09 June 2022
May it never wane
Event games are those rare breeds of strategy titles that I’ve dearly missed in recent years. Having several hours with friends pouring over a map as we politick and manoeuvre our way to victory are one of those rare board game memories that will stick with you. Just as my experiences playing Crescent Moon inevitably will stick with me.
Crescent Moon is an asymmetric war game for four or five players, with no AI options or scalable way to reduce the player count, making it even harder to get played than most games of its ilk.
It is also dazzlingly beautiful. From the gold etched box that screams luxury to the stamped wooden tokens that are immediately distinctive against the beautifully illustrated terrain hexes, this is a game that needed to be eye catching yet easy to read and delivers on that requirement ten times over.
Everyone takes the role of a historically inspired faction set around 10th Century Middle East. Over the span of three in-game years (each split into four actions per player), you will be negotiating, building and battling your way to victory, with each faction offering radically different ways to obtain victory.
The Warlord wins through conquest, raising the largest armies in the game and seeking to destroy all opponents. The Murshid operate almost exactly opposite, with few military options and instead spreading influence tokens across the map, which let them interfere with conflicts, becoming the table’s own arbitrator. To contrast from these conflict focused players, the Sultan is responsible for the many towns and cities that scatter the board, earning cash for both the themselves and whoever controls the regions these settlements are in. The Caliphate focus on defending lands over attacking, creating a palace that greatly empowers their capabilities, allowing them to slowly gain a secure foothold. Lastly we have the Nomads, the faction who hires out mercenaries to fight for the highest bidder, maintaining the balance of power to whoever best serves their goals.
The game is more finely tuned than a Stradivarius. No action is without consequence and many cannot be productive without some degree of cooperation. Money flows into the game through the Sultan, but every card purchased puts that coin in the pocket of whichever faction matches its colour (for example, cards that empower mercenaries are yellow, ensuring the Nomad is well funded for their future turns.) Gaining more units on a tile will require influence, which can often only be placed if the Murshid permits it. Finally, when it comes to fending off the Warlord’s armies, knowing whether to rely on the troops from the Nomads or defences of the Caliphate (or even whether to bribe the Warlord to encourage them to switch targets) is a crucial decision that can cost you the game at any moment.
I adore the game’s combat system. No dice rolling here, instead players use cards bought earlier (specifically bought face up but hidden amidst the hand) to bolster their forces meaning that attentive players will know the capabilities of an opponent’s army, but unsure exactly when they’ll lay down their trump card, making it just as important to buy the right cards as it is to play them at the right time.
I’ve very few bad things to say about this modern classic in the making, only wishing that the game had a wider player count range so I would have more opportunities to get it to the table. For those whose groups meet the several requirements to enjoy this niche war game, it’s a fantastic experience that few other games can offer.
PLAY IT? YES
It might be tricky to get to the table, but when a game looks this gorgeous and rewards such dynamic play styles, it’s certainly worth a look if your group is the perfect fit for it.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: Root
There are few asymmetric war games out there, so comparisons to the biggest one available is inevitable, but nevertheless these games ooze charm and reward you for creative manipulation of your faction’s unique abilities.
Designer: Steven Mathers
Publisher: Osprey Games
Time: 150 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 5 Component bags
- 3 Reserves cards
- 4 Market boards
- 2 Game trackers
- 2 Tracker pieces
- 81 Cardboard VP tokens
- 16 Terrain hexes
- 10 Player aid cards
- 69 Power cards
- 48 Wooden unit tokens
- 32 Wooden forts
- 15 Wooden castles
- 1 Wooden palace
- 42 Cardboard tokens
- 66 Cardboard coins
- Cardboard challenger token
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
If you want to read more about one of the most hotly anticipated games of the year, check out our interview with Cole Wehrle on ARCS! A new game from the designer of Root and Oath, and we've got all you need to know.To infinity and beyond
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