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Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Review

The Crusades are always tied to Jerusalem and the power struggle in the Near East, but the reality is that the majority of the Crusades took place within European borders. 

The game puts you in command of an order of knights and sends you east to spread the influence of the Catholic Church among Slavs, Prussians, and Saracens. Players will have to muster forces, march and develop their faction while competing with other players to become the most influential knightly order. 

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
  • Move your Knights, Erect buildings, and go crusading to spread...
  • When the orders get too strong, King Philip will become nervous...
  • Crusaders uses a combination of the popular roundel and Mancala...

Brief Overview of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Board Game Featured Image

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is a strategy game centered around a hex-based map and individual player action wheels. The action wheel used to be described as a rondel & mancala mechanic, but far too many people found that confusing. 

The action wheel consists of wedges — think of it as a sliced pizza. Each wedge represents a certain action, while action points are placed on top. When you take an action, you’ll distribute the action points forward, strengthening other actions but weakening the one you just took. 

The game has a surprising amount of depth for a 45 to 60-minute experience. It can be played by 2 to 4 players, and it’s relatively easy to learn or teach. Because of the specific mechanics, I wouldn’t say that Crusaders is an introductory strategy game — it’s better to think of it as its own thing.

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done takes the historical theme and loosely applies it to the game, where it could almost be a placeholder. This may not appeal to everyone, but the developer had a clear intent to distance the game from certain historical elements of the Crusades period. 

Versions & Expansions

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done — Divine Influence

Divine Influence is currently the only expansion for Crusaders and adds a ton of content. More buildings, knight orders, improved influence actions, and a lot more have been added to enhance the original game. 

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done - Divine Influence
  • Divine Influence Expansion: Claim influence over regions with the...
  • Take advantage of 4 new building types and explore 4 new knight...
  • Usable with Retail or Deluxe edition of Crusaders: Thy Will Be...

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Deluxe Version

The Crusaders deluxe version adds premium components to the box like metal influence tokens, modeled plastic buildings and knights, wood enemy discs, and UV highlights to certain components. 

It’s worth picking up if you like having the best components, but unnecessary from the gameplay perspective.

Unboxing of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done

Crusaders Thy Will Be Done Board Game Box and Components

The box contains the following components:

  • 1 Double-Sided Board Game
  • 32 Enemy Tokens
  • 30 Building Bonus Tiles
  • 6 Enemy Majority Award Tiles
  • 56 Influence Tokens
  • 4 Player Boards
  • 24 Action Wedge Tiles
  • 13 Knight Tokens
  • 16 Building Tokens
  • 12 Action Tokens
  • 5 Troop Tokens
  • 10 Knight Order Tiles

The Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done box is deceptively small as despite its relatively compact size, it’s packed full of components.

The rulebook sits at the top of the box — a 14-page manual featuring plenty of examples and illustrations to make the learning process easier. Beneath it, you’ll find the game tokens.

Knights, buildings, troops, and other pieces are made out of wood, brightly colored, and shaped in detail to clearly represent the intended object. I’m a big fan of wooden pieces as they’re more robust and feel better in hand, and I’m glad Crusaders used wood over plastic. 

The game board is double-sided and features a map of Europe, divided by a hex grid. The design is very simple — a white outline of land surrounded by an orange sea and covered in golden hexes. 

The board may not impress you at first, but as you play the game,  you’ll start to appreciate the unintrusive design and basic colors that make the strategic aspect of the game much clearer. There are a ton of punchout cardboard pieces that have intricate design and color scheme that is in contrast with the board to improve visibility. The game actually has no regular cards, as even the knight “cards” and wedges are made out of thick punchout cardboard.

The only issue I’ve found with the game is the combination of the wedges and player board. The double-sided wedges slide on the surface of the board, which can be very annoying if you like to keep things organized. A texturized surface, or better yet a double-layered player board would’ve been a much better option.

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
  • Move your Knights, Erect buildings, and go crusading to spread...
  • When the orders get too strong, King Philip will become nervous...
  • Crusaders uses a combination of the popular roundel and Mancala...

How to Play Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done

Crusaders: They Will Be Done Board Game Box and Components

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is a fairly intuitive game and once you’ve grasped the core concept of the action wheel mechanics, the rest of the game won’t be an issue.

Game Setup

Explaining the setup is important as it partially explains how the action wheel works. Each player takes a player board and places knight, building, and troop tokens in their corresponding spots.

One player takes their 6 wedges and arranges them randomly in a wheel, unupgraded side up. The other players mimic the arrangement of the wedges so that everyone has the same sequence of actions. The next step is to place 2 action tokens on each of the wedges. 

Lastly, players choose one of two randomly drawn knight order tiles. The chosen knight goes above the action wheel and may affect the final layout of the player board. For example, a knight of Aviz gets a 13th action token, while the knight of Santiago immediately upgrades one wedge.

Taking Turns

The game starts with the player that initially organized the wedge, and proceeds in a clockwise fashion. During their turn, a player can either resolve an action or upgrade a wedge. 

Once a player chooses an action from the action wheel, they’ll first count the number of action tokens on the wedge and apply that number to the action, with more tokens being better.

