Hailing from the UK, Kieran has been passionate about board games for as long as he can remember – indeed some of his earliest memories are of creating “board games” from cereal packets as a child. Since then he has been involved in the development of several published games and the playtesting of countless others. Third Crusade marks his first outing as a game designer – though he is hoping it won’t be his last!
Brief Design History by Kieran Symington
“Third Crusade first began as a completely different game. It was during a trip to Greece that I had the idea to design a board game about the Trojan War. I wanted to make a simple game based around a single core idea – a card driven wargame where the events you would receive would be determined by your opponent from a market that you set up. I envisioned a similar scope to short card driven games such as ’13 Days’, so the remainder of the game was simply armies pushing forwards across three columns to hold areas for end of round scoring.
The game remained in this state until a chance encounter with David Turczi at a playtest in London. He ended up playtesting the game and thought the event card market was smart, but the rest of the game was far too uninteresting to work alongside it. This led to the next iteration of the game, which added many elements that have survived to the final product – notably the placing of hidden order standees to determine actions on the board, tracks to progress on to place upgrades onto the board and the authority system for increasing the power of event cards.
With the game now in a much better state, I was able to pitch it to Ion. Whilst they liked the mechanics, they wanted two major changes before they would sign the game – a change to the theme and the ability to play the game with up to four players. The idea we agreed on was to follow the events of the Third Crusade in the Holy Land, so I created a new board and changed the events of the Trojan War to events that took place during this period. It was here that cavalry, siege engines and sea movement entered the picture to better reflect the nature of warfare in this period. The much more daunting prospect was to change a game designed to be played only by two players into a game that could be played by four.
The option I settled on was to make the four player game a team game with an extended board. This allowed a lot of the features of the two player game to carry over and allowed the two player game to follow a similar ruleset to my original design. What was needed, though, was a way to represent the bickering and betrayal that would break out amongst allied leaders at the time – a reason for allied players to work against the alliance if it furthered their own goals. Since faith played a huge part in the Crusades on both sides, a shared faith track seemed like the best way to add this tension into the game – players would work together to defeat their enemies, but only one would ultimately gain the recognition as the chosen warrior of the faith.
With a new theme and the ability to play with more than two players, Ion were now happy to sign Third Crusade for publication. Development since then has modified several elements of that first draft presented to them, but the heart of the game has remained the same and it still retains that core element of the card market that distinguished the original Trojan War game created all those iterations ago.