Earlier this month I traded for A.D. 30, a ten year old solitaire game by Tom Decker (Disaster on K2, Circus Train). I had hoped to play and report about it for Easter, but it arrived too late for that. I'm not going to wait a year though - I was way too curious.
In A.D. 30 you walk with Jesus, from his baptism to his entry in Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus will try to recruit Apostles, resist temptation and avoid arrest. The game was published by Victory Points Games as "Great Journey #1", but I don't know if any other great journeys were published.
Goal of the game is to recruit all Apostles and have Jesus end up with Judas and at least one Leader (like Pilate or Herod) at the same time in Jerusalem. That way the birth of a new world religion is assured. There are some 14 different outcomes though. If you don't manage to get everything just right, followers may misunderstand His teachings and rebel against Rome, or Christianity may end as just a minor religion in certain parts of the world.
Every turn you draw an event card, that will have political and religious Leaders take notice (they will move closer to Jerusalem - if they stay there the game ends). The 25 event cards include appropriate inspirational scripture. You can play a historical variant, by playing all these events in order, or make the game a little harder and shuffle them.
Next Jesus will have to resist temptation. Most of the time this will be resolved by rolling a die and moving a marker up or down the Temptation/Piety track. In the desert however, the marker will go down this track automatically. Pro tip: don't hang out there too long. If the marker ever reaches the 0 spot, Satan successfully lures Jesus into temptation and spreads Darkness over the world.
If He survived temptation, it's time for actions. Every card will have a number on it, setting the amount of actions for the turn.
At the River Jordan, Apostles can be recruited by selecting them from a pool. Later, in Galilee and Bethany, you can attract Apostles through teachings, but for this you need to roll a die.
Another action is to wander. If the game forces Jesus towards Jerusalem too soon, you can roll a die to try to move His marker back a space.
Or you can try to remove threat: lure a Leader away from Jerusalem. Yes, again by rolling a die.
Any time you fail a die roll, you stack a "+1 Die Roll Modifier" marker on the Jesus marker. If you fail a roll again (this can be on another action), you change it to its "Auto Success" side. This is a cool way of dice mitigation. You'll never be unlucky all game long.
Apostles are placed next to the board, face down. You turn them over when recruiting or during teachings. Once they follow Jesus, you can send one to a Leader to hinder their movement. It's a risky job in which they may die. But it gives you an opportunity to influence the timing of everybody's arrival in Jerusalem. Some Apostles have extra benefits: they give you Renown (victory points) at the end of the game, they help you out of the desert, or they have extra influence on Herod or Pilate.
And then there's Judas. Once you recruit him, he will move on his very own track towards Jerusalem.
If you happen to have action points left, or if things are getting dire, you can have Jesus perform a miracle. There are nine face down markers on the board. You turn over two, and if they depict the same person, you can take a benefit. For example, maybe you'll be able to put Barrabas in Jerusalem, and you may then have the crowd arrest him to buy some time (it will cost you on the Temptation track, though).
I've played the game four times now. I've been stupid and caused the spread of Darkness in the world, which counted as a Major Defeat. And in seven minutes! I've had an ordinary Defeat, a Minor Victory and the last time at last a Major Victory. Christianity spread throughout Europe, and later the world.
I think it's a perfect game to play once in a while, or on special occasions. Three, four times in a row, then back on the shelf for a while.
I like the game for its unusual theme, that it takes seriously. It aims to teach and entertain, and to my opinion it succeeds. You have to manage a lot of things to arrive at the Biblical outcome, so you'll be really engaged for 20 minutes. Use the available actions to teach or to wander? Does a Leader need to be kept in place, or can I take the risk a little longer? As with a lot of these old VPG games, the dice rolls need to be in your favour, but the "+1 DRM/Auto" mechanism really helps with your strategy.
The artwork on the board and markers is very nice. The only thing that surprised me, was that all cards were featuring Richard Branson. You had to be there, I guess.