Hubris and Entertainment

John Shook

Playing Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination. Created by Benjamin Radford. Available at www.PlayingGods.com.


Playing Gods (created by Benjamin Radford, managing editor of our sister journal, Skeptical Inquirer) is a strategy game, perhaps like a smaller version of Risk, except you control the pieces in the manner of a jealous god rather than a tactical general. Two to five people can play. A typical game lasts about an hour, maybe a little more. In my experience playing the game, everyone has been very entertained, and the constant laughter is contagious. A couple of people took it very seriously but enjoyed the competitive spirit. They can’t be blamed—you really can play God!

A recent game stands out in my mind. When Jesus killed Buddha, things grew heated. The other divinities (Shiva and Muhammad) were impressed, and they joined forces to combat Jesus. Jesus had controlled Asia from the start of the game, piling up the little colored chips that represent his followers. (The conversion cards for doing good deeds and banning contraception are quite effective for increasing followers.) But that lead soon dwindled, since even gods can suffer misfortunes. Shiva’s conversion cards (the polygamy card was especially enticing) pulled away some of Jesus’s chips, and then Jesus lost another chip when he drew a card announcing that one of his preachers had been caught with a prostitute. Jesus fought back divinely, though. Using his wrath cards, tornadoes and tsunamis wiped out the chips of Shiva and Muhammad in North America and Africa. Muhammad’s revenge was soon revealed, as a flurry of conversion cards (especially that Miracle bonus card) stole away all of Jesus’s followers, and Jesus was out of the game. But the tide turned again; Shiva loosed a terrible famine and a lightning storm on Muhammad’s followers in South America and that was that. Shiva was the winner, ruling over the only religion left on the planet.

Setting up the game and getting into play is quite easy. The learning curve is not steep and everyone understood all the rules after about fifteen minutes—not bad for a fairly complicated game of strategy. I concluded that spreading out your followers across many continents is wise. A god can’t interfere with earthly affairs unless that god is positioned on a continent portal that bridges the surrounding astral level of divinities over to the globe of earthly followers. As the gods roll the cosmic dice and move around the astral ring, competing for additional conversion and wrath cards to increase power, they can also collide and steal each other’s cards.

The game pieces representing the gods are amusing. Angry Jesus strikes a lethal pose with a large cross while Moses holds a raised tablet over his head. Shiva’s four arms wield menacing things like blazing fire and a decapitated head; Muhammad is ready to hit you with a bomb or a scimitar. On Buddha’s fat belly, a huge machine gun is balanced and aimed at you. The game also comes with a generic figure representing any god you would like to play. Ready-to-stick labels can be placed on the generic figurine if you prefer the religion of Wicca (a pentagram), Scientology (Tom Cruise), or Satanism (a horned devil). More stick-ons can be used for capitalism, atheism (the flying spaghetti monster), beer, and anything else you can think of.

If you are looking for a blasphemously funny board game, look no farther. If you are looking to be righteously offended, look no farther. Either way, Playing Gods is the right game for you.

John Shook

John Shook is an associate editor of FREE INQUIRY and director of education and senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry. He has authored and edited more than a dozen books, is coeditor of three philosophy journals, and travels for lectures and debates across the United States and around the world.


Playing Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination. Created by Benjamin Radford. Available at www.PlayingGods.com. Playing Gods (created by Benjamin Radford, managing editor of our sister journal, Skeptical Inquirer) is a strategy game, perhaps like a smaller version of Risk, except you control the pieces in the manner of a jealous god rather than a …

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