Best of 2017 Part One: Video Games

It’s that time of the year again! Time for Loremaster Games top 10 lists! This year, I’m going to do things in a different order and get started with my favorite video games of the year. This year I’ll be presenting my Top 10 board games alongside the YouTube show Man vs Meeple (you should check out the channel if you haven’t seen it!) and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. So, instead, here are my Top 10 Video Games of 2017:

10. Star Trek: Bridge Crew


VR is a technology that hasn’t quite caught on yet, but I am a huge fan. In fact, you’ll find two VR-capable games on this list! The first being Star Trek: Bridge Crew. This game puts you right in the seat of a Starfleet Officer in command of your very own starship. You’ll be manning the Helm, which allows you to navigate, jump through hyperspace, and set coordinates. You’ll work Engineering, where you are constantly playing a mini game trying to divert power to the right systems while also assigning your team to repair damaged parts of the ship. You can also man the Tactical Console, where you’ll be in charge with analyzing enemy ships and controlling your weapons. The last seat is for the Captain, who will have an overview of the situation as well as the objectives. It is the Captain’s job to help everyone else work together to complete the objectives.

For Bridge Crew to shine, you really need a group of 4 people all playing together on voice chat. The game is fine in single player —it still gives you a lot to do, but the real fun comes in the multiplayer mode. It is beautiful chaos as the captain shouts out orders as everyone is responding with status reports and information. Everyone has a small piece of what is going on and seeing it all come together in real time, while you’re under fire from enemy vessels, is an incredibly unique experience. The music, sound effects, and visuals are all straight from the show, so you feel pulled directly into the universe. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget you’re just at home, sitting in a chair.

9. Cuphead


Cuphead is a game dripping with theme: to the 1930s cartoon inspired graphics, to the sound effects, the score, and even the crackle of a simulated record. The presentation of this game is nearly flawless in what it was trying to convey: it very much feels like an old cartoon come to life. However, don’t let the theme fool you into thinking this will be a kid’s game. Cuphead is very difficult. It features many different platformer-based game modes, including run-and-gun modes that feel like old school platformers, and boss battles that take place on unique levels with interesting bosses.

Cuphead feels very much like the Dark Souls franchise to me in that you will die, and you will die a lot. But every time you die, you learn a little bit more of the level or boss you are fighting against. You begin to learn its patterns, and you begin to master the timing. Eventually, it becomes second nature and you find yourself reacting to things almost before you can realize it’s happening.

Cuphead also features drop-in drop-out local co-op that makes the game even more insane! It becomes a symphony of chaos as you’re trying not to lose track of your character amidst all of the game elements. In a lot of places, it really feels more like a bullet-hell game than a platformer.

The levels are connected by an isometric world map that lets you interact with NPCs, buy new weapons, items, and upgrades from the shop, and find the many Easter Eggs hidden across the worlds.

8. Middle Earth: Shadow of War

middle earth.jpeg

I absolutely loved Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and have been eagerly awaiting the sequel ever since I put down the controller. The first game ended on a pretty crazy cliffhanger, and the sequel uses that as a jumping off point to really raise the stakes, and the action, of the franchise. The story of Shadow of War feels epic: you are marching across Mordor, building an army and conquering strongholds in an attempt to challenge Sauron himself. These events (while not exactly canon) sync up with the books and movies, and so you really feel like you’re playing a true Lord of the Rings story.

Shadow of War features the same familiar counter-based combat and gameplay from the original, but really amps up the action. Everything feels faster, due in part to the many new abilities this game gives you, including the double jump which allows you to move across the map at breakneck speed. It also plays around with elements, giving you access to fire, ice, and poison based powers. Everything feels more epic in this game, including the stakes of the storyline. They’ve also added a few RPG elements in the form of leveling up equipment and collecting gems which can be refined to grant more powerful abilities.

