I don’t ask for much from my entertainments, but what I do ask for, I insist on. Among these are wit, intelligence, and most of all, originality. Favorite movies: Memento, Run Lola Run, Being John Malkovich. My favorite book is narrated by a fifteen-year-old autistic boy who tries to solve the pitchfork murder of a giant poodle. You get the idea.
So when I was asked to take a look at a new game called Blasphemy, I was hoping for something funny, clever, and out of the ordinary. And holy mother of pearl, did I ever find it.
Blasphemy™ is an amazingly clever, well-made, and carefully-researched board game that manages to provide religious literacy and skewer the sacred at the same time. The game builds on the fact that there were many claimants to the title of Messiah in ancient Judea. Each player maneuvers one would-be Messiah through six phases in the life of Jesus. Whoever can attain baptism in the Jordan (you have to catch John the Baptist first), resist the devil in the wilderness (without losing all of your Faith cards), give the greatest sermons, perform the most impressive miracles, discredit his rivals, and make his way first to the cross wins the game.
Every last detail of the game has been thought out by someone with that rarest of combinations: biblical smarts and a sense of humor. Equally stunning is the craftsmanship of the game itself, from a gorgeous silk-screened cloth playing surface to the tiles, the cards, and the Messiahs. You’ll find yourself stroking the lovely little pieces as you play (a sin in 14 denominations). As for the cost ($99.99), the game’s website FAQ is absolutely correct: “It’s worth every shekel. The manufactured components for the game are both unique and top of the line. If you treat the game properly, it should easily last well over two thousand years.”
Be advised: this is not a game for anyone who lacks patience, a sense of humor, or a high tolerance for complexity. Not difficulty — it isn’t difficult to play. But if you (or your teens) don’t like multifaceted, multilayered games with the potential to stretch into the wee hours of the night, this isn’t for you. If on the other hand that last sentence made you drool, and you think of sacred cows as excellent skewer-holders, this is the game for you.
If you do tend toward the opinion that religion should be protected from a good-natured ribbing, other games are more likely to be your cuppa. [Not sure where you land on the blasphemy tolerance spectrum? Here’s a test.]
Myself, I think a game built around the essence of a big idea is a delicious thing. Wouldn’t you love to see a game in which simple life forms compete and evolve until one of them ends up as Charles Darwin? Me too. In the meantime, have a spot of fun following the evolution of a Messiah.