When I was growing up, my family went to church on Sunday mornings and evenings, as well as Wednesday night. We were there all the time.
Now usually there would be somewhere for the kids to play, and often there were a few board games. You always had the standard fare of Uno or Monopoly, but there were always some Bible-themed games, too.
Usually, these games were terrible. They were mostly different trivia games disguised as not a trivia game. “Look! Candy Land but with Bible questions!” Others were twists on classics like Old Maid or BINGO. One was a “game” where there were multiple puzzles, and whoever put it together fastest wins!
Back then, I knew these games weren’t that well made, and over the years I assumed that Bible games just kinda… had to be bad? So I was intrigued when I first heard about Funhill Games and their line of products focused on creating Bible-themed games that are actually good.
King of the World
One of those titles is Kings of Israel, a cooperative game for 2-4 players that takes place during the reign of the Biblical Israeli kings – from Saul all the way down to Hoshea. The way the game works is…
Okay, let me just get right to it. This game is very Pandemic-y. It’s got cubes that represent “sin” that are placed at different locations. It’s got bad things that happen when you have too much sin in a place, and that can cause sin to spread to neighboring areas. Players are tasked with removing sin from the different locations. It’s got different abilities that players can use to help you complete the tasks. It’s got cards that you flip over that help you know where sin is spreading around the map. You’ve got to collect different items and put them together to accomplish part of your mission. And…. lots and lots more.
The game ends when players either win or lose. Winning occurs when players have built a specific number of altars in different cities on the map. Losing happens when you’ve run out of sin cubes or Baal statues, of if you reach the end of the timeline and Israel is destroyed.
Something Old, Something New
So yes, the game borrows heavily from Pandemic, but that’s not the only thing going on. A few factors help the game to stand apart. First, there are two different categories of cards that might be drawn at the beginning of each round: Blessing, and Sin & Punishment. The Blessing cards occur most frequently at the beginning of the timeline when the kings were more in line with God. These will give players one time actions that they can use to their benefit. Maybe they are able to take a bunch of sin off the board, or maybe they’re given different resources to go towards building altars.
The Sin & Punishment cards, on the other hand, make the game even harder. Sometimes they’ll just straight up destroy an altar that you’ve built. Others might prevent you from taking certain actions that round. A few of the more powerful cards work like premonitions – you put them back in the deck faceup, knowing that they’re coming soon, and then work together to try to minimize the impact of what might happen to you.
I’m also a really big fan of the guide that’s provided in the rulebook that navigates players through 7 different difficulties for the game. I appreciate the thought that went into this structure, as I believe it tremendously increases the replay value. It almost feels like a legacy game without really being a legacy game. I played only through the first level of difficulty, as it took me three tries to beat it.
There are a few things that popped up with the game where I felt it came a little short of Pandemic’s solid balance and smoothness. There are lots of ability cards, and these are assigned randomly at the beginning of the game. They work like the different jobs in a game of Pandemic, but some seem to be much more powerful than others.
One ability I got in two of our games allowed us to move the altars from one location to another, but we never saw a reason to use this skill. Another player, however, was able to use gold in the place of any other resource, and that was tremendously powerful. I think it would’ve been great to get some suggestions for balanced sets of abilities to go along with the difficulty recommendations.
My other issue was that some of the “bad” turns seemed to be really, really bad. In one game, we knew that we were about to win, as we had the resources to build the last altar. However, it was a turn where we had to draw two Sin & Punishment cards. The first forced us to destroy one altar, while the next one plus the drawn city and nation cards led us to place almost twice as many sin cubes as normal. We quickly lost. While I understand that big swings like this can happen in a cooperative game, the negative impacts seemed a little stronger and less predictable / strategically avoidable than in Pandemic.
Niche, but Still Good
Despite its shortcomings, I think that this is a game that I’ll keep in my collection because of what it is. I have several family and friends who aren’t as familiar with board games, but who might be more interested in something related to the Bible. This is something that I could break out at a Bible study to wrap up the evening. It honestly provides quite a bit of Biblical content, so anyone looking to learn a little bit about the Old Testament would do so while playing this game.
I know that some will immediately dismiss this game due to its theme. I also don’t know if all gamers will get anything out of this title that they would not get out of Pandemic or other cooperative games that they might already have. But I’m glad that a game like this exists, and I definitely think it has a place on many shelves out there. So if “It’s Pandemic, but in the Bible” sounds good to you, you should give this one a try.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- It’s like Pandemic, which means you probably already know how to play…
- … but there are a few cool adjustments that make this its own game
- The theme works pretty well, even if it’s clunky in places
- The game has some pretty big swings that can feel unfair and impossible to prepare for
- The artwork isn’t my favorite, but that might just be me