But where Shadow of War really shines is the improved Nemesis system. It was neat in Mordor, but in War it has been polished to a gleam. Every Orc you encounter will play a part in your story. Some will join you, some will kill you. Some will shame you, or hunt you, or be hunted by you. They will team up with their blood brothers to hunt you down and will challenge you to single combat. They will fight each other, jockey for position, and ambush each other’s missions. Each Orc feels unique, with different voice actors and lines. I don’t think I heard a line repeated through the whole game, even when I had to restart a mission after failure. The dialogue would change upon the second play. Recruiting these orcs, tasking them to build your army, and ultimately assaulting an enemy fortress is the meat of this game, and oh man is it satisfying. Storming the gates alongside your hand-picked generals, each with their own unique groups of units…it’s an experience unlike any other!

7. Resident Evil: 7


RE: 7 is a return to the roots of the franchise. After 4 took the series in a more action-focused direction (which I loved) it did leave me longing for an old-school Resident Evil experience. Resident Evil 7 provides this with great success. The game is creepy, scary, and yet tells an intriguing story that links up with the overall mythos of the franchise. Fans of Resident Evil who wondered at this direction so should be at ease. The game tells a wholly Resident Evil storyline.

The crux of the game has you sneaking around the grounds of a large, decrepit mansion, hunted by a creepy cannibalistic family with a bigger role to play in the story. There are jump scares as well as twists and turns a’ plenty. As soon as you think you know where the story is going, it heads in a different direction.

I played this game on the PSVR, in full VR mode, and it was one of the most terrifying gaming experiences I’ve ever had. The controller works well with the VR and, within moments, you almost forget you’re using one and are acting completely on instinct. I also found myself sucked into the game, stepping over in-game objects as if they could possibly trip me. I had heard a lot about how immersive VR tech could be, but after playing this game I am a firm believer. Nothing in that game can hurt you, really, but that won’t stop you from slowly peeking around corners and hiding behind doors in fear for your life. Even without the VR, the first person viewpoint (a first for the main franchise) still gives you an immersive experience. If you’re new to Resident Evil, or if you just love horror games in general, this is the best we’ve seen in a long time.

6. Mass Effect: Andromeda


Mass Effect: Andromeda received a lot of hate for a lot of reasons when it first came out, but I’m asking you to push all of that out of your mind for a minute. There were a lot of reasons for the hate, but at the end of the day, Andromeda is a solid action-RPG hybrid that tells an interesting story and surrounds you with interesting characters. The game gives you a lot to do, and encourages you to explore in a way the old Mass Effect games could not.

Does anyone else remember sitting down to play ME: 2 for the first time, and being completely blown away by how streamlined and fun they managed to make the combat? I felt that same way playing Andromeda. Everything feels faster and more fluid, yet easier to control at the same time. Within moments, you’ll be flying, jumping, and teleporting across the battlefield, switching weapons and powers on the fly in order to synergize with your companions and pull off crazy combos. The gameplay in Andromeda is definitely focused on the Action over the RPG, but that is the direction the series has been going for a while now. Andromeda fully embraces that instead of hiding from it.

One criticism I keep hearing about Andromeda is that the story didn’t feel epic enough, and the characters didn’t feel interesting or developed enough when compared to the original trilogy. I’m asking people to stop comparing it to the trilogy and start comparing it to Mass Effect 1, which is what this game is parallel too. Andromeda fulfills the promise made with Mass Effect 1: huge, sweeping worlds that are fully open and filled with places to explore. The technology wasn’t quite there yet with ME1 and I’m sure gamers remember endless hours just driving the Mako over empty terrain trying to climb mountains and make it fit places it wasn’t meant to. The storyline for ME1 wasn’t fantastic and the characters kind of came and went. It wasn’t until the trilogy was finished that you really had a complete development arc for the characters, and I’m sure Andromeda would be the same way. This was meant to be the first game in a new trilogy, and it really set up some cool things to explore in the future. I, for one, can’t wait to jump back into the Mass Effect Universe.

