Another year has drawn to a close and it’s time to reflect back on a great year for RPGs. With all the great releases this year I decided to draw up a short list of my favorite RPGs that were released in 2011. My criteria were pretty simple – what were the best new releases that I had personal experience with and would recommend others consider buying. Obviously opinions will vary and I’d love to hear your picks in the comments below. I’ve restricted the list strictly to complete games rather than including supplements since I wanted the list to be of interest to those looking for a new RPG, as well as to maintain my sanity in trying to come up with a manageable list. Here are my top picks for 2011.
A complete RPG, including dice, based on David Petersen’s comic series and produced by Archaia Studio Press. I’ve already written an extensive review of the box set which should explain why this is my number one pick. Needless to say, the box set is a beautiful product that is suitable for both those new to the hobby as well as seasoned veterans. The game is also very approachable for tweens and teen gamers with a little help from mom or dad.
#2 Pathfinder Beginner’s Box Set
2011 was definitely the year of the box sets and Paizo‘s Pathfinder intro set is a terrific example of an introductory product where there was a clear effort to understand the needs of beginners. Retailing for $34.99, you really get your money’s worth. Opening the box, one immediately notices is that it’s filled almost to the lip with contents including two full-color, bound books (the Hero’s Handbook and the GM’s Guide), a set of dice, character sheets, cardboard stand-up figures, a flip-map, and even dice. My son received one of these from Santa and we already have plans to play on the first of the year so expect an in-depth review here on the GeekDad blog soon.
Written by Robin Laws and published by Pelgrane Press, Ashen Stars is a gritty, sci-fi adaptation of the GUMSHOE system (see my review of Trail of Cthulhu). In it, the players take on the role of Lasers, freelance troubleshooters and law enforcement operating in a remote and largely lawless sector known as the Bleed. Sound interesting? It is, with a solid rule set and evocative space opera setting all presented in a beautiful, full-color hard cover book. It’s definitely worth checking out and is on my “to review” list for 2012.
#4 The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild
I will admit, I was quite skeptical when I heard Cubicle 7 had obtained the license to produce a Lord of the Rings RPG. After all, between the sheer weight of canon associated with Middle Earth and the possibility of it just being another fantasy heart-breaker, it’s a tough game to do well. I’m happy to report that the results are very nice with an attractive pair of books (the Loremaster’s Book for GMs and the Adventurer’s Book for players), filled with lots of beautiful art, a couple of poster maps, and a set of dice. Best yet, the rules are well thought out and designed to invoke the setting rather than simply trying to bolt-on Middle Earth to an existing ruleset. The game is set after the events of The Hobbit, in the region of northern Mirkwood, leaving groups plenty of room to explore and adventure without running up against the impending War of the Ring and environs, with future releases expanding the scope of the setting to encompass more of Middle-earth as the era moves closer to the looming War of the Ring.
A hybrid of a RPG and a story-writing game, Do is a fabulous looking book and a fun, educational game to play, suitable for ages 12 and up (though it will work with younger kids with some help from an adult). I’ve written a full-review earlier this year which may explain why it’s in my top-five list.
There were a lot of other great games and products released in 2011 and I thought I’d mention a few of my personal favorites.
- The Burning Wheel: Gold Edition – The Burning Wheel RPG got an updated look and revision, all presented in a massive, hard cover book. If you’re a fan of gritty dark fantasy, it’s worth checking out.
- Microscope – A world building story game, Microscope is a really interesting, single-session game that’s worth checking out.
- The Fiasco Companion – If you’ve read my review, you know I’m a huge fan of Fiasco. This summer Jason Morningstar released the Fiasco Companion which contains advice for making your Fiasco games even better. It also includes information on how to create your own playsets and information on some of the more unusual places Fiasco has been put to use. If you like Fiasco, it is a must have.
- Pathfinder RPG’s The Inner Sea World Guide – An updated and expanded guide to the Golarion setting, this book was a serious upgrade to Paizo’s earlier Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting. A beautiful looking book that’s also interesting to read.
Those are my top picks for 2011. What are yours?