Sunday, 21 December 2014

HTHD Year in Review (Part One)

Has it been twelve months already? Hard to believe, what with the sporadic posts and all, but here we are again at the end of the year reflecting on the gaming that's happened in between.

Most Game-Able Movie of 2014 - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Here was a movie that practically everyone with any sense at all loved, because it did one thing better than just about any genre movie in recent memory: it was flat-out FUN. This is something that HTHD gamers need to be reminded of, from time to time -- although we like our Serious Fun that involves tough emotional decisions and pain, sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered to embrace the fun. I've been running a Fate Accelerated game using this as inspiration, and it's been just as delightfully goofy as I hoped.

Shiny New Game We're Digging The Heck Out Of - DUNGEON WORLD

Speaking of fun, here's an Apocalypse World variant that packs pretty much everything I remember loving about classic D&D into the most efficient package possible. Like most *World games, where it really comes to life is in the unexpected turns the narrative takes based on the dice. I've been running this lately for my online game, and I recently came to the virtual "table" with about ten minutes of material, figuring my players would lead the way for the rest. And so they did, leading to an entirely satisfying (and tense!) gaming experience based entirely on *World's "something always happens" rolling mechanic.

Oddest Gaming Confection of the Year: GOLDEN SKY STORIES

As a palate cleanser after a number of fairly heavy games, this was just the thing -- a Japanese game that's about shape-changing animals helping people. No conflict, no fighting. Just friendship and kindness and a pastoral rural setting. We were less enthusiastic about the system (I would probably use a variation of either Token Effort, from Greg Stolze's great IN SPAAAACE! comedy space opera, or else the venerable but delightful TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE), but the overall gaming experience was good. A lovely reminder that games can also be satisfying when they are about the "softer" kinds of stories and emotions. More games could explore this territory. And should.

The D.B. Cooper Memorial 'One That Got Away' Award: APOCALYPSE WORLD

I was all set to run this as a follow up to GSS, but unfortunately that particular gaming group imploded before the first session. One day...! Honourable mention also to TRIBE 8, a game I've got a lot of love for, but one that I ultimately decided wouldn't be a good fit for the Saturday crew.

Not-Exactly-New Game I Dug The Hell Out Of: BLOWBACK

I'm a big fan of Burn Notice, the great rollicking spy-in-exile TV show that inspired Elizabeth Sampat to design this terrific espionage game. It captures the feel of the show better than almost any other genre adaptation I can think of, albeit with the numbers largely filed off here. She comes up with an elegant way to introduce the extended family characters that make Burn Notice so great (each player takes on a "main cast" character and a dependant character) and builds in elegant ways to place the supporting cast in peril and manage exciting spy derring-do. Great stuff.

Surprise! It's Awesome! Award: BASE RAIDERS

I've just recently been getting back into listening to a lot of podcasts, including RPPR (Role Playing Public Radio) and its sister podcast that focuses on Actual Play. That introduced me to Base Raiders, RPPR mainstay Ross Payton's game of superhero "dungeon delving". That high concept didn't really sell me initially, but when I learned the details -- this is set in a world where all the high-end superheroes and villains have vanished in some kind of cosmic Event (which would likely have 'Crisis' in the title, were it on the shelf at your local comic book store), leaving their secret bases full of weird Silver Age technology and magic secrets up for grabs. The more I thought about this, the more I loved it, and now it's something I'm thinking of pitching one of my groups in the new year. I'm picturing a game that's about low-rent crooks trying to make it big -- Tarantino-esque shenanigans in a world dripping with the trappings of comic books. Sounds like a winner to me.

Online Gaming Innovation of the Year: ROLL20 ADDS CHARACTER SHEETS

The Roll20 VTT continues to be a great way to play games online, and the addition of pre-generated character sheets -- which often look a lot like their tabletop counterparts, with dice rolling functionality added -- makes setting up a new game a whole lot easier. These guys continue to hit it out of the park with great new features.

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