2013

I played a lot less this year and mostly gamed in conventions and one-offs. I was also struck that most of the games that I was really excited by I ended up crowd-funding. It's been about literally helping to create the games we want to play.

There was a proper response to OSR in the form of 13th Age and Torchbearer. Vincent Baker's Seclusium of the Orphone of the Three Visions was one of the most exciting fantasy adventure settings I've read since I was teenager.

It was also interesting to see a slight shift in the centre ground of roleplaying with Hillfolk and Numenera both incorporating sophisticated design and conceptual elements from the more radical indie games fringe. Hillfolk struggled to make relationships the heart of its game. Numenera had the interesting idea of managing a currency of effort rather than describing the capabilities of characters. Hillfolk came with "Blood on the Snow" a compendium of settings that genuinely presented the core reason of why you would want to play the game, the themes also ran across a few on storygames preferred tropes.

Fate Core was a good revision of a system that was already good. I appreciated the simplification of the system and the recognition that FATE is made by the Aspects system.

Psi*Run was excellent in so many ways. It was an engaging game with an elegant mechanism that made the players choose their pain. It was also easy to pitch to people and felt easy to teach to others.

The Apocalypse World bandwagon continued to rumble on some of my most frequently played games were Monsterhearts and DungeonWorld. Both are still great value in small quantities. Sagas of the Icelanders was also released and I'm looking forward to trying to give that a go next year.

Another personal favourite was Carolina Death Crawl, a game that takes the humanity and hope out of Durance and delivers a dark experience that is sublimely crafted. It also never made me felt short-changed as to the survival experience, I may have been playing a terrible person but goddammit I wanted to get through those woods pretty bad.

Nanogames

Ultimately though I will remember 2013 as being the year of the nanogames. A number were created and most could fit on a folded business card. These minimal exercises in design illustrated the real power of having mechanics and concept support one another.

All of Vincent Baker's Sundered Land games were great, Nanoworld produced a memorable great game and I enjoyed reading Valiant Girls and Witch House.

Ultimately though it was Vast and Starlit that took the crown, not just the best nanogame of the year but the best game of the year.

Every time I've played it the setup phase has been amazing and I've been dying to find out more about the characters, where they've been and where they are going to go.

Vast and Starlit blew my mind as to the amount of story, conflict and history you can ask the players to create with only a few paragraphs of text. It made me look at all other games in a new, critical light. Each page, each rule should be delivering the experience of the game, everything else is just wasting people's time.

Communities

The theme of the year has to be communities. Hillfolk, Kingdom and one of my favourite games The Quiet Year all dealt with groups of people trying to work together. Even if you played an individual character (and quite a few games deliberately eschewed that as a concept) then what mattered was your relationship to the group and your view of what was right for the community as a whole.

Last year's Dog Eat Dog set this direction (and I think will prove to be one of the most seminal rpgs ever written) but there was a fantastic range in the follow-ups. Quiet Year de-personalises everything by minimising player communication and uses a player-drawn map to record the history of a people that often feels like a recapturing of cave painting.

Kingdom went through many versions but the final version feels like it really captures the compromises of a society under pressure. The more I play it the more I like it.

What a year...

Although I didn't play as much this year the range of options available was ridiculous. The quality of the games feels like it is beyond anything I might have expected. To have Psi*Run, Carolina Death Crawl, Vast and Starlit, Kingdom, The Quiet Year and Sundered Land all out in the same year was amazing. Trying to decide what to play was a ridiculous exercise in trying to decide what the best of the best was.

For me this is clearly the greatest time to be roleplaying since the invention of D&D.

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