What is Deliverance?
Religion in Secular Board Games
Religion is highly prevalent in games, because most world religions are inseparable from their accompanying cultures. Thus, if one attempts to include culture in a game, it naturally includes many references to religion as well.
The religious theme and game mechanics are so interwoven in Deliverance that it would be difficult to re-theme, and it is largely due to the way the “lore” creates a unique set of constraints for the game.
Let’s start with an easy one: In the Bible, Angels are good, demons are bad, and Satan is the worst. There is no wiggle room in there for a different interpretation if you plan on using religious lore as a constraint as I do!
But before we get into Deliverance, I’ll illustrate with two very common examples you’ll find in games:
Greek and Norse mythology.
Greek and Norse mythologies were central to the culture of these empires, as the temples of these cultures were often hubs of congregation and core to the identity of a person.
A few popular examples of games that use…
– Mythic Battles: Pantheon
– Lords of Hellas
Common Greek cultural/religious threads: Working to please/honor Greek gods, gods battling for supremacy.
– A Feast For Odin
– Blood Rage
– Raiders of the North Sea
– Champions of Midgard
Common Norse cultural/religious threads: Cultural value of glory in war, working to please/honor Norse gods.
Other examples of popular games that feature religion as a central theme are 7 Wonders, Kemet, Spirit Island, T’zolkin, and many more.
Beyond the more obvious examples, games of all kinds borrow from Greek and Norse mythologies to tell great stories. Dungeon crawlers seem to be first in line in that respect, but there are many popular genres that bask in religious themes to some degree.
Using Religion As a Constraint For Game Design
In board game design, constraints are very important. In fact, I would go as far to say constraints are as important as innovation or creativity in making great games.
One way to constrain is to use a base of lore that people are familiar with to help them understand otherwise complex elements in games.
Religious texts and mythologies are the most well established lore bases in the world, so it is no surprise to see games of all kinds borrowing from them regularly. From stories of angels and demons rooted in the Bible, to Greek gods in Homer’s Illiad, to the many legends of Dragons spread across hundreds of cultures, religion permeates everything that is infused with culture.
Even Tapestry, which the designer has gone on record to say has purposefully built this civilization game to exclude religious themes, still has them. Consider the Futurists, who would probably spear you through before believing they weren’t gifted foresight from their gods.
Any game that expressly includes culture as a central feature (like civilization games), will contain some level of religious themes that are impossible to divorce from the game’s fictional cultures.
Benefits & Challenges of Using Religion As A Theme
The biggest benefit of designing with a religious text as a lore base is that it gives you guidelines for everything. Characters and their accompanying traits (like Michael, the Archangel), famous stories to emulate (Like the fall of Satan), and more are all written for you to draw from!
The biggest challenge of designing with a religious text as the lore base is that you quickly go from fantasy to heresy if you’re not well studied. People begin to judge the game not just on its’ game play merits, but on the correct interpretation of the text (which is a real dumpster fire if you’re ignorant of this). And even when you get it right, you’re still going to have people calling you a cult leader on one side and a false prophet on the other (take it from a guy that regularly hears these insults).
The Common Religious Thread
Religion, though it can be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands, is something that people of all cultures understand and can relate, which is why it is so prevalent in board games. I believe that we are hard-wired as human beings to celebrate a greater power and even see God in the things that have been made.
There are two other common threads in ALL of the great games I mentioned above that deal with Religion:
1) They don’t apologize for their use of religion.
2) They don’t attempt to educate the player on religion as part of the game’s core loop, but instead use it as thematic flavor and to better explain the mechanics & goals of the game.
Religion in Deliverance
As the designer of Deliverance, a Christian fantasy dungeon crawler, I am often faced with skepticism from both sides of the aisle — from Christians and non-Christians alike.
Non-Christian gamers are sometimes afraid that Deliverance will put a greater focus on proselytizing players than the game itself (aka – pushing religious beliefs for the purpose of converting players).