If the wedge has been upgraded, it will provide two possible actions. The player can distribute the action tokens between the two, or just focus on one. Once the action has been resolved, the action tokens are redistributed clockwise, one on each successive wedge until there are no more tokens.

Upgrading a wedge allows the player to access the secondary action, and it doesn’t cost anything except for taking a turn. When the upgrade is complete, the player can do a round of action token distribution if they so choose.

List of Actions

During their turn, players can perform one of these five actions: travel, muster, crusade, influence and build. As there are six wedges, you’ll see the travel action twice.

The travel action allows you to distribute action tokens between knights, and move them on the map. Movement between hexes costs 1 token, or 2 tokens when moving out of an area occupied by an enemy. Hexes with buildings on them can be occupied by moving a knight into the area.

The muster action increases the power of the crusade actions and provides influence. To take the action, you must satisfy the requirements, which increase after every use.

The crusade action puts your knights into combat with the enemy to gain influence and new build options. The game has no combat mechanic, and instead, the power of the enemy is compared to the number of action tokens, plus bonuses of the player.

The influence action lets you gather influence in the amount equal to the number of action tokens, plus bonuses from churches, banks, and other buildings.

The build action allows you to construct buildings that can grant a variety of bonuses and act as a long-term investment. Churches provide influence, castles unlock knights, farms provide better muster scores, and banks provide bonuses for the build action. 

Game End & Scoring

The game ends when the last of the influence tokens are taken from the supply and all of the players have had an equal number of turns.

During the game, players will collect Saracen, Prussian and Slav tokens which contribute to the final scoring. Per faction, the player with the most tokens gains 5 influence points, while the second-place player gains 2 points. Sum these points with building bonuses to get the final score and declare the winner.

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
  • Move your Knights, Erect buildings, and go crusading to spread...
  • When the orders get too strong, King Philip will become nervous...
  • Crusaders uses a combination of the popular roundel and Mancala...

Your First Game of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done

Generally, I get to review games that are a lot more complex and require some sort of a beginner guide that’ll navigate the new players through the basic strategies and the flow of the game. 

With Crusaders, there is no real need for any of that — the game is perfectly balanced for anyone to pick up, and figure out by the end of the first session. 

The trickling of points around the action wheel to eventually stack up a powerful move will come to you intuitively and there is no need for me to explain any of it. 

Given the duration of the game, I would even suggest that you and your friends learn the game on the spot, rather than prepare for it. It might take 90-120 minutes to finish the first session, but the subsequent games will go a lot faster. 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • The Action Wheel
  • Fast-paced Turns
  • Accessible Gameplay

What’s great about Crusaders is that its main strengths work together to create an excellent board game experience, but it all comes down to the action wheel.

Six actions spread in a circle form a simple, yet brilliant way to provide depth and strategy to a game while keeping the choices obvious. The more action tokens a wedge has, the more enticing of a choice it is, and it’s just a matter of whether you take advantage of it immediately or stack it up even more.

There is never a moment during the game where you’re not sure what to do next. The actions flow from one to another, and before you know it, the game ends as turns go by a lot quicker than you’d expect them to in a strategy game.

Cons:

  • Thematically Weak
  • Lacks Gameplay Depth

You would assume that a game called Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done would have a strong theme, but it’s actually the weakest part of the entire game. The developer wanted to distance the game from the historical setting, but this could’ve been done without completely butchering the immersion. 

The second point isn’t as much of a con, but I have to mention the lack of depth and complexity. The game has a lot of replay value, but it’s not one of those strategy games that have a ton of strategy paths that evolve as the game goes on. I don’t mind that Crusaders is like this, as it balances with how accessible the game is.

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done Review (TL;DR)

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is a strategy game with an excellent action wheel mechanic that contributes to fast-paced gameplay and relatively quick game sessions.

This game will appeal to those looking for a condensed strategy game, or those that want to get into the subgenre. It’s highly intuitive and easy to learn, making it a great game to play with a more casual crowd. 

Conclusion: Verdict?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Crusaders as a board game and found it to be a refreshing and compact experience. I play a lot of heavier strategy and Euro games, so when something like this comes along, I can really appreciate the lack of effort it takes to learn and play the game at a competent level. 

I’ve given Crusaders a lot of praise throughout the review, but the way the theme was handled bothers me more than it should. When I see the box cover now, all I can think of is a YouTube clickbait thumbnail. 

The first problem I have with the game is that it’s all over the place with the historical setting. The game ends when King Phillip realizes that the knightly orders have too much power and disbands them, but the real King Phillip of France only disbanded the Templars in 1307. 

The nations you wage war against don’t make much sense either, as they’re either Christian or not present in Europe during this period. A lot of the Crusades did take place in Europe, but when you think of the Crusades, you think of the East, Richard the Lionheart, and Saladin. 

Despite how the theme was handled, the game is still great and I’ll gladly play more of it in the future, and if it had the option to play with more than 4 players, then it’d definitely see more table time. 

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
  • Move your Knights, Erect buildings, and go crusading to spread...
  • When the orders get too strong, King Philip will become nervous...
  • Crusaders uses a combination of the popular roundel and Mancala...

We hope you enjoyed our Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done review! Have you tried this interesting Euro game? What did you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you.

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Stats at a glance

Players: 2-4

Ages: 14 +

Medium

40-60 Mins

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Published: 2018