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Subject: Kings of Israel - who knew blasting sin could be so addictive? rss

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April W
United States
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Intro - I've had this game for about a year now and have logged many plays in that time. So after thoughtful consideration, here is my review for Kings of Israel.

A couple things to note:

- The majority if my plays (all but maybe 3) have been two player games, so this review is mostly from a two player perspective.
- I have played this game at varying difficulty levels.
- I have not played Pandemic (a game from which this one draws inspiration), so I will not be making comparisons between the two.

Now, onward...

This game is an example, for me, of something that gets better with time. It was part of my 2016 10x10 challenge, and this is probably the game I grew the least tired of (I actually didn't get tired of it at all). It has that comfortable broken in feel that the really good classics, the ones you know will always be a beloved part of your collection, have. Each game is a fresh challenge with the location of the sin cubes/idols different every time, and its randomly drawn player powers, resources, blessings and challenges.

So let's talk about its attributes.

Theme integration - I love how the theme fits with the mechanisms of this game, specifically the border nations influencing Israel. Biblically, Israel was strongly influenced by the sins of surrounding nations and adapted many of their ways, leading to their captivity. In the game you draw location cards at the start of a round then place sin cubes on the locations drawn- if a nation is drawn, then all adjacent locations in Israel get a sin cube. Likewise, when you preform a sacrifice in a location it removes all sin in that location as well as a single sin cube from bordering locations.

Variability - I talked a little about this above, but allow me to offer more detail. It is true that each game your goal is the same: work together to build seven (or eight or nine with more players) alters in Israel before they go into captivity. However, the exact approach you take to this does change as each player randomly draws a player power at the beginning of the game. We certainly have our favorite player powers, but have also learned how to best utilize the seemingly weaker powers to get the best results. At the beginning of a round you will either draw a Sin and Punishment card if the current king is evil, or a Blessing card if the current king is righteous. These are your event cards, and of course you never know which one you will get, so players need to adapt and use some quick tactics to best handle the situation.

Team work and Alpha gaming - One of my favorite things about this game is that you really do have to work together to succeed. We do a lot of talking and planning as we play, and while my husband can get a little alpha gamer-ish that hasn't been a major problem. Each player has a hand of resources which they keep secret from each other (except on easy mode), but some questions are allowed and you can adjust this allowance based on your preference.

Luck vs. Strategy - This game does have a "luck of the draw" element, but the whole game depends upon thoughtfully developing strategy and tactics to get you from round to round, so I would say there's a fairly even balance between luck and strategy. A big part of strategy, we have found, is using your blessings at the right time, this can give you a huge boost when you need it most.

Difficulty and Player Number - With two players this game can be really difficult at first, but the rule book offers some suggestions for difficulty levels. You can also download an official difficulty chart from funhill-games.com. For a long time we played at a middle level because it seemed to offer the right amount of challenge, but I wanted to try a difficult game before writing a review, so one night we broke out the false prophet pawn and prepared ourselves for a brutal onslaught of sin and punishment. To our surprise we won the game earlier than I think we have ever won before. I don't know if that was a fluke or because we were extra focused and prepared. Either way, it is not unbeatable at the hardest level- even with two! Speaking of two players, I thought I'd mention my brief experiences playing this with more players. My conclusion is that it is much easier with more payers, and for a challenge you probably do want to play at a harder level, though starting out easy for the first couple games is probably a good idea.

The pretty stuff - I love the artwork in this game! It has a comic book feel and is all tastefully done. I love how the prophets are portrayed as fierce and fit (probably an accurate portrayal). The box is great, nice and slim and has a smooth finish. Components are nice wooden pieces, cards are good quality.

Accessibility - This is a game anyone could play. It offers a nice challenge for seasoned players, but is also accessible to gateway gamers who are up for the task. Knowledge of scripture is not necessary as there are no trivia questions or the like (unless you want to do the bible study found on the website), but a knowledge of the period during which the game takes place, for me, enriches the experience.

Final thoughts - This is a fantastic game, not just because I am a Christian and appreciate the theme -and I really, really do love the theme- but because it's truly challenging and gets players working together. Every game is fresh! And there's nothing more satisfying than seeing all those nasty black cubes disappear when you make a sacrifice in a location riddled with sin! If only it were that easy in real life...

Thanks for checking out my review! I hope you found it helpful. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Happy preaching.

-Soleia, Pirate Queen and fierce crusher of idols
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James Patterson
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We really like this one too. In was actually the first game I backed on Kickstarter.

We actually always play with open hands, since that helps to coordinate things. I don't quite get why you would want to keep your resource cards secret, since you are all working together and it doesn't really matter who builds the altars.

By the way, if you want a real challenge, play the 5 player false prophet variant where the 5th player actively moves around and causes trouble, as well as hoards your resource cards. For us, the good guys have never won when playing that way.

Great review.
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Charles Bame
United States
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An excellent review! I haven't played the game for a while and you have inspired me to get it out and try a more difficult level.
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April W
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Pattersonclan wrote:
We really like this one too. In was actually the first game I backed on Kickstarter.

We actually always play with open hands, since that helps to coordinate things. I don't quite get why you would want to keep your resource cards secret, since you are all working together and it doesn't really matter who builds the altars.

By the way, if you want a real challenge, play the 5 player false prophet variant where the 5th player actively moves around and causes trouble, as well as hoards your resource cards. For us, the good guys have never won when playing that way.

Great review.

Thanks! I would like to try the 5 player variant one of these days when we have enough people to play with. Perhaps over the holidays while visiting with family.
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Nick Van Dam
United States
Appleton City
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Thanks for the review! I just got this game for my birthday and we've played a few games. The first couple were a bit slow and we lost, but recently won handily. I agree that with the variability provided by the ability deck, blessings, and sin and punishment cards, the game feels fresh and creates a different story each time.

I do think that once you get the hang of the resource cards the game can become easier. I was fortunate to get a kickstarter version, so I'm eager to try the false prophet and other additions to make it more challenging, but I think we need a few more games under our belts before that.

It was reviews like this that made me want the game so thanks!
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