5. Persona 5


If you’ve never played a Persona game, you don’t know what you’re missing. Go out, get Persona 5 right now, and thank me later. I’ve been a fan of the Shin Megami games since the beginning, and still pride myself on owning a copy of the original Persona. When Persona 5 was announced, I was excited, of course. This is the first new Persona game in almost a decade! But the art style, gameplay, and characters seemed, at first, to be very similar to that of 3 and 4. I will gladly admit I was wrong.

Persona 5 takes the combat of the previous games and makes it even faster and more intense. Gone are the randomly generated dungeons (though the option is there for those who loved the experience), replaced instead with hand-crafted offerings that make the dungeons feel more directed, puzzly, and important. Also, the social link system from the previous games has gone through an overhaul, giving you even more options with how to spend your days between dungeon crawling.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Persona puts you in the shoes of a Japanese high school student who must balance the rigors of school and a social life with the burden of saving the world. This might sound tedious at first (who wants to spend actual in-game time studying?) but in reality the calendar system is a lot of fun. You won’t have enough time to do EVERYTHING so your best bet is to maximize the time that you do have. It turns the social system into a bit of a puzzle, and if you manage to solve parts of it, you get in game benefits.

I won’t talk much about the story in Persona 5 because I don’t want to spoil it. But it feels timely, and important. It takes place in a world where the adults are constantly stealing the future away from the younger generation, and the younger generation has to fight to take it back. It features a lot of familiar tropes from the series, but really plays on them, while offering enough twists and turns to make everything feel fresh and new.

If you’re into JRPGs, or have never played a JRPG and want to try one, Persona 5 is for you.

4. Assassin’s Creed: Origins


After a year hiatus, Assassin’s Creed is back and better than ever with my new favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date! This has been two hits in a row from the team (with Syndicate having been my previous top pick) and I hope they continue their streak.

Origins will feel very familiar to fans of the franchise while also opening the experience for new players to jump on. This game tells a story that pre-dates the other games, and it is, truly, an Origin story for the Order of Assassin’s. I won’t talk too much about the story here, suffice to say you know it’s good, because it earned a spot on my top 10 list.

The combat has been completely overhauled in this game, removing the old counter-based system that was, admittedly, a bit too easy to abuse. The new system features several different types of weapons and enemies that work against each other in a rock-paper-scissor fashion, with certain weapons working better against certain types of enemies. Everything has been slowed down, allowing more deliberate actions and more precise timing. The combat is still satisfying, and finishing moves still as elegant as they are brutal.

Graphically, Origins is probably the top of the line right now. Climbing to the top of the pyramid and looking down upon Egypt is one of the most inspiring images I’ve encountered in a video game. The game plays in 4K and features Dolby Atmos sound which, if you have the right set up, leads to an incredibly immersive audio experience.

The improved capabilities of the new generation have allowed Origins to exist in a world that feels truly alive. It is full of NPCs to meet, and new areas to explore. Thankfully, the exploration in Origins never feels like a chore. It feels fresh and new every time you do it. The core of the game drives you to explore by placing question marks just out of your view, encouraging you to survey the lands around you to figure out what important landmark rests there. The team really did their research, as the world feels huge and expansive, with every character and city having their own feel. The Greek city of Alexandria feels vastly different from the smaller Egyptian cities in the game, for example.

This game reminds me in a lot of ways of Red Dead Redemption, in that the world still feels like its living even when you’re off doing something else. You’ll come back to find NPCs living their lives, stopping to hand out a quest before going back to whatever they were doing. The game is solid, polished, and, most of all, fun.

3. Neir: Automata


Neir was one of my favorite Xbox 360 games and, in my opinion, a hidden gem. I’ve held a lot of love for that game for a long time, and have been its champion when recommending the game to all of my friends who haven’t played. When the sequel was announced, I was apprehensive. Neir told an amazing self-contained story. It was weird, and unique, and unlike anything I’d ever played. I wasn’t sure that the sequel could surpass it. In this case, I’m glad I was wrong.

