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Subject: 3rd and likely last playing of 1.4 rss

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Dave Kohr
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This was my 3rd playing of this game, a relatively large number for a wargame. My copy is the 1st edition (it's now out in a 2nd), and we used version 1.4 of the rules with no optional rules. While pruning my collection, I had decided this game was "on the bubble", and I was trying it one more time to see whether I would keep it. I was the Saracens, and my opponent the Franks (Crusaders).

The early course of the game was similar to what I've seen in other playings. The Saracens are just too strong, and push back the Franks (Crusaders) wherever they please. In I think the 2nd of the 6 turns I captured the victory city of Tripoli, which gave me the 4 cities needed to win. But then the Saracens sort of stopped, they had less good luck in battles and spent a lot of moves in rearranging their forces and consolidating. Meanwhile the Crusaders were finally starting to show up, first the Germans marched to Antioch (sealing the Saracens off from ever capturing that victory city). Then by the end of turn 4 the French and English were wading ashore, Normandy-style.

At this point the Saracens were in a tricky position, having to defend 3 different areas that were relatively far apart and not close to ports which would allow sea moves, while the Franks only had to defend 2 different areas which had nearby ports. The newly-arrived Crusaders would threaten one area, causing the Saracens to shift forces to there as fast as possible, then the Crusaders would shift to threaten another. Finally, early in turn 6 the Franks made their big move, with the French and English Crusaders driving hard inland toward Damascus. After a fierce struggle, they ultimately captured it with their battered forces during the second from last cardplay.

But in the end, the Saracens did indeed repel the Crusaders. Sort of. Just barely. I've had very few wargames come down so close to the wire. The infidels were expelled from Damascus by a powerful force lead by Saladin himself, on the very last cardplay of the game. Normally, this sort of thing can't happen on the last cardplay, because it's winter and the troops refuse to fight, but as luck would have it I, like George Washington before me, was holding the Winter Campaign card, which allowed me to launch that one last assault against my opponent's exhausted, freezing, starving French and English.

Although this particular playing of the game was a lot of fun due to being so competitive, I’ve decided the game itself isn’t a keeper so I’ll be selling off my copy. It seems solidly balanced against the Franks (Crusaders), and neither I nor my opponent have ever seen a Frank victory. I think a big reason our game was so close was that I made mistakes in the mid-game that kept me from following up on early Saracen victories, and in the endgame I let too many troops starve/freeze to death due to winter attrition, so my position was a lot weaker for holding onto that 4th city. Given more competent Saracen play, I don't see the Franks coming anywhere near as close as they did here. Also, the game encourages some tactics that just don’t reflect history: for example, you can easily launch these well-coordinated pincer movements to surround isolated enemy armies. Worse, sieges go very slowly, while storming isn’t very hard, so it’s nearly always better just to storm a castle than wait for a siege to succeed. Ultimately, the history portrayed by the game feels a bit bland relatively to what I've read about the period. The intensity of competition is usually weaker, compared to other, better games in the series that I also own, namely Hammer of the Scots and Julius Caesar. I would be willing to play somebody else's copy of 2nd edition to see if it fixes the problems I see with 1st, but I don't think I'd buy 2nd because I don't think Columbia's simplified pre-modern rules system is that good a fit to such a dynamic historical event.
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David Boeren
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Marietta
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Out of curiosity, are you planning to pick up Kingdom of Heaven when that comes out? Although it may be significantly more complex, I like the Crusades and it sounds like it's going to be a pretty good game from what I've heard.
 
