Keeping the Faith: A Preview of Commissioned

Today we're reviewing a newly Kickstarted game from Chara Games called Commissioned. It's a cooperative game about apostles spreading the good news of the gospel, and trying to keep from losing churches.

This is a preview of the game, so components and rules might change before it goes to press.

The game comes with five different scenarios, each of which has different winning conditions. You'll set up the board based on your scenario.

Each player takes one of six different Apostles, each of whom has different starting cards with different abilities. 

The game is played in rounds, and each round has three phases: Arm, Live, and Mature.

ARM: Players each draw six cards from their Faith deck--or five cards if playing with 4 or 5 players. The draw rules follow most deck-builders in that you draw all cards from your draw pile, and then shuffle and draw remaining cards from the newly shuffled pile. 

LIVE: Players take five Action, in order. And you'll repeat these actions a number of times depending on the number of players. 

First there's a Trial, where you draw an Trial card and apply the effect. It might force you to scatter, or force certain tokens to stay put for the round, or add Stops to the board. They're bad things. When you start the game you can choose to play with the set of easier or harder Trial cards.  

Next is Prayer, where select either one or two cards from your hand (again, depending on the number of players), and place it face-down. 

Now the Elder rolls the 8-sided die. On a 1, spies infiltrate: There's no talking and you remove one Church Member or Missionary from the Elder's current church. On a 2, messages were intercepted: There's no talking and you reroll the die and place either a Mission or Growth Stop on the Elder's church. On a 3, messages were lost: There's no talking during the Share, Move, and Grow actions. And finally, on a 4-8 nothing happens. 

Now the players turn over their cards, and the Elder decides which two cards to use. If the dice roll was favorable, other players can weigh in, but it's the Elder's sole decision. 

Firestone--This is one of the cool design decisions I really like about Commissioned. Some co-op games can devolve into an alpha player making all of the "correct" decisions, and the rest of the players are just waiting for their turn to roll around so they can do exactly what that alpha player tells them to do. 

But the fact that the Elder makes the decision, and that there's a good chance you can't talk about the decision, means everyone will be making decisions--and that's good. Even if it's the wrong decision, the player has hopefully learned something. 

We were unclear on whether we could pantomime communication. The rules don't specify, but it seems that thematically there should be no communication at all, since an alpha player could just pantomime their "best play." I'd love to see that change to "no communication" rather than "no talking."

Jeremiah--Yeah this really ratchets things up a bit in the co-op genre; it's still completely a co-op game but it does stifle the quarterbacks a good deal since you must remain quiet for so long! I loved that concept! I agree, I think the idea is for there to be no communication, I'm sure there will be a clarification in the final rule book. 

The Faith cards come in four levels. The higher the level, the more cool stuff you can do. So a level one might let you add a Church Member or free an imprisoned Apostle, while a level four lets you add five Church Members or remove all Stops in the region (rather than the one a level one lets you remove). The level two cards are a little different in that they have a cool thing on the top, and then certain New Testament books on the bottom. You can play them as either one, but if you play the New Testament book, you've lost the card for the game (but moved closer to winning the game, since having all the books is one of the victory conditions on a couple of the scenarios). 

After resolving the cards, players can Move. There are Fellowship moves, which allow Apostles, Missionaries, and/or Church Members to move between adjacent locations. Or the Mission moves, which allow at least one Apostle or Missionary--along with any other Apostles, Missionaries, or Church Members--to move to a location without a church. Mission Stops prevent Mission Moves.

Finally, you Grow, which means any church with three or more population--counting Apostles, Missionaries, and Church Members--adds a Church Member. Growth Stops prevent growth. 

You'll repeat this cycle a number of times, depending on player count--passing the Elder token each time. Then you add cards to your deck. Each player will end with two cards in his or her hand. The sum of the Faith points (the card's level) determine how much a player can spend on new cards. The cards cost their level. So if you end with cards equaling three faith points, you can buy three Level 1 cards, one Level 3 card, or a Level 2 and a Level 1 card. It's totally up to you. 

Firestone--This is another cool aspect. It's a deck-builder, which is automatically cool, but it's not obvious which cards to buy. That angst creates interesting decisions. Of course the Level 4 cards are better than Level 1 cards, but is one great card better than two good cards? And you might need Level 2 cards to accomplish the scenario goals, so when do you buy those? When do you play them? 

The game ends when you've accomplished the scenario goals, or if five churches are extinguished, which happens any time every member of a church is removed from the board--either through movement or card effects. 

The Verdict

Firestone--Commissioned is tough--but not too tough. It took us a number of tries to win the game, but most games we lost were still fairly close. I like co-ops that offer good challenge, but that still feel as if you can win. We were never able to play with the full six players, so I can't say how it scales, but adding players didn't seem to add too much extra time. It still played surprisingly quickly. 

Jeremiah--I'll never say I dislike a co-op due to it totally kicking my gaming group's collective hinders. If I want to sit around a table and move pieces on a board until someone wins, I'll play Candy Land. So bring it on, and buckle up for this one!

Firestone--Commissioned isn't perfect. I have to admit I'm not a fan of the board artwork. It seems muddy and busy. And I had to go over what the moves are every single time, because they're a little confusing. 

Jeremiah--Being a person who grew up "in the faith" as it were, I was able to grasp the concepts of what each card/token/action represented. For those who aren't familiar with the verbiage it may take some time to get a better understanding. But let's face it, the first time you watched Star Wars you didn't know what an Astromech droid was, or a parsek or a nerf herder, but now it's all second nature. Any time you learn a game that isn't a theme you're well versed in, you're going to have to pick up on some terminology, so folks should do fine with this as well...

Firestone--I love that there are so many scenarios and ways to play--even an adversary variant! That will keep the replayability up. They're not vastly different, but you'll likely play many games before you've won against all five scenarios. 

Jeremiah--I love that they are there as well, although I don't know personally if we'd ever get that far into the scenarios, it's just a personal thing on my end. I know it's a big deal to a lot of people, and I think it adds great value to the game. More so than just the scenarios, I love that there is an appendix included that gives you the Biblical and historical reference for each scenario AND card in the game. It further illustrates the great blend of both theme and mechanic that is taking place in this game!

Firestone--Of course, as a Christian, I appreciate that the game is trying to teach you about the spread of the gospel through the Apostles. But what I really appreciate is that it doesn't sacrifice gameplay in order to get it's "message" across. I read one comment where a player was uncomfortable playing a game where loss means Christianity never spreads. Please remember, folks: This is a game! 

Jeremiah--Ha! Yeah. Your poor game play didn't doom thousands of souls to the pits of Hell. There's so much knowledge of the gospel that can be taken in just by playing this game, so let's focus on that. It's a game, and a good one at that. A bad game would have the same outcome whether you played well or not, soooo....

Firestone's Final Verdict--I don't like most Bible-based games, which usually sacrifice fun for accuracy. But Commissioned is an exception--it accomplishes both. I like the game decisions. I like the design choices. I like that it's not too easy and not too difficult. And the added scenarios make the replayability high. It's a solid co-op."

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Like Scott, I don't typically enjoy most "Christian-themed" games, not because of the label, but because they're not good. Commissioned manages to be both a solid, fun game and also a great thematic ride steeped in historically and biblically accurate facts! It's a total win!

Check out the Kickstarter for yourself. And thanks for reading!