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.