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True Messiah - Strategy Game of Surreal Religious Horror project video thumbnail
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$16,088 pledged of $32,600 goal
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$16,088 pledged of $32,600 goal
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About this project

 

It is the near future; Earth. Years ago, scientists successfully constructed the Belief Engine, a machine that warps reality based on peoples’ strongly held beliefs. The machine was turned on for testing, but it proved too sensitive: widespread belief in the depravity of man and imminent social collapse suddenly took on the full force of objective fact, and science skepticism rendered the Engine’s creators helpless to intervene. Without resort to a shared external reality, civilization crumbled like a sand castle in the tide.

From the ruins have now arisen cults led by charismatic, messianic figures possessed of seemingly divine powers derived from the still-functioning Engine. You are one such a figure—the true one, the Messiah. It is God’s will that you build temples and marshal followers, then mold their beliefs to perform miracles and destroy your rivals. They’ll be doing the same, but don’t worry–God is on your side…

Evocative; bizarre; horrifying. Inspired in part by the works of Zdzisław Beksiński, True Messiah's art style represents a grim blend of religious symbolism and post-apocalyptic surrealism:

In all, there are 40 distinct types of miracle cards, each illustrated to the standards you see above.

True Messiah supports 2 to 4 players--when the game begins, you each choose your messiah:

You will recruit followers, build temples, and deploy a custom deck of uncanny miracles to destroy the false prophets who dare to challenge you for control over the wasteland. The first player to defeat an enemy player wins.

On your turn, position your units with an eye toward boosting your resources: when your turn comes around again, if your units remained alive and in the correct spots, you will build temples, recruit followers, and obtain bonus moves based upon your unit positioning. (Note that this isn't mere worker placement: resources exist in actual two-dimensional space on the board, and must be defended!)

In addition to moving, your followers may pray to power miracles, or else may engage in combat to destroy enemy units or temples.

At the end of each round, you'll use your ill-gotten gains to bid in secret against the other players to acquire new miracles for your religion. Most of the miracles in the market are uniques, which means that you'll be constructing a deck with vastly different powers from everyone else at the table over the course of every game!

The Rulebook [PDF]

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(Want more details? Click above for the full rules, or check out this campaign's updates for more in-depth "how to play" videos!)

In a word: yes. It takes just one play-through to learn to play True Messiah, but there's loads of hidden depth left to plumb once you've mastered the basics.

The differences between the messiahs are subtle, with all of their advantages and disadvantages arising out of their position in the turn order. Going earlier? That means you'll get a consistent advantage from playing somewhat more aggressively on the board, as you can leverage your earlier recruitment to control territory and squeeze your enemies...provided that you don't overextend yourself. Going later? You'll get an advantage in acquiring new miracles, an advantage that compounds with every round that passes...provided that you can successfully parry aggression from the other players.

Turtling is a viable strategy, but it can leave you vulnerable to getting boxed in; and naked aggression is also viable, but it can leave you vulnerable to a counterthrust. In all, you're looking at a game that rewards measured and deliberate play--one which will reveal new aspects of itself to you every time you break it out.

But enough from me--here is what others have to say!

  • “Craig Stern’s True Messiah from Sinister Design has a compelling setting and equally fantastic art” –W. Eric Martin, BoardGameGeek
  • “It’s got a deep, unique interplay between spatial strategy and deck building that I dig. A beautiful brain burn.” –Don Eskridge, designer of The Resistance
  • “[T]he deck building mechanic is done really well and turns the managing your repertoire of miracles into a mini game of its own. But my favourite aspect of True Messiah was the way in which your troops are also your source of power for your miracles. There is a constant pressure to manage your followers and balance your belief against your combat power.” –Steven Tudor, Polyhedron Collider
  • “True Messiah is a fantastic blend of deckbuilding and strategy game, taking the best elements of a game like Ascension and merging it with the unit focused combat and control of Risk. One of the best elements in this game is how easy it is to learn because there are a simple set of actions, but they all have intense and often immediate strategic significance, whether its deciding how much to bid to win first pick at the card market, or whether to focus on producing more followers or trashing your rival's temples. I played a 2v2 that left me wanting to play more.” –Sriraman Subbaraman, co-designer of Phoenix Covenant
  • “The game is amazing; I had a lot of fun with it!” –Undead Viking

 

So here's the box...

