Product: Jerusalem: Power Politics in the Holy City is one of the Fall 2010 releases from ElfinWerks Games. Players compete for control of critical areas in the medieval city of Jerusalem. By controlling such places as the Holy Sepulcher, the Tower of David, and even the Knights Templar, all sources of power and conflict, you gain resources — men, money, prestige, and influence — to build the largest castle in the Holy City. Jerusalem comes with 35 cards, over 230 playing pieces, four player screens, 44 punch-out coins and a board. Rules included in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Gameplay: Play is similar to Puerto Rico. Each turn, players bid for control of an Office which allows them the opportunity to earn bezants (money), squires or prestige. Players use squires to control areas of the board; bezants are used to bid on offices and purchase other items during the game; and prestige is used to build your family’s tower. Event and action cards serve to influence game play as well. The player with the highest tower at the end of the fifth turn wins.
With three players, we found we reached turn 5 well within the 90 minutes listed on the box, though the consensus was that gameplay is a bit too complex for the suggested “12 & up” age range. The rules are short and well written and play was surprisingly smooth for a game which none of the players had played before. We rated rules complexity a 3 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the high rating. Play enjoyment was rated a 4, and quality of the components also a 4. However, our sample copy was missing the 5 colored cylinders for tracking prestige and turns. While this was not a major problem for us in a demo game, a customer purchasing Jerusalem will rightly be annoyed by missing pieces. Another concern was that the 50 squire pieces per player were not enough. We ran out by turn 4 with the rules not clear as to what to do when this happens.
All three players said they would gladly play again and felt Jerusalem had significant replay value, though, even with the run up in boardgame prices, most said they would not spend $55 for a copy.
Marketing: While ElfinWerks has a good slate of games for this fall, they are trying to enter a market with a number of quality boardgame publishers already. ElfinWerks did start out strong at the 2010 Alliance Open House handing out copies of their fall releases to attending retailers, as well as a sell sheet for the five games coming out. The sell sheet directs people to the company website for more information, but the site only had the sell sheet info posted and no contact info. A call to the company asking for more info about its promotional plans has not been returned as of this writing.
Given the $55 price point, testing consumer response with some of ElfinWerks lower priced games such as Lungarno and Caligula might be a better option than stocking Jerusalem right off the bat.
One unique way to position Jerusalem is to point it out to pastors who shop your store. I mentioned it to one who frequents our store and he was extremely interested in taking a look at the game, saying he would consider buying a copy for inclusion in the church library.
Product: Jerusalem: Power Politics in the Holy City
Publisher: ElfinWerks and Red Glove
Stock No.: RG2009
Availability: All major game distributors
Surprisingly easy to learn, though probably a bit too complex for the 12 year age group suggested
Unique subject matter not covered by other games
May be a bit pricy given ElfinWerks is a relatively new company