What was kind of interesting for me this year was there really lacked a stand out game from a big publisher. Instead there was a lot more targeted and niche games created that really resonated in their niche rather than being a general sensation.

You couldn't avoid Fiasco in indie niches for example and Pathfinder consolidated its position strongly for more traditional fantasy gamers who did not fancy the more radical depatures of 4e.

What got played?

This year I've been using RPG Geek to track the games I actually played this year. The final results feature Heroquest, D&D 4e and Burning Wheel with runner-up slots for Dark Heresy, WFRP 3rd edition and also Queen of Thorns (which is not yet listed on the Geek but has hit the table at least three or four times).

The rest of the listings are mostly made up of indie games that got played a few times each. Of these the most interesting to me was Mars Colony for its two player experience and On Mighty Thews for its compelling pulp fantasy experience.

Heroquest was not a big surprise, it is a system that has matured significantly since its first release but still provides a very abstract system that is very easily adapted to a variety of different situations and needs. Its elegance in dealing with issues of scale has yet to be surpassed. Heroquest is probably the closest thing to a universal system that I can imagine for the kind of gaming I want to do it. Its rules reflect the language of the game and provide an underpinning rather than imposing a narrative on the game.

With that said though it is really the Sartar sourcebook that made the game we were playing so compelling that we wanted to play it repeatedly for a large chunk of the year. The book's scenario produced a perfect blend of mystic spiritualism, tribal politics and individual struggle.

I was also surprised to find that I had played so much D&D 4e. As a group we went through a spurt of playing it at the start of the year and then haven't gone back to it after struggling to really find a good method of playing without miniatures and with a small group. The reminder has spurred me to start thinking about writing up what is great in 4e and what ultimately failed for us.

Dark Heresy probably has not been recorded correctly as I started a campaign that I wanted to reflect contemporary global politics and the war in Afghanistan and also allowed me to try and use all three of the main rulebooks for the 40K RPG: Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and Deathwatch.

In the end the game came close to failing at the point when it should have transitioned to the Rogue Trader vision of events. Instead the perspective of the Inquisitional Acolytes was retained and the games system changed to Wordplay which resulted in the themes of the campaign coming out much more strongly.

Crowd funding

2011 seemed to be the year of the crowd funded game, in particular indie games seemed to establish a track out of competitions like the Ronnies, 24 hour game or Iron GM and into Kickstarter or Indie Go-go.

Greg Stolze led the way on this with his ransom campaigns where after raising a figure the content is then freely downloadable by all.

While the Kickstarter model is not exactly the same it does seem to be a way to reward creators of content while allowing people to share and rework things in the traditional roleplaying way.

Importantly, it allows creators to judge the demand for their game and therefore match quantity and production values to their market.

The things that most interested in me in what I funded (and which were delivered this year) were John Wick's Aegis Project and the Technoir RPG. However I have not yet played either.