed, it would have been really easy to make all the buildings large cubes or generic settlements (Catan Settlements). This distinction makes the board look really nice when it’s done, and not just a giant conglomerate of cubes. In addition, the Knights are riding horseback as they move across Europe. This esthetic really drives home the theme and helped make me love the components.
- Simplicity in Gameplay. Upgrade or take an action. That’s it. And since your ability to take actions relies on having action cubes on a particular spot, it makes gameplay quick. It was one of the simplest games I’ve had to teach that also provided that much depth.
- Action Selection Style. Speaking of gameplay... I LOVED the rondel. Each turn you pick up all the cubes on an action spot and place them around the circle one at a time... allowing you to take more powerful actions on your circle on later turns. Building up your actions to make them more and more powerful was a super fun challenge, and I even managed to pull off a 14 Influence (VP) action at one point. While I’m sure this is not the first game to use a mechanism like this, it was a first for me and I loved it.
- Fun Engine Building. I enjoy feeling like my choices make my future turns better. It’s why I enjoy games like Space Base, Gizmos, and Roll for the Galaxy. I really felt like I had those options here. Build a building: make one of my four actions more powerful. Muster: make it easier to crusade. Flip a tile: Now I can take two actions. Even going back to the roundel... I often found myself going “ if I take this action, I can take that action, which will let me do this action, and then I’ll take that MEGA action!” If I managed to pull it off, it was a very satisfying feeling.
- Upgradable Actions. One thing about the roundel was finding myself with more action points then I needed on any particular turn. Being able to upgrade your actions was a great solution to this. You simply turn over a wedge, revealing a second action. This cost you a turn, but When you upgraded them, you got to distribute any tile on your wheel (adding to your overall strategic choices). Once a wedge is upgraded, you could allot the tokens to both actions.
- Plays 4 Really Well. So far, I’ve only played with 4, but I never felt it dragged.
- My Bride asked to play a second time in a week. That’s enough said. While we’re both gamers, I possess a much larger breadth in the type/style of games I enjoy. So to both really like a game and have her enjoy it is a win.
- Theme. The crusades were a really awful, dark time in history, and this in no way deals with the weight of that reality. Our friend Chris kept being taken back by how lightly we’d say “Ok, I’m going to crusade.” I think his point is valid. This theme could turn people off. I do feel that is very abstract in concept, so I don’t feel like I’m committing atrocities. But because it’s abstract, I feel it could have been a different theme. I’d love to see this same game set in the Eminent Domain universe. Instead of Europe, you’re setting across the galaxy. Instead of castles, churches, farms, and banks, you’re establishing military bases, temples, food factories, and... banks are fine. Battle Cruisers instead of knights. Survey=Movement. Warfare=Crusade. Colonize=Build. Produce=Muster. Trade=Influence. Research=Upgrade. Speaking of Eminent Domain, another thing they could have taken from them...
- Not Enough Influence Tokens. In a 2 and 3 player game, they tell you to save the remaining influence on what you might earn after the Influence pile runs out. In a 4 player game.. you use all the influence. So we found ourselves having to get a pen and paper to keep track when someone triggered the game. It would be nice if they had extra Influence that could’ve been used that was maybe colored differently so you know it’s only for end game.... just like in Eminent Domain.
- Rule Book. The major parts of the gameplay are very clear. The setup is pretty well illustrated. Yet, I found this rulebook lacking. First, I always appreciate it when a rulebook clearly lays out each component and tells you what it is. I found myself confused on what a few things were. Also, some rules felt very unclear. Can you move through an opponent’s land? Can you be in the same space as an opponent? This is far from a bad rulebook, but the more games I play, the easier it becomes to tell when one isn’t great.
- Fragile Pieces. One of my horses had his tail break. Just something to be aware for and check after opening. Though I’m sure if you find a broken tail in your copy TMG would send you a replacement.
- No Inset. Apparently, this is available in the deluxe edition, but both myself and my friend Mike commented how nice it would have been for the wedges, which we found getting bumped a little too often.
- Scoring is Super Fiddley. This is my biggest complaint. Even though they provided a nice player aid for what on your board scores, it wasn’t always clear unless you referenced it. A little extra symbolism would have helped this. I’m pretty sure everyone forgot to take points at some point.
- The Good
- Great, Chunky Cardboard Bits.
- Stylized Buildings/Knights.
- Simplicity in Gameplay.
- Action Selection Style.
- Fun Engine Building.
- Upgradable Actions.
- Plays 4 Really Well.
- My Wife Liked it.
- The Bad
- Not Enough Influence Tokens
- Rule Book.
- Fragile Pieces.
- No Inset.
- Scoring is Super Fiddley.
