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Ierusalem: Anno Domini

Ierusalem: Anno Domini
Designer: Carmen García Jiménez
Players: 1-4
Age: 12+
Time: 90-120 min.
Publisher: Devir (2023)
BGG: 7.8/10
Read in Polish

We are moving to Jerusalem, to the Year of Our Lord 33. Judea is under Roman occupation. The most important Jewish holiday, Passover, is approaching. Jesus of Nazareth has also arrived for this holiday – a prophet, great in his acts and his words, before God and all the people [Luke 24:19]. He has just entered riding on a donkey, and the crowds welcomed Him as the son of David, chanting 'Hosanna!’

„הושע נא” (hoša-nā) – – literally 'save us, we pray’ – shouted as an expression of praise or a pleading prayer. In the context of the political situation at that time, Jesus could have been perceived as the Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman rule.

The beginning of a three-player game.

Throughout Jerusalem, the news quickly spreads that the Master wants to partake of the Passover with his disciples. How many of your people manage to get to the feast and sit near Jesus and the Apostles?

Każdy z graczy dysponuje piętnastoma zwolennikami (followers), których będzie próbował „wcisnąć” do Wieczernika. Oczywiście jak najbliżej Jezusa i Apostołów. Ale co ciekawe – w Wieczerniku póki co jest tylko sam Mistrz. Apostołowie będą zajmować miejsca za stołem dopiero w trakcie gry. Dokładnie w tym samym czasie co nasi uczniowie. Sadzając więc naszego followersa nie wiemy często w pobliżu kogo faktycznie będzie siedział. Pomijając już fakt nieczystych zagrywek w postaci zamiany przymusowej miejsc. A właśnie to  za kim siedzimy będzie się przekładało na punkty zwycięstwa.

Each of the players has fifteen followers whom they will try to 'squeeze’ into the Last Supper. Of course, as close to Jesus and the Apostles as possible. But, at the Last Supper, for now, only the Master is present. The Apostles will take their seats at the table only during the game, precisely at the same time as our disciples. Therefore, when seating our follower, we often don’t know who they will actually be sitting near. And it is precisely who we sit near that will translate into victory points

Pustynia

The desert

The Anatomy of Cards

At the beginning of their turn, the player plays a card – it can be a card from the initial deck or a Mahane/A.D.XXXIII deck – they are all the same type of cards. They differ only in the number of optional actions to perform. But the first thing they must do is the action related to the card’s location (top left corner). They can:

  • go to the market *) to do some trading (multiple times and in various configurations, exchanging resources for denarii and vice versa),
  • head to the mountains, the lake, or the desert to gather the corresponding resources like bread/fish/stone (provided they already have some people there),
  • visit the temple and conduct actions of sending people to the mentioned lake/mountains/desert (for which they must pay with denarii).

*) About the market: Was it called Mahane in Jerusalem during Christ’s time? I’m not sure, but today the largest and most famous market in the city is the Mahane Yehuda Market. Interestingly, 'Mahane’ (מַחֲנֶה) means 'camp’ in Hebrew (for language purists – the accent is on the last syllable!). It surely adds charm to the gameplay.

After performing the main action (in the location), the player can proceed to optional actions presented at the bottom of the card. On starting cards, usually, there will be just one action – it might be related to the lmain action in locations or something entirely different, such as sending a disciple to the Last Supper, going to the Sanhedrin (this action, uniquely, is mandatory), doing a favor for another player, listening to a parable, and so on. As mentioned, on Mahane and A.D.XXXIII cards, there will be more of these actions: two or three. Additionally, there will be new, stronger actions, like inviting to the Last Supper (normally, we must pay a cost to place a disciple at the Last Supper, but if an invitation action appears, it’s free), moving a disciple to another spot at the Last Supper, rearranging cards in one’s tableau…

Talia startowa

Starting deck – usually only one optional action (at the bottom of the card) + a potential resource (fish/bread/stone) to collect.

Talie Mahane i A.D.XXXIII

Sample cards from the Mahane deck (top) and A.D.XXXIII deck (bottom). As you can see, there are two actions to take, and they’re completely different from the basic ones. In Mahane, for example, we can draw a Mahane/ADXXXIII card, send a follower to a location, or reorganize cards in our own tableau. In A.D.XXXIII, it’s primarily about inviting (for free) to the supper and changing the location of a follower in the Last Supper to an unoccupied space. The Anno Domini card also involves Sanhedrin action, a step closer to the end of the game.

What does playing cards besides performing actions accomplish?

The placement of our played card is incredibly important. On the player board, we have three dedicated spaces for played cards, but it doesn’t mean we can only play three cards. Cards can be stacked on top of each other as long as the location symbols (top left corner) are visible. However, once a card is played, its position cannot be changed. These cards are necessary for 'visiting’ the Apostles. Each of the three groups of Apostles requires a different set of three icons to perform this action and seat the chosen Apostle at the table.

