Every August, the clans and families of the nerd tribe gather once more in the hallowed halls of Indianapolis, Indiana for Gen Con, the largest tabletop gaming convention in the world. Friday night of the con, the ENnie Awards are held. The ENnies are the Academy Awards of role-playing. This year, five nominees are up for Best New Game. Among them you’ll find fresh faces and old names, but you should know a thing or two about each.
The 90s were the decade of White Wolf, the company that made games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension iconic, true standards within the RPG community. The games put character, politics, and legend in front of combat and treasure. But with every new release, the canon of the world grew larger. Eventually, the bar of required knowledge was simply too intimidating for play. Furthermore, the games’ mechanics, while cutting edge for the time, have aged poorly.
Enter Urban Shadows. The game takes the slick, 21st-century mechanics of Apocalypse World and adapts them to the Machiavellian scheming and horror we all love in 90s RPGs. The game takes place in a single city, and players take on the roles of fairies, wizards, vampires, ghosts, and psychics. The world is one of supernatural horror, but the details are all left for each group to determine on their own, relieving the burden of a massive canon.
Creator Mark Diaz-Truman said players in the game “get mixed up in a city of vampires, demons, oracles, and wizards, all striving to claim their piece of the pie amidst the backstabbing politics of the supernatural world.”
Degenesis Rebirth is a game of a postapocalyptic nightmare. Asteroids destroyed the world, and brought with them an alien spore called Sepsis. Some humans fight the spore, others use it for their own purposes.
The game’s presentation is what makes it stand apart. Instead of simply describing regions, areas, and political relationships, the setting comes out in stories, anecdotes, ambiguous rumors, and untrustworthy narrators. In other words, this is a game that demands things of its players. It takes the assertion that game is art seriously, and assumes you do not need your art spoonfed to you.
The production values of the game are unprecedented. One reviewer described the game as, “the single most gorgeously produced and high budget tabletop role-playing game ever released.”
The game even has a flipping trailer!
Ten Candles is a one-shot game of tragic horror designed to be played in a single session in a pitch black room lit by only (you guessed it) ten tea light candles. Furthermore, a recording device of some kind is required for play, so that characters can leave last messages to the world they leave behind.
In the world of Ten Candles, the sun has disappeared from the sky. Nameless horrors stalk the dark. The game’s creator, Stephen Dewey, described the play of Ten Candles thusly:
[Y]ou will tell the terrible and harrowing story of a group of individuals fighting for survival in a darkened world, fleeing shadowed adversaries, and in the end succumbing to them. You will share a story of these victims, and explore together their final hours.
Emphasis should be placed on the “succumbing.” No one in Ten Candles gets out alive. The game is about your characters’ last hour. There’s no helicopter to an island, no escape pod, and no underground bunker. Your PCs are road hamburger. But then again, aren’t we all? It’s what you do between now and then that is your story.
Dewey found inspiration for the game in “classic horror movie tropes, from mysterious and deadly monsters just beyond the light’s edge, to the protagonists leaving one last recording behind just in case they don’t make it.”
Feng Shui 2
The Kickstarter for the second edition of the role-playing game of furious action promised,”Eunuch sorcerers. Slick conspirators. Cyborg apes. Control freak monks. Armed with the secrets of Feng Shui, all aim to conquer the past, present, and future. Only you have the guts, guns, and flying feet to stop them!”
Welcome to the Chi Wars. To control history, you must control feng shui sites, places of magical power scattered across the Earth, and throughout history. To make sure that the world does not sink into a hellscape, you need to dust off your .45 and get ready to kick some ass.
Feng Shui 2 is a game of over-the-top action, and is a loving homage to Hong Kong genre films. Like Big Trouble in Little China? This game is for you. Robin Laws said of the new edition, “Feng Shui 2 realizes the promise of the original, with vastly improved, retuned mechanics that make it the fast and furious game that everyone remembers it as, according to today’s more demanding design standards.”
Finally, a complete rules set allowing you to play in the world of Thedas!
Green Ronin’s role-playing game is a tabletop adaptation of BioWare’s hugely successful computer game. Fight darkspawn! Avoid the Taint! Be a fighter, wizard, or rogue!
Writer Jack Norris said of adapting a video game into a role-playing game, “The biggest challenges is balance. Not necessarily mechanical balance, though that is a factor, but balancing the needs of the licensor (Bioware), the depth of the video game with a system that doesn’t have a computer to handle all the math, the needs and expectations of the original IP fans with those of tabletop gamers, and various other concerns. Many of them are minor, but they add up to form a challenging endeavor, though also a rewarding one.”
You may remember Dragon Age from Tabletop.
Check out the ENnies after August 5th to see who the winner is!
Images courtesy of SixMoreVodka, Magpie Games, Green Ronin, Atlas Games, and Cavalry Games.
What do you think is the best new RPG of 2015? Let us know in the comments below!