Category Archives: The Independents

Reviews of tabletop role-playing games created by independent and small publishers!

The Independents: The Quiet Year

For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. Now, finally, we’ve driven them off, and we’re left with this: a year of relative peace. One quiet year, with which to build our community up and learn again how to work together.

The opening words of The Quiet Year lay out the bones of a melancholy story. A community torn apart by war, a mysterious enemy gone but not destroyed, and the empty promise of a year of peace. No matter how desperately the community clings to survival, something awaits them on the horizon. Every hardship conquered pales in comparison to what is to come. When winter arrives, the Frost Shepherds shall also—and things will never be the same.

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The Independents: CAPERS

A Rolls-Royce Phantom peels around a corner, stray dollar bills from the sacks in the back fluttering out the open windows, as a pair of police cars howl in pursuit. A man in the rear seat leans out and chatters a string of bullets from his tommy gun at the coppers, but his shots go wide and the gun jams. Cursing, he leans back in to try and fix his weapon, yelling at the woman riding shotgun to handle it. She leans out her own window, raises a hand . . .and a beam of cold energy shoots out of it, creating an ice slick right in front of one of the police cars. The vehicle swerves, skids, and slams into a street lamp, but the second pursuit vehicle gets around it and draws closer. Suddenly, there’s a flash of energy from behind the windshield of the crashed car as one of its occupants steps through a dimensional gate and appears perched on the hood of the Phantom, shotgun in hand, demanding the gangsters pull over in the name of the law. It’s the 1920s. Alcohol is Prohibited, crime pays very well, the law does what it can. And, of course, there are superpowers. This is the BAMFsie-award-winning roleplaying game CAPERS from NerdBurger Games!

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The Independents: Lady Blackbird

Every game of Lady Blackbird starts in the same place: The cold iron brig of the Hand of Sorrow. Five rebellious heroes are trapped in the uncaring grip of the Empire, with aspirations of freedom alongside the far-off pirate king Uriah Flint. The premise is exciting, but the genius of this 2009 indie darling really begins to show when your players take control of the crew of The Owl. Will they talk their way out of imprisonment? Can they break out with force? Perhaps the predicament requires a more uncanny solution—teleportation, shapeshifting, or summoned lightning. No matter what the party does, their choices will send your story spinning off into The Wild Blue.

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The Independents: Shadows Over Sol

The year is 2214. Humanity has spread across the solar system, but what should have been an age of progress and bright days ahead has been swallowed by conspiracies and horror. Things older than mankind have been uncovered, and they are not at all friendly. Society has fragmented, megacorporations wage wars and shadowy groups plot, and every shattered space station has some bioengineered monster hiding in the vents. Still, if you’ve got a ship and a crew and are willing to risk it all, there’s plenty of profit to be made. Such is the world of hard sci-fi horror RPG Shadows Over Sol from Tab Creations!

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The Independents: Bluebeard’s Bride

A young Bride. A powerful and rich man with a beard that is shockingly blue. A massive house full of rooms, each room full of horrors. A ring of keys to open the doors, but one room is forbidden to the Bride by her new husband. A message that calls the husband away, leaving the Bride alone to explore her new home. An inexorable curiosity that drives her to open the door anyway, only to discover the bodies of previous, slaughtered brides. The husband returns, and discovers what the Bride has done, and the forbidden room gains another occupant. This might summarize the French folktale known as Bluebeard, a story whose most famous surviving version was published all the way back in 1697. But in this case it also summarizes Bluebeard’s Bride, an investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game from Magpie Games in which you, my friends, are the Bride. Continue reading The Independents: Bluebeard’s Bride

The Independents: Suited

Pick a card, any card, any card at all . . . and that card might help you build your character, overcome challenges, and even tell you something about the world you’re playing in! All you’ll need is a deck of cards and a copy of Suited from Escape Box Games! After this little book and its first expansion landed in the Independents in-box, I took a look and found a game that can adapt to any genre, get started right quick, and provide a session that doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae while providing exciting stories with some unique mechanics. Want to know more? Read on!  Continue reading The Independents: Suited

The Independents: Something Is Wrong Here

Kickstarter is a wild frontier of new games and new gaming ideas; the wide range of what’s out there is one reason I try to write about it every month. Every once in a while, though, an idea emerges that keys into something and gets people excited. While the Kickstarter for Something Is Wrong Here showed up too late for Kickstarter Wonk this month, I backed the game after seeing friends recommend it. As soon as I shared the campaign to my Facebook page, more of my friends lit up. “Twin Peaks RPG” and “David Lynch RPG” were pushing all the right buttons for many people I knew.

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The Independents: Operators

Welcome back to The Independents! It’s time for a gear-up montage as we check out a new offering from the sibling-run outfit Samjoko Publishing! Action movies and RPGs both grew up around the same time, and during the 80s when both forms were fresh, there was some crossover. The James Bond RPG, Ninjas and Superspies, and later Feng Shui and Spycraft all approached movie tropes when developing their playstyles. Now, though, the feel and, dare I say it, choreography of modern action movies has come to RPGs in the form of Operators. Kyle Simons has taken a very different approach from other games in developing Operators, focusing on the fast pace and tight camera work of movies like The Bourne Identity and Mission: Impossible instead of the technical details of their cars, gadgets, and guns. While the game hasn’t been fully released on retail sites like DriveThruRPG, physical rewards have been sent out to Kickstarter backers, meaning the game is pretty close to final form.

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The Independents: High Plains Samurai Advance Review

What happens when you throw together gangsters, cowboys, barbarians, samurai, steampunk and wire-fu and set the blender up to 11? Well, the potential for some truly eccentric, quirky or downright insane characters, and the award winning High Plains Samurai from Broken Ruler Games!

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The Independents: Seven Wonders

How did the children from Narnia cope with adulthood?  How does a dystopian society rise, and how does it fall? What happens in your village when the heroes are away? What would you sacrifice to save your family? Who protects your home when you’re not looking? What’s it like to voyage into a black hole? What do heroes talk about on the eve of a decisive battle? Seven questions need seven answers, and seven story games provide them. This time out The Independents are going to be exploring a wide range of themes, settings, characters, and framing devices as we check out the story roleplaying game anthology Seven Wonders from Pelgrane Press!

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