I have a known weakness for…themed accessories for my armies. I love special dice, and I’m not entirely sure my fondness for templates doesn’t come from the fact that I had custom acrylic ones for pretty much every army I played. Given that and my interest in the Crusade system in 9th edition, it should come as no surprise that I picked up a copy of the Crusade journal.
Given this very much feels like a product that, while available now, is likely to disappear at some point in the future (like Codex-related card sets, etc.), I thought it was important to get out a timely review for those still on the fence.
For those who want a really quick review: I’d give it a pass unless you’re a collector of game-related artifacts and want it for its own sake.
The Crusade system is, in my mind, the most exciting thing about 9th Edition. First of all because I’m a narrative player at heart, but also because I think the ability to link your games together conceptually independent of anyone else is a really cool idea, and is especially cool in the COVID-19 area, when garage- and porchhammer might be viable, but big events, either competitive or narrative, are pretty squarely a bad idea.
But there is also a considerable amount of post-game administration that needs to be done. Now this isn’t a bad thing – I think a lot of the actual fun and emergent narrative of games like Mordheim and Necromunda come from that post-game administrative set, where lasting impacts are experienced, triumphs and tragedies are translated into game mechanics, and everyone gets a chance to sit down and reminisce while things are still fresh in their mind.
But it is a thing. There’s a lot of keep track of – the numbers of battles played, the requisition points and supply limit of the crusade force, the supplies used, the actual order of battle, and then for each unit in addition to a bunch of its data slate information you have to track seven total combat tallies both for each battle and overall, their rank, any battle honors or scars they’ve got, etc. It’s a lot. And it is ideally something that you can carry in between battles because you’re not going to be able to reconstruct things from memory past a battle or two out. At least not reliably.
There’s a considerable amount of paperwork.
Enter the Crusade Journal.
The Physical Product
If you picked up the book that was just the means to record your battles that came out a few years ago (or if I’ve played you at an event and I’ve made you sign mine on our game’s page), you’re familiar with this concept – the outside is identical. Roughly 6″ by 8″ (it’s A5 paper) it’s a soft, faux-leather covered journal like the kind you’d expect from a midrange diary or planner you’d pick up from an office supply store or bookseller. Embossed with the new logo, it’s decent quality, and fairly hefty given its 200 page size. My journal has now sustained several trips to the LVO, the local club, etc. and held up just fine, and in terms of the physical product, I think it’s solid.
And if it were just that, I would be happy. Sadly, this is where things go a bit off the rails.
The organization is where things get a little puzzling. The journal needs two different types of pages – a page for a crusade force, and a page for each unit. Preferably, the former should vastly outnumber the latter. In a perfect work, you’d have a crusade force page, and then something like 20 unit pages – preferably with blank backs for additional notes, etc.
What you get instead – and this is I very much suspect because it’s vastly easier to print – is 200 uniform pages where the front facing side is the crusade force, and the back facing side is the unit entry.
As far as I can make it out – and I would be delighted if someone pointed out where I had gone wrong with my understanding here – this means you’ll put your first crusade force on the front of the first page, then have the units involved on the back of the first page and many subsequent pages (with the front sides blank), then when you’re done with that force it’s back to one front side, then back to the back, etc. While it makes flipping through the book looking for crusade forces probably pretty easy, given they’re the only pages with writing on them, it’s…a weird flow. And means you’re getting only a very slight more than half of the 200 pages included in terms of actual writeable space.
The paper the journal uses is nice – rollerball pens write nicely on it, and don’t particularly smudge. It runs that nice line where it’s a little absorbent, but won’t bleed. But because of the shifting nature of the Crusade system, you’re basically required to use pencil, because you’re going to want to update annotations, and outside small three or four game campaigns, I suspect you’re going to run out of room if you use my normal “Write it in ink and then cross it out” approach. I managed to find a mechanical pencil I suspect dates back to graduate school and tried some graphite writing and erasing.
That’s what the page looked like after a single write-erase cycle with a generic Papermate mechanical pencil. Nothing fancy, but your journal shouldn’t also require a high end eraser, if those are even still a thing. It’s about what I expected – it’s fine but only just fine. After some heavy use it’s likely to be a little battered, and it might be worth crossing out the page and moving to the blank one immediately behind it.
I can’t fault the quality of the journal itself. At $35 it’s probably a little bit spendy for what you get, but not hugely so. And while I get the why of how it’s organized, I don’t feel like it’s synced up with the cadence of how I’m expecting Crusade play to actually go. It feels like, inevitably, there’s going to be a lot of wasted paper there, and I just get the sense that you’re likely better off rigging up your own sheets and tossing them into a binder, or at the very least using a slightly more freeform notebook and matching up with your own annotation style. There’s already spreadsheets making the rounds and there will inevitably be several app based offerings, but I think there’s still some value on the proper tactile experience of sitting down at the end of the game and jotting down what transpired.
I’m just not sure the Crusade Journal is the way to do that.
That being said, I own one, so I’m going to use it, and I may follow this up with some actual play experience. But again, I felt like if this had fallen into my “Must Buy” category that people would want to know that before they vanished from the shelves.
Final Grade: C+
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