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Introducing Kingdom of Solomon

Kingdom of Solomon is a fascinating worker placement game with a striking theme: the Biblical story of King Solomon and his kingdom. Unlike many tacky Christian games that use a narrative from the Bible as thinly disguised wall-paper attached to a mechanically inferior game, Kingdom of Solomon is a rare instance of a Biblically themed game that actually excels on the level of game-play. See my pictorial review for a complete overview of how this game successfully brings the excellence of Caylus-style worker placement to Bible times.

Suffice it to say that Kingdom of Solomon is good enough to stand on its own merits as a game, and worthy of exploration for gamers, even for those who don't personally embrace a Biblical world view. In this series of articles, I'd like to take a closer look at the Biblical history behind this game. Not only is it a solid game, but Kingdom of Solomon is at the same time very well grounded in what the Bible tells us about Solomon and his kingdom, and as such quite accurately depicts the Biblical record. Learning what the Biblical text tells us about this king and his kingdom will help increase one's appreciation for the game, and will assist in painting the backdrop against which the game-play happens.



Solomon's Kingdom

King Solomon was undoubtedly one of the most wealthy and powerful monarchs of the ancient world. As king of ancient Israel, he amassed a vast amount of possessions. Solomon was wealthy beyond imagination, and his political power and influence spread throughout the ancient world. His fame was not limited to what could be measured in a material sense, because he was also renowned for his great wisdom.

The reign of King Solomon is described in 1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chronicles 1-9. He was the successor of King David, and after an unsuccessful attempt from his brother Adonijah to be coronated, consolidated his kingship. "So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established." (1 Kings 2:1) Altogether he reigned for 40 years (1 Chronicles 29:27).

Solomon's rule was lengthy, and was characterized by much spiritual faithfulness, significant wealth, economic security, and political peace. For the people under his rule it was a time of much prosperity and blessing: "The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. ... During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree." (1 Kings 4:20,25)

He also engaged in numerous building projects, the highlight being the construction of the temple, which took 7 years to build (1 Kings 6:37-38).

Solomon also built a magnificent palace. The throne and lions pictured on the box cover of the game reflect the Biblical record: "Then the king made a great throne inlaid with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom." (1 Kings 10:18-20)



Solomon's kingship had a theocratic character, which means that as king he represented the sovereignty and rule of the LORD over His people. Solomon's throne was God's throne, and Solomon's kingdom was ultimately God's kingdom, as David said: God "has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel." (1 Chronicles 28:5) This is reaffirmed when Solomon assumes the kingship: "So Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king in place of his father David." (1 Chronicles 29:23)

Solomon was chosen by God for this special role in the history of Israel, and blessed by God to carry it out. The Biblical record clearly ascribes the remarkable majesty accompanying his rule as a gift given to him by God: "The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him royal splendor such as no king over Israel ever had before." (1 Chronicles 29:25) This is repeated numerous times: "Solomon son of David established himself firmly over his kingdom, for the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great." (2 Chronicles 1:1)

Ultimately, Solomon's reign of peace and prosperity foreshadowed the rule of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. When Jesus was born in the line of Solomon, the angels sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)

Solomon's Temple

Preparations for the building of the temple began already in the days of King David. After the LORD gave David rest from his enemies (2 Samuel 7:1-3), David assembled the officials of Israel, and explained that although he desired to build a house for the LORD, because he was a warrior and had shed blood, God had chosen his son Solomon to be his successor and to build the temple. 1 Chronicles 28 describes this assembly and David's commission: "Of all my sons— and the LORD has given me many— he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father." (v5-6)

"Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work. Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things. He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the LORD, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service." (v10-13)

The temple took seven years to build (1 Kings 6:38), and was a massive project that involved significant amounts of stone and wood, precious metals, ornate carvings, and thousands of workers. The plan was given by the Holy Spirit to Solomon's father David, who passed on these instructions to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:11-12,19). You'll find an overview describing the temple in 2 Chronicles 3, and a more extensive description in 1 Kings 6 onwards. Cedar was sourced from Hiram king of Tyre, and large stones were obtained from quarries. Special provisions were made about the use of tools: "In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built." (1 Kings 6:7) Many of the resources needed for the building projected were donated in the time of David, who describes his own gift as follows: "gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble— all of these in large quantities." (1 Chronicles 29:2)



The Bible gives special attention to foundation, structure, and columns, which are also part of the game.

