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Ierusalem: Anno Domini Board Game Review


WBG Score: 9

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Dune Imperium, Orleans, Tiletum

Published by: Devir

Designed by: Carmen García Jiménez

This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.

This is a game about trying to get a good seat for supper. And not just any old supper. The Last Supper. You know? The one where Jesus broke bread with his disciples. And, so it turns out, a load of others too, just before he was crucified. Not via cruel social media posts for his stale bread and smelly fish, but literally. Irrespective of your own faith, this is an intriguing theme for a game. And I was instantly fascinated by this. But does this game live up to the billing of being based on one of the most sort after dinner invitations of the last 2000 years? Let's get it to the table and find out.

Set Up

I am not going to go into the full set up or rules run down for this game as it will be long, and frankly rather dull. Instead, I will give you a brief overview so you can get an idea for the game and turn structure. For a more detailed look at the rules, I suggest having a look here.

Getting this game ready is mainly about sticking stuff. For your first game, there are pages and pages of stickers to add to the meeples, resources, and, well, it seems just about everything! You don't have to do it of course. It even says so in the rules. I presume as there is so much and they don't want to put people off. But, come on. Which one of us really is not going to do this?

Anyway. An hour or two later, you can begin to set up for your first game. It will look roughly like the below, bar a few changes based on your player count and decisions you make during your own set up. But ultimately, you are setting up some of your own workers into the three main resource gathering locations on the left. Placing some cards that you can acquire in the top market and middle favours area. Along the bottom you will arrange a number of tiles that represent the parables. Along the right is the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council at this time. This acts as the game clock. You will place some scoring tiles here. Then finally in the middle at the top you will place the 12 Apostles on the left and the starting layout for the Last Supper on the right. Jesus gets the best seat, it is his party after all. And a few other followers may be placed if you are playing below a four player count.

Each player will take their own player board, favours tiles, illumination tile, followers and their starting hand of cards. You are now ready to play.

How To Play

The turn structure to this game is very simple, but the options available to you are deliciously varied.

On your turn, you will simply play one card from your hand. Then, if you have met the required criteria for any of the three apostle meeting spaces, you can visit one of Jesus' 12 closest pals, and gain the benefit they offer. You then have the chance to buy a new card to build up your deck before refilling your hand. Sounds simple right? Well, getting a good spot at Nando's is hard enough, sitting next to the big man at his Last Supper is going to be a challenge. They don't just let anyone in. You have to play a Euro game first.

Lets talk more about the card play in this game, as that is where the majority of the juice comes from. And oh my, is there some juice! This is like when you bite into some juicy looking fruit and it bursts even more juice than you were expecting into your mouth, only for even more juice to flow as you pull your teeth away, covering your jaw with yet even more juice.

There are three types of cards in the game. The starting hand cards, which are the same for all players. And then the 33 A.D. and Mahane cards which can be either bought, as is the case for the Mahane cards, or acquired for carrying out the Do A Favour action, as is the case with the 33 A.D. cards. These secondary cards act in the same way, but offer extra actions when played.

The cards work in multiple ways. First, by showing an area on the top left where you can send one of your available followers. This is mainly to gather resources from the Desert, Mountain, or Lake. But can also be to buy new cards from the Market, or be used as a way send extra followers to these locations by visiting the Temple. You will want more followers in these locations because each time you go to one of them, you will can gain resources equal to the number of followers currently present. You can never have more than three followers in each location though and sending them to each one costs either on, two, or three Denarii. The currency used in this game.

Once you have carried out the top location action, you will move onto the bottom Follower action. There are 11 main actions, so I won't go through them all here. But they are all clearly explained on a very good player aid that each player can use.

The main actions allow you to place your followers into the available locations at The Last Supper or gain resources, money or extra cards. You will have to pay a cost to join the Last Supper, (hence why you need resources) based on the locations proximity to the centre, and best spots. Jesus has all the good chat. You want to be near him. Plus, you will get first use of the gravy boat. When you add a follower this way, you take them from the space in your warehouse, clearing room for you to later hold more resources. But you can choose to instead fill this spot with an offering token which clogs the spot for the rest of the game, but rewards you with end game points. This delicate balance between your warehouse spots is one of the first very juicy elements of this game.

Other actions allow you to listen to a parable, which is essentially a very addictive set collection mini game that can score you extra points at the end of the game. You can also Do A Favour which means you will gain a 33 A.D. card and must give one or your favour tokens to another player, this gives them an immediate benefit of money, resources, or extra actions, as well as acting an an additional symbol to help with the Apostle action. Helping other players in this way feels odd at first. But when you realise the benefits to you out way anything you are giving away, and of course, other players will start to return those favours, you will get into the swing of things. Treating your neighbours as you want to be treated yourself, and all that. Oh Jesus! You got me again.

