Portals & Prophets: A Review by Patrick Lysaght
When and where would you go in the Bible if you had access to a time portal? This fascinating question is at the heart of the new game “Portals & Prophets” by Harmon Games. We recently had the opportunity to play a pre-production prototype, and had a great time doing so. “Portals & Prophets” is a 2-5 player, 1 hour, easily accessible, pick-up-and-deliver style game set in Judea. The unique twist is that you are delivering yourself through both space and time (through a time portal jointly controlled by all of the players) in order to witness specific events. This creates a refreshingly chaotic mixture of unexpected opportunities and the foiling of best-laid plans. In order to break down my thoughts, I will talk first about mechanics and then about the theme execution in the game.
“Portals & Prophets” balances high-accessibility, light-moderate strategic depth, and randomized replayability. I was playing this game with my 6, 9, and 10 year olds 20 minutes after I opened the box. This doesn’t mean they had it “figured out,” but they were able to sit down and get into it right away. This speaks volumes about how easy the mechanics are to learn. The wrinkle is in the end-game scoring. A skilled player will pick up 50-60% of their points after the game is over. This is really where the “hidden” strategy comes in. My kids had fun getting themselves to the right place and time to play cards, but the regional set collection and symbol tracking sailed over their heads. It will take some more plays for them to grasp this level of play. “Portals & Prophets” packs enough mechanical punch to make it interesting for a committed gamer, but packages it in a way that allows casual gamers to pick it up quickly.
On the theme side, “Portals & Prophets” is largely what you choose to make of it. The game is driven by cards with Biblical events, but it doesn’t actually make the players acknowledge what those events are. At first, we were so focused on getting our pieces to the right place at the right time, we didn’t even process the events we were witnessing. Later, we started reading the events as the cards were played, and it opened up whole new opportunities to tell stories our kids either hadn’t heard or had forgotten. In terms of art, “Portals & Prophets” uses an art style that reminds us of Sunday School pamphlets. This can either be endearing or distracting depending on your personal perspective, and on the individual image.
Overall, I think this game will really shine with people looking for a fun way to explore Bible history. Laying out events both geographically and chronologically breathes life and context into the Biblical timeline. I know this game will get a bunch of table time in our house as the kids get older, and I think it would be a great fit for youth groups looking to explore connections between the Old and New Testaments. I highly recommend “Portals & Prophets” for all gamers interested in Bible history!