Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is one of the few Kickstarters that I still own. I am notorious for playing a crowd-funded game once or twice and then selling or trading it. Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is still in my collection because it plays well at two players (my most common player count), plays in less than an hour, and has a great Rondel mechanism.
I was on the fence when I heard that Crusaders: Divine Influence, an expansion, would be published. I owned the Deluxified version (a moment of silence for TMG… thank you) and the new expansion would not be Deluxified. I also was not sure what could really be added to the game outside of more Knight Orders, different building bonuses or, most importantly, more Influence Tokens (for those of you not aware, the original game barely had enough tokens which led to players constantly swapping ones for fives and fives for tens).
“To buy or not to buy. That is the question.” Well, not really. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Crusaders: Divine Influence from Renegade Games. Did I like it? Love it? Or was my initial hesitation warranted? Here are my thoughts on this expansion.
Crusaders – Divine Influence adds the following: 64 new Building tiles (four types, with four of each color, so you get 16 Chapels, 16 Keeps, 16 Mills, and 16 Vaults); 12 Action tokens (used with Chapels); 64 Coat-of-Arms tiles; 43 Influence tiles (adding a new mechanism); 2 Influence award tiles (a new end game bonus); 8 Troop tiles; 4 Player board extensions; 2 new Enemy Strength Track boards; 4 new Knight Order tiles; 1 giant Action token (used with one of the Knight Orders); and 4 25-point Influence tokens (YES!)
Game Experience with the Expansion:
When I first received the expansion, I was disappointed. It does not come in a cardboard box, but in thin packaging with a thickness comparable to a typical single-layer dashboard. Included is cardboard to be punched out, thirteen wood tokens, and the rules. As previously stated, it was not Deluxified. How could the new buildings (cardboard tokens) compare to the original buildings that were minis?
Well, you should never judge a board game by its flimsy packaging! I thoroughly enjoyed this expansion. The two biggest changes improved a game I already loved. First, the Influence action has been completely revamped. In the base game, you perform the Influence action and then score points… yay? Now, during setup, you randomly place an Influence tile on every region, placing unused tiles back in the box. Side note – when able, all games should include more tiles than can be used to increase replay value. Thank you! Now back to the review….
These tiles have a cost and a bonus. During the game, if you activate Influence and have Influence greater than the cost of the tile in a region one of your Knights is located, you: claim the Influence tile, score points for the tile, and then either:
- spend the bonus if it is immediate
- save it for later if it is a one-time use
- incorporate the bonus going forward if it is a permanent effect
- score it the end of the game if it is an end game scoring bonus
The Influence tile is replaced with a Coat-of-Arms token on the region that you Influenced. This token allows you to reduce the cost to travel by one when you LEAVE a space with your Coat-of-Arms.
The Influence action is now better tied to your other actions, especially given the bonuses conveyed by the Influence tiles, including the reduced Travel costs provided by the Coat-of-Arms. You can permanently improve actions, improve your end game scoring, or utilize a one-time bonus to perform an action you could not have otherwise performed. The expansion also has a new majority award tile tied to whoever claimed the most influence tiles during the game.
These changes altered how I viewed the Influence action. While it now takes more strategy to use in terms of timing and maximizing when to use it, more importantly, it REALLY improves the game overall. Players can no longer run up their Influence actions to earn points and expedite the end game. I found the original Influence action boring and much prefer the new version.
The second biggest change is the addition of four new building types:
• Keeps – immediately muster another troop
o Tied to Castles (explained below)
o The expansion adds three more troops for each player
• Chapels – adds additional action tokens to your pool
o Tied to Churches
• Mills – remove a building from your board (allows you to act as if that building was constructed without putting it on the board)
o Tied to Farms
• Vaults – immediately upgrade a tile
o Tied to Banks
These buildings cost 5/6/7/8 to construct; however, in a HUGE change from the base game, these new buildings can be constructed in a region already containing another building (if it is tied to it), regardless of which player owns it. In addition, it is built at a discount (3/4/5/6) if the matching building has already been built. So, for example, a player can build a Keep for five in an empty space or for three in a space with an existing Castle. There are downsides to these buildings, of course. There are no bonus tiles that can reduce their cost or provide points for their construction. They are also more expensive unless built on the same space as their related building.
I love the new buildings, because their new bonuses are great. I enjoyed using Chapels to add additional action tokens to my rondel, especially when using a Knight Order that starts with fewer action tokens. Mills are effective, because removing unconstructed buildings from my dashboard let me move quickly towards Tier 4 and the Mills’ sweet end-game bonuses! In addition, after playing the expansion, I appreciated that these buildings are represented by tokensm which made them stick out more and it was easier to determine which regions had two buildings versus one. If they had been minis like in the base game, it would have been more difficult to identify regions that were already at capacity. Lastly, I appreciate the additional tactical decisions they layered into the game. Deciding between specializing in one or two types versus taking a jack-of-all-trades approach is even more critical in Divine Influence due to the increase in the number of options.
Finally, there are other quality-of-life improvements to the game. The inclusion of the twenty-five-point Influence tokens reduces the “making change” mini-game present in the base game. Four new Knight Orders were added, my favorite of which is Female Order of the Band, which includes a giant action token that counts as two action tokens. Finally, two new Strength Track tiles were included to increase the strength of the Prussian and Slav armies to compensate for the additional available troops the expansion includes. No change was made to the handling of the Saracen army.
Note: The flimsy box it comes in is NOT an issue because the expansion components fit in the base game box.
I really enjoyed the Divine Influence expansion. I will only play Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done with the expansion included in the game going forward. The Influence change improves the game overall, and the new buildings add even more tactical decisions to a game already full of great tactics. I highly recommend this expansion, especially if you already love Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done!
• Explaining the new building rule MIGHT be confusing to new players