There aren’t very many good games with religious themes. Ark of the Covenant is a religious variant of Carcassonne, while The Settlers of Canaan is the retheme of Catan. Other religious themes out there include Here I Stand (about the Reformation), Mystery of the Abbey (monks and murder), Nuns on the Run (nuns being naughty), David and Goliath (based on the Bible story), and Jericho (based on the story of Joshua). However, most religious themed games seem to be Bible trivia, Bible themed Monopoly variants, or some other dull mechanism. Being a Christian, I was intrigued when I first heard about Genesis, and even more intrigued when I found out how high on the Geek Buzz it was during Spiel (it ended at #5, right behind 7 Wonders). So, that’s what I’m looking at this time.
Genesis comes from Swedish designer Peter Hansson and is being published by Gigantoskop. Art is by Erik Lunström. The game is for 2-6 players, takes about an hour to play, and is for ages 10 and up. The premise is that you’re an angel of God during the creation, and it’s your task to gather the essences of chaos, matter, and life in order to turn it into the earth. That in itself sounds pretty interesting to me. It doesn’t seem like this game is trying to take on the whole creationism/evolution debate, just trying to base a system thematically on a well-known story.
The game comes with a lot of unique components. There’s a long game board that shows the seven days of creation. There are seven angel meeples in colors that don’t often get used in games – pink, gray, purple, yellow, orange, brown, and black. The black angel is the dark angel who is going to be trying to mess you up. In addition to these, there are six discs for each colored angel (a total of 42). The start player marker is a flat white disc. There are 72 essence cubes, 24 in each of three standard colors (red for chaos, blue for matter, and green for life). And there is one God marker, a big white pawn that kind of looks like a bullet.
Each player will take a colored angel and the corresponding discs. 12 essence cubes per player (4 of each color) get placed in a stock next to the board. The God marker goes in the first space of the top track (far left). The angels are placed on the angel track at the bottom of the board, with the oldest player’s angel in the first space and the others in descending age order. The dark angel goes immediately to the right of the youngest player’s angel. Each player then gets to take one essence cube of any color.
There are 21 rounds in the game – morning, midday, and evening of the seven days. In each round, there are four phases: determine the starting player, player turns, dark angel turn, and God moves.
The player that is the furthest left on the essence track goes first (so, the oldest player in the first round). Play proceeds clockwise. On your turn, you collect a day’s work bonus and and take an action. If you’re standing on a day where you’ve already done a day’s work, you’ll collect the indicated bonus in cubes. Actions that are possible are gathering essence, moving, and doing a day’s work (or passing).
Gathering essence – The first thing you can do with this action is spend cubes to switch places with the angel immediately to your right or left (you can’t do this on the seventh day). To actually gather the essence, you take the cubes indicated on the board. Sometimes there’s a choice. If there aren’t enough, you’re out of luck.
Move – You can move your angel to any day that has been activated by God. So, if God is on Day 4, you can move anywhere from Day 0 (the Void) to Day 4. You can only move to the first available space in one of these days. If you leave a gap, you’ll need to move angels to fill the gap. So, push any angels to the right of the gap one space to the left. This part seems a little confusing to me, but I think that you’re not filling in a gap you leave when you move a long way, you’re just closing in holes in the line of angels you just left.
Do a day’s work – Here, you trade in the essence cubes indicated at the top of the board and place one of your discs on the point track. The people who get done with a day’s work quickest will get more points. You are allowed to trade three of one type of essence for one of another.
After all players have taken their action, the dark angel takes a turn. The starting player will make sure this move is done. The dark angel takes one action. If it isn’t on the same day as God, it moves to the first empty space of that day. If it is on the same day as God, it switches places with the angel on its left. If there are no angels on its left, it automatically does a day’s work, placing one disc on the first empty space of that day’s work track. If the dark angel has already done a day’s work for that day, it does nothing. The dark angel does not gather essence, and it does nothing on Day Seven.
Finally, God moves one step to the right. If He enters a new day, that day is now activated.
The game ends after evening on the seventh day (obviously). Add up points to find the winner. If there’s a tie, the player furthest to the left on Day Seven wins. If the dark angel has the most points, all players lose.
This game seems really interesting to me. The mechanisms are pretty unique (at least to my own limited experience). The theme of angels competing with each other to be the best at creating the universe is for some reason quite amusing. Also, the addition of the dark angel means that there’s an AI in the game that could potentially cause everyone to fail, and at the very least should force people to do things they might not do otherwise.
I will say that I’m not a huge fan of the art. It really has a stained glass type of thing going, so if that’s your thing, you’ll love it. It’s definitely eye-catching. In fact, most of the bits have a really unique feel to them. The board is definitely not your standard shape; the angel meeples look pretty cool; the cubes are staggeringly original (/sarcasm); and how wonderful is it to have a God token in the game? I was watching the demo from Essen on BGG, and the guy explained that it was the least offensive thing they could do, though you were free to draw eyes and a beard on it. I keep checking BGG, because I just KNOW someone will be posting a picture soon.
The mechanics seem fairly abstract, and that’s in line with what I’ve been reading about the game. However, I think the theme is very well integrated into what you’re doing. Though no angels (dark or otherwise) are mentioned in that first chapter of Genesis, it’s easy to see that God might have appreciated the help. Overall, it’s not really supposed to be a Bible lesson, but I think it will be possible to get some good spiritual value out of the game.
So add this one to my ever growing list of games to try out. Take a look at BGG to see what people are saying. There’s only one review so far, but that will change as time goes on. Funagain is taking preorders for the game at $48.99, so that’s probably what you can expect to pay when the game starts shipping. The game comes with English rules, but I’m hoping that some domestic publisher picks it up for a wider Stateside release someday. Until then, thanks for reading. Insert clever tagline here.