The aim of Messina the game is to win shared governance of Messina the planet, by demonstrating the ability to recruit, feed and protect the largest population of planetary colonists, in an alliance with one other freely chosen faction.
A Round of Messina has four Phases: an Action Phase, a Military Operations Phase, an Alternating Phase (Muster or Consumption), and a Maintenance Phase.
In the Action Phase, each player in turn chooses one of six Actions (Exploration, Industry, Trade, RnD, Recruitment and Militarisation) and performs it with a bonus privilege. Other players perform the same Action, but without the bonus.
During the Military Operations Phase (“Mil Ops”), every player submits written orders, face-down, which are then exposed simultaneously, leading to battles and bombing raids, and sometimes to theft or destruction of infrastructure.
In the Alternating Phase, players either spend Energy on military builds in a Muster Phase (odd Rounds) or spend Food and Water to support their Population through a Consumption Phase (even Rounds).
A Round concludes with a brief Maintenance Phase.
A full game runs for a maximum of 10 Rounds, but premature endings are possible if any player loses both of their home spaces to Ground Units. Players may agree on a shorter game of up to 6 or 8 Rounds.
Victory Conditions. At the end of the final Round, allied pairs of factions may put themselves forward as candidates for shared governance of Messina. The pair’s score is based on the population that they control and can support, as demonstrated in an economic fitness test in which the two factions pool resources, optionally run each of their Utilities twice and try to feed and water their pooled population twice.
Scoring. A pair’s final score is equal to the number of Population Tokens they control that can be fed and watered twice, minus the Population Tokens that cannot be fed and watered twice. (This is equivalent to counting complete 3-token sets of 1 Population, 1 Food and 1 Water, and subtracting the number of Population Tokens that cannot form such a set.)
The two-player alliance with the highest positive score (≥1) wins a shared victory.
AI Solo Victory. If no pair of factions produces a positive score, the AI can claim a solo victory – but there is one catch.
The AI starts the game with a Kill Switch Card and may give it away during Trade, to rule out the possibility of a solo victory. If the Kill Switch is held by a human faction at the end of the final Round, that human faction may flip the switch, destroying the AI and its starship. In turn, the AI infects the human faction’s life support systems. The AI and the holder of the card are therefore in a situation of Mutually Assured Destruction, and can only win by allying with each other.
If the AI still holds the Kill Switch at the end of the game, the Card has no effect: the AI may win via a freely chosen alliance or by a solo victory. If the AI has surrendered its Kill Switch and no allied pairs have a positive score, everyone loses: the human population starves, the AI is switched off, and the indigenous lizards of Messina resume their quiet existence.