Designed by Seth Jaffee with art by Adam P McIver, Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is a fast-playing rondel game from TMG where players represent crusading knights advancing across a map of Europe. Players are earning influence tokens (victory points) for defeating the enemies randomly placed out on the board during set up. And these aren’t just Saracens; the Crusaders are also taking territories controlled by Prussians and Slavs.
Although this is a competitive game, there is no direct player vs player (PvP) conflict: players are, after all, knights supposedly embarked on the same crusade; they are just competing for the most glory. This means that the only ‘take that’ element of the game comes from players nabbing territories or rewards just ahead of an opponent. Every successful attack on a Prussian or Slav force increases the strength needed to beat the next one, so there can also be competition between players as your attack on a unit on the board takes beyond my reach the cost of the attack I was planning as my next action.
Players each have their own boards containing the buildings available to them during the course of the game. The boards also incorporate a neat rondel made up of six double-sided wedges. Action tokens are placed out on the wedges and when a player takes an action, the tokens on that wedge represent the power of the action (ie: two tokens on a Travel wedge allow the player’s knight to move two spaces on the map). Appropriating a mechanic from the traditional Arabic game Mancala, the action tokens when used are then distributed, one per wedge, clockwise around the rondel.
In place of an action, a player can choose to upgrade a wedge. This means flipping it so that it shows two icons rather than one – allowing the player subsequently to take two actions provided they have enough action tokens and bonus icons to support the actions they want to take.
Among the actions available to players is to Build. This means placing out one of four different types of building. These earn points and, as they are removed from the player’s board, they also each unlock cumulative bonuses that can be added to boost the strength of specific actions. Tiles randomly placed out on the board at set up give further bonuses for erecting a particular type of building at that location. We found this added relatively little to the game, beyond an extra fiddly element of set up. We were much more impressed with the options offered by the range of asymmetric abilities of each of the knights (at the start of the game, you’ll be dealt two and have to choose which of them to adopt). The game also allows for variability in how the rondels are set up (ie: the order of the wedges).
The retail edition of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is well produced with great components, but Tasty Minstrel Games also published one of their trademark ‘deluxified’ versions which was launched through Kickstarter in 2017. This version (shown in the Board’s Eye View photo) included rather nice metal influence tokens and indented player boards for holding the wedges and buildings in place. These are definite improvements on the standard retail pack. The deluxified edition also included plastic knights and buildings that could be used in place of the wooden ones, but we generally preferred playing with wooden pieces. The deluxified version is nice but, if you missed out on it, you won’t be unduly disappointed having to settle for the retail version.
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done obviously has a theme but it is largely abstracted. That’s not to detract from what is a good and very playable game. Even with a full complement of four players, you can expect to complete a game in around 45 minutes: quick enough for the narrowly defeated players to demand an immediate rematch!