Guess what Christian gamers are afraid of? The exact same thing.
When people sit down and play a game, they want to have a fun time. If they are promised fun by a cool looking box cover, only to find out they have been tricked and the core loop of the game focuses on education instead of fun, it leaves a bad taste for the next game of that type. Sadly, Christian games for many years have prioritized education over fun.
Don’t get me wrong — education has its place. Parents that want their kids to learn something, whether math or language or bible verses, look for things like this to supplement their kids’ education.
But (back to Christian games) when you make a game and promise fun, and instead focus on educating your players on the tenets of Christianity, you upset everyone who was looking for fun and got education instead. Few of these gamers tend to see the value of education at the forefront of a game (especially one that promised fun first).
It is an easy argument to make that if you want education on tenets of Christianity (or other religions), there are places to go and books to read that do it better.
So how do I approach Christianity with my clearly Christian product, Deliverance?
I have three tenets to my development of Deliverance, and you have already read the first two:
1) I don’t apologize for my use of religion.
2) I don’t attempt to educate the player on my religion as part of the game’s core loop, but instead use it as thematic flavor and to better explain the mechanics & goals of the game.
3) I don’t take any of the subject matter trivially. I have worked very hard to ensure that the game is theologically sound in every possible way, with over ten thousand hours of research and study, much wise counsel, and hundreds of play tests under my belt (over 550 at the time of this writing).
Deliverance is a game where you play an elite angel from the army of Heaven, and come down to investigate the high amount of demonic activity in the small secluded town of Fallbrook. It is a game of angels and demons, with the saints caught in between. Each round, more Darkness bleeds into the spiritual realm from the physical, threatening to cripple the angels and bolster the demons that stand on your path. You must balance the tension of battling demons in tactical combat with the ever-encroaching Darkness.
It’s Not A Missionary-In-A-Box
I have made a choice to make a product that an Atheist could open and have a great time without feeling proselytized, or a Christian missionary could open and use as an effective tool for sharing their faith.
The key to both cases is in the game’s use is the intent of the user.
Let me level with you guys according to my experiences — I find that some on each extreme end of the religious spectrum get quite offended and angry. Some non-Christians put up immediate walls or speak angry words from the pain of their past experiences. Some misguided Christians demand I repent of my sins or face judgment due to the heresy of mixing Biblical stories with fantasy.
But there is a large group in the middle, on both sides, that are very excited. Non-Christians out there may doubt the accuracy of the Bible, but they would LOVE to slay demons as the legendary Archangel Michael. Many Christians see the more concealed “easter egg” elements, like the angels using “talents and treasure” (aka skills and loot) to grow in power. And almost everyone loves the thematic tie-in of the Bible verses used as clever flavor text on the player’s “Prayer deck.” Beyond all else, those that have engaged in the hundreds of public play tests with myself or my play testers around the US appreciate that the theme is deeply integrated with the mechanics, so much so that it would be very difficult to retheme.
In many senses, the lore of the Bible is one of the richest sources available for fantasy in the entire world. Despite the challenges and noise to the contrary, I have found that there is a real desire to see more of this lore in great games.
Back To Marketing Fundamentals
The biggest mistake in Christian “games” is that they try to convert the player. These aren’t really games — they’re educational tools. And if you try to present an educational tool to a market that doesn’t want to be educated, why would it be shocking that it performed poorly?
Christians that make games need to define their target market. Your target market is the ideal profile of a person that would want your thing! If you make decisions around your target market, you’re going to make a game that goes further with that niche group and does better on the market overall.
My target market are people like me — those that played a ton of secular epic fantasy games, and want to share that same experience with a friend or loved one uncomfortable with such things.
It just so happened that others are out there that are super excited about an Angels vs Demons game that really explores the Biblical lore, too.
If you desire to create a game with religion as a core theme, you will face some backlash. But if you do your research and make a really great game while remaining true to yourself, you will find your market and have nothing to apologize for!