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Razvan Ungureanu
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Dear Dave,

I suugest for you the 2nd edition of Crusader Rex, this game is simply awesome (please excuse my english).
I played like 8 games of Crusader Rex 2ne edition and after 8 games i know the mechanics perfect and because of this i recently won with the Franks (they are much yougher here than in 1.4 so from this perspective the game is more balanced).
So this game is great but in order to play it you must know the rules very well, rules that after thi 8 games i mater them, and also my opponent who is by the way the same opponent since game 1 (so we grow together.
My advise is to sale CR 1.4 and buy imediatly the 2.0 which is much more balanced.
The ideea of winning with the Franks is to concentrate your troops in 3 locations, in my recent game my forces where around Antioch, Acre and Jerusalem. Altrogh i lost Antioch in the first year (but in the 5 round of the first year) i manage to take Egypt in the 3rd year. Yes for 2 years i just repeal the atacks in the south, and trying to take Egyp.
After that after Crusaders Army's arrive, i won every year a victory point, and finaly
i've won with 5 VP. To win as Franks you must be paitient and do not take unnacesery risks. The time is on your side, the Crusader armies are very tough, even with the A's blocks of the Saracens, it will not stop you.
So its very possible to win as Franks but you must forgot the Sarracen strategy, here its about defend and wait and then strike...
My suggestion is to purchase the 2.0 edition, although Julius Cesaer is very nice (and its shorter, not that this is necesary a good thing) it can't compare to this medieval flavor. (castle defences, crusading armies)
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Captain Nemo
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davekohr wrote:
The Saracens are just too strong, and push back the Franks (Crusaders) wherever they please.

But in the end, the Saracens did indeed repel the Crusaders. Sort of. Just barely. I've had very few wargames come down so close to the wire.

It seems solidly balanced against the Franks (Crusaders), and neither I nor my opponent have ever seen a Frank victory.


Well you might be right but I have won as the Franks. My bigger concern is that it does not really feel like Crusader warfare with limited road capacity. A good system for Napoleonic mass armies does not really cut it in this period.
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R Larsen
Denmark
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So I only have the 1st edition, and have only played it 2 times, but really liked it. But of course, with a few more plays, I might find the same problems as other have.
I am a bit discouraged to hear that it seems to be "broken", as I would like to not buy it again.
Do everybody agree that it is "broken", and are there any fixes?
 
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Dave Kohr
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dboeren wrote:
Out of curiosity, are you planning to pick up Kingdom of Heaven when that comes out?


David, I haven't really paid any attention to Kingdom of Heaven. I'm not especially interested in the topic, and there are too many other games coming out that I'm more interested in for whatever reason. I would only check it out if after a year or so it proves to be exceptionally good.
 
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Dave Kohr
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DukeOfLight wrote:
My advise is to sale CR 1.4 and buy imediatly the 2.0 which is much more balanced.


Thanks for pointing out the improvements in 2.0. From all I've heard, even with the balance tweaks it's still basically the same game, though, and I can't see myself preferring even a more competitive version of CR over Julius Caesar or Sekigahara or Hammer of the Scots.
 
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Dave Kohr
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hammurabi70 wrote:
My bigger concern is that it does not really feel like Crusader warfare with limited road capacity. A good system for Napoleonic mass armies does not really cut it in this period.


Yes, that was one of my issues with the game. It was a bit too easy to mass forces and move long distances quickly. It was also too easy to execute complex coordinated pincer movements to surround enemy forces. The "harry" ability of the Frankish Turcopoles and all the Saracens somewhat makes up for this, since you can use them as screening forces on your flanks, but I have no idea if this is historical. Finally, in 1.0-1.4, sieges are too hard so they rarely happen.

It sounds like most/all of these problems are at least addressed in 2.0, but as I said, my interest in the game is waning, so I'm unlikely to find out if they're fixed. These are problems that should have been caught in development and fixed in the first edition. I'm not going to reward Columbia for sloppy development by giving them even more of my money.
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Dave Kohr
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RLarsen wrote:
So I only have the 1st edition, and have only played it 2 times, but really liked it. But of course, with a few more plays, I might find the same problems as other have.
I am a bit discouraged to hear that it seems to be "broken", as I would like to not buy it again.
Do everybody agree that it is "broken", and are there any fixes?


There seems to be agreement that the game is balanced against the Franks, at least when the Frankish player isn't highly experienced.

I liked the game enough to play it 3 times, which is a lot for me. I don't think it's totally broken, it's just not as good as it could have been. 2.0 may be a big improvement, others like Razvan would know better than I do. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to upgrade a 1.0 set to 2.0, there are map and component changes so you pretty much need to buy the new version.
 
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