Back in March at a local con, we participated in a math trade and we were able to trade many of the games that we had identified in January and the first part of February as games we wanted to trade. We traded several games but came back with about a dozen. This is one of the games that we got in the trade. I did not know much about it other than it is a Bible themed game, and Tom Vasel gave it a good review. Sadly, "good" and "bible themed" do not end up in a sentence together very often, so that was enough to make me go for the trade. Being a pastor, it is a given that I like the subject matter but is it a good game?
Technically, this game is about creating churches on a missionary journey. However, it is really a race game. Players start at Jerusalem. They must build three churches and after doing that be the first one to reach Rome.
On a player's turn the first thing they do is declare which action they wish to take, and they have three choices. They may travel by land. Under normal conditions a player may move 1-3 spaces. The second option is to travel by boat. To travel by boat a player needs to play a boat Opportunity card. The third option is build a church. To build a church a player needs to get seven cell groups together in the city they are in. On a normal turn they may add two cells.
Next, players draw an event card. This card may effect their action. For example some cards limit movement, while others make it impossible to build during the turn. Once the event card is drawn, its effect is applied if applicable and then the player takes their chosen action if possible.
Finally, players draw an opportunity card. Many opportunity cards can be used to cancel certain event cards. Others can be used to gain additional followers, and the power deacon cards place a deacon at a church location to protect the church from future disasters.
Other rules are the city cards. Each player starts with three city cards and if they try to start a church at this city they can get three extra cells in that city. Also, at the end of each round players may trade anything with each other. The only rule that really governs trading is that all trades agreed upon must be honored. As mentioned, the first one to build three churches and reach Rome wins.
The Game We Played
My wife started by moving one space from Jerusalem, and going to Caesaria to start building a church. Meanwhile, I huffed it up to the black sea to build a church at Tomis. I traded my wife a boat card for the Aquiliea city card. I already had the Salona city card, which was just south, so it worked well for me. My wife used the boat to sail for Athens. She had a lot of trouble with event cards that prevented building, but she finally got it built right after I had finished building at Salona. Now it was my turn for trouble in building at Aquilia. My wife moved onto Actum and built the church up quickly there. She looked sure to win, and was set to take a boat to Rome. However, a ship wrecked event card sent her down to Leptis Magna in Africa. She was stranded there and hoped to draw a ship card. I quickly built my third church at Genua, and then moved on to Rome to win the game.
My Rating: 3.5 (It's OK)
My Thoughts: This game is fairly easy, and while there are some tactical choices, it is not a deep game. However, this game has a lot of tension. The race aspect combined with the luck of the card flip ups the tensions (and occasional frustration). I think this game would be more interesting with more people. I will admit my bias, the biggest draw of this game to me is the Christian theme that I think comes through very well. The fact that it has this theme and manages to still be a competent game is an achievement. Finally, as someone who will be ordained a deacon in the UMC in a month I did rather like how powerful the deacon cards are in this game.
Her Rating: 2.5 (do not care for)
Her Thoughts: This game is really easy and too luck based. The Christian theme works OK, but I still found the game kind of boring.
Combined Rating: 6
After reading the rules and setting the game up, I had kind of hoped this game would fare a bit better than it did for the two of us. We have a growing pile of games that would be good for a future family game night when our son gets older, and I think this would be another good candidate. However, as a youth pastor my biggest reason for keeping this game is that it is a bible based game that is actually fun to play. I am already thinking about how I can use this game in a Sunday School study on the book of Acts.