When it comes to board and card games that try to develop a Christian based theme, there are not a huge amount of options. The majority of games available tend to be bible trivia games or substandard Christian themed versions of popular games ( such as Bible Scrabble and Bible Sequence). I am always on the lookout for Christian themed games that try to take the next step, and that is how I discovered Angels: Michael’s War. This card game was created by AnSR games. They ran a successful kickstarter campaign for the game in 2014, and it is currently available as a print on demand title. In the company’s description of the game, they make no qualms that this mean to be a religious themed game. Their promotional material has the following disclaimer: WARNING: This game is about Angel Demons, faith, hope, love, God, the Devil, Jesus, and things from the Bible. If you are offended by such things, do not buy this game.
This is an original card game that seeks to have a strong Christian theme, so it is the kind of game I am automatically interested in, but more importantly is it a fun game?
In this game players are part of the Heavenly Host and they are playing angel cards to defeat demons. This is a card game where there is a common deck of angel cards as well as a deck of demons to defeat. Players are dealt a starting hand and three demon cards are turned faced up.
On a player’s turn they may play any number of cards to defeat demons. Each angel will have one or two faith, hope, or love symbols. Likewise, each demon will require one through three symbols of certain types to be played in order to be defeated. Card played and defeated demons are put into a score pile. There are also major victories that can come out in the demon pile. These require three symbols and they are worth the most points.
Some cards have special abilities. For instance the Healing Angel has the “Redemption” ability which is worth one extra point for each other card a player has with the ability. Another example is some demons have the “Human Form” ability and they can only be defeated by using angels that have the right symbols as well as the “Human Form” ability.
Once a player is done playing cards, they will draw one or three cards. If they defeated any demons they draw one card. If they did not defeat any demons then they draw three.
Demon cards defeated are replaced and once a player is done the next player begins. The game will end once all players have had equal turns and one of the three game end conditions has been triggered: There are three or more claimed major victories, the angel deck is depleted, the demon deck is defeated. All players then add up all of the acquired points, and the player with the most points wins.
What I Liked
AnSR games claims their mission is to make games that are simple enough to learn and deep enough to entertain. I appreciate that this is a simple game to learn. I feel confident that I could teach this game to someone who has very little experience with more modern games. Collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon can be a little inaccessible because of the use of keywords. This game makes use of a similar mechanism, but does so in a way that truly is accessible and it will not be overwhelming to new players of any experience level and age. I do appreciate that care was taken to make this game simple to learn and accessible to everyone.
What I Did Not Like
Honestly, I was not wild about the theme which is just angels versus demons. There are a few games with this theme, and it is not the theme itself that bothers it me. What bothers me is the oddly aggressive way it is intentionally labeled as a Christian game. The disclaimer states this is a game about “Jesus and things from the Bible”. However, there is practically nothing from the Bible in this. Several cards have flavor text such as the Ferocious Angel which reads: “In the thick of battle, some angels lose control to their ferocity, while others channel it.”
That is very much not scripture. I guess I would argue just using angels and demons as the theme for a game does not make it biblical, especially when the game wanders so far from the biblical source. Dungeons and Dragons, for instance, has a very healthy hierarchy of angels and demons but that does not make it an explicitly Christian game.
The use of the theme is a minor quibble, and my complaint on that topic mostly stems from disappointment. The bigger problem is that I did not find the game a lot of fun. The game play is accessible, but it is also a little too basic. This game does have some minor hand management as players need to decide to conserve cards or play what they can. However, since everyone draws from a common deck there is no way of knowing what the next card is going to be. Trying to save up is hard because there is no real way to help ensure that a player draws the symbol they are looking for.
This problem is further compounded by the fact that some angels are objectively better and worth more points than others. In the end all of the keywords do not matter. There is no reason not to play Redemptive cards, so it is just a matter of being lucky enough to draw them so they points compound. That is really the problem of this game. The balance of luck vs. strategy is not right and it is tilted far too far towards luck. This creates a fairly unexciting experience and does not give the players a lot of investment in the game.
I was looking for an engaging game that makes good uses of a Christian and biblical theme. Sadly, for me and the people I played with, this game did not deliver this. Fortunately, if you want to try this game for yourself there is a fully playable print and play version available for free from the publisher. If you want to check this game out for yourself and see the card art in full color then the game can be ordered from thegamecrafter.com or drivethrucards.com