Crusaders Games

Family (Competitive)

These family orientated competitive or sometimes co-operative games provide a strategic challenge, are selected for not being overly complex on the rules or too time consuming to complete. Joining a local games club in 2012 really expanded my knowledge of available games, and I have now played well over 150, purchasing a few of the best for home play :

1. Everdell – Starling (2018)

A worker placement game set in the valley of Everdell, this is the most beautiful game around. You assign your critters into the meadow or forest to gather resources, or collect and play cards to build yourself a woodland city. There are three seasons to play through and the cards you choose to build your city will cleverly interact to set up combinations or score victory points. Each game some of the forest locations and special events will change to keep you on your toes, and you will end up building your city in a different way each time, depending on your card draw. Not only is this game amazing to look at, but it delivers on its simple mechanics to provide a deeper level of strategy than you would initially think, while never being overly complex. A superbly balanced and extremely fun game which is playable solo too, and i am hooked on collecting its expansions.

2. Nemesis – Awaken Realms (2018)

This is a co-operative and competitive hybrid survival game set on a dark space ship, and with revealing rooms and a strong aliens theme. The production quality is high, the spaceship board is huge and double sided to give alternative play options, room tiles and tokens are all thick and solid, and models look great. Each of the six characters in the core set have unique skills and strengths and you will play to survive and escape from the ship, but with your own secret agendas and objectives to complete, some of which can be traitor style if selected. Playing Nemesis is an absolute blast, you awake from hibernation unable to remember the exact lay out of the ship, and have to investigate and uncover the various rooms turn by turn. Upon entering each one you create noise in the corridors and vents, until eventually your presence is enough to trigger the appearance of an alien. This game produces tension and atmosphere and you will soon be needing multiple rooms or items to survive or remove contamination, as well as ensuring the ship is not destroyed by fire or mechanical breakdown. Towards the end you will be dragging your broken body towards the escape pods or hibernation chamber, afraid you will alert intruders at just the wrong moment. Games comes with a random set up and objectives, and the kickstarter has a short co-op storybook which has been excellent to play through with real atmosphere and interactive co-operative play.


3. Vindication – Orange Nebula (2018)

An island exploration game with a cube resource management mechanic, each player starts as a wretch washed up on a beach, looking to redeem their honor by interacting with the world they are uncovering.  Using cubes you can recruit companions and mounts, take control of locations you find, fight monsters and collect relics. Every game throws up a different mix of encounters and available items which creates a new story each time you play.  At its heart you are managing limited resources, moving cubes between potential, influence and the more potent conviction, then using them on the island board. There is so much you can do each game, but selecting your best options is the key. A great theme helps to bring the game alive and you have a lot of choices, and the expansion with solo options is a nice addition.


4. Champions of Midgard – Grey Fox Games (2015)

A worker placement game, where each player is a viking tribe looking to defend the village and conquer new monsters to obtain the most glory over 8 rounds. Your workers will obtain gold, food and wood and also recruit axemen, swordsmen and spearmen who will then go out each round to fight trolls, draugr and other larger creatures found across the seas. Battles are dice based which adds a nice change in mechanic alongside worker placement. The artwork is great, and there is plenty to think about, from buying ships to seeking advice from the runemaster or taking new objectives from the seer. New expansions added extra leaders, archer dice, more monsters and deepened the game with new mechanics.


5. Smallworld – Days Of Wonder (2009)

A territory game where you try to conquer a small world using various fantasy races each with differing special abilities, and rack up victory points as you progress. These races wont last long in dominance so you need to make the most of their time on the board before it goes into decline. As the special abilities and armies are separate, each game will bring different army combinations and abilities into play which keeps the game fresh. The artwork is lovely and the gameplay is quite simple and yet very fun. Expansion armies and a stand alone Underworld version are also available to add additional replay value. This game works brilliantly with all ages, and has seen more family play than any other game i own.


6. Abyss – Bombyx (2014)

A card drafting game where your aim is to gain influence and rule the undersea world by recruiting various sea lords to your cause. This has some of the best artwork of any game and a really lovely theme, and has a simple set of actions, as you decide whether to buy cards using pearls or allow other players to get them. The main strategy comes through recruiting the undersea lords to help you, and each will bring you different abilities for either instant or future use. You then choose to take over undersea locations to enhance your victory points position. Elements of pushing your luck on the card drafting combine with recruiting the best lords to make an excellent family game.