“What is the sword of Deliverance?”This question needs a little bit more back-story, so that you understand why it was such a sharp question (pun not intended). Hannah-Sue explained after hearing the pitch of the game that she had just recently finished a church service where the primary subject was “spiritual warfare” (An epic subject, Mr. Pastor out there, whoever you are!). She explained that she was taught that the Bible was the Christian’s “sword,” the weapon that the Christian uses to fight spiritual battles. So if this was a Christian game, what was the game’s “sword?”
My AnswerIt was one of those moments where the Holy Spirit said, “Move over, Andrew… I’ll be doing the answering!” I was up in my head, but my mouth was speaking. I don’t want to sound like I’m smarter than I am, but I will tell you that I wish I could have recorded the answer. This is my attempt to recollect the answer for you all.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” – Ephesians 6:17-18The answer is rooted in the verse above – the Christian’s weapons to battle the very real darkness that comes against them. Swords, shields, or even guns and nuclear bombs for that matter, are of no use in a spiritual battle. You need to bring your spiritual weapons![/caption] Swords, shields, or even guns and nuclear bombs for that matter, are of no use in a spiritual battle. You need to bring your spiritual weapons! The verse above actually showcases TWO weapons – I refer to them as the sword and the bow.
The SwordThe sword is, as Ephesians says, the “word of God.”
“…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”Plainly, this means that the Bible is our sword. The words within the Bible have more than enough spiritual power to cut down evil spirits. In medieval times, if you are ever caught in a battle without a sword, you were an easy target. You might have armor, but the only effective tactic you had is to run! And you cannot run forever. The words of the Bible are tied into the Prayer Cards (read more about Prayer Cards here) through thematic flavorful text that boosts the epic feel of each one of those cards. While you do not need to read these words, they are ever present, and ever powerful. The verses upon the Prayer Cards are the sword of Deliverance.
The BowIn addition to a sword, you must be equipped with the ability to fight at range! Going back to medieval times, you trained with one of several weapons that could turn the tide at range: The javelin, the spear, the atlatl, the catapult, and the sling… But none ever became as famous, nor was more effective at range as an arrow shot from a bow. Many times in Ephesians 6:18, we miss the other weapon at our disposal: Prayer.
“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…”Prayer is our ranged weapon in the spiritual fight against the darkness. We must wield it in order to be effective for others our of reach, or for events that remain out of our view and out of our control.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” – James 5:16bAnother translation puts it this way:
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”We need to be effective and powerful with the use of our ranged weapon, the bow! The Bow is mirrored in the prayer action of the game. For those of you that have played, you must fight the demons in front of you – you cannot win while demons are on the battlefield! However, the darkness that grows every round will slowly overtake you unless you pray against it.
The StoryboardI am a big believer in doing things right if you’re going to do it at all, which is why the game trailer for Deliverance needs to blow me away. I received a vision for a sweet epic intro to the game: A monologue by Michael, the Archangel lamenting the fall of Satan. This game isn’t some light-hearted Christian family game. It’s dark, real, and deep. And people won’t get that until they see something that changes their perspective. I will say that there have been many that recollect the old 1979 movie by the same name that features a very ill-fated river rafting trip, playing banjos, and other unfortunate events… sigh. But after they hear the completed sound clip for the game (as some of you have if you attended Alpha Omega Con!)… They never mention it again, and they take the game in a completely new light. It’s almost as if to subconsciously say, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were actually serious… This game sounds good!” Thanks to God’s guidance, the story is as epic as any I have ever seen out there. I have one goal for this trailer: To rival the most epic World of Warcraft cinematic intros I have ever seen! Except I have to do that on a budget of about 1/1000 the budget of the big guys. Thankfully, we have a really beautiful and trendy new style – still art with moving details! So much more affordable than 3D animators 🙂 I’ve been working on this game for over two years now, and literally thousands of hours between myself (the gamer, developer, designer, and the visionary), Adam Glass (my graphic artist), Dan Maynard (my concept artist), and my wife (our art director and best play tester ever). And we are closer than ever to seeing this vision come to reality. Thanks for following along the journey! If you feel so inclined, please share this blog on social media with one of the buttons lurking near the top of this blog, and if you haven’t yet… be sure to join the e-mail list below for more awesome content!Deliverance is a fantasy adventure game about the spiritual warfare between Angels, Demons, and the humans caught in the middle. You command one of ten unique Angelic heroes of Light and fight the forces of Darkness in the war between Heaven and Hell. You are tasked with destroying a Demonic Stronghold by assassinating the fallen Prince that commands the spiritual forces of wickedness in a modern-day town. Danger grows as the Darkness intensifies after every round of battle. You must survive through a strong intensity mechanic represented by Darkness Cards as a wide array of demonic foes aim to slay you. The variety of dangers force meaningful player choices as you must decide how to spend your limited resources to overcome the darkness. If you fail, the darkness will spread without end. Send your demonic adversaries to the abyss by the power of God, to be chained in darkness until their judgment day!
