Best RPGs of 2015

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Best RPGs of 2015

Postby Luke » Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:28 am

So each year I put up a post to get a feel from Wellingtonians what RPGs published that year have been their favourite. Though this thread is aimed at RPGs published in 2015 only, please feel free to mention supplements or any other RPG you encountered this year that stood out.

Last year's thread is here: http://nzrag.com/nzrbb/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=795.

2013 and 2014 were both great years for new RPGs. This year was also a strong one with the top 3 entries all being seriously excellent. However, I feel like the recent RPG boom that began for me in 2010 is beginning to taper off, which seems to match the slow down trend in Kickstarter. As a result, the tail end of my top 5 is not quite as strong as it has been in the last two years. I am not sure that the trend will continue though as there are some very promising RPGs on the horizon with Masks, Epyllion, and Shinobigami. 2015 could well be a leveling out rather than the start of a downturn.

On a personal front, new RPGs have taken less prominence as I have been reaping the harvest that 2013 and 2014 provided. Instead, I focussed on those RPGs that scored highly, especially Atlantis from 2013 and D&D 5e from 2014. I plan to do the same with Shadows of the Demon Lord from this year. I would also like to do some Urban Shadow as it has finally allowed me to explore the genre of urban fantasy that has long eluded me in RPGs since I fell in love with World of Darkness in the 90s. My hope is that I will be able to follow this up with Masks doing something similar for supers next year.

My top five for 2015 are:

1. Shadow of the Demon Lord: In contrast to my new school runner up, Shadow of the Demon Lord represents the very best of a traditional approach to RPGing, taking the best of two of my most favourite RPGs - D&D5e and WFRP2e - and making something that's as cool, if not cooler. Dark and grim fantasy RPGing has never been so fun. When combined with the low setting and high short adventure support, it really hits the right buttons.

The RPG has also been the product of one of the most amazing Kickstarter experiences I have had to date, with a one man band not only producing a top quality book early, but a consistent release of support material in a timely fashion since. This diligence has increased my dedication to this RPG.

2. Urban Shadows: World of Darkness meets Apocalypse World, much like Dungeon World did for D&D a few years earlier. This RPG is a complete urban fantasy RPG that includes easy to use mechanics to cover the essential elements that the genre needs to run successfully - corruption, debts, supernatural types. There have been a lot of Apocalypse World hacks on offer over the years but this is the first that has succeeded with me out of the box.

3. Mutant Year Zero: This is a revamped version of the old Swedish classic Post Apocalyptic RPG. Its excellently done mixing traditional RPGing with some modern Apocalypse World style of mechanics. Of particular note is an excellent old school hex-crawling system, a community building system, and a well done metaplot campaign support. Add in one of the best and most consistent physical presentation and its clear this is a stand out RPG.

4. Star Wars: Force and Destiny: FFG's Star Wars trilogy has come to an end with Force and Destiny on the verge of the new trilogy. The last two books both got honourable mentions in 2013 and 2014 but failed to get into my top 5. However, Force and Destiny deserves recognition in its lavish production values, its handling of the difficult matter of the Force and ably wrapping up the series.

5. Exalted 3e: A long time in coming, the PDF leaves a lot to be desired despite there being a lot of good in there. The situation is salvageable but its an uphill climb for the last edition of my favourite RPG, and it saddens me to see this only just make the top 5.

A notable mention goes to Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk. I initially had a lot of hope for Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk off the back of Atlantis, with its similar game style but with Persian Fantasy and troupe style play. The RPG is solid, but it has a few too many rough edges for me to be 100% happy with the result. Still worth checking out if your tastes fall into its niche.

My 2014 choices: Far Away Land, D&D 5e, Ryuutama, Icons: Assembled Edition, Book of Cairn.

My 2013 choices: Atlantis: The Second Age, Double Cross, Warbirds, Golden Sky Stories, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.

My 2012 choices: Tenra Bansho Zero, Shadows of Esteren, Marvel Heroic , Hellas 2nd Ed., Legends of the Wulin.

My 2011 choices: One Ring, Mistborn, Fabled Lands, Vampire the Masquerade 20th Ann. Ed., Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e.

My 2010 choices: Eclipse Phase, Gamma World D&D4e, Dresden Files, Eoris, Icons.

My 2009 choices: D&D4e, Mouse Guard, Summerland, Anima, WFRP3e.

My 2008 choices: CthulhuTech, Dragon Warriors, D&D4e, Dark Heresy, Grimm.

My 2007 choices: CthulhuTech, Star Wars Saga Ed., Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Solomon Kane, BlissStage.

My 2006 choices: A Game of Thrones OGL, Spirit of the Century, Qin, Burning Empires, Agon.
Playing: D&D5e
Running: Tales from the Loop
Planning: Esper Genesis, Kult Divinity Lost; Zweihander
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Re: Best RPGs of 2015

Postby Steve Hickey » Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:05 pm

I've heard great things about Mutant Year Zero and Urban Shadows. Masks is another Apocalypse World hack that's getting much buzz here in Christchurch.

It's been a great year for gaming for me. I've been doing Epidiah Ravachol's 'Play 51 games in 2015' challenge, where repeat plays of a game don't count. As a result, I've played a lot of stuff that's been completely new to me, this year.

