Man oh man, talk about a bumper crop this month! Nearly two dozen different Kickstarter campaigns, winnowed down to about 18 new games of note and then down to an even dozen . A top ten couldn’t fit all the games I wanted to write about, and I still cut out some really intriguing stuff. A new edition of Savage Worlds is being funded, and there’s a compilation of great sci-fi microgames called Four Ways to Die in the Future which, though it’s a reprint, is still worth checking out. If you’re looking for new games, though, here are those which I thought are most worth your attention.
What makes Soulbound different from most dark fantasy fare is the focus on Soulbound weapons; each character has a weapon that is bound to them and these weapons advance just as the character does. The bearers of these weapons are the ones prophesied to defend the plane of Solum against the monsters that stalk beyond each city’s walls. The system is relatively light but designed to be tactical, with the description emphasizing action economy and teamwork. Giving mythic weapons their due is something that fantasy gaming could use, and at $10 for a PDF Soulbound is a reasonable attempt at doing just that, mixed up with an interesting world and some non-traditional monsters.
Divinity Card is immediately advertised as emulating “Saturday Morning Anime”, and you’d be forgiven if, based on the title, your thoughts turn immediately to Card Captor Sakura and Yu-Gi-Oh. While the eponymous Divinity Cards are a big part of the game, the character classes are intended to emulate a wide variety of anime archetypes (yes your card captors, but also monster hunters and chi blasters and…JRPG characters?). Similarly, the system as described is intended to let you find whatever depth of scale is best for your campaign. Flexibility, or lack of focus? Hard to tell. Still, the metaplot about the cards and the powers they bestow seems fascinating. $30 gets you a PDF copy of the game…might be worth it for fans of the genre, the rest of us will probably wish there’s a quickstart to check out first.
Turn is a slice-of-life roleplaying game, a genre that is slowly gaining traction with more indie designers. More importantly, though, it’s a slice-of-life game about shapeshifters, living in a small town and interacting with the humans they live among. With unique mechanics and a specific drive towards lower-pressure stories (high drama, but not life or death), Turn is emblematic of the indie movement’s push towards unfilled niches and in a great way. Brie Sheldon, the designer, has a pretty extensive resume, including writing for Fate, Bubblegumshoe, and Masks. If you want to check out Turn but still need to wrap your head around the concept, there’s a free beta linked on the campaign page. Otherwise, $15 gets you a PDF of the finished game.
Speaking of filling every niche, Never Going Home is a genre crossover, an occult, Lovecraftian horror game set in World War One. Based on a dice pool system, Never Going Home mixes the horrors of war with the horrors of the beyond, and forces players to choose between mystical power and their remaining links to humanity. An interesting and logical twist for the Lovecraftian Horror genre, Never Going Home should be a solid addition to the corpus. $10 gets you a PDF copy.
Die Laughing is a GM-less game in the vein of Fiasco, though instead of tragicomedy it’s horror comedy. Each character gets dice they can roll to succeed at actions, but as the story goes on, your dice pool depletes based on the outcomes of scenes. Run out of dice? Your character dies the next scene, but in a manner of your choosing. And once you die, don’t worry, you’re still a producer in this goofy horror movie, and get to influence the results in a different set of ways. With archetypes and monsters to pick, each session of Die Laughing will be a different take on the horror comedy genre, offering replayability like Fiasco playbooks. The team has some experience in the RPG space, being the authors of the aptly named Murders and Acquisitions. $10 gets you the PDF for this one.
PbtA isn’t quite over the hill yet. Thousand Arrows is a PbtA game taking place in the Warring States era of Japan, but getting there by way of Samurai movies like those of Akira Kurosawa. With a focus on drama as well as warfare and political intrigue, Thousand Arrows is designed both for pitched Samurai gameplay but also to help western gamers engage with the cultural concepts contained within the era and works based on it. The designers have experience with a variety of past works, ranging from Scion and 7th Sea to Monsterhearts and Bulldogs. $10 will get you the PDF.
Man oh man does this game look fascinating. You are a vampire, of any fictional discipline you like, so long as you’re an immortal that feeds on humans. What’s important, though, is that you are immortal, and your existence winds on over centuries. You have your memories, but as time passes and you experience more, there are things you forget. Thousand Year Old Vampire is a solo game examining what it would mean to live forever, and what it would mean to look back on a long lifetime of villainy. $10 gets you the PDF…I was so intrigued reading this game that I’ve gone ahead and backed it. A fascinating story I definitely want to play through.
Spectaculars, unsurprisingly, is a Supers game. Played with a percentile system, it looks pretty run of the mill…at first. There are a couple things that make Spectaculars more unique: First, each scenario is made up of elements which the players define in play, providing a guided form of player-driven world creation. Second, the storylines in the game are made up of “series pads”, sets of 40 session sheets which can be played in any order but introduce additional elements for players to define, as well as new characters and events to drive the story. Spectaculars is based on pickup play, but the pads are designed to have a lot more flexibility than your typical game modules. $20 gets you PDFs of all game elements, but consider access to a printer or getting hardcopy versions for this one.
Another PbtA game this month, and a highly unique one. Nahual is a game of Mexican urban fantasy, where the characters are nahuales, shapeshifters which hunt angels for a living. Angels can be captured and used by the church like circus animals, or even turned into potent celestial drugs. Does this make nahuales evil? Not quite. Set in a universe created by comic book artist Edgar Clément, Nahual is a classic urban fantasy game with potent and corrupting power, clashing factions, and uncertain morality. $10 gets you a PDF, and you can check out the free quickstart before making up your mind.
Nighty Knights is built upon existing mechanics (the TinyD6 system) but with an awesome premise. In Nighty Knights, you play the toys and stuffed animals protecting children from the horrors of the darkness, venturing into the attic, the closet, and under the bed. In addition to using the light TinyD6 rules for character creation, Nighty Knights includes its core setting, Underbed and the Dreamlands. Pick your heritage and the child you have to protect, and you’re pretty much ready to go off and fight monsters. $15 will get you a PDF of the game.
Like Archer? The combination of spies and office politics is…if not compelling, at least hilarious. Mission Accomplished is a game about the back office of a spy agency. With one Department Manager, the rest of the players are field agents who have to come back and explain why the mission went horribly (and hilariously) wrong. Each agent writes up their mission report, with a catch: you can’t say what you did, only how your fellow agents screwed up. After reading each (anonymously submitted, of course) report, it’s up to the team to figure out exactly what happened. Taking spy-themed Fiasco and mixing in a dash of Mafia/Werewolf, Mission Accomplished sounds like good, silly fun. $12 gets you the PDF.
Orun is an intense, far-flung space opera taking place centuries in the future. After a cataclysmic event involving a memetic virus, it’s time to attempt to return the universe to ascendancy. As a Djali, or Luminary, your character will travel to different worlds and act as an adviser, peacekeeper, or troubleshooter. Based on a 2d10 mechanic, the game system combines skills with special auras to reflect each character’s potent abilities. With a compelling metaplot and really creative world design, Orun is definitely worth a look. $20 gets you the PDF, and there’s a link to the game’s Google+ community where you can read more about the ruleset.
Another month, another wealth of Kickstarters. Whether you’re interested in playing an incompetent spy, a heroic stuffed animal, or a brooding immortal, designers are giving you what you want this month. Want to highlight other games? Think I missed something? Let us know in the comments. Otherwise, I’ll see you next month with a whole new set of games!