May 4, 2016

True Messiah May 2016 update

Another month, another update! True Messiah remains on track for a fall 2016 Kickstarter; below, we find a summary of the latest progress on your soon-to-be favorite strategy game of surreal religious horror…


Holy city tiles are still in-progress, as the artist has been busy with work from other (more cash-flush) sources. In truth, it shouldn’t make much of a difference. Those should be done by next month, and Gen Con isn’t until August anyhow.


I’ve long suspected that, sooner or later, I’d have to redesign the card layout. Previously, the belief cost sat in the bottom-right of each card–however, that location doesn’t mesh well with the way that people tend to hold cards in their hands, and so you’d have to spend time arranging your cards just to see what they cost.

To fix that, I’ve relocated the cost for each card to the top-left of the card, right next to the card’s title.


Card Spread B (550w)


Card Spread B (550w)

It’s much better after the redesign, I think you’ll agree!Edict w Player Symbols

Also tweaked: instead of using colored dots to denote cards which belong to a player’s starting deck, players now each have their own symbol based on the design of their messiah’s mask. This symbol now sits in the bottom-right of each starter card, making it easier to tell at a glance which messiah owns which (particularly for color-blind folks, I’m told).

Game Board

I’ve updated the game board with markings that make it easier to tell exactly where the starting locations are for each player (as well as the boundaries to the play space) based on the number of players.

In addition, I’ve added a little turn order reminder to the edges of the board to provide an easy reference for new players: red, black, violet, white, market.

Game Board Small (550w)


As mentioned last month, I made it into the Indie MEGABOOTH Tabletop area with True Messiah. This made showing off the game at PAX East a delightful experience. Feedback from con-goers was electric in its enthusiasm, with numerous folks stopping by our table repeatedly throughout the weekend hoping for a chance to play.


In the end, we collected roughly 200 emails for our Kickstarter launch notification email–you know, this one:

Not too shabby for a cramped little board game table at a video game convention! And if that weren’t cool enough, the esteemed Tycho Brahe stopped by our table, tweeting thusly:

Not gonna lie–seeing that happen made me pretty darn happy.


Before the magic that was PAX East, however, there was Protospiel Milwaukee, an event which lived up to its reputation as a rich source of design feedback from other board game developers. Just as with video games, the bulk of the feedback I received was most useful for highlighting areas that could be improved upon, rather than as a source of methods by which to do so. Which is to say: I’ve been experimenting with ways to make True Messiah more elegant and approachable.

To that end, I’ve made a number of tweaks over this past month to improve balance, reduce game length, and reduce complexity in the rules without reducing the complexity of the play space. Here is a small selection of the changes:

  • I increased end-of-round player income by 1 to further shorten the time frame until players can acquire powerful miracles.
  • I reduced by 1 the number of miracle cards available in the market each round. This reduces the amount of time new players must spend studying new, unfamiliar cards–and simultaneously, it heightens the importance of outbidding your opponents.
  • I reconceptualized the movement-only first round, turning it into part of the game’s set-up. This allows me to finally rid the game rules of all the confusing special exceptions for the “first round” (which confounded new players) while simultaneously keeping the special movement-only introductory portion of the game (which helps prevent new players from becoming overwhelmed while they learn the movement rules).
  • In the name of balance, I nerfed a couple of cards: Fruit of Knowledge, which was just a little too good as a harassment tool; and Indulgences, which was so much better than Tithes that the choice between the two was a no-brainer.
  • Simultaneously, I improved a few cards that were proving less useful than they were intended to be: Extort, Faith Healing, Foxhole Conversions, and Judgment come to mind.

Those changes are set in stone, proven to be Good Ideas through repeated playtests. I’ve also made a few other changes that are more provisional, pending the results of further playtesting–but I think they have promise:

  • Messiahs now have “divine armor” in combat, which deflects 1 point of damage directed at the messiah from each attacking space. This makes messiahs capable of destroying small, dispersed groups of followers with little-to-no damage taken, making it safer to use messiahs aggressively (and in the process, offering players an extra incentive to move their messiahs closer to the center of the board instead of just hiding them on their holy cities for the entire game).
  • While divine armor has boosted messiah survivability on the battlefield, messiahs have such a high number of attacks that the combination of the two risks making them too strong as an offensive unit early in the game. To balance this out, I’ve decided to replace the messiah’s existing attack rules (6 attacks at the start of the game, reduced as the messiah takes damage) with a lower, static number of attacks; my guess is that I will settle on either 3 or 4. I’m testing it out now to make sure that this strikes the right balance, keeping messiahs useful as attackers without creating a dominant strategy based on aggressive early-game messiah usage.
  • I shrunk the 2-player play area from 6 x 6 to 4 x 6 to limit the amount of time that players can realistically spend not interacting in the early game. This has demonstrably resulted in faster, more dynamic games–but it also means that players need to understand how to protect their temple building sites right from the outset. Currently, I’m a bit concerned, as new players aren’t figuring out the importance of setting guards around their temple building sites. My hope is that I can address this by dedicating a section to that topic in the rulebook–but if new players still keep creating unguarded building sites for their second temples, I may end up going with a compromise scenario of 5 x 6 for the 2-player playable area.

That’s all I’ve got for this month! The next couple of months will be spent on getting the rulebook finalized, securing final art for the holy city tiles, and exhaustive playtesting to get everything playing as perfectly as possible. Until next month!