So far, my Top 5 Games Published in 2015 have been:


1. Cartel (ashcan edition)
In the vein of Breaking Bad and The Wire, you play the members of a Mexican drug cartel trying to prosper in the middle of a drug war and a police investigation.

Our two sessions created some riveting roleplaying and situations, and led to one PC being buried alive (a decision we all agreed was probably pretty fair). I found this effortless to run: it's an Apocalypse World hack, where the consequences of failed moves lead to players having to select from 'Stress Options' for their characters, representing their bad decisions.


2. Fall of Magic
In this game, you create the story of an epic fantasy to restore magic to the world. You move your characters across a map of the world. Each location on the map has different scenes and creative prompts that you use to describing what's happening, how your character is changing, and the mood of your Fellowship. It's very nearly poetic in how it plays, while also hitting a strong and true vein of pure fantasy.

(Luke, I absolutely recommend this as a family game: I think you’d all have a great time.)


3. Headspace
This is a cyberpunk Apocalypse World hack. You play a group of mercenaries who have joined themselves together in a group mind (the headspace) in order to fight a mega-corp (think Neuromancer meets Sense8). It's for 3-5 players: your headspace initially had 6 people in it, but by the start of the game 1-3 of them are dead and are hanging around as ghosts in your brains.

I was incredibly happy with how it runs. Your characters are incredibly competent … so you can achieve a lot while looking like an epic badass. What’s at stake, though, is whether you can retain control of your emotions when you use your skills. The emotional baggage that’s associated with each skill, and how that creates a history between the characters and the ghosts in their headspace is fantastic.

As one player said last night, it’s the most fleshed out he’d ever experienced a character in a one-shot as being.


4. Restless
A horror game set after civilisation has been infected by the Restless and collapsed. Think Walking Dead, Crossed, I Am Legend. It's unusual and at the same time liberating: you draw cards and act out the roughly-outlined scenes that are on them. Each scene ends in 1-2 character deaths ... which can make character identification difficult, but after 3-4 scenes it stops being funny and just becomes relentless.


5. Soth
I published this, this year and I'm really happy with how it's turned out. I feel I've created a game I'm really happy to run.


Honourable mentions:
The Warren, Wicked Lies and Alibis, Blades in the Dark, Left Coast, Ryuutama.


My 2013 picks (in no particular order): Firefly, Vast and Starlit, The Sundered Land, Shahida, The Annotated Sorceror

My 2012 picks (in no particular order): In a Wicked Archipelago, Companions, Bad Family (revised), The Quiet Year, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Grace, Until We Sink

My 2011 picks (in no particular order): Monsterhearts, Monster of the Week, Microscope, S/lay w/me, Murderous Ghosts
Last edited by Steve Hickey on Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best RPGs of 2015

Postby Luke » Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:22 pm

Steve Hickey wrote:I've heard great things about Mutant Year Zero and Urban Shadows. Masks is another Apocalypse World hack that's getting much buzz here in Christchurch.


Masks looks good and is by the same guys as Urban Shadows, Epyllion and Last Days of Anglekite. Hopefully, Masks will be on the list next year as I try to keep selection to at least a full published PDF in that year :)
Playing: D&D5e
Running: Tales from the Loop
Planning: Esper Genesis, Kult Divinity Lost; Zweihander
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Re: Best RPGs of 2015

Postby Steve Hickey » Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:32 pm

... and the same team as Cartel.
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Re: Best RPGs of 2015

Postby Luke » Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:48 pm

Steve Hickey wrote:... and the same team as Cartel.


Yep. Magpie Games have sort of dominated my new games this year with a few exceptions :)
Playing: D&D5e
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Re: Best RPGs of 2015

Postby Mike Sands » Fri Nov 06, 2015 5:59 am

Here's mine:

- Ryuutama. I know Luke listed this for last year, but the book just came out a few weeks back). Beautiful and full of cool, novel ideas.
- Circle of Hands. Ron Edwards' reworking of his old fantasy heartbreaker is a brutal, amazing fantasy game. I've only run one-shots, looking forward to running a longer game maybe next year.
- Night Witches. I've been playing this all year (our airwomen have made it to 1944 now) and it's been a hit with the whole group. It's a perfect balance of historical detail while leaving you room to tell some very personal stories for the characters.
- Urban Shadows. Not yet played, but looks great. Lovely take on old World of Darkness "you can play any supernatural you want" games.
- Feng Shui 2. Great update to a great game. Improves on the original in a number of ways, but still with the same style.

Honourable mentions:
- Steve's Soth: great game, I was lucky enough to playtest it several times during development. Still need to play a full game, another for next year.
- Undying: PDF complete but still waiting for the hardcopy. This is a ruthlessly focused take on vampires. It's all about power games, debts, and grudges, with a diceless system that cuts close to the bone.
- Blades in the Dark. Kickstarter done, and the final game text is still being nailed down. However, we had a blast with the quickstart a couple of versions back. It puts you as a criminal gang in an industrial fantasy city, with some interesting gang level up mechanics as well as your character development. Look for it next year, it was great fun.
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