The Apostles. Each of them requires a set of three cards. In this specific game (modifiable with included tokens), the white Apostles need a set of 'mountain, temple, lake’, the orange ones (including Judas) – 'temple, market, desert’, and the purple ones – 'market, lake, mountain’.

Anyway, after performing the action from the played card, we move to the Apostles phase – if we have the required pattern, we can visit one of the Apostles and place them to seat in the Last Supper. In that process, we’ll earn quite a few points from the played cards (discarding starting cards and placing Mahane/A.D.XXXIII at the bottom of their own stacks). We’ll also perform an additional action offered by the Apostle:

  • Inviting our follower to the Last Supper (hurrah, for free! occupying the best available spot!)
  • Scoring the row where we place the orange Apostle (just like it will also do at the end of the game)
  • Exchanging the position of our disciple who is already at the Last Supper with someone else’s disciple (no one said Jesus’ disciples are kind and polite)”

The player board, where there are three slots for played cards. In the column on the left, the market and lake have been played. When I play the mountain there, I’ll be able to perform the action of moving the purple Apostle to the Last Supper and execute his effect, which is a free invitation of one of my followers located in a certain location (desert/mountain/lake).

Planszetka gracza

This is a different game, but also a player board – here, you can see that the lower section is designated for parable tokens. We listen to (i.e., collect) parables in a set order (from the first to the seventh). The earlier you listen to a specific parable before other players, the more immediate points you’ll earn. At the end of the game, the entire set will score again – the more of them you have, the better – and for the entire set, you can earn up to 18 points

There are many dependencies in this game. Actions are interconnected. During gameplay, one needs to consider many aspects.

As for the Apostles – what’s missing here?

The way the names of the Apostles were chosen is a surprise to me. Was it deliberate and aligned with the Gospel? IMHO the white Apostles should be the 'most important’ or 'most well-known’ – after all, Simon Peter is in that group. Although Matthew is quite known, and Philip has his moments in the Bible, the presence of Simon the Zealot is a mystery to me. I would rather expect John and James, known as the Sons of Thunder, or Andrew, Peter’s brother, to be in this group.

If you think there are 12 apostles here, you’re mistaken. Tradition of the Church identifies Nathanael and Bartholomew as the same person. Anyway, in the passages about the calling of the apostles, we never find these names side by side. Bartholomew is an Aramaic name: בר-תולמי – 'son of the furrow’ or 'son of Tolmai/Tolomaja’. Some also suggest the translation 'son of the warrior’. On the other hand, Nathanael is a Hebrew name (נְתַנְאֵל) meaning 'God has given’. Since Aramaic was commonly spoken in the time of Christ, it’s quite probable that this apostle was simply called Nathanael, the son of Tolmai. So why in Jerusalem: Anno Domini, did they make two men out of him?

But at least John, the youngest of the apostles, is the only one without a beard ;)

However, this apostolic pantheon lacks James the Less, that is, James the son of Alphaeus. Because I assume that the James who is present is the more famous James, the son of Zebedee, and brother of John.

What a pity. So little was needed to be almost perfectly faithful to the Bible. These names have no significance in the game. So, on one hand – of course, I’m nitpicking. On the other hand – nothing would have happened if we had two Jameses.

3-4 player game

The game scales very well, but rather unusually. Without any modifications, we play it with 4 people, but with 3 players, we need to set up meeples of the fourth, unused color at the Last Supper. The same goes for two players and solo. All colors will always be used here. However, for 3 players, it’s essentially the only modification (plus covered spaces on the board to make it a bit tighter). An interesting solution is the action of doing favors – present only in this 3/4 player mode. It involves giving a token with an action/bonus to a chosen player. The player uses the bonus immediately and then flips the token upside down – it remains with them as a location, which they can add freely to their card arrangement in order to visit an Apostle. Granted, they’ll earn fewer points then (the token doesn’t have point value unlike cards), but they’ll be able to place an Apostle at the Last Supper earlier, which is profitable as it gives nice bonuses. But if it’s so good for the opponent, why perform this action? Because it earns us Victory Points and gives us A.D.XXXIII cards (this is the only way in this mode to acquire these incredibly strong cards).