Neir: Automata is, at its heart, an action shooter from the minds of Platinum Games. For those unfamiliar, Platinum’s forte is fast-paced, bullet-hell type 3rd person action games. Automata does not let you down at this point, offering you a ton of cool combat moves, weapons, and special abilities. Every set piece feels bigger and more intense than the one that came before it. Every time you think you’ve seen the best Automata has to offer, it turns around, raises the stakes, and puts you up against something even crazier. Seriously, this game has some of the most memorable fights I’ve ever seen in an action game.

The combat system is only improved by the RPG elements thrown in the game, including Chips that are collected and inserted into your system to grant you special abilities. Your character can only install a certain amount of chips at once, which means you have to be picky about your upgrades. What is interesting about Automata, and something I’ve never seen before, is that your User Interface also exists on these chips. If you run out of space, you might find yourself turning off your mini map or health bar in an attempt to fit those better upgrades.

The storyline for Automata is just as crazy, and weird, and worthy of replays as the original game. There are Easter Eggs that reflect back to Neir, and even to Drakkengard, the predecessor series that takes place in the same universe as Neir. If it sounds a bit convoluted that’s because it is, but everything comes together in a beautifully tied package in the end. Don’t let this one pass you by!

2. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


Narrowing down my top 2 picks was almost impossible. I was left with 2 games that will both hold places on my Top 10 games of ALL TIME list. So how do you determine which will win the year? The answer is: very carefully.

My number 2 pick is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Zelda is back, with a vengeance, in this open-world exploration-based game. The environments are huge, beautiful, and interactive. Almost everything you see can be picked up, burned down, climbed on, or used in some manner. You’ll find yourself chopping down trees to make bridges and rafts, grabbing leaves to blow wind into sails, and finding clever ways to interact with the environment (like the guy who attached a ton of balloon to a raft to make an airship!) The game challenges you to explore.

Unlike previous Zelda games, where there were very inorganic roadblocks put in your way, like needing a certain item before entering a dungeon, everything in Breath of the Wild feels organic. You’ll know you’re not strong enough for an area when the enemies start destroying you. You’ll know you’re too high in the mountains when you start to shiver and your temperature drops. Maybe come back when you have a parka! Everything feels like a giant puzzle waiting to be solved.

Speaking of dungeons: they take on a completely different form than previous Zelda games. Gone are the themed temples that take hours to complete! They are replaced with 120 different “shrines” which are smaller dungeons that offer themed puzzles of increasing difficulty. Finding these shrines, which is a fun part of the game in itself, and completing them to earn new hearts and stamina bars, is the crux of the gameplay in Zelda. You’ll find yourself entering a new area, seeking out the shrines, and trying to defeat those all while upgrading your character, seeking out better equipment, and experiencing the many different storylines present in the world.

The game feels like a core Zelda game even while missing some classic Zelda items (sorry hookshot!). Instead, you’re giving the Sheikah Slate, the in-game representation of the Nintendo Switch that serves as mini map, radar, binoculars, inventory system, and more. It also grants new powers to Link, like the ability to stop time, create pillars of ice, and use magnetism to move metal. The key to beating the shrines relies on creative use of these powers.

Breath of the Wild is a breath of fresh air for the Zelda franchise. It feels wholly new while somehow feeling wholly familiar. It is quite the achievement and well worth the price. If you’re going to play it, I suggest playing it on the Switch. The investment will surely pay off.  

1.       Horizon: Zero Dawn


That leaves me with my game of the year, and honestly one of my favorite games of all time. That is, for those who haven’t already guessed it: Horizon: Zero Dawn. This game is one incredibly satisfying gameplay experience. I was hooked from the opening scene, which seriously blew me away with its scope. I knew this was going to be a different type of game.

