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Playing God pt. 1 - Creating Life

Drew Davidson
United States
Bennington
Vermont
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One of the biggest thrills you can get from a tabletop game is Playing God...looking out over the 'world' - all knowing, all seeing - and taking actions that will irreparably change the course of events.

It's cool playing God. You don't even have to believe in a god to play one. In fact, gamers come from a wide variety of belief systems. They're just as likely to groove on pantheons of minor deities, as they are a single, omnipotent being.

But face it, themes that parallel the Bible come up again and again in tabletop games. That’s no surprise since the vast majority of board games are produced in Western Civ, where Bible Stories are etched into our popular culture. (Filmmakers spent over a hundred million to make Noah. ... Okay, it sucked ... but still ...)

I thought I'd start a series using the Bible as source material, and going through a few stories to see what tabletop games fit into the themes that crop up.

For example, the four games listed here take you back to the beginning of life, letting you 'Play God' by introducing new creatures to the earth, and nurturing their development.

So, these games are really about intelligent beings (we, the players) guiding the development of life. Can't get more godly than that!

In Chronological order, these are our Fab Four...


1,000,000,000 B.C.


Primordial Soup (1997), by Z-Man Games. Designed by Doris
Matthäus & Frank Nestel [90 min, 3-4 players]


Amoeba struggle to survive, achieving genetic mutations. Each player runs a Tribe and acquires material from among 20 different genes. Doris & Frank have their own game publishing company (see the next selection), but they were fortunate enough to hook up with Z-Man to distribute this, the most primeval of our Fab Four.

300,000,000 B.C.

Urland (2001), by Doris & Frank. Designed by Doris Matthäus
& Frank Nestel (90 min, 3-5 players)


Doris and Frank have this theme down pat. Move your amphibians to land. At the same time, you need to add to your species’ genes, through an auction, where you bid with the dead lizards you have. (Talk about a unique mechanic...) There are constant fights between species for the precious few land areas.

200,000,000 B.C.

Evolution (Autumn 2014), by North Star Games.
Designed by Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre, Sergey Machin
[60 min, 3-5 players]


Create species and equip them with offensive, defensive or food gathering traits. Keep eating to avoid starvation, and avoid being eaten. This is the direct descendant of Quirks; game play is better, though Quirks is cuter.
[NOTE: Game not yet released; I played a prototype.]

90,000 B.C.
Dominant Species (2010, 3rd ed.), by GMT Games.
Designed by Chad Jensen [2-4 hours, 2-6 players]


Not so much as a creation game as a shepherding game, trying to nurture your animal class through the approaching Ice Age. Top-notch worker placement game, with many options for actions. It's a heavy game... if you have godlike powers of divination, you should do well in this game.

Do you enjoy Playing God at the game table? What games would you recommend to flex your creative muscles? Let us know in the Comments section!
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Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:19 pm
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