Ierusalem: Anno Domini is a game that wasn’t even on my radar this year. From first time designer Carmen García Jiménez and published by Devir Games, I was immediately intrigued by the theme set around the last supper found in the Gospels. The game has players managing a hand of cards, collecting sets of icons and ultimately earning points based on their seating at Passover dinner.
The setting of this game is the final Passover dinner where Jesus shares that his death is imminent. Players will get the chance to seat the 12 Apostles around the table by matching icons during their card play from round to round. Players begin each game of Ierusalem: Anno Domini with a deck of 10 basic cards.
The top of these cards tell you what location you have access to for collecting resources. Along the bottom of these cards, are icons that can be completed in the order they appear. These starting cards are very basic, giving players limited actions. Players can purchase Mahane cards or earn 33 A.D. cards during their turn. These are the cards that offer players more actions and perks while advancing the game. Once these cards are turned in to call an Apostle to the table, they are discarded back to their central deck.
Players want their followers (meeples) to be invited to the Passover dinner where Jesus is already seated. Players can have their followers “invited to the last supper” or “go to the last supper”. Being invited allows the player to seat one of their followers behind the seats at the table. Going to the last supper allows the player to pay resources to occupy a specific space at the dinner.
As you move your followers into different regions of the board, you’re clearing space on your player board for resources. This also opens space for point scoring opportunities as the game unfolds.
A Seat at the Table
Ierusalem: Anno Domini gives players a buffet of points depending on how they want to play the game. Players can “do a favor”, giving another player a perk and allowing you to earn points and better cards. Listening to Jesus’ parables gives players immediate points but allows the player to earn even more points at the end of the game depending on how many parables they hear.
Most of your end game points will come from the locations of your followers in relation to the Apostles at the table. There are 3 tiers of points for these Apostles and each give a specific action when you seat them. If an apostle is worth 6 points, followers seated behind him will gain 6 points for the first space and lose 1 point for every space between them and the Apostle.
Of the 12 Apostles, Judas gives negative points which means players will look for just the right time to bring him to the table.
This creates almost an area control mini game as players jockey for the perfect spots. The Apostles can never be moved once they are seated. However, a players followers can be moved through different effects throughout the game. This gets very competitive and cutthroat, pointing to the human nature of the people following Jesus.
The game comes to an end when all of one players followers are seated or when the Sanhedrin marker reaches to top of its track. This is a marker that moved each time the Sanhedrin symbol appears on a played card.
Ierusalem: Anno Domini has a lot of moving parts and I don’t feel like describing each of them is the best way to spend this review. Knowing this game had a Biblical theme made me excited and apprehensive. How did they handle the theme? Will the game actually be engaging for modern gamers? Does the game come off heavy handed or preachy?
The landscape of Biblically themed games is not very pretty. Most of the time, I end up settling with the opinion “It’s good for a game with a Biblical theme.” There are definitely exceptions and we’ve been very fortunate to have covered some solid games in past reviews. So where does Ierusalem: Anno Domini sit in this landscape?
Ierusalem: Anno Domini is a fantastic game from top to bottom. When talking about this game, I never have to preface that it’s good for a Biblically themed game. The artwork, gameplay, component quality and attention to detail took us by surprise. The narrative and Biblical references throughout the game are handled so well.
I recently read Carmen’s Designer Diary on Board Game Geek. It’s clear from her writing and the gameplay that Carmen is deeply invested in the theme and gameplay working hand in hand.
The artwork, gameplay, component quality and attention to detail took us by surprise. The narrative and Biblical references throughout the game are handled so well.
From a gameplay perspective, Ierusalem brings together simple set collecting, deck building and resource management into a cohesive package. Once you understand the layout of the central board, the iconography really comes together. Mechanics like the favor tokens connect well with the theme while presenting players with a tough choice, especially late in the game.
Our First Supper
Our first game of Ierusalem took a little time as we dug into the rulebook from time to time as we played. The rulebook seems to be laid out well for anyone looking for a specific topic or reference. However, it was a struggle to learn the game going through the rulebook cover-to-cover.
Sections often refer to another mechanic or topic that is covered 3 or 4 pages away. I felt like the only way to learn the game was to jump around the rulebook, hoping that the puzzle pieces clicked together in my head. This was really only a problem on our initial play. It’s worth pointing out since this could be an issue for players who already struggle with comprehension when trying to digest a rulebook.
As far as the components for this game, I’m impressed with the overall quality of everything in the box. Just a warning that all the stickered meeples and resources do come at a cost of about 3 hours of your time. Most of the stickers are optional but it’s definitely a visual upgrade when all the components are stickered.
Ierusalem: Anno Domini is a gem of a game. For the reader who says “the Biblical theme is off-putting to me”, I would challenge you to give this game a chance. The game handles a historical and faith topic with such care without every feeling like someone is feeding you a message.
As a follower of Jesus, this game deeply connects two things that I love. Ierusalem raises the bar for what we can expect when we look at games with a Biblical narrative. For the person looking for more, there are so many connections between the game mechanics and Jesus’ teachings.
It’s important to point out that this is a game. There are plenty of theological problems that crop up when you treat a board game as a tool for ministry. Surely, the game is not teaching people that they can earn favor with Jesus using rocks and bread. This is a game.
I hope that we’re at a turning point where we can expect more from games that have a Biblical or faith narrative. I’ve got to say that I’m impressed with some of the risks Devir Games has taken in some of their bigger releases in the past couple months. While the themes for Ierusalem and Lacrimosa seem very niche, it’s proof that people are craving untapped themes in our hobby.
Ierusalem: Anno Domini is now available at your local game store or through the Devir Games webstore.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Theme and narrative is are handled with such care
- Plenty of avenues to score points throughout the game
- Placement of followers gets competitive
- Mahane and 33 A.D. cards are powerful and temporary
- Initial read of the rulebook can be a struggle
- Dedicate a couple hours to adding stickers to components