I like this game. I wasn’t sure I would when I first saw it, but I do tend to be a fan of TMG games and figured I would give it a shot. Needless to say, I was pleasently suprised for all the reasons I listed above and I am planning on keeping it in my collection. Its mechanics are great, the components are amazing, and I just get a lot of enjoyment from playing it. High praise for this one and I'd highly recommend it.
Right before GenCon, Tasty Minstrel Games contacted me through my Instagram asking if I'd be interested in trying out one of their new releases, Okey Dokey. Tasty Minstrel has often delivered hits for me, including Scoville, Orléans, and Eminent Domain. I'm even currently waiting for a much anticipated copy of Chimera Station that I backed on Kickstarter. All that said, I thought: Why now? My copy arrived Monday, so I thought I'd share my thoughts.
Okey Dokey is a light and simple cooperative game. In it, you are trying to help an orchestra filled with cute animals preform. Everyone gets a hand of instrument cards. It's your groups job to play the instruments, moving the music sequentially (starting with 1 and moving to 8). You'll play 10 rounds to win, during which you can only play in the current column you are filling. You can play a single card of a particular instrument. So, if you have a set of the piano/purple cards in your hand, you can't play your 2, ,4, 5 each time it comes to you. During the round you'll be playing a total of 4 instrument cards & letting one section of your orchestra rest. Each instrument will rest twice, placing the Panda (0) its column spot instead the instrument card itself. These rests act as a reset for that instrument. So if you've played the 4, 5,and 7, you can start playing lower numbers in that instrument's row again. This will also let you discard up to 3 cards from your hand and draw back up.
Seems easy. However, when talking to your group, you can't use specifics about what numbers you have. You'll need to figure out a way to communicate what you want to play without getting specific. So, if you have a 2 in the violin, and your friend has a 1, you'll have to learn to read each others clues. That way you can't go "I'm planning on playing the 2." "No, don't do that! I have the 1."
Playing It Solo
One of the great things about co-op games is that you can often play them solo. Okey Dokey is no exception. I'll just say it... I REALLY liked this game solo. I received this game Monday night, and was able to play a couple of games of it during my breaks on Tuesday. Is simple. It's puzzley. Most importantly for me: It's quick. I get a few 15 minute breaks, and a 30 minute lunch. So sometimes I can have a single player co-op on my desk for days. This one I can set up in a minute and play in 15. I like it enough that I might consider buying a second copy just to have at work. While you lose the nuances of talking out card play with your fellow players, there's still plenty of challenge to be had. For instance, you have less cards "out" in people's hands, so going through the deck to find that card you need takes longer.
Sadly, I did not get to check this out with a very high player count, but I was able to rope my friend Xavier into a quick game on Wednesday. Here is where we got to think about our communication and this, for me, added a whole different layer of fun. We really got into saying things like "My Piano... is severely out of tune. Also, I have laryngitis. But you should really hear my rocking drum solo!"
Things I appreciated.
- Theme: Super cute. I mean, It's animals playing instruments. What's not to love?
- Simple. Not hard to teach, easy to learn, and easy to set up.
- The art is simple, yet incredibly fun.
- The cards quality is excellent. Mix this with the art, and I just fell in love. This mixture strongly reminded me of the cards in the copy of game I used to play with my grandparents, Elfer Raus.
- Plays well as a single player.
- Small box. It's smaller than my 6" Baymax Pop! Vinyl, making it easy to grab and go.
- Solid gameplay.
- Replayability. Because it's essentially a deck of cards, there's no "here is what we do." On top of that, there are several levels of difficulty you can try.
What I don't like, or can see others not loving (even if they're part of the good).
- Simple. You're not going to have a lot of variation to the game play. You also don't have a lot of "tough" decisions to make. Each game will play the very similarly.
- Art. I've stated that I enjoy the art very much (most likely for the nostalgic feel it gave me), but, like the game, it's very simple. For those who love staring at artwork on cards, this won't do the trick.
- Table-space. This game is a table hog. I don't know that there's a way to get around it, but while it's easily transportable, you won't be able to play this at a restaurant while you wait for your food.
- A potential to break. part of what makes this game interesting and fun to me is trying to communicate in code. But like any game that utilizes this concept, people could fall into the trap of "when this is said, he means he has a 2."
Final Thoughts (7)
I'm really glad to have this in our collection. It hits just the right spot for me. When I first played it and won using all 3 wild cards. Instead of gradually increasing the difficulty, I took all three out, thinking maybe it was too easy. And I failed. Hard. Twice. So mastering this will be a fun challenge, and one I'm looking forward to. With only a $10.99 price tag on CoolStuffInc, I think this game is a steal. Go get it!