 ...but what's inside it? I'm glad you asked! Opening up the box, you’ll find:

  • an 18” x 18” quad-fold board with a lovely painted depiction of the howling wasteland that humanity now calls home
  • 1 large, full-color rulebook
  • 79 gorgeously illustrated miracle cards
  • 4 character cards
  • 4 messiah pawns*
  • 4 holy city tiles
  • 16 tiles representing the game’s buildable temples
  • 4 rules reference cards
  • 234 chits representing coins, player health, various playable units, and a couple of types of counters

*Note that the game's messiah pawns can be upgraded to awesome 3D printed miniatures of the messiahs!

These miniatures are pretty huge, each about 58 mm tall. For comparison, most miniatures range in height from 25 mm up to 32 mm; here is how 32 mm looks next to these guys:

If you want the miniatures, just make sure to select the correct tier, as the base game contains only the pawns.

Where did True Messiah's funding goal come from, you might ask? Simple: the funding goal you see here is the total cost to make this game and ship it overseas from the factory.

This goal ignores the taxes that I will inevitably have to pay on whatever we raise, and it does not include any compensation for myself for the years of work I've put into designing the game. If we hit our goal, I will make no profit at all, but I will get to more-or-less break even on costs while delivering you an awesome game.

Here is a breakdown of what the funding goal pays for:

(Note that these manufacturing and shipping expenses are estimated based upon a print run size of 1,500 units, the smallest possible print run that will produce a decent volume discount--and thus, a per-unit cost to manufacture which permits me to charge only $50 per copy.)

It's easy for projects like this to bloat up with lots of stretch goals that push back the release date by months (or even years!), endangering the whole project via unpredictable added costs and development time.

So I'm keeping things nice and simple. There are two stretch goals:

200 backers at or above the $50 tier - I will add a new card to the game, Brimstone. Brimstone will cost 3 belief, have a range of 3, and allow you to destroy a low unit (or damage a high unit) of your choice!

1,500 backers at or above the $50 tier - this will sell out the entire 1,500-unit print run in advance, permitting me to print a larger run with an increased volume discount per copy manufactured--if that happens, I'll pass those savings on to you by upgrading the game's components with thicker, denser materials. Specifically:

  • all of the game's unit chits will be made 50% thicker, improving their heft and overall feel
  • all of the game's coins and miscellaneous tokens will be made 50% thicker, improving their heft and overall feel
  • all of the game's tiles will be made 50% thicker, improving their weight and feel, and making them more secure on the board

This is an EU-friendly Kickstarter!

True Messiah is complete and ready to go, but I cannot bring it to market without your support! So, what are you waiting for? Click the pledge button on the right and let's get started!

 

Risks and challenges

As with any physical game, there is always a risk that something could go wrong on the manufacturing end that delays the game's ship date.

That said, I already have True Messiah fully designed, with finalized rules and final art formatted to the exact specifications required by the manufacturers. Shipping and fulfillment will be handled by Blackbox, the professional service responsible for shipping out Exploding Kittens and Secret Hitler--they have loads of experience in shipping and fulfillment, so I expect they're going to handle their end with aplomb.

In short: I don't anticipate any problems.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Follower

    Your belief will help this game manifest in reality; you have my thanks.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    The Game

    A full copy of True Messiah--presumably, this is what you came here for. Does *not* include the miniatures.

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    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    The Game, Plus Miniatures

    A full copy of True Messiah, PLUS four heavy, detailed, 58-mm tall miniatures--one for each of the game's four messiahs--at no additional shipping cost.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    The Game x 2

    Two full copies of True Messiah--one for you and one for a friend, with cheaper shipping per copy. Does *not* include the miniatures.

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    Pledge $170 or more About $170

    The Game, Plus Miniatures x 2

    Two full copies of True Messiah, PLUS each copy gets four heavy, detailed, 58-mm tall miniatures of the game's messiahs. Results in cheaper shipping per copy.

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    Pledge $180 or more About $180

    The Game - Retailer Level

    [For retailers ONLY--retailer status will be verified after the campaign ends before this reward can be sent out!] 5 full copies of True Messiah, priced with the retailer in mind; includes a hefty reduction in shipping cost.

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    Pledge $425 or more About $425

    The Miracle

    Everything in the "The Game, Plus Miniatures" tier, PLUS I will send you a special, one-of-a-kind miracle card with beautiful artwork that is completely unique to you. We'll work together to decide the specifics of what appears on your special miracle card!

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Funding period

- (30 days)