The Gauntlet Podcast team has just put out the call for Favorite Games of 2018 audio submissions. As in previous years, this gala episode of the show will feature members of our community talking about their favorite game from the last year. Importantly, a “favorite game of 2018” doesn’t have to be a game—modules and setting books are ok, too—and it doesn’t have to have been released in 2018, so long as it somehow made an impact on the participant in 2018.
In previous years, my Favorite Game selection was pretty easy to make. I chose Night Witches in 2015, Fall of Magic in 2016, and Monsterhearts 2 in 2017. In all three cases, they were the standout game for me in their respective years. Night Witches had a couple of other games nipping at its heels, but it was still a fairly easy choice.
This year is tougher. Part of it comes down to the fact that my taste in gaming has slightly changed. This year, I played many more OSR modules in order to support the Fear of a Black Dragon podcast, and while many of those OSR products were excellent, I’m not sure they are equal to, say, Monsterhearts 2 (and not because of quality, but because I simply get a lot more gameplay out of MH 2).
Another thing making the decision tough is the fact that The Gauntlet is now a nascent publisher, and some of the original games coming out of Codex are incredible. As the EIC of Codex, I have a lot of experience with these games, and some of them, while small in scope, are easily Favorite Game material. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and ultimately makes my Favorite Games decision almost painfully difficult.
And yet... I have some games that are currently pulling ahead of the pack. Here is a rundown of the games (and supplements) I am currently thinking about for Favorite Game of 2018:
This is an adventure and setting for old school fantasy games by Jason Sholtis, published by the Hydra Cooperative. That outfit is doing some of the most interesting things in the OSR right now, and Operation Unfathomable is among their best work. It presents a fantasy underworld that dispenses with drow elves and mind-flayers, and adds in headless cultists; a floating, megalomaniacal mass of snakes; hyper-intelligent fungoid scientists; and many more horrors and oddities. The book is also very slickly produced, with TONS of old school-inspired art, and features terrific advice for the GM to get the most out of the adventure. We discussed the module on Fear of a Black Dragon. That episode can be found here.
This is a rules-light, retro cyberpunk version of Fraser Simons’s game The Veil. It was originally published in Codex - Chrome 2. It was written by Fraser and is designed so you can run classic Cyberpunk 2020 material with a system that is a little more modern. From a design standpoint, the game is brilliant. It incorporates the best bits of World of Dungeons, The Veil, and The White Hack to create a system that is supremely flexible, yet comprehensive. I have run it several times, and it’s a joy, smooth as butter. The game was published in Codex - Chrome 2, which will soon be on DriveThruRPG.
Midnight at the Oasis
This is a story game by Catherine Ramen that was originally published in Codex - Glamour. It tells the story of a group of people who attend the crossdresser night at a restaurant/bar in NYC in the late 90s. The central drama in the story revolves around Dallas, who has been gone for a year as she prepares for her transition, but returns to the Oasis presenting as a man. I can’t stress enough how touching this game is. It explores a queer subculture that was so vital in the 90s but, due to the internet and the ease of connecting in the modern age, will soon be lost to time. The game is very personal to the author, and that personal connection resonates in every paragraph. The game can be found in Codex - Glamour, which is available right here.
Dead Friend: A Game of Necromancy
I had a chance to play Dead Friend with the author, Lucian Khan, at Camp Nerdly this year. I have only played it once, but it made a huge impact on me. It’s a two-player game in which one player is dead and the other player is their friend who is summoning them back to the mortal coil. The game is played in the manner of a ritual, which helps emphasize that theme in the game, and involves a series of flashbacks, during which we see the relationship between these two people when the dead person was alive. Through play, you explore how the summoner may have been responsible for their friend’s death, and the game’s climax involves a wildly fun psychic battle between the two. The game works in a variety of settings and tones, too. You can check it out right here.
This is a setting book for old school fantasy games written by David McGrogan. It presents a continent that is a strange, fascinating pastiche of real-world East Asian cultures, but makes no claims on those cultures and is ultimately its own unique thing. What I love most about this book is the fact that the author doesn’t really put his thumb on the scales in terms of how you use it; it’s all evocative and inspiring, but it’s just a toolbox—use it however you wish. The book is divided into several regions, each of which includes numerous tables which help the GM create the various factions and cultural details for each region. You can follow the book closely and roll everything from the tables, or you can do as I do and just cherry pick the cool shit you want to see in your campaign.
So, those are the games I’m looking at for Favorite Game of 2018. Which games were your favorites in 2018? Let me know in the comments.