Best Crusades Board Games
The period of the Crusades has long fascinated historians and even recently brought intense criticism of the suspect goals of those involved. Despite these valid concerns, the battles and maneuvers of the time are still deeply intriguing and the consequences, far-reaching.
The Crusades provides the perfect background for hours of riveting gameplay for those who love war board games. Let us set the scene.
The Holy Land is under attack and all of Christendom has been called upon to defend it! Answer the call today and raise an army to join the battle. Will you lead your forces to victory or fall to Saladin’s spear?
Find the best Crusades Board Games below.
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Crusades Board Games
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Kingdom of Heaven: The Crusader States 1097-1291
Playing time: 180 minutes
Kingdom of Heaven is an incredibly immersive game that covers all nine major campaigns of the first, second, and third crusades. The greatest stars and commanders of the era are included in the game, with appearances made by Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Frederick Barbarossa, Nur ad-Din, Hulego Khan, Louis IX, and many more.
Each scenario follows a year of the Crusades and spans from the shocking victories of the Christian armies and the establishment of Crusader states until their eventual defeat centuries later. Although we know how history truly unfolded, in this game, you are in the driver’s seat of history.
This game provides many different perspectives of the Crusader period and where many might choose to play as Richard the Lionheart, one can also join Saladin in evicting crusaders from Acre and Jerusalem itself. Strategy cards feature large in the game, allowing the players to besiege castles, move armies, and conduct diplomacy.
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
Playing time: 40-60 minutes
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done gives players a chance to command their own order of Knights to do their bidding. Some orders include the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights of St. Lazarus, the Teutonic Knights, and the famed Knights Templar.
Much like the real crusaders, players get the chance to spread Christianity and convert locals, establish hospitals, schools, and banks, and spread their own influence. The game ends when King Philip of France, nervous about the growing power of the Knights, pressures Pope Clement to disband the orders and accuse them of heresy.
Saladin: The Fall of the Crusader States
Playing time: 900 minutes
Saladin provides a unique perspective of the Crusader age by focusing on the fall of the Crusader states and the rise of Saladin. In addition to capturing Rome and evicting the Crusaders, Saladin includes minor scenarios which add flavor to the game.
Players can move the game forward by unlocking events such as, conquering East and West Armenia, conquering Homs and Damascus, or encouraging the Pope to preach another crusade. Each player has their own action plan which gives them a path to victory.
For King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the key to victory lies in keeping out enemy forces by conquering all of Syria and Egypt and having the Zangid heir, Saladin, under control.
This excellent game is a bit hard to find but you can check its availability on Amazon.
Playing time: 120 minutes
Infidel provides a concise overview of some of the most momentous battles of the Crusader period. It begins with the Battle of Dorylaeum in 1097 and ends with the battle of Arsuf in 1191. Each battle is played on a separate board with actual topographical features that were present at its historical namesake.
Players begin battles by setting up troops and cavalry based on their ancient positions. From there, players choose where and when to launch attacks and have a wide battlefield to wage war upon. Infidel draws largely upon cavalry lead battles where horseback archers are the stars of the show.
Playing time: 180 minutes
Crusader Rex utilizes the block game approach, where the number and strength of troops are obscured on the game board. This provides for a “fog of war” effect which adds mystery and risk to players’ movements.
The game scenario occurs during the 3rd Crusade and pits Christian crusaders against Muslim Saracens. The goal of the game is to capture the ancient cities of Acre, Damascus, Antioch, and most importantly, Jerusalem.
The board focuses on the Holy Land, stretching across the Mediterranean coast from Egypt in the south to Antioch in the north. Players can focus on the area and avoid the campaigns on the outside of the board.
Playing time: 180 minutes
Crusader Kings shifts the focus of gameplay away from the Holy Land and sets the player into the political scene of Europe at the time. Although some kings, such as Richard the Lionheart left their homelands and joined in the crusades personally, many stayed home to continue their kingly duties.
