True Messiah Logo 810 x 306

Gamer’s Voice Award Nominee 2018 – SXSW

Official Selection 2016 – Indiecade

Three-time Official Selection – Indie MEGABOOTH Tabletop

Indie Game Highlight from PAX West 2016 – Geekwire

“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


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.

How can I get True Messiah?

True Messiah is on Kickstarter now! If you want a copy, this is the place to get it.


Can you summarize the rules?

This video sums it up pretty well, but here’s the gist in text form:

Each player begins True Messiah with 9 miracle cards; 7 followers; 5 coins; 1 holy city; and their chosen messiah. 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 round, the players take their turns in a set order: Red > Black > Violet > White. Each player’s 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); and draw back up to 6 cards in your hand.
  • Action — move your messiah, plus up to 6 low units (followers or nonbelievers); have followers on holy spaces to pray to produce belief points; spend belief points to play miracles from your hand.
  • Combat — 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. Messiahs have 4 attacks. Casualties occur simultaneously.
  • End — any empty buildings with enemy units adjacent are captured/destroyed, then looted. Then, if you still have more than 3 miracle cards in your hand, discard down to 3. Your turn ends.

Once every player’s turn is completed, the market opens.


5-7 miracle cards are revealed from the top of the marketplace. Each player secretly selects a number of coins to bid and places their bid 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.

The market closes; each player gains 1 coin per holy space and 1 coin per prosperity monolith, and a new round starts.

For more details:

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

Click here for the True Messiah rulebook!

How do I get True Messiah, again?

Go here and pledge!