Players / LengthDeliverance is for 1-4 players, and takes 60 – 120 mins to play, depending on # of players. Game set-up time is only 5-10 minutes.
How Deliverance came to be…To many, this might be a fun fiction theme for a game, but it’s real to me (and also a fun theme)! is a game that began in my head in 2016 to solve a few problems that I encountered in my life. First, the issue of kids impacting my playtime… Epic games that took hours to play became near-impossible. Second, dealing with compromising of my Christian faith in the pursuit of that high-fantasy experience that I had grown so fond of over the years…
The problem is…Mainstream media ruins almost everything. It’s annoying to be forced to compromise in order to just have fun with an awesome game, book, show, or movie in today’s American media! The rampant increase of sexual themes, ultra-violence, political agendas, and what IMDB calls “blasphemy” have annoyed me. I have gone to such great lengths to find games, shows, and fun things that I can do with my family that don’t require me to stare at a pair of boobs, deep cleavage, ultra-violence, or be force-fed garbage political propaganda. You may think I go to extreme lengths to avoid stuff like this instead of just endure it, but it has a pretty dramatic effect on a person (source: I am a person). Mainstream media is a place where evil is called good, and where good is called evil.
The solution…What I am hoping is that there are enough people out there like me that hope things like the new Tolkien-inspired Amazon show doesn’t get ruined with sex, ultra-violence, and evil. I just want an epic fantasy experience that gives all of the sword swinging, spell slinging, evil slaying awesomeness of a really great game without compromising my Christian beliefs. Give me epic battles. Give me a story line that makes me beg for more. Give me wicked demons that will stop at nothing to rule the world, but call out evil for what it is. And give me legendary heroes of the Light who’s main missions are to fight said darkness. And most of all, give it to me in a package that isn’t tainted with some evil supervillain quoting the Bible out of context during his big moment because the writers thought it sounds cool. Thus, the idea behind Deliverance was born.
My visionDeliverance is more than just a game – it is my view on what really takes place in the spiritual world all around us, wrapped in a high-fantasy style. The Bible is full of epic descriptions of angels, demons, and the spiritual realm that still leaves so much to the imagination. Without getting into the specifics about what passages I am building upon (hint: all of them), there is a lot of room for creative interpretation here. My first rule is that the game can’t compromise my faith as a Christian. My second rule is that the game needs to be awesome, and every character needs to feel ultra powerful. If it boiled down to “Bible Trivia: Angels and Demons Edition” then it would be a bad idea that should go nowhere. But as things stand, the theme mixes perfectly with the mechanics, and the characters that I have developed and tested feel ridiculously awesome so far.
