The Last Crusade : From Normandy to the Rhine

Collectible Card Game from Chameleon Eclectic Entertainment
This review copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 26, 1997.

The Last Crusade (TLC) is a collectible card game of World War II. It's not the first, and it won't be the last, but it's certainly a good one. A deck consists of 60 cards in a generous mix of 10 rare, 20 uncommon and 30 common. Except for collectible card games with no rarity distinctions at all (such as Dixie), TLC has one of the most customer-friendly ratios in the market. You can play a good game with two decks, and you'll be able to get varied deck-building strategies with four to six decks. Unless you're a collector rather than player, there is no need to get all the cards.

The game is an abstraction of a small sector of the fighting across France after D-Day. Major generals such as Patton and Rommel can appear, but don't stay long, as their attention is needed elsewhere. The daily fight of infantry, armor, and artillery goes on - and that's where the game shines.

Actually, TLC shines in most respects. On the down side, it plays a little long (two to five hours), but that's easily solved by limiting card quantities per hand. (We play a lunch-hour game limiting ourselves to 25 cards each, with no more than eight specials. We also randomly deal out terrain, paying 1/4 our initial supply for whatever you get - you get to redraw one terrain card in your back row, but must keep the second card drawn ...) The Bridge terrain card makes for a really long game, but if you simply don't allow it, it's not a problem. There are also strategies that can dominate, such as a massive U.S. air deck, but simply disallowing those after the first couple of times makes the game fun again.

The play is a bit more complex than many CCGs, but is simpler than most wargames. Three types of cards are distinguished by the card backs: U.S. cards, German cards, and Terrain cards. After each player builds his deck, deal out terrain - which includes Clear, Forest, Swamp, Hill, Town, City, etc. Terrain is laid out in a 3x3 grid, setting the board for the game, and various game effects are written on each terrain card. In addition to those nine zones, each side has an HQ zone that is adjacent to all three of the zones on his side of the table. Movement is to an adjacent zone - no diagonal movement is allowed. The game ends when the enemy HQ is taken, or if a time limit is reached.

Most U.S. and German cards represent one platoon-sized unit of infantry, armor, artillery, anti-tank, anti-aircraft, or aircraft. There are also a large number of "special" cards that make the game more exciting. These range from cards to force your opponent into a given action (such as Hitler Takes Command or Monty Throws a Fit), to cards that give your units a bonus (Medal of Honor or Bazooka) to cards that affect the weather to those that give you more supply, reinforcements, surprise attacks, etc., etc. The special cards are very well done and varied enough to give the game a high replay value.

The game requires some tokens to play correctly: something to represent supply and something to show hits on units.

Supply drives the game. You can move units without supply, but you need it to attack. You also need supply to fly planes, bombard enemy positions, rebuild damaged units, use full defensive power, and buy extra cards from your deck. Wise allocation of supply is as important as good tactical ability. The Germans start with more supply, representing the fact that they're dug in, but the Americans get more supply each turn. (One house rule to speed the game up: roll an extra die for supply, then drop the lowest die. This produces more supply, so there will be more assaults.)

Each unit has various numbers on it: its power against Infantry, Armor and Aircraft; its defense rating; and its point value. You have to pay the point value in supply to bring a unit into your HQ, from which it can move out onto the battlefield. (Unmotorized units move one zone; barring difficult terrain, motorized move two - or three, if Patton is urging them on!) The point value also determines victory at the end: whoever has destroyed the most points worth of units wins.

To attack, roll a number of d6s equal to your attack factor based on the defender's unit type. Each "5" or "6" rolled hits, though there are special cards for both sides that can modify that up or down. When a unit takes a number of hits equal to its defense value, it is eliminated.

The game plays very well, and the special cases are learned quickly. All in all, a very good game that is highly recommended to anyone with any interest in a moderately low-complexity World War II game.

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