Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for November! There’s a whole bunch going on here as the year gets darker, and it’s a perfect time to stay in and play some games. This is also where the spooky games ended up: we have sea shanty poltergeists, food horror, and even a game where all women are werewolves! In addition, though it’s not a new game and as such isn’t included below, the new box set of Mothership has also gone live on Kickstarter and it looks sick. Even though it doesn’t quite fall in the bounds of a Kickstarter Wonk selection, it’s still definitely worth noting. As far as what does fall in those bounds, we have 8 (plus one) really neat games to check out this month. Grab your dice, pencils, and tarot cards!
Anamnesis is a journaling game employing tarot cards. Your character has been afflicted with memory loss, and it is through prompts and pulls from a tarot deck that you reassemble who the character is. While not hugely procedural, I like this use of Tarot in games. Less of a mechanic itself, this is more a game that’s best played with an evocative, artistic deck. It could also be interesting to see how different decks affect play-throughs. Anamnesis is a zine, so my description is short, like the game. I do recommend checking it out, though. The price is short too: $6 gets you a PDF and $12 gets you a print copy.
The breadth of the PbtA ruleset continues to expand, and Fluxfall Horizon is an interesting if narrow example. Characters in Fluxfall Horizon are those who can ‘lance’ between multiple quantum realities, where things are almost the same…but not. In many ways the starting notes provided here and detailed by the campaign are fairly generic, but given the conceit it shouldn’t take much to understand how much potential the setting holds. I’m pretty happy with the split described in the campaign between setting tools and rules prescriptions (bias towards the former, of course), but unlike the inspirations, including some unsurprising pulls like Quantum Leap and Sliders, I’m still not entirely sure what the ‘why’ of the game is. Still, dimension hopping is evocative, I think it’s worth a closer look. $20 gets you a PDF.
The first standalone ‘Powered by GURPS’ game in quite some time, GURPS Girl Genius takes the setting of the Foglio’s iconic comic and turns it into a game with all the superscience gizmos and pulp trickery you could want. I’ve heard some fair criticism that such pulpy source material seems to be a poor fit with GURPS, a system not exactly known for being fast, furious, or fun, to plagiarize another generic system. That said, there is some interesting magic in standalone GURPS games. GURPS is notoriously front-loaded, that is to say there’s a lot of work at the beginning of the game to get everything set up and characters made. With a standalone game, all the allowed options are contained in one relatively svelte 184 page volume, immediately reducing the workload at the outset. And once all that front-loading’s done, GURPS itself is a relatively elegant, relatively compact system. I might be biased, but even with my GURPS affections notwithstanding this should still be a good time. $35 gets you a PDF.
Kalymba represents two fairly new angles for the TTRPG hobby. First, Kalymba is a fantasy game with an afro-centric setting, not the first but definitely still early in the development of this vein of source material. Second, Kalymba is coming from Brazil, a country with a large and talented RPG community, but one which has historically had difficulty accessing the US market, more for logistical reasons than even linguistic or cultural ones. Though the mechanical bent of Kalymba is what you may call ‘trad’, the game as described in the campaign is clearly its own thing. It’s even had some success already, as this campaign is technically for a translation into English from Portuguese. Kalymba represents a great opportunity for us in the US market to connect with the burgeoning Brazilian RPG scene, and hopefully we see more from the whole community in the future. $22 gets you a PDF.
Shanty Hunters is both historical and bonkers. Characters find themselves trying to preserve the dying art of the sea shanty in the 19th century, as sailing ships give way to steam and the need for workmen’s songs like sea shanties is declining. But. BUT. There’s an evil spirit who, in response to the characters writing down the songs, causes the actions described in the lyrics to play out on the deck of ships, resulting in utter chaos. See? Historical and bonkers! Using the GUMSHOE engine, Shanty Hunters really gives itself heft not only with game mechanics but with a trove of knowledge on seafaring, and overviews of 20 historically relevant ports. Even if I could never convince my group to play a sea shanty-centric campaign, the reading material is likely worth the price of admission alone. $15 gets you a PDF.
An anthology of horror LARPs about food. I pride myself on finding the most original games set to campaign on Kickstarter, so this had to be included. And edgelords take note, this is how you actually aim to get to the root of people’s attitudes and make them really uncomfortable. If you think I’m being glib, click that link and read those game descriptions! LARP is a fascinating artform when it really engages with our social expectations, and these games centered around the ritual of eating do a great job of forcing players outside of their comfort zone quickly and dramatically. Even reading the descriptions alone gave me pause a few times, and that’s saying something! Suburban Consumption of the Monstrous is a crash course on the power of LARP, even if you don’t have a strong enough stomach to play everything contained within. £15 (~$21) gets you a PDF, though there is a lower tier for those experiencing financial difficulty.
Upriver, Downriver is another Tarot-based game, though it and Anamnesis have little in common. This game tells the story of travel up the Great River, a journey told in exactly 12 sessions. Wanderhome is called out as inspiration in the campaign, though I also see elements of Agon in the structure of the game and both how and why randomization mechanics are used. I’m not surprised that Wanderhome really kicked in the door of travelogue-style games, and this one looks quite intriguing. Without too many bases for comparison it can be hard to get a feel for this game; fortunately, there’s a quickstart PDF available. Should you choose to journey down the river, £12 (~$17) gets you a PDF (there is a lower tier for those experiencing financial difficulty).
The indie RPG movement has championed the cause of the high-concept RPG. High-concept RPGs are games meant to deeply explore one element through gameplay, and these elements range from the gig economy to an unhealthy obsession with Adam Driver. Women Are Werewolves is a high-concept game exploring gender, and for some reason this was the one that burrowed into my (cisgender male) brain and stayed there. The concept of Women Are Werewolves is relatively simple: in your family, women turn into werewolves under the light of the full moon, and men do not. You are nonbinary. What does this mean for you and, well, lycanthropy? Although hyperbole is clearly part of the fun here, creating a new and extreme notional construct of gender (werewolves) makes it that much easier to step down and look at other constructs of gender and how you relate to them. This campaign for a card-based game has chosen to only distribute the game as a physical product, and the lowest tier which includes a copy is $30.
I don’t usually plug campaigns before they’re out (hence why this is an honorable mention), but this one is coming right in the middle of this month, and depending on the campaign length could be missed in December. CY_BORG is a cyberpunk game hacked from and by the designers of Mork Borg, and upon hearing that it’s either an instant back or you’re very confused why I’m so excited. Well, I am excited, excited enough that I wanted to bring it to your attention ten days before the campaign is even a thing. That’s right: CY_BORG lands on Kickstarter November 13th.
Another month, and more and more creative games are coming through. See something I missed? Have another upcoming campaign that’s worth paying attention to? Throw some links in the comments below. Thanks for reading, support some really cool games, and hope to see you in next month’s Kickstarter Wonk!
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