Philip DuBarry is the designer of the new game ‘Wisdom of Solomon’. Which will be a reprint and reworking of an older game of his called ‘Kingdom of Solomon’. He has also designed the games ‘Revolution’ and ‘Black Orchestra’.
Can you give us a brief history of yourself and your game designing?
I’ve always been making games, even as a kid. I got into modern board games in the early 2000s, and I came up with a more serious game idea in 2007 called Revolution. Other people actually enjoyed playing it, so I knew something strange was going on, I decided to forge ahead by selling handmade copies on the internet. Phil Reed from Steve Jackson Games ended up buying a copy. He called me out of the blue asking to publish it. After it’s release in 2009, I figured I could make a few more games. I’m been doing that ever since!
You released the game Kingdom of Solomon before and have just released Wisdom of Solomon digitally on Tabletopia. Can you tell us a bit about Wisdom of Solomon? What makes it different?
KoS (and WoS) is a worker placement game set in ancient Israel during the reign of King Solomon. Players gather resources and build structures and a trade network before the temple is finished. The idea was to freshen up the original game and give it another chance in the marketplace. However, as we got into the process, we decided to make fairly extensive changes. Much of the original game remains (buildings, gathering resources, building a network, bonus spaces claimed with all your remaining pawns), but many of the other elements have been overhauled (the market, the temple, the fortune cards, the rules about making networks, and more).
Was there anything about Solomon that prompted you to choose that for a theme?
I felt like it was an underutilized theme. Bible themes in general are often frowned upon. I wanted to make a modern game that happened to have a biblical theme, rather than a bible teaching tool that happened to be a game. The history of King Solomon provides a rich backdrop for the game.
What’s next for Wisdom of Solomon?
As of now, we are working on raising awareness of the game, especially through Tabletopia. We want to collect more feedback before we lock it all down into its final form. Soon we will be sending out review copies, and shortly thereafter, launching on Kickstarter (hopefully before the summer).
How important is a christian theme when it comes to your game designs? Is it just about general fun or are you hoping each game teaches something biblically?
KoS and WoS have been the only games with a biblical theme I’ve done so far. As I said above, the goal was always more about the game than about the source material. That being said, the Funhill Games version (WoS) includes a more explicitly Christian treatment. We now even have bible verses on the fortune cards.
As to my other designs, while I don’t usually aim to teach a lesson, I do allow my Christian beliefs to inform the story of the game. For example, Black Orchestra is about assassinating Hitler. One of the characters in the game is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and theologian who decided to join the Abwehr (military intelligence) specifically to undermine and plot against the Nazi regime. He saw that fight in terms of his faith, and I want that to be part of the game’s story. I want players to maybe think about some of the larger implications–the nature of evil, what real courage looks like.
How was Kingdom of Solomon received amongst Non-Christian players? Why might someone who is not a believer be hesitant about trying a game with a biblical theme?
I was pleasantly surprised by its reception in 2011. Some players did have some concerns, but I feel like many of these were won over to the game in the end. There will always be a number of people turned off to a particular theme (especially a culturally divisive one), but my focus on gameplay has helped this not be a big issue. I hope that continues with the release of the new game.
Does this make the design process more difficult?
I suppose it does in some ways. It’s one more factor to consider, although you always need to consider your target audience when designing a game (or at least during development). Designing from a Christian worldview does also challenges me to strive for truth even when presenting the less-savory elements of life. I’m not always successful at this, but it’s on my mind.
Are there obstacles for christians within the game industry?
For the most part, I would say no. You will always have people who have a strong aversion to Christian themes, and you will miss out on some lucrative projects that depend on iconoclastic themes (Cards Against Humanity, etc.) and overly-suggestive themes and art. But a lot of that is self-imposed. The board game industry is quite open-minded and welcoming. Sometimes in the wider culture, this swings only one way, with everyone being tolerated except Christians. But I find the board game world to be truly willing to have almost any discussion. I also think Christians have a lot to add to the conversation about the treatment and inclusion of women and minorities in the gaming hobby (and industry).
What other games would you recommend that the readers would enjoy with their friends and families?
Some of our favorite games lately are: Word Slam, Codenames Duet, Avalon, For Sale, Terra Mystica, Eclipse, and Pandemic: Legacy.
Thank you again for your time. All the best for your future. We pray that God continues to use you and your games in some amazing ways.
Thanks for letting me share some of my thoughts!