Greeting Programs. It has come to my attention that I haven’t posted anything here for some time. That’s not entirely unexpected, the name of the blog is a clue in that regard. But I thought I might take the time to do a sort of end of year summary, things I’ve enjoyed this year, interesting games I’ve played and so on.
So without further ado, here is my year in games.
We’re going to start with a look at some of the tabletop RPGs that have impressed me this year and talk a little bit about each of them.
Please Note, this is in no particular order other than my general stream of consciousness.
This game is a weird post apocalyptic fantasy, the world has been destroyed by beings of immense power who for some unknown reason just stopped and disappeared. Leaving behind a plague of monsters (called The Brood) that still strives to wipe out humanity as we know it. Rising to meet the challenge of this threat are the PCs, called Nemissaries they are people who died and were taken by the Brood but managed to retain enough of their individuality to seek out a shard (a narrative device in the game world that can provide power and knowledge but often at a cost and never without an agenda) and recover their sense of self. As you might expect this transformation gives them incredible powers and pits them against forces both mundane and supernatural as they try to prevent the end of the species.
This game delivers a tense world with lots going on in it, politics, factions, survival and battle. There is an obvious anime influence to both the combat and the aesthetic and it works very well to drive you towards that kind of high drama and epic conflict.
I would strongly recommend this game to anyone looking for an unusual action game with a strong set of mechanics and a lot of options for both RP and action scenes
Star Trek (Modiphius Version – https://www.modiphius.net/collections/star-trek-adventures)
I ran a campaign of this at the start of 2018 for my regular Monday night gaming group, the group is comprised of three serious Star Trek fans (one of which is me) and two others who are fans but in the sense of they will watch it when it’s on TV but don’t class themselves as serious fans.
Turns out that we all loved the game though. The one thing that this game does better than any other attempt at a Star Trek RPG that I have seen is make it feel like you are in the Star Trek universe, everything from the momentum/threat mechanic, through the Ship as a Character conceit, the way the system is put together mechanically and the excellent supporting case system drives you to tell an excellent Star Trek story.
Both myself and my group are really looking forward to going back to this campaign in 2019.
Blades in the Dark (https://www.evilhat.com/home/blades-in-the-dark/)
A tabletop RPG about a crew of scoundrels seeking to steal their fortune on the streets of a magical, haunted, dieselpunk city.
If that isn’t enough to interest you then you should also check out the mechanics. One of the best things about this game is how it handles The Score, every crew needs to being doing stuff to earn coin and respect, you decide what to do, figure out your basic approach and then make an engagement role to see how deep in the shit you are when you start. This idea of skipping most of the prep for a mission and then starting in the middle of things and backfilling with flashbacks and neat inventory mechanics looks like it would make for fast and fun play.
I haven’t been able to find a spot to run this yet but it looks like it’s going to be insanely good fun when I do and at least one of my regular play group is super excited to try this game out.
SIGMATA (No official Website, available on https://www.drivethrurpg.com/)
Ok so this was a Kickstarter from a while ago, it appealed to me on the basis of Cyberpunk Superhero 80’s inspired by lots of things I am interested in and some really amazing concept art. I was slightly concerned about this game, it puts it politics front and centre and spends a huge amount of time trying to be representative (some times to the point where it feels really strained and that parts of the book were written just to get a minority character shoehorned in). So beware if this kind of thing is a no go for you.
That said, SIGMATA delivers a really fun and well written superhero game in a very interesting setting. You can dial the political rethoric up or down as you want and the setting has a lot of things that mirror current events, but not in a way that is going to become tired or boring in say 5 years time.
It’s a heavily narrative game that does a fantastic job of not letting its system or narrative conceits get in the way of the actual game. The action scenes play out very well and the framing of actions within the game is both well presented and well balanced. If you are looking for an alternative to the traditional superhero game then I would strongly recommend this game.
Invisible Sun (http://invisiblesunrpg.com/)
From the mind of Monte Cooke comes a surreal fantasy game that is nothing like anything else.
