I have recently been asked to compile a list of board games around the theme of Jesus in Boats for ages 5-11. This includes the miracles: Miraculous catch of fish, walking on water and calming the storm. So I thought I would share my list with all you wonderful people as well.
There’s a large number of water based games out there and I’ll list some of (what I consider to be) the best ones to go for.
First though, what are the 3 miracles actually about?
Miraculous catch of fish – this is the miracle that shows 4 of the disciples who Jesus is and leads to them following Him. After an unsuccessful nights fishing Jesus tells them to cast the net to the other side, the one where no fish should be, and in doing so they catch so many fish they have to throw some back in! Showing us that following Jesus makes the unexpected happen. Read Luke 5:1-11
Walking on water – Jesus walked on water, but not only that He had Simon Peter walk on water too, though Simon Peter’s faith wavered and he began to sink until he was rescued by Jesus. Showing that if we believe in Jesus we can do miraculous things. Read Matthew 14:22-33
Calming the storm – Jesus was asleep in the boat when a great storm came upon it terrifying the disciples, to the point that they were jumping overboard in fright. Jesus wakes up and with a word calms the storm showing His power and how with Him by our side we never need be afraid. Read Luke 8:22-25
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Kayanak is my first choice. In this game you are playing as ice fishing polar bears, breaking holes in ice then using your fishing rod to find fish. The way it works is wonderfully simple, there are metal balls under the game board and the game board has a sheet of A4 paper slotted into it. On their turn a player rolls the dice which tells them whether they can move their bear, break the ice around their bear by using the pointed end of the fishing rod to pierce the paper or try to catch fish by using the magnetic fishing tackle. The winner is the first person to reach 10 fish. Very simple but very fun. there is also a way of making it more difficult by using the blizzard dice which changes how the board works by bringing in unbreakable or impassable segments or resealing previously opened holes.
This game can be linked to all 3 miracles. Obviously it’s fishing, technically walking on ice is walking on water and if you are using the blizzard variant it ties in with the storm.
Forbidden Island is a game where you are working together to retrieve 4 artifacts from a sinking island. Each turn more areas submerge and are eventually lost and if you aren’t quick enough you will lose the game as you sink with it.
This game fits with the calming the storm as characters can use an action to shore up an area and prevent it from sinking. It also shows how dangerous water can be and helps them understand why the disciples were scared.
Happy Salmon is a game very loosely tied to fish but is great fun. It’s a matching game where players have to find someone with the same card as theirs and then do the action on it.
This can be linked to the miraculous catch as salmon are fish.
Hey, that’s my fish! is a game where players are penguins trying to collect as many fish as possible. The map is made out of a grid of hex shaped ice floes each with a varying number of fish. Penguins move in a straight line along them and the hex they started on is picked up along with the fish on it by the player, creating a space that can’t be moved over in the future. When a penguin can’t move anywhere they are out.
This is again easily linked to the miraculous catch as well as to walking on water. We can walk on ice but not on water, Jesus was able to do both.
Ice Cool has players being penguins running around their school trying to collect fish whilst one player tries to stop them and send them back to class. This is down by flicking your penguin pieces around the board. This collecting the fish are trying to get through certain doorways whereas the other player is trying to stop them by crashing into them.
It can be linked again to the miraculous catch due to the fish in the theme and to walking on water due to the ice.
Tsuro of the Seas is a game of trying to keep ships safely moving around the game board without them hitting into giant sea creatures, each other or falling off the end of the board. The game has tiles with patterned lines all over them Each turn a tile is placed that connects to tiles already on the board and the ships on it follow the connected path. Also each turn dice are rolled to see if any sea creature moves or if new ones are added to the board. These disrupt tiles that they touch causing them to be discarded and can lead to players being knocked out of the game as well.
This one links to walking on water as it’s all about making a safe path to travel upon, and also to storms as the danger of the sea creatures can be linked to the danger of a storm, causing the path to change or worse capsizing boats.
Deep Sea Adventure is a game where you are trying to collect as much treasure as possible but you have a limited amount of oxygen and you have to decide how much of a risk you will take each time you descend. Each turn you decide if you want to continue down to get more treasure or head back up, but your oxygen depletes by the amount of treasure chips you are holding each turn and you need to roll on the dice to see how far you travel each time.
This one doesn’t link directly with the miracles though with its nautical theme and the idea of taking risks you can link it to Simon Peter trusting in Jesus and taking the risk to step out onto the water.
Oceanos has each player in control of a submarine trying to collect as many different fish, corals and treasures as possible at the same time. It is a card collecting game where players hands of cards are passed on each turn after they’ve selected the one to keep and each submarine gives different abilities to each player.
Again it doesn’t match the miracles exactly but you are trying to gather as many of the same things as possible much like the disciples were trying to catch as many fish as possible.
Pandemic: Rising Tide is set in the Netherlands during the industrial revolution and has you trying to set up 4 hydraulic systems that will prevent flooding, however the water levels are continually rising each turn and you need to work to ensure the whole country doesn’t flood before you’ve built them. It’s a difficult cooperative game, the hardest game on this list, but very good fun.
This can easily be linked to calming the storm. We need technology to hold the storm waters at bay, how much easier would it be if Jesus could calm the storms for us?
There are lots of games with a nautical theme, but this is a solid selection with different types of games for lots of different abilities and tastes so should work well for a mixed group of kids (and each game is also equally fun for adults too!)