Monday, December 22, 2008

Reviweing collectible games from a wargamer's perspective: Redemption

Redemption is a case of a collectible game that has some of the trappings of a military conflict game, but is really of limited interest to wargamers.

This bible-based card game was part of the first major wave of collectible games to hit the market in 1995 after Magic:The Gathering pioneered the concept. Unlike most of those 1995 games, however, Redemption has managed to stay in print all these years. While not a bad game, by any means, the relative success and longevity of Redemption has more to do with its appeal to a particular niche of the market -- the Christian (especially evangelical) market. While the game is non-denominational enough to appeal to any Christian belief and, indeed, could appeal to many secular-minded people as well, it's main reason for existing is the reality that there's a market for Christian themed products of all sorts for people who feel the wider secular popular culture has a lot of problematic elements from a moral stand point. There's an entire subculture of books, magazines, music, plays, television programs, movies and many other products oriented towards Christians that are largely invisible to the wider public.

While Magic: The Gathering was wildly popular, it posed a problem for Christian parents and teens because its full of topics most Christians find highly suspect, such as magic, evil characters placed on the same level as good, sacrifice and abominations of all sorts. So to provide an alternative that provided a more wholesome message while providing many of the same gaming experiences as M:TG Redemption was created.

The basic premise of the game is that heroes are being sent into the land of bondage to rescue lost souls. These heroes are opposed in their quest by Evil Characters. The Heroes and Evil Characters engage in a test of strength, comparing attack and defense strengths (in a diceless system similar to Magic: The Gathering). Both sides can be enhanced with cards and, as one might expect, there are various special cards that can be played as well. The cards are very attractive, with Biblical passages related to the card's theme and quality illustrations.

All the cards are based on events, people and themes from the Bible and it turns out to be a surprisingly rich source. There are even dragons!

Even though the game does include many warlike or military-sounding things such as bow and arrow, buckler and David's Sling there are also many decidedly unwarlike enhancements as well such as Gentleness, Joy, Shoes of Peace and the Submissiveness of Mary.

From a wargamer's point of view, the game is of limited interest, having little to do with military tactics and strategy. As with most CCG's card-playing skills such as hand-management and combo-building are more important than skills based on the traditional principles of war.

On the other hand, it's an accessible game that succeeds in providing an entertaining Christian-themed CCG. It's a somewhat easier game than Magic: The Gathering, making it easier to teach to non-gamers and younger children, but I think there's sufficient detail that deck building will still be interesting for experienced players. New expansions for the game come out about every two years or so, so the game is nowhere near the money sink that M:TG is. The company's Web site provides tournament materials, but there's little evidence of a strong tournament scene for the game.

I don't think most wargamers would seek this out, but if you happen to be a wargamer who also has an interest in Biblical themed games then I think you may find it of some interest.

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