Review of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Designer: Seth Jaffee Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games Year: 2018
REVIEW BY CATHY BOCK. A game based on the Crusades and the Knights Templar? Heavy swords, knight’s armor, and cross-emblazoned shields? Where do I sign up?!
I only had to hear the name of this game and already I wanted to play it. Although the theme of crusading through the Holy Land is problematic, so much fiction and lore has surrounded this time period, that a game set in this era is enticing. It sounds like a game of tense battles and strategic manipulation of my enemies. I mean, it says it right there in the title, right? CRUSADERS: THY WILL BE DONE..bending my opponents to my will with only my sword, my shield, and my loyal steed. Right? RIGHT?!
So let’s get this out in the open. Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done does not deliver on its theme. Never once while playing it did I feel like a Crusader in the Middle Ages. It’s true that I traveled the land and spread my influence, but the closest thing to a battle in this game—taking the “crusade” action—merely involves comparing two numbers and then taking a token off of the board.
This game is a pure Euro. No randomness, no conflict, and very little player interaction. And the sooner you get to accepting that and throwing away any sort of thematic expectations, the sooner you can enjoy this game for what it is—a very solid and enjoyable Euro.
The main board—a hex-covered map of Europe—is the most visually dominant element, but the individual player boards are where this game is really played. On the left side of it: an action rondel populated with 12 tokens to distribute in a mancala fashion. On the right: four rows of buildings to construct out on the main board in order to uncover action upgrades. These two mechanisms—the action rondel and the buildings—are the heart of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done.
Every good game has its thing—the thing that makes it unique. The hook that makes you want to come back for repeat plays because no other game does that thing.
That action rondel with the mancala movement is this game’s thing. It’s certainly not the first to do it (Trajan, Finca, etc.), but Crusaders gives it an important twist. Each wedge on the rondel can be upgraded (flipped) to provide two actions instead of just one. And in a game in which doing more means scoring more, two actions per turn can be essential.
My favorite part of the rondel, though, is the mind-bending planning required to get just the right number of tokens sitting on the right actions at the right time. If you don’t spend time planning ahead, you will waste turns performing actions you don’t need just to be able to move tokens onto the action you really wanted to do.
The buildings in this game, while not a unique mechanism by any means, work really well. The purpose of constructing a building isn’t to put it on the map (they become meaningless once built) but rather to uncover an upgrade that makes one of your actions permanently more powerful. Choosing the right buildings early on is crucial, because as the game goes on, actions become more expensive. And trust me—you are really, really going to regret not having those upgrades when you have to burn turns trying to collect enough tokens on your actions.
The enemy tokens out on the map, which you collect when crusading (and for which you’ll also gain points for majorities at the end), were the absolute least interesting part of this game for me. Perhaps it’s because of the thematic dissonance I mentioned earlier. This just doesn’t feel like crusading. It’s passive. You know the strength number of the enemy before crusading, so you just have to make sure the power of your crusade action meets that number. You are never at risk of being defeated. It’s boring accounting instead of conveying the tension and uncertainty of war.
The last thing I’m going to mention is that this game does provide a bit of asymmetry. Each player is assigned a knight order tile with a special ability or effect. Some of these are simple—granting you additional tokens on your rondel or allowing you to upgrade some of your actions before the game begins—and some of them are more advanced and difficult to play with. This gives the game some additional variability and also allows for some slight handicapping when playing with less experienced players.
This is a game I will absolutely play again because of that rondel. It’s interesting and thought-provoking but also simple. This is an easy one to teach and play. It isn’t overly complicated and doesn’t take too long. It’s also one of those games that I know I’ll be able to just pick up and start playing, even if I haven’t played for a year. The rules are streamlined and elegant, and the few flaws I found are not enough to keep me from this game. If you’re looking for a solid middleweight game, I highly recommend giving Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done a try.
Let it be known that I am a huge fan of Clank! And, I’m an even bigger fan of Clank! In! Space! It’s an absolutely brilliant game and even though the theme is rather generic, this was the game that got me back into deck builders (followed closely by Heart of Crown from Japanime Games). But this isn’t a review for Clank.