Foundation: The foundation of the temple consisted of stone: "Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workmen. At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple." (1 Kings 5:15-17)

Structure: The temple included a portico, a main hall, an inner sanctuary, upper and inner rooms, and various adjoining rooms and storerooms (1 Chronicles 28:11-12), all of which featured extensive use of gold: "Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. So he overlaid the whole interior with gold." (1 Kings 6:21-22) The most important part of the building was the Most Holy Place, also spoken of as "the place of atonement" (1 Chronicles 28:11), which is where the priest entered on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), sprinkling blood and foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in atoning sin.

Columns: Two bronze columns or pillars were constructed by the craftsman Hiram. "He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around, by line ... He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz." (1 Kings 7:15-22). These columns were topped by lily-shaped capitals decorated with pomegranates and interwoven chains. One column was named Jakin, and the other was named Boaz.

The entire project took seven years: "The foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it." (1 Kings 6:37-38).

The completion of the temple was celebrated with an extensive dedication ceremony. This celebration included a prayer of dedication from Solomon (1 Kings 8:12-53; 2 Chronicles 6), enormous numbers of sacrifices (1 Kings 8:63), and great feasting. In connection with this the ark was also brought to the temple (1 Kings 8:1).

High Priest

Zadok son of Ahitub (1 Chronicles 6:8) would have been the High Priest who served during Solomon's reign and the construction of the temple. 1 Kings 4:4 mentions Abiathar serving as priest together with Zadok (cf 2 Samuel 8:17), but Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood and exiled him to Anathoth (1 Kings 2:26-27) after he took part in Adonijah's attempt to seize the throne, and replaced him with Zadok: "The king ... replaced Abiathar with Zadok the priest." (1 Kings 2:35; cf 1 Chronicles 29:22). Zadok was the high priest who anointed King Solomon at his coronation, as instructed by David:

"King David said, "Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada." When they came before the king, he said to them: "Take your lord’s servants with you and set Solomon my son on my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ ... So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and put Solomon on King David’s mule and escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, "Long live King Solomon!"" (1 Kings 1:32-34,38-39)



The role of the High Priest was linked to the service in the temple, especially in connection with events of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). He administered and directed the sacrificial system, and was the only one permitted to enter into the Most Holy Place, once per year, where he sprinkled blood on the ark of the covenant, foreshadowing the high priestly sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ for the atonement of sin (Hebrews 8-10). The High Priest also played a role in certain instances of judgment and leadership (e.g. Numbers 26:1; 31:21,26,29). His personal holiness was highly regulated and included strict stipulations that were even more pronounced than those for regular priests.

The clothing worn by the High Priest was prescribed by the Mosaic law, and is described in Exodus 28 and 39. It included several garments as follows: "These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen." (Exodus 28:4-5). The breastplate included rows of precious stones and contained the Urim and Thummim (28:15-30). As depicted in the game, blue was one of the chief colours of the high priestly garments.

Bonus Space: Ark



The Ark bonus space represents the ark of the covenant, which was a sacred object pointing to the presence of the LORD, and was housed in the Most Holy Place in the temple. A careful description of it is recorded in Exodus 25:10-22 in connection with the construction of the tabernacle during the wilderness wanderings. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. On top of the ark was the mercy seat or atonement cover, with two golden cherubim at either end, stretching out their wings above it. This is reflected in the artwork depicted on the game board. All that was in the ark at this particular time were the two stone tablets of the law (1 Kings 8:9,21). As mentioned already, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place once per year on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle blood on the atonement cover of the ark.

