Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Road to Bethlehem: Journeys Through Time and Space

As I play more games and own more games, I am beginning to become more discerning. Time, space, and funds are all limited so you have to be more discerning when separating the wheat from the chaff. Recently, I was introduced to a new and interesting game called The Road to Bethlehem. As you can probably assume by the name, The Road to Bethlehem takes place in biblical times. You and your fellow participants are TAU Time Travelers who have journeyed back 2000 years into the past to the time when Christ was born. The game plays 3 to 8 people, ages 8+. It currently retails on Amazon for $89.
How to Play
First, you will need to gather everyone around the table and pick a Game Master. Think of this role as similar to a dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons. Unlike the fantasy game though, you will have a full book of narratives to draw from and won't have to pull from your own creativity (or lack thereof in my case). Each journey or adventure will start with an encounter with the Archangel Raphael. Raphael will ask a signature question and then distribute equipment tokens. One player draws the first Encounter Card and the Game Master will read the narrative aloud, presenting the team with a number of choices on how they wish to proceed. A team decision must then be reached, and then a challenge of some sort is given to the players to perform. These challenges can include answering questions or completing some physical task using outside materials like paper and toothpicks. Once the challenge is completed or time expires, the challenge is scored. Based on the score, players attributes can increase or decrease. This will influence how the adventure goes and eventually ends. Will you meet the Holy Family at the time Christ was born or not? If you do meet them, under what circumstances will it be?
Review
If I am being honest, which I always try to be when I am writing a review, I have mixed feelings about this game. For starters, I always have reservations about religious games. Usually, the game play is inferior compared to other modern board games. This is one of the few exceptions. The stories in The Book of Adventures do a splendid job of leading the game master and adventurers on a multi-branching path. You will not always win and you will get frustrated at times in your failures, but this book is the heartbeat of the game.

The other big positive of this game is the component quality. The cardboard and cardstock in this game are of high quality. Other pieces feel/appear laser-cut to ensure that when you pick up pieces in this game, they will have a nice feel in your hands. Unfortunately, with this quality comes a pretty hefty price tag. At the moment, $89 is a steep price to pay for a game for most families, even one as unique as this. However, I have been told by the publisher that this game is what you would call a base game, meaning there will be additional expansions/scenarios. So what you are buying is a "system" to play with different books you can "plug in and play" to give you more replay value.  However, this price tag, I fear still might mean families won't spend that much for it, so I instead encourage you to recommend this game to your parish or school religious education program! The other note on the components is that the box doesn't come with everything you need. There are tasks you are asked to do that require random household items, like paper or toothpicks (in fairly large quantities). Most people will feel that for the price tag, everything should already be in the box. Playing through the game, my family and friends really enjoyed the experience it provided. Yes, there were some fiddly parts involved with the game play, but there was a nice tension when playing of, "Will we succeed? Will we meet the Holy Family?"
This game was provided to me for free by the creator in exchange for an honest review.