Publisher: Victory Point Games
Designer: Tom Decker
Playing Time: 45 Minutes
Retail Price: $18.95
Category: Solitaire Religious Game
- One full-color Rules booklet with examples of play
- One 8.5″ x 16.5″ game board
- 25 Event Deck cards
- 12 symbolically represented Apostle pieces
- 3 Leader markers (Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas and Caiaphas)
- 15 Miracle markers
- 1 Jesus marker
- 9 supporting pieces
From Victory Point Games
A.D. 30: Walk With Jesus to Jerusalem is a very reverent solitaire game that takes you, as the player, along the travels of Jesus, from His baptism in the River Jordan to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Along the way, you will make decisions which will affect the outcome of His journeys and teachings. Thirteen possible alternate outcomes are included not to imply that other outcomes were in fact possible, but to build a strategy game that includes challenges with possibility of success and failure as the player of the game. Achieving the Major Victory (the historical outcomes) will demonstrate the extraordinary set of circumstances that took place and were necessary to achieve the birth of Christianity.
The events that take place often cause the political and religious leaders of the area (represented by Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate in the game) to take notice and become increasingly concerned. In game terms, this is shown by moving those Leader markers along a track on the game board, advancing them from their start spaces one step at a time until they reach the final space on that track (“Arrest in Jerusalem”), at which point they attempt to arrest Jesus.
You get the chance to react to these movements with several choices each game turn. The goal is to assemble all twelve apostles, maintain a high level of piety, and enter into Jerusalem. Additionally, when trying to reconstruct the beginnings of Christianity historically, it is imperative that Judas betrays Jesus in Jerusalem. Events tend to push Jesus towards Jerusalem, but try to avoid entering too early before all the important pieces are in place!
A.D. 30 is a game about the travels of Jesus, leading up to his arrival in Jerusalem and subsequent arrest and crucifixion. But rather than being just another boring religious game that endeavors to toe the line and spout Christian rhetoric at you, A.D. 30 asks the question “What if the events depicted happened differently than what the Bible tells us?”
It’s like applying a wargame mentality to a religious subject. Most wargames are basically reenactments of historical events that allow you to apply different strategies along with a randomization factor to see if you can come up with a different outcome. What if Hitler hadn’t invaded Russia? What if Pickett hadn’t charged? What if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus? If you accept that the events in the New Testament occurred, then this game allows you to explore some “What if?” scenarios if things had happened differently.
I’m reviewing based upon the polybag edition of the game. The boxed edition comes with a mounted board, but I haven’t seen it. The components for the polybag edition are really quite nice. In fact, the tokens are probably the best I’ve seen in any board game. That’s no exaggeration, they are almost like tiles with no papery feel at all. The artwork for the game consists of high quality reproductions of masterful religious works from Pietro Perugino, Ivan Kramskoy, James Tissot, and Heinrich Hofmann.
There are 25 event cards in the game. These are full sized, full color cards, and each represents an event in the ministry of Jesus Christ. You must start the game with the Baptism card, and the last card must be the Arrival in Jerusalem card, but the rest of the events are shuffled and sandwiched between these two events. Actually, you have the option to play the events in the order they occurred as each card is numbered. That is one of the options mentioned in the back of the rule book.
The event cards list the name of the event with a relevant Bible verse at the bottom of the card. They also tell you how many actions Jesus can take that turn, whether or not Jesus must move at the end of the turn, and which of Jesus antagonists move closer to betraying and/or arresting him.
There are four tracks on the board representing the forces moving against Jesus. Herod, Caiaphas, and Pilate all start the game at the top of their tracks, and during play will move down toward the final box where Jesus is arrested in Jerusalem. If any of the three leaders is in Jerusalem at the end of a turn, it signals the end of the game.
The fourth track represents Judas. He will also move slowly across his track towards Jerusalem. Judas goes from adoration to arguing to despair and finally to betrayal of Jesus as he moves along his track. Unlike the leaders, the game does not necessarily end if Judas reaches his final box. If he arrives in Jerusalem, but there is no one there to listen to him, he eventually goes insane. He is removed from the board.
Jesus has six spaces on his track. The game begins with Jesus baptism at the River Jordan by John the Baptist, which is the first space on Jesus track. The sixth and final space is Jerusalem, and the game will end if Jesus ends his turn there. In between these are the Desert space, Galilee, Bethany, and Gethsemane. Jesus can perform different actions during his turn based upon which city or location he currently occupies.
The final track is the Temptation/Piety track. The marker starts at the fifth space of a possible six. Jesus will face temptation during some of the events in the game, which requires you to roll against the current value of the space on the temptation track. If you fail, the marker moves lower. If at any time the marker reaches zero, Jesus is tempted and the game is lost. Satan spreads darkness over the world. That is an actual quote from the rules, not my journalistic license. The odds against this happening are huge, if you can’t prevent this then you are doing something wrong.