Horizon has a lot of things going for it. It takes place in a completely open post-apocalyptic world inhabited by dinosaur robots left behind by mankind after the fall of man to an unknown virus. Humanity has been forced to survive in small clusters, forming tribes that band together to find ways to live in this new world. The game does not take place on a fantasy planet or some other place: it takes place on our earth. You will find yourself exploring fallen skyscrapers, abandoned stadiums, the foundations of crumbled cities, secret underground labs, and more. These relics of our time feel strange and out of place in this lush, over-grown future, and that is the point the game is driving home.

The story follows a young girl, Aloy, through her life. Aloy is an outcast, for secret reasons that drive forward the story. She grew up with another outcast, but is forced to leave the life she knows in order to deliver a message to the rest of the world and bring together the tribes. These robotic dinosaurs, the ones left behind to guard the cities of man, have become corrupted and, in that corruption, have begun to act erratically and dangerously. There is more going on beneath the surface than I will talk about here, but the game really begins when Aloy is thrust out of her village the world really opens up.

You’ll find yourself exploring ruins, seeking out collectibles, hunting game, harvesting plants, climbing impossibly tall robots to survey the landscapes, and other open-world tropes, but they never feel stale here. Perhaps it is because the game is so beautiful, especially in 4K, and so you never get bored exploring the world and setting your eyes upon new vistas.

The gameplay itself is very satisfying. Every sound effect feels perfect, from the sound of footsteps to the twang of a bow as the arrow releases. The score is fully orchestrated and feels as epic as any Hollywood movie. The controls respond the way they’re meant, and I never felt myself fighting the game when I was trying to do something. Besides all of that: the gameplay is pure fun. You’ll be hunting down dinosaurs, laying traps, crafting new weapons, experimenting with elemental effects, and more as you seek to master the game. Every time you think you’ve mastered something, the game gives you a new toy to play with.

And the story….I won’t talk about the story. But I will tell you that it is moving, and powerful, and made me feel the way I felt after finishing The Last of Us. Everything is beautifully captured, well-written, and perfectly acted. There is so much to do in this game that you won’t run out of fun, I can promise you that.

Loremaster Games Progress Report!

I thought it was high time to dive into a progress report for Loremaster Games in 2017 and let everyone know what we've been working on behind closed doors. 

I've been wanting to write this blog post for awhile but as some of you know, I've been hard at work on The Traveler's Guide to Edara, which is DONE, thank goodness, and the PDF is in final review. Once any necessary changes are made, that will be out to backers.

Secondly, I've finished the Ashcan preview version of Gears of Defiance. This is a game dear to my heart and something I'm very excited about it. I think the ashcan looks good, and I can't wait to get graphic design and layout done on it. The aschan should be available at Gen Con, if all things go as planned. 

I'm still hard at work on First Responders, Inc. If you've been following along on the Game Dojo (which you should be!) you'll notice the game has become more and more of a light Euro with every iteration. I've revamped a good bit of it between this version and the last, enough so that it looks on the surface like a very different game. I'm happy with the direction, and the core mechanics have remained unchanged, but the way the game pays out income has changed for the better. I'm excited to bring this one to conventions and give people a chance to demo it. 

Lastly, I'm happy to announce that I have incorporated as Loremaster Games, LLC. This makes us an official company, and allows me to handle things like taxes, payroll, etc. I'll also be channeling all my freelance work through Loremaster Games as well, to make more sense on the business end of things. This should really help when it comes to publishing my next few books. I'm looking ahead past Gears of Defiance and First Responders, Inc and have several ideas of where to head next. 

Can't wait to start production! 

On Modular Design - First Responders, INC

Lately, I have been hard at work on First Responders, INC, working with Sen-Foong Lim as part of the webinar series "The Game Dojo" (which can be found on Youtube or through Meeple Syrup.) My goal is to spend the next few months playtesting the game as much as possible to get it ready to be pitched during this year's con season. (If you're interested in taking a look at it, let me know.)

