More Religious Board Games

By Ellen Leventry

January 2002--Why trail Professor Plum when you could race to Mecca, or build
a hotel on Boardwalk when you could achieve cosmic bliss? Back by popular
demand (see round one), Beliefnet presents reviews of religious and spiritually minded
board games. Believers and non-believers alike took on the arduous task of
flicking spinners, rolling dice, and shuffling cards to rank the games'
educational merit, appearance, and entertainment value on a scale of one to
ten. Let the games begin!

Race to the Kabah
For Ages: 7 and up
Where to Buy:
Object: Learn the 99 names of Allah while making your way to the Kabah (one of Islam's holiest places) before the other players.
Education: 6 Look & Feel: 6.3 Entertainment: 2.7
Non-Muslim players may have to race to the Arab-English dictionary while finding their way to the Kabah. Moving across the board, players land on "Pick a Card" squares where they are then asked the meaning of one of Allah's ninety-nine names (Q: What does Ar-Ra'uf mean? A: "The Compassionate"). While our non-Muslim and non-Arabic speaking panelists found the game play straightforward and the concept a great way to illustrate the importance of Allah's name, they had some difficulty playing the game. Our Muslim panelists, however, found the game enjoyable, especially the "Danger" spaces where players are forced by the Shaitan (Satan) to move back several spaces. As one player commented, "The concept of a Shaitan square is great--and hilarious."

Get Ready, Get Set, Good Shabbos!
For Ages: 7 and up
Where to Buy: or Judaica stores
Object: Players "travel through town filling their bags with food and their hearts with a love for Shabbos."
Education: 2.7 Look & Feel: 6.7 Entertainment: 2.2
Get ready, get set, get ...another game? While its brightly colored illustrations garnered this game high points for look and feel ("visually stimulating"), many in the panel found its rules confusing and its concept an oversimplification of the observation of Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath. Snaking down a Candyland-like path, players are challenged to finish their Shabbat shopping before sundown, avoiding traffic jams and car impoundings. "The game portrays preparing for Shabbat as doing lots of shopping and getting stuck in traffic," one Jewish player complained. Non-Jews found the amount of Hebrew on the board and cards daunting, though one Christian player said "As a non-Jew, I learned more about Shabbos and appreciate the spirituality of making a meal sacred." Practicing Jews felt that the portrayal of Shabbos was a tad too Orthodox: "This made me realize why I don't observe the Sabbath."

Bible Outburst
For Ages: 8 and up
Where to Buy: Cactus Game Design or toy stores
Object: Win points for your team by calling out answers to questions like "things God created" or "male villains in the Bible."
Education: 5.9 Look & Feel: 5.1 Entertainment: 4
Christian and non-Christian players complained about the "granular" and "weirdly arbitrary" answers to this game's questions. For example, acceptable answers to "people in the Bible who lied" included "Gehazi" and "Sapphira," but not Peter, who denied Jesus three times. The game rules point out that the goal is to match the ten target answers: even if your answer is right, "if it's not on the card, dem's da berries!" says the package insert. Panelists did not rise to this challenge and had a hard time thinking of the ten correct answers to prompts like "women called handmaids." Nevertheless, a minister's daughter said the game was "oddly engaging if you went to Sunday School as a kid." Technical note: "Funky board pieces wouldn't fit on the board."

Cosmic Journey
Eastern spirituality
For Ages: 15 and up
Where to Buy:
Object: Move through the board's quadrants (fire, air, water, and earth), learning life's lessons and balancing your karma.
Education: 4.3 Look & Feel: 6 Entertainment: 8.7
Cosmic Journey won raves from all our reviewers for sheer entertainment value. Though some described it as "a mish-mosh of mystic merriment" and "woo-woo spirituality," every panelist agreed that it was fun and provided "lots of laughs." Players roll a die and move about the board collecting points by answering Question cards, Risk cards and Karma cards ("learn to protect your body from the negative effluvia of mass thought--earn 5 points"). "Mother Mary," mantras, Nostradamus, and rainforests all feature in this multifaith game, whose creator notes that "there are any number of ways which man attempts to know God."

Our experts were bemused--but tickled--by the disparity in awarding and accumulating Karma card points. As one participant lamented, "I had to get left by my spouse, raise three children with no money and have a near death experience to get seven points while Sujay got five points for praying against gansta rap?" Even though most players found the questions too easy, one Hindu panelist summed up the journey by saying, "It's a lot of fun as a family game with the intent of teaching, on the whole, karma."

For Ages: 8 and up
Where to Buy: GoRu products
Object: Negotiate the paths of right and wrong becoming the first player to collect six gold stars and one or more matching sets of four Right! cards.
Education: 3.6 Look & Feel: 5 Entertainment: 3.6
No, you're not experiencing déjà vu. After learning that our panel of experts had reviewed an older version of Conscience, we did the right thing and reviewed the latest edition. Billed as "the fun way to learn right from wrong," the game is essentially still the same: Players must move through six zones--including violence, education, and character--on "right" or "wrong" paths, based first on card picks and then on rolls of the dice.

Participants found the game much easier to navigate this time around and were able to play several turns in the allotted time. One player did note, however, that it became confusing when Conscience Check cards instruct players to move along the "appropriate path": "What happens at the forks? Players can choose right or wrong, but who chooses the wrong path?" Who indeed. The game does present "concrete moral challenges confronting kids" and several panelists agreed it could spur conversation between family members. Be forewarned, however: You'll need plenty of time to discuss moral quandaries. As one panelist commented, "This is the 'Risk' of religious/spiritual board games--it could last weeks."