Thursday, September 4, 2014

Habeo Id! Review of SAGA's Crescent & The Cross


Inspired by the accounts of the Crusade, I am here to offer up a little Latin and my first thoughts on the newly arrived copy of The Crescent & The Cross.

Quick Reference Sheet

The quick reference sheet is useful, but it should have been two sided.  That would have made it less "quick" I realize, but enough special units and new rules have been added to C & C.  Barring that, printing it on the same cardstock as the Battle Boards would also have been nice.

The Battle Boards

Six high quality boards on slightly heavier stock than SAGA's early releases.  All feature a parchment style background, but each faction has a unique iconic image in the bottom corner.  The Spanish have a helmet and crossbow, and the Saracens a jeweled dagger, for example.

The Book

Production Quality: - A nicely bound hardcover printed on quality paper stock.  The color printing is vibrant, but without the glare of a cheap magazine.  As with many recent game rules, a good portion of the pages are composed of generously sized pictures of miniatures.  This does increase the page count and production costs, raising the price of a not-inexpensive book even higher.  I am fine with this overall, for enough of the pictures are play examples.  The quality of the writing is much improved from early SAGA releases, with their the typos and translation difficulties. A humorous tone is maintained throughout, reminding the reader that this is a fun game, and not a serious simulation.

The Rules - The rules look like the SAGA we know and love, with the addition of a new narrator Hashim ibn Khalid ibn Abad.  Our old friend Ragnar shows up, most often when there is an addition or deviation from the previous rule set. One such addition I noted was the inclusion of the Priest.  Priests can be included with your Warlord, or they can be played as your Warlord.  Furthermore, there are three different types of priests to choose from.  This, along with the Dogs of War and weapon options allows players to customize their warband into their own thing.  With old SAGA, you knew what to expect if you were going against the Vikings, the Normans, the Welsh, etc.  With C & C, you might know the abilities of your Crusader opponent, but how about if your Crusader opponent was led by a warrior-priest with a troubadour, along with a unit of Turcopoles?  Something to think about.
     I really cannot criticize the rule changes or additions in C & C yet, especially without a fair number of play-throughs. The rules look good, and the success of SAGA should be assurance that QA is even tighter. What was missing or needed? I can see a case made for a campaign system, and this would have been the ideal time to release it.  However, those rules could be in a future expansion (you know they are coming) and I don't really hear a demand for it, at least from my small circle of fellow gamers.

The Factions - The layout and explanations are much improved.  The Legends choices are good, and I have to love El Cid and Rachid al Din (The Old Man of the Mountain).  The inclusion of some are a bit perplexing. Saladin is very well known of course, but if he was included, why wasn't Richard the Lionhearted?  Both probably should have been saved for a Third Crusade expansion.

Dogs of War - Bedouin scouts, Daylami, Foreign Mercenaries, Turcomans, Turcopoles, Naffata, Fanatical Pilgrims and the Troubadour.  So many options, so few miniatures.

Scenarios - disappointed in the lack of a proper siege scenario.  In the Crusades, fortresses, whether large or small, were an integral part of many battles.  An official siege scenario could have answered a lot of questions - does the defender get fewer points? How is scaling a wall accomplished?

The Dice - while not included with the book, two new sets of dice for the six factions were also released. Again, the fine folks at Studio Tomahawk released image files on their forum for those of us who prefer to homebrew our dice. Here are mine, with the images printed in color on waterslide paper on white dice.


  1. I have to get this book! Even if I never actually play any of the armies in it, it looks worth it just for the consolidated, clarified rules. I have a link to a campaign system on the SAGA page of my blog if you're interested. It's quite a flexible framework. We're a couple of rounds in and enjoying it a lot. Cheers, Paul :-)

  2. Nice - I need to get Crusader dice images for dice. Best, Dean