Now I don’t review any table top game simply because that would require another person and myself does not game with friends as often as I’d like! That being said, I know there’s a huge demand for board gaming and I would never turn down a great idea even if its out of my possible reach. So, here’s Mr. Craig Stern, talking to me about his new table top fantasy game, True Messiah!
Chase: How do you play True Messiah?
Craig Stern: Every player starts the game with their messiah, seven followers, and nine miracle cards. Each turn, you’ll position your followers with an eye toward building temples and boosting recruitment in the following round. Followers on holy spaces can pray to let you play your miracle cards; miracle cards, in turn, can get you money, produce new units, or destroy some of your enemies.
At the end of each round, you’ll use your money to secretly bid on new miracle cards that add new powers to your deck. The first player to eliminate a single enemy player from the game wins!
Chase: So each session is 1-2 hours long? How would you keep newcomers engaged for that length of time?
Craig Stern: The key to keeping player attention is to ensure that they’re faced with interesting decisions on every single turn. And True Messiah is nothing if not a giant machine for generating interesting decisions! For instance:
“How do I allocate my moves? Do I focus on building as many temples as I can as quickly as I can; on establishing board control; on defense; or on generating as much money as possible to give me an edge in card bidding? Do I splurge on this powerful card; do I spend my money denying cards to my enemies; or do I simply bide my time and wait for a better opportunity? Do I play all of my miracles to make my turn as efficient as possible, or do I keep some in reserve to respond to potential aggression?”
And so on. If you’re the sort of player who finds little strategic dilemmas like this absorbing, then you’ll find no shortage of them to keep you engaged here!
Chase: How does True Messiah stand out from any other table top rpgs…or is it an rpg?
Craig Stern: Well, it’s not a tabletop RPG at all, so there’s one key difference right out of the gate!
True Messiah is best described as a strategy board game with deck-building. Now, the deck-building mechanics do encourage a sort of role-playing (you’re a cult leader who is effectively crafting your own custom religious canon, after all), but it’s not the same thing as creating a character, rolling stats, and directly interacting with NPCs and monsters via dialogue and dice. True Messiah’s mechanics are focused on grand strategy with a more impersonal sweep: building bases, commanding troops, and so on.
Chase: Being the subject is religion, would religious folks discover red flags within your game?
Craig Stern: True Messiah is less about religion and more about the dangers of rejecting objective reality, of denying that anything truly exists unless one wishes it to. What would happen if personal beliefs actually did determine what was real? The game’s cults are merely used as a medium for exploring that concept.
Now, I have a pretty hard time imagining that most religious gamers would actually identify with the post-apocalyptic cults featured in the game, but I suppose one must ask oneself: does your religion teach that different belief systems cannot coexist; does it teach cruelty as a valid means to achieve goals; does it treat believers as interchangeable pawns to be sacrificed in the pursuit of money and power? I certainly hope not! But if it does, then let’s be honest: you probably have bigger problems than choosing which board game to buy.
Chase: You Kickstarted True Messiah? What are your thoughts on Kickstarter and how does this platform help you make the board game of your dreams?
Craig Stern: I ran a campaign back in 2016; we got to the 50% mark on funding, but did not hit our goal. I’m going to try again in March of this year! If it succeeds, that will give me the money I need to (a) fund a print run of the game and (b) ship out copies to those interested in obtaining them.
Chase: If your Kickstarter campaign never succeeded, would this game still have been made? Why or why not?
Craig Stern: Perversely, you cannot successfully crowdfund a board game unless the game is already complete. Your game must be finished, along with actual reviews published online, before launching the campaign; otherwise, the online board game community will simply refuse to back your project, and your game will never get a print run! It’s totally nonsensical, but that’s the world we live in.
Because of this fact, Kickstarter campaigns for board games are little more than a means to fund a print run (and ideally, to recoup some of your costs for development, promotion, and art, if you can). Merely doing a single print run of a game can mean spending well upwards of $10,000, and that’s before international shipping and storage fees. It’s not the sort of thing that independent developers can generally afford to do out-of-pocket; hence, Kickstarter.
So, to answer your question: the game would exist without Kickstarter, because one cannot run a board game Kickstarter until one’s board game is already finished. However, without a successful Kickstarter campaign, that game will never receive a print run, thereby leaving only a small handful of prototypes out in the world. Personally, I think True Messiah deserves better than that.
Chase: How would you pitch True Messiah to those who don’t play a lot or any table top games at all?
Craig Stern: If you enjoy video games like Civilization or Starcraft, or card games like Magic the Gathering or Dominion, then there’s a very good chance you’ll enjoy True Messiah! But even if you’re completely new to strategy games, if you like the game’s art or its theme, I say give it a shot.
Compared to other strategy board games, I kept True Messiah’s rules pretty simple (and the number of different types of components pretty low), so True Messiah is comparatively accessible if you’re motivated to learn. It’ll take you one full game to understand how the different systems interact with each other—from there, it’s all about learning the different miracle cards and devising strategies to make the best use of them.
Chase: Where and when can others check out the final build of True Messiah?
Craig Stern: I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign in mid-March of this year. If it succeeds, I’ll commission a print run and (if all goes according to plan) have copies of True Messiah shipped out to backers by October 2018!
To have me send you a link to the Kickstarter when it drops, just go ahead and sign up with your email address at truemessiahgame.com.
Well there you have it! I didn’t have to jot down links this time as Craig has done this for me! If everything your reading sounds interesting to you, then check this one out! Otherwise…till next time!