Commissioned is the first game by publisher Chara Games and designer Pat Lysaght. As a cooperative game players work together as early christian apostles to grow the church across the ancient world. The game uses deck building as players “mature” their decks collecting more and more cards to help them move, spread, and grow churches in each city, and collect the books of the New Testament, all the while overcoming trials and tribulations. There are five included scenarios that cover the first 150 years of church history, two difficulty levels, and a one-vs-all variation.
Before starting the game you will choose from one of the 5 scenario cards. Which will also give you the historical context for the coming game. Basic game setup is lined out in the rule book but each scenario card will have slight differences printed on them. Players then choose their apostle and one player is chosen as the Elder, that player takes the Elder Staff and eight-sided die.
Each round has 4 phases: ARM, LIVE, and MATURE. During the ARM phase, players will draw cards from their faith deck into their hands. If a player cannot completely fill his or her hand, they will shuffle their discard pile and draw from there.
The LIVE phase will be repeated depending on the amount of players. At the beginning of the phase the elder draws a Trial Card and resolves its effects. Typically bad things happen, usually loss of church members, imprisoned Apostles or missionaries, removal of ‘Word’ cards from the New Testament Canon, or extinguishing the Church from certain areas. There are also ‘Stops’ that restrict movement and growth.
Once the Trial card has been resolved each player ‘prays’, meaning he or she secretly selects two cards from their hand and places them face down on their board. The elder then rolls the eight-sided die called the message die and depending on the result, things will either be safe where players can discuss with the elder about potential actions, players will not being able to talk during the action portion of the phase, or sometimes even worse with no communication being allowed, halted or restricted movement, and/or even loss of Church members or missionaries. Once the ‘pray’ action is done, players turn over their “prayed” cards. The elder then chooses 2 cards from all of the cards revealed to use. The effects of the cards used are applied to the area where the elder’s Apostle pawn is located. The elder then moves pieces between locations on the board. This is the main way that helps the Church spread. The Church grows by placing a new church member into regions that have 3 or more population. If there is a ‘Growth Stop’ in a region, that area will not grow. The elder token is then passed to the player to the left.
In the third phase players MATURE. They will use the 2 remaining cards in their hand to purchase new faith cards. If a player only buys one card that player draws 2 cards from that deck, looks at them, chooses 1 and places the other on the bottom of the deck. Purchased cards then go into your discard pile.
Play will continue until the scenario victory conditions are met meaning victory, or 5 Churches are extinguished, or the last Trial card is drawn and that round carried out.
In the upper left of the board is a set of 5 candles. If an area with church members empties, whether by choice or by trial, one of the candles is extinguished (an extinguish token is placed on the matching candle.)
The game itself doesn’t have a large rule book so there isn’t a lot to remember. Also, once you get going it becomes pretty easy to pick up pretty quick. The artwork is beautiful and Chara Games has used quality boards and pieces. The game play itself is smooth and the mechanics work well with the theme which is very strong. I also really enjoy that the game gives both historical background as well as biblical references. This makes the game itself a great teaching tool as well. Unlike many other “Christian games” this is not just a bible related re-theme of an already popular game ie. Bible-opoly or Apples to Apples Bible edition. If you get a chance to play this game or see it available in a store I highly recommend you get/play it as you will not be disappointed.