This is a review for an absolutely beautiful insert by our friends at Daedalus Productions.
We previously did a review on their Dice Tower which has gotten a lot of play here at home and at my D&D nights. Be sure to read my full review.
Just as we did for the Dice Tower, we requested this one in the Ebony Black stain. I’m glad we did because it fits the look of the game. But how does it measure up? Well, there are things we like and things we don’t with this insert and I don’t think the negatives are necessarily the fault of Daedalus.
The insert was relatively simple to put together, if tedious. My main issue is that I am forced to use my phone/tablet again to read the instructions. I really appreciate printed manuals as provided by the Broken Token. My phone actually died halfway through the building process and I had to go find my iPad, which of course wasn’t charged. So I got out my laptop and continued on there.
Once put together the components are extremely nice. The laser etched labels on the side and in the trays for components is really helpful for packing the game back up and I especially loved how perfectly it all fit together in the box. It absolutely makes setup of the game much faster — except for one issue.
The insert does not function vertically. At all. When I take the game to game night I have to set it on top of my bag, it’s currently sitting on top of our game shelves, and I have to be careful when I move it. This was a big disappointment for me. But is it their fault? Yes and no. I think if they’d included some acrylic lids as I’ve seen with some inserts for the bits trays, this would have solved much of that issue but that’s a potentially hefty added expense. However, I do hope they add slide-in lids to future component bins. I store my games vertically, and I can’t keep buying inserts if I have to keep adding them to the top of my game shelf or if it makes it more difficult to bring to game night.
Bottom line, do I think the insert is worth it? Yes. The annoyance of sitting on top of my shelf is worth the simplicity of grabbing the bins and giving them to my friends, but I will say that if I were to invest in more inserts — they’d have to work vertically (and with a loose box) for me to want to spend the additional cost. If however, you don’t store your games vertically, you should absolutely get yourself more inserts for your favorite games! It really makes a difference in setup and breakdown and the folks at Daedalus are making some really beautiful inserts worth investing in.
Publisher: Stormcrest Games. Designer: Randy Van Gelder. Year Published: 2017. Players: 2 – 4. Time: 25 – 45 min. Age: 13+. Weight: 1/5.
REVIEW BY CATHY. Two-player card battle games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. They tend to have familiar mechanics, a bit of luck (what’s going to come out next in your carefully crafted but shuffled deck), and dark fantasy, superhero, or cyberpunk themes. While Master of Wills doesn’t bring anything new to table theme-wise (although I don’t think I’ll ever tire of cyberpunk), mechanics-wise it feels different, fresh, and engaging.
In Master of Wills, the rectangular board is rotated lengthwise so that each player sits on one end. You have your side of the board and your opponent has theirs, with a neutral zone in the middle. Community Cards (members of various sectors of society that you want to bring into your faction) will enter play in the middle, and it’s your goal to get those cards (and the points on them) to move to your half of the board in order to have the most points at the end of eight rounds.
Choosing a Community member to activate from the neutral zone doesn’t just mean that you get to move that card to your side of the board. Convincing them to join your faction affects other Community members on the board, persuading or dissuading them of your cause. You may be required to push a Government member (red card) one space away from you and into your opponent’s territory. Or you might get to bring a Law Enforcer (blue card) two spaces closer to you. And getting those cards all the way to your endzone, the Allies section, means they can never be moved and are guaranteed points at the end of the game.
Master of Wills is tug-of-war without the rope burn. That 14-point Union member (green card) might be on your side this round, just one step away from your safe and hallowed Allies area, but then pulled back to the middle and then into your opponent’s side on the next round.
Just this back and forth play is fun and engaging. But what really makes Master of Wills shine is the faction decks. Each player has a deck of cards that they craft at the beginning of the game, selectively whittled down out of a pre-made deck assigned to your faction (or one of the upcoming expansion decks). These cards bring dramatic swings into the game and also allow for keen strategy and quite a bit of deviousness.