There is so much in this game, but first I feel I must speak to the downside of it. This game is big and expensive, the basic box is about £200 and that is if you can find a copy. So far there have been two kickstarters to fund print runs of this game but it is so big and so expensive that it’s not really the kind of thing a store can keep ‘in stock’.
However, that said it is absolutely worth the money. The box comes packed with things, there are the game books and character sheets, dice, tokens, props, cards for everything, maps, a special tarot deck invented for just this game, play aides, handouts and secrets hidden in the box and props themselves.
It’s about magic and reality and new ways of playing RPGs.
I ran this game for my very good friend Paul on his birthday (he requested it), so we all got together on the Friday afternoon and spent that afternoon/evening creating characters and doing all the cool session zero stuff (like creating neighbourhoods for people to live in and deciding on connections, relationships, objectives etc). Then we spent the Saturday playing, it was an awesome experience. As a GM this game runs like almost nothing else and my players loved it.
This game tries new things and creates a new space in the RPG design world and I am so glad it does. So much so that I slapped down another £200 for the expansions and follow up materials without it even being a hard decision.
Board & Card Games
This year saw the release of X-Wing 2.0 from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), a tabletop minis game that I loved dearly in its original edition. For the most part this game has been improved across the board in v2.0. The only issues with it are that the App (a mandatory part of game play because this is now how points costs and upgrades are now managed and assigned) is total garbage and the changes to the competition play have meant that while I was considering attending and playing in some of the open events I now have no plans to do that at all.
Thankfully there are a number of 3rd party apps that are much better than the dumpster fire FFG put out and the competitive play part isn’t that relevant anyway.
Still, they have simplified the rules, removed a lot of the cards that were big problems in first edition and reworked the ships to fix things where needed.
Star Trek Ascendancy (https://startrek.gf9games.com/)
Ok so I wasn’t expecting to like this game as much as I did. It’s a multiplayer competitive game where each player takes a civilisation (Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Ferengi, Cardassian) and fights it out for either cultural or military dominance across a star map that is built as play and so will be different every single time you play.
You can also add The Borg as an NPC threat race.
I played this once with a couple of friends a few weeks ago and we have another game of it scheduled for the Christmas break.
I was interested in Keyforge when it was announced, but recently I finally got to take a look at it properly and I love it. For anyone who doesn’t know, the decks in this game are provided complete and are algorithmically generated around certain rules and combinations of houses of cards.
Team Covenant have a great series of videos on YouTube where they talk about how to play the game and play through some examples.
The game looks to play quickly, with matches taking often less than an hour. Plus the buy-in is cheap as chips with a single deck being £8.99. (Although you probably want the starter set as it comes with all the tokens and such).
PC & Console Games
Ok, I say PC & Console, I mean PC & PS4. I don’t have an XBox so can’t speak to that.
Monster Hunter World (PS4)
God I love the Monster Hunter games, the idea is great, you are a monster hunter. You live in a world with giant ass monsters and you hunt them for parts and points. There are crazy weapons, mad combos, cat companions and other great humour. It also has a system that really rewards you for learning how to play the game, the nuances of each specific weapon and playstyle reveal themselves over time.
If you haven’t played this game and have the option to do so then I cannot recommend more strongly that you play it. Do you remember playing Batman Arkham Asylum and being super impressed with how much it made you feel like Batman. Same deal but for Spiderman.
This game absolutely nails the web swinging movement mechanic and the quip and agility based spiderman fighting style. It also contains the final Stan Lee cameo to be aired before his death.
Warframe (PC, https://www.warframe.com/)
I played this for a bit on the PS4 but stopped as none of my friends were playing it. I went back to it on my games PC earlier this year and loved every minute of it. This game rocks so much, there is so much to do and the new cinematic quests really push the quality envelope.
The game is an endless play farming game with so much stuff to collect and build. It is supported very strongly by the publisher and their excellent development, audio, product management and community support teams. Also it’s free. Give it a try.
Ok, that’s it. We’re done here. There are more things I could add to this list, but honestly I’ve spend two hours writing this so far and I have other things to do. Merry Christmas programs.