The bringing up of the ark was one of the highlights of the formal opening of the temple, because it indicated the presence of the LORD among His people. The Biblical record includes the following description: "Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Zion, the City of David ... The priests then brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles." (1 Kings 8:1-12)

Bonus Space: Altar



The bronze altar was used for making sacrifices. "He made a bronze altar twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and ten cubits high." (2 Chronicles 4:1) This altar was central to the mediatorial work carried out at the temple by the priests, with the offerings pointing to the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It got a significant work-out when the temple was dedicated, with thousands of sacrifices being made, reflecting the people's immense gratitude to God for His blessings. The amount of sacrifices was incredible: "King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted." (2 Chronicles 5:6)

After the dedication of the temple, further mention is made of sacrifices: "Then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices before the LORD. Solomon offered a sacrifice of fellowship offerings to the LORD: twenty-two thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the Israelites dedicated the temple of the LORD. On that same day the king consecrated the middle part of the courtyard in front of the temple of the LORD, and there he offered burnt offerings, grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings, because the bronze altar before the LORD was too small to hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings." (1 Kings 8:62-64; cf 2 Chronicles 7:4-5)

Solomon himself made use of the altar three times a year: "Three times a year Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar he had built for the LORD, burning incense before the LORD along with them, and so fulfilled the temple obligations." (1 Kings 9:25)

Bonus Space: Tribute



The Tribute bonus space reflects the impressive dominance that Solomon enjoyed over many of his neighbours: "And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life." (1 Kings 4:21)

Conclusion

Many aspects of Kingdom of Solomon beautifully reflect something of the unique aspects relating to Solomon’s reign, particularly those relating to the building and functioning of the Temple. It's refreshing to discover a Biblically themed game that is a satisfying, medium weight Euro on the level of game-play, and at the same time is well-grounded with a solid, novel, and Biblical theme that is tastefully done, respectful and accurate. In future articles, I'll be taking a look at some other elements of the game (e.g. buildings, Fortune cards, and expansion Event cards), and examining the Biblical data that they reflect. Kudos to designer Philip du Barry in particular, and also publisher Minion Games for doing an excellent job by bringing us Kingdom of Solomon.
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Eric Jome
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
EndersGame wrote:
… even for those who don't personally embrace a Biblical world view...


As someone who helped play test and develop this game, I find the most tragic aspect of it is that it seems doomed to obscurity because of this association.

It is ironic, then, to see a series devoted to exploring this, the main thing that the game embodies so well and simultaneously holds it back. There is a devoted following for Biblical themes, but it seems to me the average gamer is instantly turned off by this.

I can assure you, reading this now, that there is nothing theological, preachy, or religious in the game. It is a solid game. Just as many euros embody an element of European history, building castles or working through a historical period, this game too embraces the same solid mechanics, same great game play. It just chooses a different thematic setting. One which, frankly, does not intrude on the game play in an unappealing way.

I strongly recommend that, if you like things like Caylus, The Pillars of the Earth, or Thurn and Taxis, then you'll find plenty to love in this thoroughly underrated, under discovered gem.
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
cosine wrote:
I can assure you, reading this now, that there is nothing theological, preachy, or religious in the game. It is a solid game. Just as many euros embody an element of European history, building castles or working through a historical period, this game too embraces the same solid mechanics, same great game play. It just chooses a different thematic setting. One which, frankly, does not intrude on the game play in an unappealing way.

I strongly recommend that, if you like things like Caylus, The Pillars of the Earth, or Thurn and Taxis, then you'll find plenty to love in this thoroughly underrated, under discovered gem.

Thanks for your post Eric. I've previously written an article that explores this very issue, which may be of interest to you and others:

Tacky Christian Games: Where the theme gets in the way of the game

Kingdom of Solomon is a refreshing counter-example to many inferior games with a token Biblical or Christian theme. While its theme is solidly rooted in Biblical history, the game doesn’t make the mistake of becoming preachy or tacky; it's tastefully done, and should be no reason for anyone to avoid the game. Perhaps more importantly, Kingdom of Solomon is first of all a genuinely good game, that's strong enough to stand on its own merits by virtue of solid game-play. The fact that it has a credible background story that's faithful to the Biblical narrative only strengthens the appeal it has as a game independent of its theme.