When you play a card, you will place it into one of three spaces on your own player board. You will leave the top location visible like below so that you can see the location symbols. Matching these to the Apostles symbols is how you can visit them in the second part of your turn.

Once you have finished with all the actions on your card, which can run for a while sometimes, there are a lot of opportunities in this game for cascading effects! You will move on to see if you have met the criteria to visit an apostle.

Below each row of Apostles, there are three location symbols. If you have matched these three with three cards in the same column on your player board, or a combination of cards played alongside favour tokens given to you, you can then visit an Apostle. This will allow you to add the matching Apostle onto one of the spaces at the table next to Jesus, and then gain the benefit of doing so. Subject to their being the appropriate Apostle left.

The Purple Apostle lets you add one of your followers to the table, they get a plus one! The Orange apostle rewards you with instant points based on who is sat directly behind where you place this apostle. The White apostle lets you swap positions at The Last Supper between one of your followers and one other follower, getting a better, higher point scoring spot for yourself and messing with another player in the process. And the final Apostle is Judas. He rewards the player who takes him with 5 Denarii and then any player who has their followers behind him at The Last Supper will receive penalty points at the end of the game. Matching three symbols to meet the apostles takes at least three turns obviously, but you can also use your illumination tile to do this action for free as a one time action.

By the end of the game, the spaces around the main table get pretty packed. The blue ones are lying down above as this was a three payer game, and we placed the fourth dummy player like this just to remind us. They essentially act as blockers but can be swapped with other followers during the game. This is the only change for a three player game. The two player games has a lot of changes, using the other side of the board, removing favours from the game entirely, and adding a lot more blockers to the table. It works well, but is ten minutes extra rules and teach.

The game runs until the Sanhedrin marker reaches the top of the tracker. It moves each time the matching symbol is played on any of the cards. Along the way, various mini scoring rounds will be triggered where players are rewarded for a variety of things such as the number of parables, resources, or offerings they currently have, number of favours done, or number of followers sat at the table. The game immediately ends when the last space is reached and final scoring ensues.

Players will be rewarded with points for the number of parables they collected, the followers at the last supper and their relative locations to Jesus and other Apostles, any offerings they collected during the game, and finally if they have not used their Illumination tile. Your points will be added to any points you acquired along the way during the main game, and the most points wins.

Is It Fun?

Before I get onto that, I feel I need to talk a little bit about the theme. The larger publishers have not really touched this area. There are a number of independent games with Biblical or religious themes, but not many from the bigger players. As such, it does stand out. This is a resource management game with very clever multi-use cards, deck-building, and some very interesting area-control scoring. But it will be the theme that gets talked about the most.

Personally, I like the theme. But I can see this being polarising due to the religious nature of the game. Not everyone has the same belief or faith, and they may be drawn or pushed away from this game based on what they believe. Personally, I hope this can be separated from the games mechanics and flow, as that part is excellent. It's a euro game with a theme added on essentially, as most euro games are. You won't be thinking too much about Jesus, the Apostles or listening to parables as you play. You will be thinking about how you can maximise your turn and get the most out of your hand of cards. But what I will say, is that the theme has been treated with reverence and respect, and as far as I can tell, based on as much historical fact as possible with an event of this nature and religious background. There seems to be a lot of evidence proving that Jesus did exist at this time, and this Last Supper did occur. It's up to you if you believe Jesus was a regular man or something else. But either way, he had the hottest ticket in town in 33 A.D. and a brilliant game has been made about it, so I am all in!

The flow in this game is phenomenal. It takes a few turns to get into the swing of things, and it can be a little daunting to teach at first. But it all comes together very well thanks to the excellent rule book, clear iconography and brilliant player aids. As you progress game to game, you will feel very at home with the rules. I found my mind becoming in sync with the strategy the more I played. I wanted to go back for more due to two main parts of the game. I love the scoring. I like to chase the maximum in the parables but the location of your followers at The Last Supper is what it is all about. Placing, moving, and manipulating their locations is so fun. The second part is the card play. Multi-use cards are always fun for me, and they are used to perfection in this game. The top and bottom action is brilliantly implemented and the choices offered on both are stunningly balanced, always appealing, and make you feel like you are in full control of your destiny.

The opportunity to create cascading turns is high, and you will often be rewarded with chaining combo-tastic turns that feel great. The one downside of this is that the down time between turns can be high. There is not lot you can do between turns other than plan which card to play, or watch what the other players are doing.

If you are looking for a new Euro game that takes an interesting theme, delivers intricate and thoughtful options as you play, and executes a well balanced and strategic experience, then this could be the game for you. In a world proliferated with Euros, theme is important. So, this may or may not appeal. I would urge anyone turned off to look beyond that and give this a try. The game is good enough for anyone to look past the theme. If the theme does appeal, and you are a euro fan, well this could become one of your favourite games of all time.

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