There’s a huge variety of cards, each providing a different effect, some immediately moving cards from your opponent’s side to yours, some killing cards from the board completely, and others placed in a row directly on the board, affecting cards of a certain color whenever they enter that row. This variety of cards really allows you to craft a unique and focused deck.
But…while I love the deck-crafting in this game (I go for the kill cards every time), I don’t ever feel like my grand plans ever come to fruition. I spend all that time building a deck, selecting just the right cards, but then it’s only an eight-round game. And not every Community Card even allows you to play a faction card. After getting excited about the strategy built into my deck, I never get to play enough of the cards to really feel satisfied, to really feel like the time spent making my deck was worth it. We house-ruled a couple of extra rounds to give us a little bit more of a meatier play and that definitely helped.
While all of my plays of Master of Wills were two-player, the game also has a 4-player team variant. David gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. In his opinion it gains a cooperative aspect. You can freely talk with your partner about what cards you each have and discuss strategy. And even though you have half as many turns in a 4-player game than a 2-player game, you still feel like you played a full game because you are also so involved in your partner’s turn.
Despite my feelings on the faction cards, I absolutely love playing Master of Wills. It’s a card battle game that just feels different than the others. It was refreshing, fun, and quick. And most importantly, I think, it was easy to teach and easy to catch on. There’s not a ton of AP going on, so it really moves quickly. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fun and quick but super-competitive 2-player game.
Post by David. The Gallerist hasn’t always been a favorite of mine. The first time I played it, I wasn’t ready for the depth and complexity it offered. I was overwhelmed and confused. But then I played it again after becoming a more seasoned gamer and I immediately fell in love. What was wrong with me before, I’d wondered. How could I have possibly disliked this game?
It also quickly became Cathy’s favorite game of all time. Currently, I believe it might be tied with Terraforming Mars and Lisboa (my personal favorite and another of Lacerda’s incredibly titles). She adores the game and plays it every chance she gets. So when we got the opportunity to play a new expansion, we immediately jumped on the opportunity.
The scoring expansion is small. Just a card sized punch board and a small rules explanation. It’s simple. Typically when you play The Gallerist, there is a scoring round near the middle of the game. Then there’s a second final scoring at the very end. Normally, the scoring of these is the same for every game. This changes that. Instead, you now have the option to have a variety of different scoring tiles to change things up.
It’s a small change that makes a surprising difference.
The strategies suddenly shift. You find yourself playing the game in a significantly different way, going after goals you hadn’t before. It makes the game feel fresh (even if it didn’t need a tune up). It doesn’t change the game as much as say the objectives do in Dinosaur Island, but with a game like Gallerist, that’s a good thing. And it’s enough to feel like a legitimate expansion for as small of a package as it is.
I absolutely recommend snatching up this little expansion and adding it to your collection. I think you’ll love it. And if you love Gallerist as much as we do, I doubt I need to encourage you to purchase it.
And if you’ve never played Gallerist before — I highly recommend it. I’d probably play Vinhos first, if you’ve never played a Lacerda game before and know that you’re diving into a complex game with lots of long term decisions. But as with all things Lacerda, it’s worth it.
Another commission complete! I really love how these turned out. And SPOILER ALERT — the photos below include all the scythe minis. I’ve started with the tiger. This was a mini received from BGG and while most of them looked very decent (especially for the price) the tiger was rather unfortunate. The color was wrong and the stripes were almost non existent. It looked like a yellow-green wolf. I offered to repaint the tiger while keeping the flocking and the character untouched. He also had me paint his Fenris minis with masked bases and premium flocking. I’m super pleased with how these turned out. I also tried to do a slightly more satin finish to match the look of the BGG minis so that they wouldn’t stand out too much.
For the orange colored minis I did a little more yellow in the mix than my last one and I feel it helps set them apart better from the red minis. I definitely will be using this color scheme for them in the future. With that all said — enjoy!
And if you’re interested in having me paint your minis, go here!