Bible-based games date back to at least 1890, when F.G. Decker and O.F. Decker produced a game called Bible Characters. Other companies later produced games like Bible Authors (1895), Bible Boys (1901), Bible Game of Facts, Places and Events (1922), Bible Lotto (1933), Bible Quotto (1933), Bible Rhymes (1933), Bible ABCs and Promises (1940), Bible Cities (1940), and Bible Quiz Lotto (1949).
But what about strategy games with a religious theme? A group of knowledgeable gamers helped develop the following list. (Most of the games on this page are currently available; page two features mainly out-of-print games.)
BibleMan, published by Talicor
Players try to rescue six children and deliver them safely to the town church. Rules for a basic version (children 3 to 6) and an advanced version (ages 7 and up) are both included.
Credo, published by Chaosium
An irreverent negotiation game about the politics of the Council of Nicea. Players debate what should be in the creed, using the influence of bishops and a little backstabbing to get their pet lines into the final product.
La Foi et la Glaive, published by Azure Wish
Players spread religion through dark-age Europe, controlling both a religious and a temporal power.
Left Behind, published by Talicor
Based on the best-selling novel, the game has two parts -- one in which players work separately to earn tokens and one in which they work together to defeat Carpathia.
Mad Monks and Relics, published by Simulations Workshop
Players are monks searching for relics (including the Holy Grail).
Redemption: City of Bondage, published by Cactus Game Design
Biblical heroes are challenged to rescue lost souls held captive by the evil hordes. Based on the Redemption collectible card game. Solomon's Temple, published by Cactus Game Design
Players compete to build and furnish the Temple of Solomon while fending off Babylonian armies.
Fleece The Flock
A humorous take on the many televangelist scandals of the 1980s.
The Journeys of St. Paul, published by Avalon Hill
Designed by Tom Shaw or Rev. Eugene Dougherty in the late 1960s or the 1970s.
Key to the Kingdom
This children's game apparently was widely available in the mid-1990s. The board included a hole that a castle fit through, allowing players to flip the board over for a second map to play on.
A Mighty Fortress
A multiplayer boardgame set in the Reformation. Four players are secular forces; two players are religious forces: the Catholic Church, and Protestants. The secular forces maneuver armies for political control of territories, while the religious players move evangelists for ideological influence.
Trailer Park Gods
The Greek Gods have become woefully weak due to a lack of worshippers in the modern world -- their only followers, in fact, inhabit trailer parks. This card game finds players (as the gods) protecting their own worshippers and cursing the rest.
A four-player card game played by two teams, each of which represents either Sun worshippers or Moon worshippers. Cards represent priests of varying strengths, souls to collect, and temples of varying power that can magnify the value of collected souls.
The Year of Our Lord, published by Avalon Hill
This board game was designed by a Catholic priest from Pittsburgh, perhaps the Rev. Eugene Dougherty mentioned above, in the 1970s.
Other Religious-Themed Games
Some additional games fit into the conversation, but either not enough information was gathered or the connection wasn't quite direct enough to include them above.
For example, some war games have religious elements, but generally only as a tool for gaining earthly power: Kingmaker, Machiavelli, Age of Renaissance and Republic of Rome would fit into that category. Mythology is a game in which players attempt to manipulate ancient gods (or perhaps it's the other way around).
In one case, our conversation turned to issues related to the Moral Majority, with one gamer recalling a MM-influenced series of "roleplaying games without the evil." In these games, one of which may have been called City of Vengeance or City of Despair, players used Biblical passages in place of weapons or spells to defeat various monsters and creatures.
In the mid-1950s, Parker Brothers produced a game called Going to Jerusalem, which was packaged with a copy of the four Gospels.
Parker Brothers also produced, in 1923, a game called Journey to Bethlehem. It came with three die-cast shepherds on camels, three die-cast Wise Men, a spinner in the shape of a six-pointed star, and a board that opens to 24.5" x 15". Its value, as estimated in Bruce Whitehill's Games: American Boxed Games and Their Makers 1822-1992, is $160.
Finally, one of my all-time favorite series of books -- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis -- has inspired numerous Narnia-themed games.
Many thanks to everyone (including but not limited to Geoff Brown, Eddie Campisano, Jonathan Degann, Bruno Faidutti, Richard Heli, Richard Irving, Kevin Maroney, Rob Mitchell, Alfonzo Smith, Mik Svellov and Alfred Wallace) who helped develop this list.