7. Battlelore Second Edition – Fantasy Flights (2013)

A two player fantasy miniatures strategic battle that has a boardgame feel and an accessible play style. Featuring a human Daqan Lords army against the more monsterous Uthuk Y’llan, and an undead expansion, it comes with a hex based landscape board which changes its terrain appearance with different mission scenarios. Small squad based units will move and fight to gain territory or eliminate the opponent, with victory points rewarded for holding certain key locations. Units have differing abilities, and the armies feel unique and the models look great on the board. Command cards provide decisions on which troops you can deploy each round, and magic lore comes into play to boost your attack or defense capabilities, or play surprise tactics on your opponent. The custom dice of the game work really well, and you have plenty to think about without it ever becoming over complicated. An alternative and similar game with an alternative theme is Memoir 44 (2004).


8. Lords of Waterdeep – Wizards of Coast (2012)

A strategic worker placement game where you assign your agents across the town of waterdeep and collect resources to complete quests. This strategy game is based on a dungeons & dragons theme rather than being a fantasy adventure game. It is simple to learn and excellent fun to play without being too complex or too long for a decent worker placement game. It always feels tense getting the spaces you want, and has a great balance between blocking others from the best locations whilst being able to easily work out your own strategy from the quests you hold. An expansion called Scoundrels of Skullport adds extra locations and a corruption mechanic where you can take long term risks for short term gains.


9. Kingsburg – Fantasy Flights (2007)

A dice worker placement game where you seek the help of the kings advisers to build your province, whilst fending off invading enemies each winter. This game has a good mix of strategic selection of which adviser to go to, and what buildings to focus on to give you special abilities or protection from invaders. The use of the dice as your workers makes for an interesting variation and adds some random element in play, together with the potential ability to block other players. This game is pretty simple to explain and has a lovely theme and board artwork (the older version is better). An expansion makes it even more interesting, with more varied building combinations and a much better mechanic for your army strength, giving you more tactical defense choices to make each turn.


10. Ticket To Ride – Days Of Wonder (2004)

The classic train route building game, with a simple concept to learn and so enjoyable to play. Build your railway routes connecting cities across America, deciding how many routes you will take on, or maybe go for the longest overall route. Collecting different coloured carriages to form your train connections, you can never really tell who has won the game until all the completed routes are revealed right at the end. It is so easy to teach and the replay value is extremely high. A top class family game which is my wife’s favourite. Many expansions are available covering maps of different countries and adding in some minor extra rules, but they are not essential we still just use the original American map version.


11. Flamme Rouge – Stronghold (2016)

A card driven racing game where each player competes as a team of two riders within a peloton, where each game can be set up differently using a jigsaw of double sided track tiles. You have a sprinter who can break away at speed, and rouleur who is more steady and consistently. Gameplay is driven by drawing four numerical cards for each rider and then using one each, moving along the road the set distance, however once you have used a card, it won’t be coming back. Pull away during the race and lead a group, and you will take a low value exhaustion card which hampers you later on, or try to slipstream to gain extra ground. This is an easy to teach game that all ages can play, has a simple mechanic with some basic tactics involved, dealing with hills and slopes. This game is relatively quick and great fun.


12. Undaunted Normandy – Osprey (2019)

A two player World War II deckbuilding game set in 1944 after the D-Day landings where players control either US troops arriving in occupied France or defending German forces. Each card represents a unit of troops such as scout or riflemen, which when drawn in your round hand of four can be given basic instructions to move, control an area or attack. Alongside these commander cards allow you to draw more reinforcements or replay another unit, and in later games new troops enter such as mortar, machine gunners or snipers. Gameplay involves players sacrificing a card to gain initiative, issuing unit commands, and any combat loss is represented by losing a relevant squad card from your deck. This game condenses a skirmish battle into a meaningful set of decisions with combat a simple yet brilliant ten sided dice difficulty roll, adjusted for terrain cover and distance, and a fog of war mechanism hampers your hand draw representing the difficulties of communication. This for me is a a long awaited asymmetrical Allies v Germans battle game with a smooth and easy style of play.