As always and like last year, I’m doing a non-review of my favorite RPG products of the year.
I don’t review RPG products, but I can certainly tell you what I loved and make recommendations. I love playing games and talking about the games I love is big source of joy to me.
This is simply my impressions and responses to products that have come out throughout the year that I felt were some of the best I had the chance to experience (either through reading, playing or other methods.) There are of course, dozens more games and while these games were the ones that spoke to me, they won’t speak to everyone (nor will all games speak to me!)
Consider these recommendations, but there are so many great RPGs out there. It was hard to choose the “best of” and I certainly can’t play and read everything. There are many more I wish I could mention. And I barely play and read a fraction of the games that came out, so if you have recommendations or your own list, fire it at me!
I also never put my games on this list. (That feels wrong to me.)
This is a great, classic adventure style game with a lot of “lo-fi” charm. It says on the tin that it’s “British-tabletop” inspired, and while I admit to not quite knowing what makes it uniquely British, I can confirm it certainly feels culturally unique when you read and experience it. It’s a weird dichotomy I’m still processing and I love it.
The art has exactly the right vibe to invoke late-70s fantasy, the rules are a weirdly intoxicating blend of simple, complicated, and esoteric (all in a lot of the right places), and it’s really well supported.
There’s a lot to like and enjoy, and it was a really fun read and I can’t wait to get it to the table and dig in!
My love of the Torchbearer game is no secret, and this was a delightful expansion to the system.
The addition of the expedition conflict type, the new characters and sample settlements all expand Torchbearer (and Middermark, which made my list previously in 2018 at #2) nicely.
It’s full of great drop and play tools ( new enemies, magic items, equipment, travelling gear) that will help me get my Torchbearer to the table a little easier (always a hurdle with new groups.)
I really, really, like this book.
I really, really like it.
Sword Chronicle is powered by the same ruleset that Green Ronin used in their A Song of Ice and Fire roleplaying game, but stripped of IP and released in a generic ruleset.
While I haven’t played this exact iteration, I have played the ASOIAF RPG, and the game is functionally the same in most regards.
There’s a lot to like in Sword Chronicle. It’s got a lot of the RPG macro-games I like (intrigue system, house building, elements that make the world larger than the character), and it’s powered by a solidly good system.
For generic fantasy, I’m a big fan of this game and I’ll likely use it to replace a few others that hit my table going forward.
Unfortunately I didn’t get Mork Borg until this year, so it can’t make my list, but I did get it’s excellent expansion Feretory this year.
Mork Borg is bonkers, and Feretory is an acid trip that doubles down on the death and doom found in the original book. It’s got loads of optional rules that really expand the utility (of the already jam-packed) Mork Borg. Adventures, rules for travelling, monster generators, random tables, and just….64 pages that reads like 128 pages. It’s insane in all the best ways.
I can’t imagine playing Mork Borg without this book, and having to make such a statement means Feretory makes the list.
It’s not super surprising that this product made the list. A Town Called Malice was on my list last year, and I’m wildly in love with the expanded playtests here.
David Kizzia takes the nordic noir ideas of the core game and applies them to interesting and new genres (including science fiction) and moving the ideas in Malice forward.
I’m always a big fan of genre-emulation games that seek to alter and evolve the genre they emulate, and Acts of Malice does just thought and in excellent fashion!
I love Forbidden Lands. If I’d played it the year it came out, it’d have made that list as well. (I’m seeing a trend with Free League produced material at this point.)
An excellent expansion, with new rules, new profession, awesome monsters and a really compelling new campaign that dovetails nicely to the core experience, the production quality on the Forbidden Lands line never dips.
It’s so enjoyable to play, I can’t stop suggesting it to my groups.
I love science fiction, I live dark science fiction, and I love junkverses (grimy, used, industrial settings).
Those Dark Places gives me all of that, in a tight little game, with a great ruleset, engaging and clever writing, and excellent art. The minimalistic rules are easy enough to teach and learn without bogging down in complication and it works great.
The game wears it’s inspiration (Outland, Alien, Blade Runner, Dead Space) on the sleeve, and that’s a good thing. While oftentimes “homage” games can feel derivative, Those Dark Places never does. It feels lovingly crafted and it hits all the right spots for me.
Vaesen hits a lot of my buttons! Great art, great rules, a stellar theme (gothic, folkloric), and all wrapped around a physical presentation that is amazing.
Vaesen is probably my favorite interpretation of the Year Zero Engine thus far, with the right amount of rules-light narrative, but deep and interesting rules where they should be.
This game already is getting a lot of my time and I don’t think that’ll stop anytime soon.
Elizabeth Chaipraditkul and Steffie de Vaan make great games on their Patreon. They’re some of the best writers in the tabletop industry right now
This anthology product from their patreon games is great for two reasons:
First, it’s twelve games, almost all mechanically unique (I think they all are, but I’m hedging in case I’m wrong). One of the games involves coloring unicorns as a mechanic!
Almost all the themes are relatively unique, often the ones you don’t see in RPGs or might not have thought about.
You want to expand your library, your RPG tastes and some experiences you might never have had otherwise, this is the book for you. It’s amazing.
I love, love, love sentai media. Absolutely adore it.
I also love this game. It’s diceless, true to the genre, exciting to play, but best of all: it’s designed in such a way that the sentai genre becomes accessible to those who aren’t familiar with it.
There’s a lot of clever narrative currency in this game that moves back and forth, aided by clear text and attention to mechanical guiderails to emulation (often a difficult task to master.)
I really love everything happening in this game. The art is bright, colorful and a blast to see. It’s fun, a giant love-letter, and it works for me in a way no other game did this year.
I can’t wait to play it more.
While I don’t include my own/company work on this list, I will say: if reading me talk about games has made you more interested in my RPGs, you can find them at shop.gallantknightgames.com, DriveThruRPG, or physical copies in local game stores and online webstores!
You can also support the GKG Patreon for ongoing content.