I have over 300 games in my collection but only 5 that have earned a perfect 10. This is one of them! I think everything fits together perfectly in this game. If you like cooperative games and the Pandemic-type play I can't recommend this game enough!
Theme and What is it?
Kings of Israel is a cooperative historical board game which starts around 1050 BC with Saul becoming the first king of Israel. The game is played out over the next 300 years with all the ups and downs each good or bad king brought upon the land.
Players are prophets trying to keep Israel in line. Bad kings make it harder on the prophets while the incredibly few good kings allow for some much-needed blessings.
Players win if they build the required number of altars based on the number of players. If the sins of the Israelites become too many, altars can be torn down. Also, too much sin in a city leads to building golden calves, and that allows even more sin to spread in neighboring cities. If the supply of sin cubes or golden calves run out, or all the kings have lived their lives, the game ends in failure.
The theme is excellently woven into the game. There are false prophets in an expert version of the game. Also, blessings are earned during the reign of good kings and punishments are earned during the times of bad kinds.
I think the most interesting part of the theme integration into this game concerns how the prophets foretell events. When a predicted event is revealed from the sin and punishment deck, it is read aloud and placed face-up back into the deck. It sticks out of the deck under the number of face-down cards equal to the number of players. That way it is known what will happen and everyone can try to mitigate the effects.
I would liken this game to Pandemic with several interesting additions. At its foundation it is a cooperative game which has players moving around and using their variable player powers to eradicate the proliferation of sin cubes.
Just as in Pandemic, location cards are drawn, and cubes are added to cities. Beyond this mechanism the games similarities begin to split.
In Kings of Israel the rounds are marked by the historical kings. If the king was good players gain a blessing card which can be played when desired. If the king was bad, players draw and resolve sin and punishment cards. These include historical events which are certainly not helpful for winning.
There is an interesting layer in this game which also diverges from Pandemic. Players must gain resources in order to build altars and win the game. Also, resources can help players travel farther between cities in a single move or clear all sin cubes in a city with an altar.
Of course, the right combination of resources must be used to accomplish the desired outcome. Hence, Kings of Israel is also a hand management game. Players must be in the same city in order to exchange cards. I’ve not seen a game yet that didn’t need some switching of card between players in order to succeed.
After 3 sin cubes accumulate in a city, a golden calf is added. Then, the sin spreads to neighboring cities. More golden calves can end up being placed causing a chain reaction. However, running out of sin cubes or golden calves will end the game.
As if this game wasn’t already hard enough, an advanced game variant includes a false prophet controlled by artificial intelligence rules. If you still haven’t found enough challenge in this game, there is also a campaign mode.
At first glance I thought this game looked Sunday Schoolish. I had the thought I was going to encounter a learning game with a weak mechanism thrown under it.
I was very impressed with the quality of all the components. As I sifted through all the cards and pieces, I began to see a solid game emerging. My opinion was beginning to change as I saw depth in the game when glancing through the rule book. I was also impressed to see a campaign mode included.
Game Build Quality
One of the surprises in this game is the level of quality in the components. I love all the wooden pieces, especially the calves. A nice upgrade would be metal calves, a crown, and alters.
The cards and board are good quality as well. I can’t see that anything needs to be upgraded in this category.
There are a couple of artistic styles in Kings of Israel. I like the full-color pictures the most. Many of the cards are in black pen or marker.
There is a fair amount of artwork on the cards. It helps bring the theme of the game to life. Old Testament Scriptures at the bottom of cards further tie everything together.
I really enjoyed this game. One of the things I don’t particularly enjoy about a cooperative game is when a player takes over and starts to direct everyone. I found Kings of Israel to have so many options available to players that it initiated a healthy discussion. I don’t think you can end up with an alpha player as easily with this game.
I’m not much of a Pandemic fan but I really enjoy Kings of Israel. I like the variety of having different events take place. I particularly like the foretold events that allow preparation.
Age Range & Weight
Kings of Israel is rated for ages 14 and up. I think this is a bit high. Since it is a cooperative game, it can be played with younger kids.
Also, if you have experienced gamer kids, this will not be a problem for them to learn. It is not a heavyweight game.
The rule book is fantastic. It is really easy to understand and learn. Beginners are not going to have trouble with this game or get bogged down in fiddly information.
I think the weight of this game will appeal to beginners and experienced gamers alike.
There is so much I like about this game! I like the combination of mechanisms. I like the challenge. I like the options. This game just hits the sweet spot all around. It feels like players need to constantly put out some kind of fire but which one to manage first makes this fun. It’s nail biting right up until the end.
I have over 300 games in my collection but only 5 that have earned a perfect 10. This is one of them! I think everything fits together perfectly in this game. If you like cooperative games and the Pandemic type play I can’t recommend this game enough!
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