That was certain, that once I unwrap freshly arrived The Mission, I would put it to the table pretty quickly. This is my first title from White Dog Games and also the first one by Ben Madison. The urge to try one of the games by this new to me designer and publisher came from couple of reviews I read on The Player’s Aid blog. I knew I was looking for engrossing, re-playable, deep but not superficially complex solitaire title. The theme was also very important. I looked through all the games by Ben and that one – The Mission – specifically draw my attention.
In below article I would like to tell you a little about the game, provide the session report from my first game-play but also share some of the first impressions. Definitely, after one scenario final conclusions cannot be drawn and the time for full review will come. Still, I would like to stress in which areas that title simply enchanted me 🙂
About the Game
Let me start with more details about the game itself – I will help myself to great extent with the publisher description. The Mission: Early Christianity from the Crucifixion to the Crusades is a “grand strategy” solitaire game covering 1,200 years of Christian history on a map of the ancient Mediterranean, Near East, Europe and Africa. While the secular world of empires and politics plays out around you, your missionaries spread the Christian faith and convert areas of the map to your new religion. Each turn covers decades, and the flow of play will teach players about the expansion and doctrinal battles of early Christianity while you build institutions to educate, heal, and inspire the societies you touch.
Apostles and brilliant theologians will help you evangelize, but you will come to rely on the Roman/Byzantine state and Christian kingdoms to establish and defend the faith. Heresies and schisms in the Church will try to thwart your plans. Pressing against you are barbarian hordes, some of which you may convert; but the armies of Islam will emerge as the game changes from one of missionary outreach to one of self-preservation, as Christian communities hunker down for survival during the long Dark Ages. At the end, you will rise up in a blaze of glory as the Christian world finally fights back using Crusaders and the Spanish Reconquista to recover lost provinces!
Let me invite you to my first meeting with The Mission. I played the full, 27-turn campaign scenario and learned a lot in the process – not only about the game but also about the beginnings of Christianity! (you can click on all below pictures to enlarge)
The final result was 136 so a decisive victory of Christianity. I still cannot believe I made it but as it was my first play-through so some mistakes in rules could assist me. I managed to remove all schisms – it costed a lot but was worth it, preserve a lot of Christianity simply paying the occupiers, translated all bibles. But one of the paths had to be submitted in order to bring it into the fold and Turks & Persian converted to Islam. Anyhow, that was exciting game!
Having the full, 27 turn game played, let me share my initial observations regarding the game:
- The theme is deep in this game. It goes through the narrative, mechanics, components, events. You really have a feeling that you travel in time and witness the onset and then development of Christianity. That really kept me interested through the whole session.
- In my opinion, the strongest feature of the game are the various epoch through which the games leads the player – from Apostles times, through Pagan and then Christian Roman empire, barbarians invasions, raise of Jihad and its transformation into Abbasid caliphate. Each of those plays completely differently – initially, you focus purely on faith, but with time the politics start to play more and more important role. The mechanics changes, the challenges too. This is why the game keeps you interested through as much as 27 turns! This is fantastic piece of design!
- Game mechanics – they are not overly complex and rely on dice rolling. But do not be afraid – one roll will not cause your game to end in defeat. And often you have possibility to significantly increase chances of success – usually, by spending the precious resources…
- Components – I purchased the folio version due to obvious economic reasons. Still, the quality of tokens, map, rulebook or player’s aids is great and I had really great time with the game as far as visual side is concerned. The enlarged map (now a standard) also helps!
- Rulebook – I read it with great pleasure – the designer notes, explanations about the mechanics or naming choices and various anecdotes made this a really enjoyable experience!
- The only thing which I might deem not fully satisfying to me is difficulty level. I think game can be a little more challenging (I am writing this already after 2 gameplays) – often times I had so much money that I could easily pay the Caliphate to leave my Christians alone. Of course, that feeling can be because I misinterpreted some rules – the check in that direction is already ongoing 🙂
I really like this game – theme, components, epochs, mechanics. I am sure I will be playing more and already considering the short, 7 turn “Raise of Islam” scenario. Sounds like a more difficult endeavor as you start immediately attacked and need to play with whatever is at your disposal. Can’t wait to try it – more session reports will come!