Review – Ierusalem Anno Domini
Jesus is 7 points, Judas is -5
|Designer||Carmen García Jiménez|
|Artist||Enrique Corominas, La Draws|
|Category||Eurogame, Biblical Game|
|Release Date||March 2023|
There are some “Jesus movies” out there, with varying levels of quality. There are even fewer “Jesus video games” out there, with low quality all around. What about “Jesus board games”? Well, other than medieval Eurogames vaguely mentioning cloisters or cathedrals or priests, and Commissioned, I can’t think of any about Jesus’ actual life — until now. Ierusalem Anno Domini has players trying to get their followers as close to Jesus and his disciples as possible during The Last Supper. But also, surprise: it’s a Eurogame. A match made in heaven (pun intended)? Let’s see!
Ierusalem Anno Domini comes with a ridiculous amount of components, not all of them necessary. In particular, I found it funny that fish-shaped meeples then had stickers to put on the sides. I didn’t use them, as I think the wooden resource meeples look great as they are. There are quite a few tokens as well, and then the central mechanism of the game involves moving 15 meeples per player around the last supper. While the $60 MSRP is about right, it’s more that the amount of stuff is kind of overwhelming for the player, though it won’t bother heavy Euro players any. Normally I would complain about the drab artwork, but it fits the theme here. The artistic style is definitely a very traditional depiction of Biblical times, and while that might not be everyone’s favorite representation, the approach makes sense.
Additionally, the game is covered in Bible verses — literally on the Parable tiles, but also throughout the rulebook. I was often reading the rules in order and found myself accidentally reading Scripture instead of rules. It is a nice way to integrate the theme and hopefully evangelize to new players. Many, many Eurogames have a vague “church” or “priest” as part of the region’s extremely abstracted politics, so I really appreciate that this game is “loud and proud” about what it really wants to discuss. Of course, the great irony is that the gameplay allows some intrigue and backstabbing as players vie for seats at the table, which seems to contradict everything Jesus was teaching!
Other than a few easy-to-forget rules (which admittedly have reminders on the player boards), I would call the gameplay refined. Designer Carmen García Jiménez clearly has played his share of games and thought through what makes gameplay work cleanly and what doesn’t. That precision might get in the way of originality here, though, as there isn’t any. We’ve seen all this before: make sets on your cards, collect resources in your warehouse, place meeples on spaces with bonuses, pay extra for special cards, etc.
The scoring mechanism, which is the centerpiece of the game (placing meeples around the dinner table), also feels just kind of obtuse. If you want to do more than play from your gut and evaluate things precisely, you’ll probably spend too much time doing arithmetic while other players are waiting for their turn. That’s a bit of a waste regardless, because the ability to swap meeples and choose where to place the disciples at the table will ruin any preemptive math, anyway. I don’t mind playing from my gut, and the mechanisms are solid, but the harsh truth is this: without the unique theme, this game would be completely forgettable.
Now I ask: does that matter? Most people will be interested in this game because of the theme, not because it’s Yet Another Eurogame. And for many of those players, this kind of gameplay will be a brand new experience, not the viewpoint of a jaded reviewer who’s played a hundred of these. In that setting, I think this game will accomplish quite a lot. There are many games like this that I think are Merely Good, like Wingspan or Flamecraft, that are still Good Enough for people who are drawn to the theme. I think Ierusalem Anno Domini can accomplish the same thing for Christians who want to remember their heritage while at the gaming table. And I can’t really see that as a bad thing.
The Bottom Line
Ierusalem Anno Domini doesn't stand out as a Eurogame, but it does stand out among Biblically themed games.