Each turn you draw an event card and move the Leaders/Judas the required number of spaces. You then take the number of actions listed for Jesus on the card. Your options are:
Wander: Attempt to move Jesus back a space on the track.
Pray: Attempt to increase Jesus piety on the temptation/piety track.
Reduce Threat: Attempt to move one of the leaders or Judas back a space on their tracks.
Recruit: Recruit an Apostle to join Jesus.
Teach: Another way to recruit an Apostle to Jesus.
Perform Miracle: Attempt to soften the hearts of the leaders by performing miracles.
Send Apostle: Send one of your Apostles to a leader to slow down their movement along their track.
The game has the twelve Apostles and Judas as tokens. They are placed face down at the start of the game, and are flipped one by one as they join with Jesus. Judas does not move to his track until e is recruited in this manner. You’ll want to get as many of the Apostles to join as you can, as each will gain you a point of renown, some will even gain more than that. This bears a strong influence on the final outcome of the game.
Performing Miracles is the one mechanic I found a bit goofy. You have nine tokens face down on a section of the board. Each time you choose this action you flip two of them up, and they stay that way until you get a match. When you get a match, you use those tokens to flip the leader depicted to their more genial side. Each leader has a number on it, and you roll against this to try to move them backwards on their track. The lower the number, the easier it is to gt them to move back. So if you perform a miracle and flip them over, it will be easier to keep them out of Jerusalem. You might also gain the Barabbas token, that you can use in an emergency to stop the game from coming to an abrupt end. The leaders arrest Barabbas instead of Jesus.
Your ultimate goal is to have the same outcome as was depicted in the Bible. For the greatest victory you must have Jesus, Judas, and one of the leaders arrive in Jerusalem at the same time. Plus you need to have all twelve of the Apostles with Jesus when this happens. Jesus is arrested, crucified, and his message is spread throughout the world by his Apostles.
There are actually 14 different possible outcomes in the back of the rulebook ranging from a major defeat to a major victory. I don’t want to spoil them because they are really very interesting and will cause the most discussion among any group that tries this game out. I’ll tell you this though, during my first game by some miracle (Ha!) I recruited all of the Apostles and Judas was the last token that was unrevealed. I decided that I wouldn’t recruit him so that Jesus would never be betrayed. After Jesus entered Jerusalem and the game ended I checked the outcome in the back of the rulebook.
It turns out that since no one ever betrayed Jesus, his ministry continued. Christianity spreads, but adopts many of the customs and laws of the people in the area. It becomes a major world religion, but in some respects is very different that the Christianity we know today. I achieved a victory, but not a major victory.
A.D. 30 isn’t difficult by any means. The rules are fairly simple, it takes about two minutes to set up, and less than an hour to play. Gaining the historical outcome isn’t as difficult as you might assume, and I actually have not suffered a defeat yet.
I’ll admit, there were some rules that I’ll point out that I played wrong during my first few games that made it way too easy. They were unclear in the rule book, and only after playing did I realize that I was had to be playing it wrong because it was way too easy to win.
In the River Jordan you actually get to flip two Apostle tokens and select one to recruit. Initially, I would simply not pick Judas if I flipped him over, and it was easy to avoid him coming into the game early. I believe that if Judas is revealed he must be placed on his track, and you don’t get to pick the other token. There are a few follower tokens too, and if you select one of those they are removed from the game. I believe that if this happens you cannot pick the second token, your pick must be the followers and they are removed from the game. In this way it costs you an extra few actions to get the Apostles, and the game is a bit more challenging. The rules don’t spell this out, but I think that was the intent.
Also be careful when reducing threat. Jesus gets special modifiers when he fails at a task, so that it is easier the next time that he tries it. This does not occur when attempting to move the leaders back though. It is just as tough every time you try, and Jesus doesn’t get to use his modifier token. This is actually in the rules, but I didn’t spot it until my second game.
Even with my mistakes, the game isn’t very difficult if you play it right. The most difficult part is getting all of the Apostles in play before the end of the game. I found that by moving back to the River Jordan early (The only space that you can recruit from) made this much easier. In fact, there were times when I had no actions that I needed to do, I was just waiting for an event that would move Jesus forward into Jerusalem to end the game. So if you are looking for a States of Siege game with Jesus, than this isn’t it.
I did enjoy myself playing it though, and after a few games I can name most of the Apostles, and a lot of the major events in Jesus ministry. So is is an educational game too; if you are teaching about Christianity. The different possible outcomes really add to the discussion possibilities, and a source of outrage to those overly sensitive religious types. It is actually a game, compared to other religion based games I’ve seen which are primarily “roll and move and learn about God” type games. They are all boring, but this one isn’t. I could see this being played at a Sunday school class, and the kids would actually have a good time.
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