Five Tribes & the Camwhales
"Five Tribes" is a fantastically fun game that provides both diversity & complexity for the experienced player, but is simple enough to include a new gamer. In it, you are in charge of moving members of, well, five tribes across dessert landscape, making sure they meet up with one of their friends, or fellow tribesmen. When you meet your matching colored meeple, it'll do one of several things:
- Work towards points
- Work towards resources, including Djinns that can help you throughout the game
- Assassinate meeples to gain yourself points or take points from other players
Things I Really Like
Randomization. While other games in our collection have even more variety, Five Tribes still offers enough randomized elements to create a unique game every time. You start by shuffling the land tiles and placing them in a 5x6 grid. Next, you finish setting up the board by the placement of meeples, which is decided by pulling 3 at random from a bag to place on each tile. It's nearly impossible to start the same way twice.
Purchasing of Turn Orders. I found this unique, as it is the first of our games that used this particular game mechanic. Every round (each player takes one turn), you bid for turn order that round, from 0-18. The catch is, you're bidding with your victory points, so you have to decide if being able to take a specific move is worth losing victory points. It may appear to help you now, but cost you at the end of the game. NOTE: Elisabeth and I both found this mechanic a little tedious in a two player game. With multiple players, this mechanic weighs heavily in the strategy, since even if someone doesn't "steal" your move, their move may render whatever you were planning useless. As we played just the two of us (in which, you use two turn markers instead of one), we discovered that most of the time we were just rotating turns as you would in a normal game, so instead of enhancing game play, it really became a way to just spend our Victory Points.
No Single Way to Win. How you approach winning is in itself is a strategy. There are several things that earn you points:
- Claiming Land Tiles. If you finish a move by clearing a tile, you claim it and the points associated with it. This is done by placing one of your Camels, or as we've come to call them, Camwhales*, on the tile. The tile's value can increase if, through game-play, a Palm Tree or Palace has been placed down on the tile.
- Collecting Victory Point Coins by playing Blue Tribesmen (Builders)
- Djinns (Each has a point value, but can also provide extra points throughout the game.)
- Gathering Resources. The more varied the resources you collect, the more they are worth at the end of the game.
- Collecting Yellow & White Tribesmen (Viziers & Elders)
We played one game where it seemed that Elisabeth would be the clear winner. She had lots of land, tons of Victory Points piled up, and many, many Djinns. However, I had one Djinn that increased the value of my Yellow Tribesmen (Viziers), creating a 20 point increase, which enabled me to edge her out by 2 points.
Things I Didn't Care For
We already talked about turn bidding for the two player game, but there was one other thing I didn't quite love. Lack of clarity. There were several places in the rule book that I would have appreciated a little more clarity, specifically when it came to scoring the Viziers. All things considered, these are two very minor complaints.
Score: 9 Victory Points
This game has quickly become one of my favorites. As I said at the beginning, it is simple enough for your average player, but for someone who likes a more advanced game, this really hits the spot. I think that that is a really hard place to land, and for that reason, I would feel good recommending this to anyone. Even 7 Wonders, which I think has much simpler game mechanics, has a more difficult learning curve. While Five Tribes has a high price tag, I would argue it is worth every penny. It's one I expect we will be playing in our house for a very long time.
*So, when we were first unboxing this game, people were a little confused about the camels. Because the camels are laying down, from one direction they look like camels and from the other it looks like whales half out of the water. There ended up being a lot of silly debate at the table on whether these were camels or whether they were whales or whether or not they were some sort of weird camel-whale hybrid. Hence the name "camwhales".
Monopoly Deal: This is a card game for 2-6 players ages 8 and up. The box says games take 15 minutes, but I would definitely suggest allocating more time than that until you become familiar with the game. The object of the game is to collect 3 full sets of  properties using money, new "action cards" (anything from "Pass GO - draw 2 more cards" to "Deal Breaker - Steal a full set of properties from any player"), and of course a little Chance. I'm not going to begin to try to explain the rules, otherwise you'd be here all day. You'll just have to go over them yourself if you decide to buy the game. :)
Pros: Much shorter than the original Monopoly; Less clean-up required; Appealing to a wide age range; Easy to travel with.
Cons: Very complicated directions.
If your kids are tired of playing traditional Monopoly and want to learn something new, or if they just don't want to spend hours on one game, this may be a good alternative. I enjoyed playing this game (then again, I won); however, my co-workers who I played with did not seem to enjoy it as much until we played long enough to gain full understanding of all the rules. I would not suggest using this game with an impatient group, and a practice round wouldn't be a bad idea either.
One final note, while I love Amazon Prime, I wouldn't recommend buying from them until their price drops back down to less than $10.