Here's what I had to say about this in my blog post:
Quote:
But while the theme is one solidly rooted in Biblical history, and skillfully woven into the game-play, the game doesn’t make the mistake of becoming tacky, preachy or trying to convey a religious message by means of cheesy mechanics, or at the cost of excellence in the game design. For me personally, my Christian convictions will naturally enhance my appreciation for this particular theme and this particular game, but it needs to be recognized that Kingdom of Solomon is first and foremost a good game, strong enough to stand on its own merits and compete with the rest as a game. Let's face it, being a Christian doesn't mean I'm going to like other hobbies just because you give them a Christian coat of paint. Similarly, I like the gaming hobby because I like games, so if you expect me to enjoy a Christian themed game, it needs to be a good game first of all. Fortunately, Kingdom of Solomon really is, in view of the particularly interesting ways it works with the worker placement mechanic. The good news is that while the theme does bring aspects of the Biblical narrative to life in a respectful way, it doesn't at all compromise quality of game-play.

All this means that Kingdom of Solomon is a fully independent and well designed worker placement game that has the maturity and quality to stand on its own two legs, without needing to rely on the theme as a supporting crutch. Granted, it just happens to have a solid Biblical theme, although it's not one that is so over the top that it will send those who are unfamiliar with the Bible running and screaming. But it sure is refreshing to discover a Biblically themed game that is a satisfying, medium weight euro, and that can go the distance on its merits as a game. A game of this sort has real potential to get some mileage in the Christian market, and in my opinion deserves to make its mark there, but the good news is that its appeal should stretch well beyond that. For this accomplishment the efforts of designer Philip duBarry are ones that Christian gamers like myself should applaud, support and encourage.
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
looks and sounds like a decent game

but there are plenty of these worker placement games too choose from that don't have a 'biblical theme'

and calling this 'biblical history' is funny as well, and a big turn off for an atheist like myself

best of luck
 
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
Speaking as another of the godless heathen, it's not a matter of how biblical the game is, or even if it's a good or bad game, the thing that puts me off is the wall of True believers telling everyone how the game will make you a Better Christian*, and how well it reflects the One True Word.

OK, admittedly, no-one says exactly that, but there's just so much of it - this thread included - that says to me "This is not your game. You are a Stranger in a Strange Land. Get out while you can." It doesn't have to be preachy (this thread isn't), it can be entirely factual (this thread seems to be accurate at least to it's entirely biased reference work), but it still makes me uncomfortable. I am still considering buying it, but, unusually, I'm going to have to stop reading rave reviews to stay happy with it...

*Well, Jewish really, as Solomon was BC...
 
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
I don't suppose you can cite any non-Biblical sources for this alleged "history", can you?

 
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
Racism used to keep people of different skin colors from enjoying amazing relationships with each other.
Now we know how foolish that was.

It seems odd that gamers would repeat that same mechanical error, allowing a dislike for Christianity to keep them from enjoying a great game (where quite frankly there's no Jesus in sight.)

At the very least, you can't look down on a Christian (for whom there may be a deeper level of satisfaction inherent in the game's theme) for being excited about a great boardgame. After all, that's what this site is all about: people who love games getting to gush and interact about games.

People with a background in D&D probably get more satisfaction out of Lords of Waterdeep than I do. My friend from the Netherlands loves playing on the new map for Ticket to Ride. It's not any different or a strange thing that a "wall of Christians" likes this game. And you can too. Why cut yourself off from a good time because of your bias or preferences? Sure there's lots of other games...there always will be, but personally, I'm hoping to explore all of the great ones that I can (and I'm telling you this is great).

Either way, the purpose of this article is not to debate the game's worthiness nor is it to preach at anyone, rather it is an exploration of how the uncommon theme has its roots in what we call the Old Testament or Scripture, and how a "Cliff's Notes" look at that text will enrich a player's understanding of the theme. (Just like a D&D digest might open up some of the interrelated parts of Lords of Waterdeep for somebody like me.)
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
There's a big difference between D&D and the bible though. There are people - real, otherwise intelligent people fully functional in society - who believe the bible is true. People who believe that about Waterdeep tend to get looked at funny, at the very least.