Why am I qualified to do this?I am a lover of all things fantasy. I have logged over 20,000 hours playing World of Warcraft. I mastered Knights of the Round in FF7 like 4 times and killed Jenova with a single cast that was mimic’d like 16 times. I once won a bet with my wife because I can repeat nearly word-for-word every line of dialogue in the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies (It’s “Fly, you fools”). I have read nearly 60 fantasy books OUT LOUD with my wife, from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, to all Harry Potters, to Ranger’s Apprentice, to Lord of the Rings, to Frank Peretti novels (so relevant and awesome). Seriously, you guys would be shocked at how much more effort reading takes when you’re doing it out loud… especially with 4 little kids.
Want updates as we make progress?Subscribe to our newsletter! We send out an e-mail once or twice per month to update you on the latest concept art and status of the game. We really value your support and feedback! Please subscribe to our newsletter if you want the insider scoop on art/design/development, and connect with us on our Facebook page if you have questions/comments to share!Prayer Cards are powerful tools that serve as the light side’s counteracting force against the Darkness Deck in the spiritual warfare waged in Deliverance. These cards give you unique and powerful options during the game, and can even serve as a surprise twist in your favor during battle. Prayer Cards are not automatically drawn each turn, however. In order to draw one of these, you must use a Prayer action (one of 5 possible actions during your turn). There are currently over 100 Prayer Cards developed and tested. The text, flavor text, and names are subject to change as we approach Kickstarter in June, but they are prototype-ready with finished art!
Prayer ActionsPrayer actions do several things. In addition to drawing a card, you gain 1 Courage, which is used to fuel your character’s unique and powerful skills. Lastly, a prayer action can…
- 1. Cure afflictions (negative status effects)
- 2. Cast down demonic strongholds (Powerful cards from the Darkness Deck that cripple the forces of Light for as long as they remain in play)
- 3. Revive fallen allies.
Types of Prayer CardsPrayer Cards have a wide array of offensive and defensive uses, but depending on the type of card, there are rules for when and how…
Play Any TimeSome cards can be used at any time during the game, regardless of whose turn it is or what happens to be going on at that moment. At any time, you can interrupt the action and alter the flow of events with a powerful Prayer Card. Peace Among Men is an excellent card to have when you are getting overrun due to Strongholds. You may elect to use it and go damage-crazy for a few rounds without the powerful impact of the Darkness Deck on you. And in some cases, one turn without having to worry about Strongholds might be the difference between victory and defeat!
Requires 1 ActionCards that say “Requires 1 Action” can only be played during your turn, and as the text suggests, uses one of your two available actions for the turn. These cards may be offensive or defensive in nature, and often can be extremely effective in the right situation. Mighty Throw is an offensive card that is perfectly devastating in the hands of a strength-wielding hero. Many strength-based heroes rely on close range to be effective in battle, so a card like this is a great complement to heroes like Michael, the Archangel or Sardius, the Stonebreaker. If your strength value is 5, this one card has the potential to deal 25 damage to the forces of Darkness in a single action. Wow!
Play ImmediatelyWhen you use a Prayer Action and see a card that says Play Immediately, do exactly that. These cards offer surprising twists that may result in small bonuses or game-changing effects during a battle. Chaos is a card that allows you to not only deal some damage to a demon, but to move them 2 spaces in any direction afterward. This might afford you the opportunity to put a demon that is keeping you at range into the path of your sword, or potentially in the range of one of your allies that excels in close-quarters combat. A surprising twist indeed!
What Do Prayer Cards Represent?Prayer Cards are symbolic of the goodness in the world. Humans might be faulty, but acts of kindness, love, compassion, honesty, and faith among people have an effect on the spiritual realm! Try to include one extra random act of kindness in your day today, and know that such a simple thing has a dramatic effect on the human heart and behind the spiritual veil! If you have any questions about Prayer Cards or other aspects of Deliverance, I am happy to answer them in the Deliverance Facebook group.
Unleash powerful gifts of the Heavenly Angels on the forces of Hell
Battle the Forces of Darkness in tactical spiritual combat
Cast down Strongholds and guard the saints from Darkness
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