A game where Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Kali and an unnamed Muslim figure battle against one another might be considered anti-religious, but Ben Radford, creator of “Playing Gods,” disagrees.

“I am not making fun of religion or people who are religious, but of the mindset that there is only one true path,” Radford said. “If religious wars were fought with cards and dice, we would all be in a better place.”

“Playing Gods,” released a year ago and retailing for $39.95, began as a pipe dream for Radford, who grew up on board games like “Risk” and “Dungeons and Dragons.”

However, he decided to make the game a reality after hearing so many reports about religious strife.

“When I grew up, I had friends of all different faiths and I thought nothing of it,” Radford said. “The idea that a person would be upset at someone because he or she didn’t believe the same thing to me is completely bizarre.”

Game play is similar to a theological version of “Risk,” Radford said. Each player chooses a religious figure and receives a group of followers. The goal is to eliminate all the followers of opposing religions by using acts of wrath, such as plagues, or conversion, such as miracles.

Radford said his initial idea was to have ancient religious figures as characters in the game, but he decided to choose deities that are more relevant to today’s issues.

“I wanted to update the games and include the real religions,” he said. “People aren’t killing each other over Zeus, people are killing each other Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. I had a couple of people say ‘You don’t want to put the real religions in there.’ I said, ‘I am not going to give them a free pass.’”

The game features prominent religious figures in violent caricatures, such as a Jesus figurine wielding a crucifix like a club. The figures serve to further satirize the idea of one true religion, Radford said.

Radford said he is an agnostic.

”I went out of my way not to intentionally provoke anybody,” Radford said. “It’s a satire.”

Radford said players are not limited to the major religious figures that come with the game. He also included a blank playing piece and a set of stickers for various other icons, such as Beer, Oprah and the Almighty Dollar.
“The rules are not specific to the main religions, so you can be anything,” Radford said. “I have people as Darth Vader or Mad Max. If people say, ‘Well, I am offended by these figures,’ then don’t use them. Use something else, make up your own.”

Radford said when he was designing the game he wanted something that would satirize the major world religions, but would also be fun to play.
“Playing Gods,” to Radford’s surprise, has received mostly positive reviews in its first year.

Mike Reiss, writer and producer for the hit TV series “The Simpsons,” praised the game’s wit and design.

“It’s smart and funny and so handsomely mounted,” he said in a review on the game’s Web site.

Radford said he is surprised by all the positive feedback and just laughs off negative critiques.

“A lot of people won’t touch it,” he said. “On the back I have a satire hazard: ‘Contains satire: Keep away from easily offended fundamentalists.’ My position is if you’re an easily offended fundamentalist, you should have read the warning.”

*Playing Gods
www.PlayingGods.com *