More Genesis Games, Plus Apocrypha

Another couple of games with biblical themes came to my attention recently. One is Genesis, by game company Gigantoskop. Here is the description from their website:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. It took him six days to complete his work, assisted by a host of heavenly angels doing his divine bidding. On the seventh day God rested and examined the result. Seeing that it was good, he praised the angel who had contributed the most.

Genesis – In the Beginning gives you the chance to become that angel. By gathering the essence of creation – chaos, matter and life – and turning it into seas and mountains, birds and beasts, you hope to win Gods approval – and the game! But the way to victory is wrought with hard decisions. You must gather essence when it’s most advantageous, move at the right time and do your days’ work where they count the most. And beware of the dark angel who’s trying to outshine you all.

Now – let there be light!

Gameplay

Before the creation, the players’ angels are gathered in the void with God. When God starts the creation with the words “let there be light”, the angels start their monumental task. There’s a lot do to and only seven days to get it done in, so every action counts. Throughout the game, God moves over each of the seven days on the game board, stopping morning, midday and evening, allowing the players 21 rounds to act. During their turn, players can choose to collect the essence of creation (chaos, matter and life), to do a day work on the current day using the different kinds of essence they have collected, or to follow in God’s path to another day.

When players move from day to day, they’re positioned along the essence track. The essence track determines both the order of play and the type of essence a player can gather. The first player to move to a certain day gets the first position, the second player the second position, and so on. As different positions yield different kinds of essence, the players must plan their movement to get the right kind and the right amount of essence. If they’re not happy with their position, they can spend essence to swap positions with a neighboring angel, thereby also thwarting other players’ plans.

When God creates a new day with new tasks for the angels, players can move to that day. The first player to do a day work on a certain day is awarded the highest points, the second player the second highest, and so on. As the week progresses, the points earned for doing a day work increase, which affects players’ long-term strategy.

As the seventh day is a day of rest, God looks favorably on angels that retire from their hard work. The first player to retire their angel on the seventh day earns the highest points, the second player the second highest, and so on. When God reaches the evening of the seventh day, the game is over. All points will be tallied and the player with the highest score is declared the winner.

To make things even more challenging, a dark angel is mixed in with the players’ angels, doing his best to snatch as many points as possible. The dark angel follows a pre-determined pattern of actions that the players can predict and delay but never stop. If the players aren’t careful, or if they’re too caught up in their own plans, the dark angel will surely outshine them, making all of them lose the game.

The mechanics of the game are quite simple: the sooner you do a day work on a day, the higher the points you score, making it a good idea to keep close in God’s wake. Unfortunately, simply following God throughout the creation might not give you the exact essence you need to do your day work. Eventually you must stop to collect essence, preferably in the right position, making you lose momentum. In the end it’s always about choices: when and what to collect, when to move and when to do a day work. The winner, God willing, is the player who makes the right choices at the right time, a task easier said than done.

I could see this being an interesting way to get discussion started about things that are not explicitly mentioned in Genesis (such as angels!) as well as the anthropomorphism of the depiction both in Genesis itself and in the game.

I love that the list of the box’s contents includes “God” and “angels.” The game is available for purchase from Amazon. Also called Genesis (and also available on Amazon) is a very different game, created by Reiner Knizia, which focuses on a different scenario:

The time is 250 million years ago, the place is the super-continent Pangaea. A devastated Earth has just undergone its greatest extinction and now Pangaea itself is splitting up. But this is not the end, it is a new beginning. As time passes the continents take shape. Forest, Savannah, mountains and wetlands appear. Animals evolve, and strong species compete for their territories. As life battles life, the question “Who will rule the earth?” remains unanswered. In Genesis you play the part of great reptiles, dangerous dinosaurs, powerful mammals or cunning man establishing yourself in the new ecosystems on the barren earth as you strive for world dominance.

There is also a game which is called Apocrypha, and apparently has card sets with the titles “The World,” “The Flesh,” and “The Devil,” and yet has nothing (as far as I can discern) to do with the Apocrypha.

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  • Jessica Harmon

    Not precisely Bible-based, but similar themes, I got the game “Biblios” for my birthday, and it is entertaining. You play as an abbot competing to make the best library. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34219/biblios

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’ve seen that and thought it looked interesting! Would you recommend it?

      • Jessica Harmon

        It’s not at all educational. But it is fun to play! Setup and gameplay were simple enough that we all understood what we were supposed to be doing with no trouble. The first time through, I had no idea of strategy, but even after that it was challenging because all of the players were trying different things, so you had to sort of play the room as well as the cards. I could see the game being an interesting conversation starter for medieval libraries/monasteries, but you don’t have to even really consider that when playing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I like games in which the learning is optional and/or can happen subtly and subconsciously. That’s what I tried to accomplish in Canon: The Card Game!

  • John MacDonald

    “By gathering the essence of creation – chaos, matter and life – and turning it into seas and mountains, birds and beasts, you hope to win Gods approval”

    Religion: It’s SYCOPHANT-ASTIC! lol

  • David Evans

    “The winner, God willing, is the player who makes the right choices…”
    You would not say “God willing” about a game of chess, where the outcome is completely determined by the players’ choices and the rules. Is the implication that God might tweak the rules of this game so as to reward someone who made the wrong choices, and would that be theologically sound?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Another great example of the kind of interesting question that a game like this could be useful in sparking! :-)