This game is, at heart, a strategy game perfect for those who love political intrigue. Rulers can be assassinated, dukes and duchesses can be stripped of their titles and lands, and kings regularly die on crusade. If no heir exists, kingdoms are plunged into succession crises, losing half their gold and territories.
Playing time: 180 minutes
Outremer is set in the time of the 3rd Crusade and employs a man-to-man small-scale combat design. The game comes with three scenarios and the ability to generate unique campaigns centering around the lands of Palestine.
Outremer may seem very familiar to some players, as it acts as a continuation of the Cry Havoc series, all games focusing on warfare in the 13th century. The counters are exceptionally simple to use and represent the figures of the armies sent into the Crusades.
Cavalry was immensely important to Crusader warfare and horseback knights can be represented as either riding or accompanying their steeds on foot if they have been forced to dismount. Outremer is a unique game amongst other crusades-based games. Outremer specifically refers to the four crusader states set up after the early European victories. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was the longest-lasting of the states, founded in 1099 until its eventual fall to Saladin’s armies in 1291.
Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Crusades
Playing time: 300 minutes
This entry provides more riveting Crusades gameplay and spans seven scenarios throughout the Crusader period. Even numerous hypothetical situations allow the player to rewrite history and obtain unexpected victories.
What if Frederick Barbarossa had not really drowned while crossing the Saleph River in modern-day Turkey? The loss of their leader led to many soldiers deserting the army and returning to Europe. Morale proved so low that not even half of Barbarossa’s original army reached Palestine. Although they had some victories, they failed to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s control.
This time, the player can help Barbarossa avoid that terrible demise and arrive in Palestine with his army largely intact. Players get to imagine how history would be different if Frederick was able to stand against Saladin personally.
The Crusades: Western Invasions of the Holy Land 1097-1191 A.D
Playing time: 240 Minutes
This entry focuses on the First and Third crusades, with the First Crusade campaign designed for up to eight players and the Third Crusade scenario for two players. Players can choose between the numerous Christian and Muslim factions and fight for control of the board, or the Holy Land.
In the First Crusade scenario, the Armies of Franks, Germans, and English volley against their Fatimid, Syrian, and Egyptian adversaries. Players must enter into alliances with the forces belonging to their faith. However, there are specific objectives each army must fulfill.
The Third Crusade campaign pits Christian Crusaders against the Islamic Armies of Saladin and his coalition. It’s still possible to change history and see a crusader victory in Jerusalem, but players must be careful to rout Saladin’s forces at every chance.
Arsuf: Lionheart vs. Saladin
Arsuf sets the scene for the final battles and military engagements of the Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart of England and his Christian forces are pitted in a fierce battle against Saladin’s armies while marching south along the coast of Palestine.
Richard’s army captured much of the coast of Palestine, but forays inland toward Jerusalem were all successfully repelled by Saladin’s forces, resulting in a sort of awkward stalemate. This is the scene players find themselves in while playing Arsuf.
In Arsuf, players must choose between strength and speed with a higher level of soldier attrition ascribed to the faster forces. Christian forces race toward the city of Arsuf before attempting a turn toward Jerusalem. Whether they are successful or not is up to the fierce battle tactics of the players.
The gameplay follows almost the same track as the historical battles. While Christian forces travel south, Saladin’s forces parallel their movements while attempting to attack their enemy’s flank from their inland position.
Saladin can send light forces to harry Richard’s troops while maintaining the bulk of the army elsewhere. Archers factor heavily into the gameplay and can fire back when under attack, even on their off-turn. If Christian forces retake Jerusalem and fend off Saladin’s forces is up to the player.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best Crusades board games! Medievalists, history buffs, and wargames unite! These Crusades games will surely bring history alive for all fans of the genre.
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
The map for Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done covers Europe and a bit of Anatolia but not the Holy Land. It may be a good game for machinations in Europe but it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the Crusades. 0/10