True Messiah Logo 810 x 306

“Craig Stern’s True Messiah from Sinister Design has a compelling setting and equally fantastic art”
W. Eric Martin, BoardGameGeek

Official Selection 2016 – Indiecade

Three-time Official Selection – Indie MEGABOOTH Tabletop

Indie Game Highlight from PAX West 2016 – Geekwire

“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


True Messiah is a strategy board game and deck-builder of surreal religious horror for 2-4 players.

What’s the premise?

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 fears of 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…

Card Spread Messiahs
What’s the art like?

Evocative. Bizarre. Horrifying. Our art style is inspired in part by the works of Zdzisław Beksiński–here are just a few of the dozens of pieces of original art we’ve already produced for the game:


How does it play?

Each turn, the players position their units with an eye toward boosting their economy in the following round. When their turn comes again, if their units have remained in the correct spots, they will build temples, recruit extra followers, gain bonus moves, and so on. Followers can pray to power miracles with a variety of effects; at the end of each round, the players secretly bid on new miracles to add to their arsenal.

True Messiah is balanced so that every move carries both risks and pay-offs. Play aggressively and cripple your opponent’s economy, or hunker down and play to out-grow your opponent.

As in chess, combat in True Messiah is quick, brutal, and 100% deterministic. The only randomness in True Messiah is situational, arising from the shuffling of the marketplace and of each player’s miracle pool.

Click here for the “How to Play True Messiah” video series!

How can I get True Messiah?

True Messiah will be made available via Kickstarter in the near-ish future. Enter your email address to receive an email notification when the campaign launches!

Can you summarize the rules?

True Messiah takes place on a square grid. The first player to defeat an enemy player (by slaying their messiah, capturing their holy city, bringing them to less than 4 followers, or causing them to possess less than 8 miracle cards total) wins the game.

Each player begins the game with the same 9 miracle cards; 7 followers; 5 coins; 1 holy city; and their chosen messiah.

Each round, the players take their turns in a set order: Red > Black > Violet > White. Each player turn consists of a sequence of 4 phases:

  • Beginning — flip over all praying followers; recruit new followers (2 if your messiah is alone on a holy space, plus 1 follower for every holy space you have with 2+ followers on it); build temples (on each empty space where you have 4 followers); draw back up to 6 cards in your hand.
  • Action — move your messiah, plus up to 6 low units (followers or nonbelievers); command followers on holy spaces to pray, which you can use to play miracles from your hand.
  • Combat — if combat was declared, all adjacent enemy units on the board can attack each other. Each low unit (follower or nonbeliever) has 1 attack, each attack kills 1 low unit. Casualties all occur simultaneously.
  • End — any empty buildings that enemy units remain adjacent to are captured/destroyed, then looted. If you still have more than 3 miracle cards in your hand, discard down to 3.

The current player’s turn ends and the next player now takes their turn.


Once every player’s turn is completed, 5-7 miracle cards are revealed from the top of the marketplace. Each player secretly selects a number of coins to bid and places them into a closed fist.

When all fists are over the table, the players reveal their bids simultaneously. Going from the highest bidder to the lowest, each player spends their bid on up to 2 cards–pick your favorites, or overspend to shut out lower-bidding players. Purchased miracles go into the purchaser’s discard pile, to eventually be reshuffled into a new deck once their current deck runs out of cards.

The market then closes, each player gains 1 coin per holy space they possess, and a new round starts.

How do I get True Messiah, again?

We’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a print run–just enter your email address and we’ll let you know when it’s available!