February 2, 2016

True Messiah February 2016 update

Hey there, strategy game fans! As it’s been three months since the last big update, I figured I’d pop on here and tell you all how True Messiah is shaping up. In a word: excellently!


Since I last wrote, 100% of True Messiah’s card art has been completed! As of right now, True Messiah has a deck of 86 cards that breaks down like so:

  • 4 character cards

Card Spread Messiahs (550w)

  • 36 starting miracle cards (4 starting decks of 9 cards each)
  • 42 purchasable miracle cards (these make up the marketplace at game start)

Card Spread B (550w)

  • 4 rule reference cards (containing the turn order and a quick summary of useful unit configurations)

In all, there are 45 unique card types, each with gorgeous original art. Not too shabby!


The True Messiah game board is complete as well! Behold, the blasted wasteland that is Earth mere decades after activation of the Belief Engine:

Game Board Small (550w)

That dashed line running along the innermost 6 x 6 block of spaces demarcates the play area for a 2-player game; for 4-player, one uses the whole board.


You’ve probably noticed this on the Games page already, but True Messiah has a logo now–to wit:

True Messiah Logo 550 x 208

Getting a logo might sound minor, but it’s actually really important. Having a logo makes marketing the game a heck of a lot easier, and it’s also an essential precondition for creating art for certain other materials (like the rule book and the box).


Also complete: the game’s temple tiles! These are the big, 2″ x 2″ tiles you place onto the board each time you build a temple on a square. The red, black, violet, and white messiahs each have their own style of temple that reflects design elements from the corresponding messiah:

Tile Spread Temples (550w)


Chits, in case you don’t know, are those sturdy little discs that you punch out of cardboard sheets when you first open a game. Coins, health points, and all non-messiah units are going to be represented by chits.

Chit Spread (550w)

As of this moment, we have finished the art for True Messiah’s coins and health points, as well as all the art for the two-sided chits that represent each messiah’s followers. All that remains on this front is to wrap up the chit art for nonbelievers and avatars (the game’s two other unit types).

Box Art

Box art is on the list right after the chit art for nonbelievers and avatars!


In progress! “W-w-wait,” I hear you say. “Music–for a board game?!” Well, sort of! I’ve hired Ryan Richko (composer of the excellent Telepath Tactics soundtrack) to compose original music for use during any and all True Messiah videos I produce (including the inevitable Kickstarter video). Much like the logo, the music may not be a key component of the board game itself, but it will be important for branding and marketing! This one should be wrapped up by the end of February.


Not all the progress of the past three months has been in the game’s art: I’ve also been playtesting True Messiah continuously, making tweaks to improve rules clarity and game balance/flow as I go.

By “rules clarity,” I mean that I want every last little thing to be as clear as humanly possible. I’ve overhauled the wording of both True Messiah’s rules and miracle card text repeatedly in order to make sure that everything uses consistent terminology–terminology that you can then look up in a well-organized index at the back of the rule book!

To ensure that I meet my goal for rules clarity, I’ve conducted repeated tests with brand-new players who’ve been handed the rule book but given no other guidance, and in all recent tests, they’ve been able to play the game competently and answer their own questions quickly and easily by reference to the rule book. Thus, I have a high degree of confidence in the clarity and completeness of the rules as they are currently drafted. (I will, of course, be around to answer questions once the game is out, just in case!)

The other purpose of all this testing has been to ensure game balance and flow. Balance: are the disadvantages of going later in the turn order offset with comparable advantages? Are the cards balanced; are their costs proportional to the value of their effects? Flow: does the game play smoothly from beginning to end? We’re reaching a point where the answer to all of these things is “Yes, with a high degree of confidence!”


I have a couple of Top Secret True Messiah Things that I’m working on! Those will be revealed in the not-too-distant future–but for now, all I will say is that they’re awesome and they’re coming along swimmingly.

Business plan

Whoa, hey, where are you going–this part is interesting, I promise! Okay, so: my original plan with True Messiah was to finish up the art by sometime in January or February, then launch a Kickstarter campaign shortly thereafter to fund a manufacturing run while introducing True Messiah to a large audience for the first time. This would have been a solid plan for a video game, but it turns out that this is a bad plan for a board game.

Over the course of many hours of research, I’ve learned that a board game Kickstarter is not like a video game Kickstarter. For a video game, Kickstarter is where you present a vertical slice to introduce your game to the world; determine if the market wants what you’re making; and then, assuming it does, get a budget to actually complete the thing.

Not so for board games! For a board game, Kickstarter is more like your game’s launch: the game should already be complete, and you should aim to “sell” every possible copy of your forthcoming print run during that campaign. Any copies you don’t “sell” via the Kickstarter, you’re going to need to distribute for sale to various stores, which means making a much, much smaller share of each sale. (James Mathe, owner of Minion Games, estimates that the profit from a retail sale of your board game will work out to roughly one-third the profit of a “sale” through Kickstarter.)

On top of that, there’s the cost of paying to ship copies to distributors, as well as the cost (and hassle) involved in storing any excess games–and if your game doesn’t sell when it hits retail, well, you’re simply out that money and you’re stuck with hundreds of copies sitting around your apartment.

Thus, I need to maximize the benefits from the game’s eventual Kickstarter. To that end, I’m going to spend a number of months going to cons and game shops and marketing the hell out of True Messiah. When the Kickstarter comes, it’ll be because the world knows about the game and already wants to have it!

Speaking of which–if you think the game looks cool and you want to be notified when the Kickstarter drops, you can sign up to get a notification right here:

[yikes-mailchimp form=”1″]

The bigger that list gets, the more confident I’ll feel about launching the Kickstarter, so go ahead and tell your friends about True Messiah!


See you all next time, when I’ll reveal more secrets about True Messiah, and maybe even have a free treat to give away…