I walked away from my base game Crusaders review feeling there was a good game in there somewhere, but there were too many pain points for me to like it. Now that I’m reviewing the expansion, the question is: does it transform the ugly duckling into a swan? Well, yes and no.My biggest problem with the base was how easy it was for a player to get locked out of playing the game entirely, and both of the changes address that flaw. The biggest change is the complete overhaul of the influence action. Previously, it was a simple “grab x VP” turn, but now setup includes dropping an influence token on every hex on the board. These tokens have a static strength and bonus for clearing them, similar to Saracens. Taking an influence action is a satisfying production now, including acquiring the token, putting down a shield that lets you move through the square for one less strength, and nabbing some VP. The other big change is the addition of secondary buildings, which can be dropped in the same hex as its matching primary building (doesn’t have to be the same player’s) for a discount. They’re all legitimately powerful, and provide a path for players who are lagging behind to get back in the game. Honestly, I’m rather impressed with how well Divine Influence sands down the rough edges and allows the good game I wanted Crusaders to be to shine through.
Problem is, this expansion had a lot of heavy lifting to do to correct the problems with the base game, and it did it primarily additively. All the new stuff you have to place on the main map and player boards balloons the already overlong setup. A game that only takes an hour to play needs to be excellent to justify this arduous of a setup, and Crusaders still tops out at just good.
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
Divine Influence had to do a lot of work for an expansion, completely overhauling some poor mechanical implementation from the base game. It's not making its way into my collection, but that's more of a personal preference thing than an indicator of fatal flaws.
- Fixes the problems I had with base Crusaders
- Still a great production
- I don't have the patience to do fifteen minutes of chores in order to play a quick game