A couple months ago I saw a member of a Facebook board game group share about this game The Acts that had just fulfilled from Kickstarter. Published by Cobblestone Games earlier this year, The Acts puts players in the role of the early church sharing the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. With a mix of worker placement and resource management, The Acts is a solid game that really connected with us.
The Acts begins with 12 disciple meeples starting in Judea at the bottom right side of the map. The game board is a map of the region with paths to travel and actions that can be taken in each nation. The 12 disciples that start in Judea are divided up by player count from 2 to 4 players.
The goal of the game is to be the first player to reach a specified number of believers that is represented by a score track around the outside of the map. On a players turn, they can place their colored disciples on different action spaces. Players can preach, plant churches, perform miracles, make disciples, write letters to their churches, travel to another nation or pray. Prayer (represented by purple gems) is going to be vital to having the resources you need. It’s also the only location that allows for multiple players to take an action.
…To the Ends of the Earth
The first turn of The Acts is going to feel limited and almost a little claustrophobic. Once someone takes an action spot, other players are locked out of that action for the remainder of the turn. The 3rd and 4th players start the game with more prayer tokens which mean they are the only players that have enough resources to plant a church in Judea. We found out quickly that if you want to succeed, you’ll hit the road and travel.
Once everyone has taken their turn, the meeples are places in central location of that nation. The player who is in last place will get to start the new round.
As players travel around the map in the early game, preaching is very advantageous. Preaching gives you a number of believers based on the number of discs that are left on the preaching action in that nation. As players choose the preach in a nation, the value of prayer in that nation goes up. This system works incredibly well and will leave players looking for untapped resources around the map.
Prayer is the action you will continue returning to throughout the game. The prayer tokens you receive here allow you to afford to plant churches, make disciples, get spiritual gift cards and miracle cards from your hand. These two types of cards are very different but so important to fleshing out your strategy.
Every player will get a hand of 6 miracle cards that are identical to everyone else at the table. Each one costs a number of prayer tokens and can be very valuable when played at the right time. These are one time use cards that get discarded when played.
Spiritual gift cards are ongoing effects that can be taken by players at a cost of 2 prayer tokens. Don’t discount how powerful these cards can be. When we started to dig into this deck, we saw how this deck can change the course of a game. Players can have 2 of these cards during the game. Since some of these cards take effect each turn, you may want to grab one of these early on.
Depth for All Players
When we finished playing our first game of The Acts, I remember thinking “Wow, that felt really good”. There was a depth of gameplay that is appealing for new gamers and seasoned board game vets. Not only that, but for the player who has read the Biblical text, there’s a layer of symbolism that’s presented in the game.
The Acts is not a worker placement game that someone slapped a faith-based theme on. That can’t be said about the game Biblopoly, a game I received one Christmas as a teenager.
You can tell that Peter Shultz took time to develop something that any gamer can be proud to bring to the table. I love that our hobby can be large enough that a game like The Acts can be published. If you are a Christian, this game is a fantastic example of how a faith-based game can be executed well. If you’re not a Christian, please don’t pass over this game because of the theme. There are some great mechanics that surprised me as we played.
While The Acts was really impressive, it’s worth mentioning that there are some issues that we saw in our time with the game. Some of the spiritual gift cards are really powerful. As we play the game more, I’m interested in seeing if the same cards wind up in control of the winning player. [Editors note: Peter Shultz mentioned that extensive play testing went into balancing these cards.]
The 4 player colors match the theme and style of the game with muted colors that feel appropriate for the setting. Unfortunately, this is a huge issue for people struggling with color blindness. It left my father-in-law in a the position of having to ask every turn which disciple meeples where his.
I’m really impressed with The Acts from Cobblestone Games. It’s an example of caring about the gameplay and source material enough to develop a game that you want to play. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of The Acts which is now available.
Cobblestone Games provided us with a retail copy of The Acts. This in no way influenced our opinion on this game.
- Excellent gameplay for new and veteran gamers
- Multiple ways to achieve the win condition
- Theme and gameplay work together to create a great game
- Gameplay strategies change as the game goes on
- Color blind players may struggle with the color choices
- Some spiritual gift cards feel slightly overpowered