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Playing God pt. 1 – Creating Life

One of the biggest thrills you get from a tabletop game is in 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 God to play Him. In fact, most gamers aren’t Bible-reading types. They’re more the heathen variety, grooving on pantheons of minor deities, not to mention Cthulhu and his otherworldly buddies.

But face it, themes from the Bible come up again and again in tabletop games. That’s no surprise since 95% 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 …)

Laying down DNA is like laying down track in Ticket to Ride

Considering how many games carry themes that parallel – consciously or not – the Bible, I thought I’d try going through a few stories and seeing what games fit. This project isn’t based on a literal interpretation – I’m no fundamentalist. In fact, Genesis chapter 1 just says “In the beginning…” So, what if the ‘beginning’ was 14 billion years ago… ?

The Fab 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.

And if any fundamentalists want to trash these games for promoting godless evolution, keep in mind that every single game is all about intelligent beings (you and me) guiding the development of life. Can’t get more Biblical than that.

In Chronological order (of time period), 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]

Stirring up a batch of Primordial Soup

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.

90,000 B.C.

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

Apparently, one of the     Submissive Species

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!

Next: Almanac of Games for June 8th: Vikings! Fishing!
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