You know by now that our family likes games, right? I mean, really likes. I won't name names, but it is fair to say that a few of us are a little obsessed with games. Games are a great way to foster family time and bonding, as well as build critical thinking skills and teach some pretty important character traits such as patience, dedication, and even graciousness.
Therefore, the rare opportunities we get to review a new game are like Christmas at our house. As soon as the package arrives, it is game time! The arrival of Commissioned by Chara Games was no exception! Because our family has three children over the age of 15, finding a new game for ages 14 and up is a bonus. Luckily for us, our 9 year old is the king of games and with some careful guidance was able to keep up for all subsequent games. Actually, he has become quite good at it, and Commissioned is frequently the first game he will ask to play these days.
Chara Games is a relatively new company founded by husband and wife team, Patrick and Katherine Lysaght. As evidenced by their first release, the game Commissioned, their goal is to produce quality family games that not only encourage family togetherness, but also present the Gospel and teach Bible knowledge in a way that is encouraging to believers and non-threatening to those who don't believe. What impresses me about that is that in doing so, they have in no way watered down the Word of God!
Let's talk about quality for a minute! I like hearty games. You know, the ones that are still around and in one piece after hours of play! Commissioned passes my test and then some! The two sided playing board is a heavy, quality board that folds up easily. The cards used in play are beautiful, full color and a durable thickness. All of the playing pieces are wooden, which I love! The game also comes with a detailed set of instructions, as well as an additional thematic appendix which further explains the historical background around the people and situations used within the game.
So that detailed book of instructions...let's talk about that! Yes, it is detailed. Yes, you will need to read it. And then probably re-read it. But do it! It is worth it. And then while you are at it, go watch the video on how the game is played. I admit, we actually watched several, but remember, we are game obsessed. At that point it was no longer about the "how to" as much as, "can we pick up more tips on how to win!"
So what is the game about? Commissioned is a cooperative game that allows you to step into the world of the apostles and help grow the church and thus spread the Good News. There are 5 double sided scenario cards that allow you to choose which "version" of the game you play and detail what you need to accomplish to win. These cards allow you to change up the game each time you play so as to not get bored quickly, but I will tell you we have only played the first card in all the times we have played (A LOT) because it has continued to be challenging! The second side of the board is used to play one of those scenarios.
So you choose a card, set the board up, choose which apostle each player will be, and begin! For each round you play, there are specific actions you follow. By going through the "arming," "living," and "maturing" phases, each player uses their Apostle's distinct attribute to try to progress through the regions. An hour later, you may be done! Maybe. Ha! The first time we played though we were supposed to have a church plant in each place, but we set our goal for one area and stopped. The learning curve slowed us down, plus remember, we have a 9 year old who was determined to learn the game. The second time we played, we did pick up the pace a bit and finished in just over an hour. Now we average 45 minutes to an hour each game.
Our experience and thoughts? Although Commissioned took us a few times of play to get comfortable with, we love the game. I love that it is cooperative, and I love that it is Biblically based. It is one of those games that has quickly become one of our family's favorites. So much so, that we took it with us when we went to visit our college kiddo so we could teach her. Yep, we played it in the hotel! I like that there are many different modes of playing by using the scenario cards, as well as a dice that adds variation and prevents "alpha gaming," which is when one player dominates a cooperative game. (we have one of those kinds of players!) You can also play in Disciple or Martyr levels, making it easier or harder.
I also like the lessons the game teaches. For example, each player draws a "trial" card on their turn and then follows the instructions related to that trail. What our family eventually found was that some of the bad scenarios that we thought threatened our chance to win, in the end actually helped us, such as the dispersing of the church due to persecution or flood. It was neat that we were able to show the kids that persecution is often a way that God allows the church to grow, even now!