This is just the beginning of a 3-player game. Above my player board, you can see eight favor tokens. These include two denarii for the opponent, resources (bread/fish/stones), an action to send a follower to a chosen location, listening to a parable, and acquiring a Mahane card. If you compare it with the photo at the end of the review, you’ll notice that I’ve only granted a favor twice (I have six tokens left). I wasn’t the most helpful disciple of Christ ;)

Two-player game

In two-player games, we have two unused colors – and both are already in the Last Supper. These are the Friendly Followers, who will work for us. In this mode, we receive several new cards with two new actions related specifically to the Friendly Followers, which allow for quite good scoring. By placing our figure at the Last Supper, we can place it in a free space or (and this is different from the 3/4 player game) in a spot occupied by a Friendly Follower. We don’t get a bonus from the field, but we take such a friend to ourselves and will later be able to place it on the board to score points for the entire group of meeples in that color.

The beginning of a 2-player game

Solo mode – playing with Barabbas

In solo mode, there are quite a few changes.

  • Setup is similar to that for two players, but…
  • Changes occur with the Sanhedrin tokens – it’s a different set of tokens this time, placed face down and revealed only when the Sanhedrin marker reaches such a field.
  • Each Sanhedrin token involves the removal of Friendly Followers and the player’s followers (Barabbas’ followers, our bot-opponent, remain in their places) from a specific area of the Last Supper.
  • …which means that by the end of the game, scoring for Friendly Followers will be very minimal or nonexistent, as there simply won’t be any meeples left on the board.
  • Barabbas starts off with a significant lead in points; I thought I wouldn’t catch up, but…
  • …he slows down a bit during the game. Maybe it was just how it played out (I only played solo once as I’m not fond of solo games), but at some point, his followers were exhausted in locations, and new cards didn’t come to send them there – consequently, he couldn’t place his followers at the table, and the points started to drop.

But the most interesting twist in solo mode is that the Friendly Followers get depleted

3in1

It’s rare that modes for different player counts to differ so much. Yet, they all play well. That’s precisely the case with Jerusalem. It feels like three games in one. Very similar, but still distinct. Friendly Followers do a great job. So do the Sanhedrin tokens in solo mode, which demand the removal of Friendly Followers (and incidentally – ouch! that hurts! – your own followers). I won’t deny that it’s best with 3 or 4 players, but the two-player mode, as well as the solo play, are worth trying out.

Summary

  • Great atmosphere, particularly unique
  • Involves a lot of strategizing
  • Offers multiple paths to victory
  • Innovative mechanics (doesn’t feel like just a mix of known mechanics)
  • Scales well and provides different experiences
  • Good balance between setup time and complexity level for fun during gameplay

For me, this game has (almost) only strengths. The „almost” is due to the slip-up with the Apostles. Because even negative interaction among Jesus’ disciples – a criticism I’ve encountered – isn’t a problem for me. The Apostles, not to mention other ordinary followers of Jesus, had a lot on their conscience. They argued about who among them was the greatest*. The Sons of Thunder wanted a special place by the right hand of the Son of God**. Peter denied Christ. The disciples lacked enough faith to cast out evil spirits***. They weren’t perfect people. Holiness doesn’t mean being perfect. Holiness means being different, being owned by God.

*) And they came to Capernaum: and when he was in the house, he put the question to them, What were you talking about on the way? But they said nothing: because they had had an argument between themselves on the way, about who was the greatest. (Mk 9, 33-34)

**) Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, giving him worship and making a request of him. And he said to her, What is your desire? She says to him, Let my two sons be seated, the one at your right hand, and the other at your left, in your kingdom. (Mt 20, 20-21)

***) And when they came to the people, a man went down on his knees to him, saying, Lord have mercy on my son: for he is off his head, and is in great pain; and frequently he goes falling into the fire, and frequently into the water. And I took him to your disciples, and they were not able to make him well. And Jesus, answering, said, O false and foolish generation, how long will I be with you? how long will I put up with you? let him come here to me. And Jesus gave orders to the unclean spirit, and it went out of him: and the boy was made well from that hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately, and said, Why were we not able to send it out? And he says to them, Because of your little faith: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Be moved from this place to that; and it will be moved; and nothing will be impossible to you. (Mt 17, 14-20)

Verdict

Objectively: must try. The game is so good and intriguing that it’s worth playing even if the theme isn’t your cup of tea.

Subjectively: must have. Due to the theme, atmosphere, design, mechanics, and my personal fun for gameplay

The 3-player game. The crown of thorns marker reached the end of the Sanhedrin track, Jesus was betrayed, and the game ended.



Grę Ierusalem Anno Domini kupisz w sklepie


 

Dziękujemy firmie Devir za przekazanie gry do recenzji.


 

Złożoność gry (5/10):

Oprawa wizualna (8/10):

Ogólna ocena (8.5/10):

Co znaczy ta ocena według Games Fanatic?
Bardzo dobry przedstawiciel swojego gatunku, godny polecania. Wady mało znaczące, nie przesłaniające mocno pozytywnego odbioru całości. Gra daje dużo satysfakcji.

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