To me and many others, they're both equally fantasy, it's just a matter of source material. There may be true historical fact somewhere buried in the stories of the Temple of Solomon, but if there is, it's well buried, and evident from no other sources.

I love a good fantasy, but when people act like it's real, I tend to move away from them...
 
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
If the Bible is a fantasy, IMO it's a lousy, slow-moving one. I'd rather read Tolkien, LOL.
I wish you a great New Year. I have nothing to say in response to your beliefs, except that it's nice to be considered "otherwise intelligent" for a change! LOL
I hope you enjoy the game, and don't worry--there's no way it will make anyone a "better Christian"...unless it makes Christians actually open up their Bibles and interest them in reading about the timeframe the game is coming from.
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Re: The Biblical history behind Kingdom of Solomon - Part 1: The Temple
bandit_boy7 wrote:
If the Bible is a fantasy, IMO it's a lousy, slow-moving one. I'd rather read Tolkien, LOL.
I prefer the bible to Tolkein - lots more smiting & begetting.
Quote:
I wish you a great New Year. I have nothing to say in response to your beliefs, except that it's nice to be considered "otherwise intelligent" for a change! LOL
That was a comparison to any theoretical individuals who may believe in the truth of Waterdeep. I think we would agree they'd be a bit suspect...
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DrWhoWho wrote:
and calling this 'biblical history' is funny as well, and a big turn off for an atheist like myself

Let's head off this line of discussion before the thread derails and gets locked.

(Disclaimer: I'm personally convinced of the historicity of the Bible, and realize that my original post will primarily be of interest to those who share my viewpoint.)

It was not my intention with this article to discuss whether the Bible is history, but rather to explore aspects of the Biblical text that are reflected in this game. Consider my original post an exploration of the theme and a study of its faithfulness to its source material. Please limit this thread to discussion about that, and reserve any debate about the historicity of the Bible for the RSP forum.

My original choice of wording for the subject line was not the best, so I've edited the subject line accordingly.
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I am more interested in a good game that the accuracy of its theme. Kingdom of Solomon is a great game, so is Luna, another game that tends to be ignored due to peoples predudices.
Bring on the great Spagetti Monster Game. If it is a good game I'll happily play it.

P.s. Having read the bible and Lord of the Rings, given the choice I'd read something else!
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Zark wrote:
If it is a good game I'll happily play it.

This. This. This.
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I did a review of Kingdom of Solomon over at Gaming Trend:
http://gamingtrend.com/other_reviews/700-wives-300-concubine...

It's a solid worker placement game with some interesting ideas in the play, but it had the terrible misfortune of coming out a couple months after Lords of Waterdeep. If LoW had come out in 2013 instead, I think Kingdom of Solomon might have garnered a bit more attention back in summer 2012, even with the biblical theme. Add in that The Manhattan Project also came out at about that same time, and suddenly there were three good worker placement games on the market at the same time. That MP and LoW had a slightly better look and components made it all that much harder for KoS.

I think KoS might have been on a lot more Best of 2012 lists if not for the flashier, better marketed WP competition.
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This was very well done, Ender! Thank you for taking the time to put this together! I took note of this game when it first came out, but it fell off my radar since then. However, I've been craving games with great theme, and this seems to have it along with the added bonus of a very accurate portrayal of biblical history. I really want to support that! Thanks, again!

Dave
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Ender,
Thank you for your excellent review and for this series considering the historical background. I noticed that in all the biblical quotes, Lord is always rendered in all capitals, "LORD." Why is that?
 
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kdean1 wrote:
Ender,
Thank you for your excellent review and for this series considering the historical background. I noticed that in all the biblical quotes, Lord is always rendered in all capitals, "LORD." Why is that?

That usually implies that the original word is the Hebrew YHWH, the special name of God revealed to the Israelites, if I recall correctly. That is typically translated into English as LORD (or sometimes all caps, but small caps for a portion) to indicate that this is the name of God given, not using some other word that could be translated as "lord". English is a bit non-exact when it comes to translations so the meaning is sometimes lost a bit. :-/
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