A Different #Wargame Mission -or- Thoughts on The Mission: Early Christianity from the Crucifixion to the Crusades – A Solitaire Boardgame by R. Ben Madison (White Dog Games, 2020)

What is a wargame? (Answer…DON’T ASK).

I recently acquired a new game. From designer R. Ben Madison and White Dog Games in 2020 comes The Mission: Early Christianity from the Crucifixion to the Crusades – A Solitaire Boardgame. In many ways this “game” is not in my wheelhouse because it comes with two strikes; the game mechanism is solitaire-by-design and the topic is religion. A bit to my surprise, I found The Mission to be a very engaging game design and topic.

The Mission – box cover

Wargame or Boardgame?

For very personal reasons, I hesitate to call any game about religion a “wargame.” When I was looking at the sales material about The Mission I noted the solitaire game mechanisms are built upon the venerable States of Siege game engine—very much a wargame. But then the subtitle of The Mission calls itself, “A Solitaire Boardgame” so I found some comfort. Once I got the box and read more I found this discussion on the box back:

Beginners and experienced players will find this an intriguing, and very different kind of game. While certainly a war of ideas, it is still very much a war game, where victory depends upon managing scarce resources (including Holy Relics!) and making shrewd strategic decisions to benefit the Church. The Mission is a power-politics overview of the Early Church form its beginnings through the Crusades, but one that never loses sight of the importance of church-building and pastoral ministry.

The Mission, box back
The Mission – box back

Now, I read my history books and I understand there were holy wars throughout time immortal, but is the creation of the Church a war? A challenging viewpoint from designer R. Ben Madison. My experience with a few R. Ben Madison designs taught me that he often has a viewpoint and is not afraid to wear it on his shoulder. This is especially the case in his very strong pro-British viewpoints in Mrs. Thatcher’s War or Don’t Tread on Me. Would he do the same here and show irreverence at the history of the Church?

Alas, designer R. Ben Madison in The Mission uses the States of Siege game engine to deliver a unique and thought-provoking view of the rise of early Christianity. While playing The Mission I never actually felt like I was in a wargame, even when combat was involved. Instead, I strongly felt the resource-management, almost engine-building aspects of the game. At the same time, it inspired me to seek out more knowledge and build understanding.

Much of The Mission is actually presented without real commentary. The game turn track—called the Acts Track—relates historical events and there is some historical commentary in the rule book. While playing the game I found myself actually looking for more information than was provided. What exactly were those Heresies? Further, while your “mission” in The Mission is to grow the Church, in many ways you are “along for the ride” as events will happen with or without your actions. The actions you do take won’t really stop/start the rise the Church, but they will influence the degrees of success (or failure) on the rise.

The Mission – rule book

One commentator, Dan Thurot at Space Biff, states, “The Mission is too preoccupied with being playable.” In this case I don’t mind that emphasis, as it lets me play a “game” of religion without too much commentary.

Get Used to Different

Religion and myself have an on-again, off-again relationship. I was strong as a youth, fell out as a young adult, was luke-warm for some years, and recently have tried again. Playing The Mission has supported my return to religion, if for no other reason than it has inspired me to learn more. Playing games to learn about and better understand the world is one of the major reasons I continue in this hobby (and why Eurogames—so often just game mechanisms with thin themes pasted on—usually fail to attract or keep my attention). What I really enjoy about The Mission is how it can “teach without preach;” i.e. it gives me a relatable pathway to learning without throwing it in my face.

The Mission is going to be on the table for a bit as I experience it more. In this case a slow-play is quite welcome as the game becomes a vehicle to learning and not just a pass-the-time entertainer. R. Ben Madison in The Mission has given me a very different wargame that takes some getting used to, but is impressive in its ability to deliver an experience far beyond the simple gameplay on the table.

Feature image courtesy teepublic.com

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SundaySummary – Summer, Kid’s Games, and INCOMING! #Wargame #Boardgame @ADragoons @kbgpublishing @SmartGamesUSA @LederGames @AcademyGames @gmtgames

Summer Slow Down

Now comes the time of the year that the days are longer and outdoor chores call, which means there is less time for gaming which in turn means a bit of a seasonal slow-down in this blog too. That said, in the coming weeks look for:

  • A new Wargame Library series
  • Some American Independence Day wargaming
  • A return of my 2022 #TTRPG Character Generation (CharGen) Challenge
  • A return of family boardgame/wargame weekends
  • A new long-piece on a next Korean War for The Armchair Dragoons
  • New arrivals (more on that below)


Mrs. RockyMountainNavy’s favorite student had her birthday this last month. We gifted her with Coconuts (Korea Boardgames Co., 2013). Coconuts is ranked #8 on the BoardGameGeek Children’s category and deservedly so. This is a fun dexterity game with an awesome toy factor. Miss A loved the game and we all had fun playing it with her.

Courtesy BGG

We also gifted Miss A Smart Farmer (Smart Games) which is a one-player puzzle game. Now I get it; one-player puzzle games are considered “Outside the Scope of BGG”. Doesn’t mean these are not “games” and more importantly aren’t fun. Mrs. RMN has long favored Rush Hour (Think Fun) as the go-to puzzle game for youngsters, but admittedly getting girls to play with cars is sometimes “challenging.” In Smart Farmer you have to use the fences to separate the animals. What makes this game so appealing (yet again) is the toy factor; the animals are cute to look at and have some heft and a slightly rubberized texture when handled. So not only does the game look great, it feels great. Little Miss A is already working though the 60 challenges. Truth be told, we also learned that Miss A’s mother is working to keep up with her daughter as they are “racing” each other to see who can solve more puzzles in a day.

Courtesy smartgames.usa

For what it’s worth, Youngest RMN played Police Escape Blockade (now available as SmartGames RoadBlock…but apparently only in Europe) when he came home after school in his early elementary years. While his older siblings worked on their homework, he would work on the next one or two puzzle challenges. When he finished all of them he just went back to the beginning and started all over again. This game was instrumental in helping him learn life-long skills like concentration, logical thinking, spatial awareness, and problem-solving. Yeah, we played many other boardgames but puzzle games like Police Escape Blockade were very useful as after school fillers for the young ones.

Fire Mission; Grid 20….

After a long (postal) drought, it looks like some wargames and boardgame pre-orders are finally nearing delivery!

To date in 2022, I have taken delivery of just a mere two pre-order/Kickstarter fulfillments; that being AuZtralia: Revenge of the Old Ones and AuZtralia: TaZmania from Schimil Games in mid-March. and (just this week) 2 Minutes to Midnight by Stuart Tonge from Plague Island Games. Now a few more games are getting closer to gracing the shelves of Casa de Rocky:

This week I also ordered another Ben Madison product from his White Dog Games studio. The Mission: Early Christianity from the Crucifixion to the Crusades will be arriving soon.

Feature image Virginia Beach in the morning, taken by self

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0