The first paper I went to hear at SBL this year was Chris Heard’s survey and analysis of board games related to the Bible.
His examination of the biblical exegesis in the games was fascinating. The game Kingdom of Solomon, for instance, requires players to pursue precisely those aims and activities that the Deuteronomistic History condemns. Kings of Israel has similar aspects, having players be rewarded when they build altars throughout the land even after the Temple in Jerusalem is constructed. Heard thinks these make the games useful to introduce students to non-Deuteronomistic perspectives on the history behind the Bible.
Heard also looked at the theology of the games, as divine action is an element that is mechanical in one, and uncommon in others. And in terms of the ethics of the games, he noted how Kingdom of Solomon treats women as commodities, and Kings of Israel depicts all the prophets as male. Commissioned, a New Testament game, depicts no women in its artwork.
Heard then shared how he tried to address these issues in creating his own game, Crossroads. For instance, divine action is both random and mechanical (interestingly, God never fails to respond to prayer cards).