The game has always been ripe for expansions. The very nature of the game itself lends to it. New sets of crisis cards, new upgrades, new elements that can change the game. But I had never really settled on an idea. Until now. 

I want to talk about modular design in board games. Yes, many games do have modular elements. Settlers of Catan is famous for having a modular board that changes over time. One vs Many games like Descent or Imperial Assault are, by very definition, modular, and involve a huge amount of tiles. But I believe a game can be modular beyond just changing the board every game.

First Responders, INC is modular in that sense. The game is played on 16 tiles (as of now) that relate to 4 different districts: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Parks. These same 4 tile types will always be present, but will be laid out in a different way each game, leading to a variety of board set ups. Also, each "season" of game play will feature a 13 card deck built randomly from a pool of 20 cards, so even if you have the cards memorized, you'll never know when, where, or even if one particular crisis will show up. This is also modular. 

But I knew I wanted more. I wanted pandemics, I wanted military actions, I wanted crazy-sci fi games with zombies and aliens and conspiracies. It was always on my wish list, but I hadn't figured out a way to really implement this. Until I played First Class. 

If I had played First Class last year it would have been on my Top 10, probably Top 5, maybe even Top 3. I can't stress enough how good this game is. And it is a game that is truly modular.

The base game puts you in charge of a train company. You operate two lines, and are in charge of adding new cards, moving your conductor up and down the train, and moving the train down the line. You do this by drafting cards from a pool that allow you to extend your train line, let you move conductors, let you add new cards, and let you build combos that chain to score tons of points. But this is just the base of the game. The game also comes with 5 modules (of which you add 2 each game, in any combination.) These add to the game, changing its very core. They'll have you picking up passengers, housing celebrities,  storing luggage, sending postcards, switching your trains onto new tracks, and even solving a murder on the Orient Express. The game feels the same, plays the same, and yet is absolutely different. 

This is my goal for First Responders, INC. The game was designed for this in the beginning, it just took a new experience to really lock the idea into place. The base game is finished and in playtesting (coming soon to Tabletop Simulator, hopefully, and Print and Play), but I'm going to take some time and reflect on how I want to build the modules, and what I want them to include. 

First Responders, INC is coming soon! 

Loremaster Games in 2017

Hey all! Welcome to 2017! 

The new year has been pretty busy already, which shouldn't come as a surprise. I took a week off for the holidays but am now back into the swing of things. I wanted to take a moment and let you know how things are progressing, in general, and where you can find me and try my games over the next year. 


I will be traveling to many conventions this year in an attempt to demo my new games and try to grow a community and audience. Hopefully I will see you at at least one of them. Here is my tentative list

  • IndyCon (February)
  • Who's Yer Con (March)
  • Origins (June)
  • Gen Con (August)
  • Metatopia (November)
  • BGG Con (November)

There are a few other Cons I would like to hit, like Geekway to the West and Con on the Cob. I'll see how many my schedule allows me to do. 


2017 should be a big year for Edara: A Steampunk Renaissance. The Traveler's Guide to Edara will be releasing sometime this year and physical copies will be for sale at both Origins and Gen Con (and most likely some other cons as well.) We will be running games of Edara at Gen Con this year to give everyone a chance to try out the system, which we're very proud of, and also see of the content we have planned for future supplements. 

We will also be putting out more adventurers for Edara (finally!) and are in the process of bringing on some writers to help make that happen. 

First Responders, Inc

The goal here is to have First Responders, Inc in such a state that it can be shopped to publishers by Origins. Hopefully I can bring it to both that convention and to Gen Con and see if anyone is interested in it. The game has come along nicely (and I'll have some playtest information to post on the blog soon) and The Game Dojo is still in full swing helping me perfect the game. I will be bringing the game with me to local game design days in Indianapolis, as well as to Who's Yer Con. If it still needs more work after Origins I might bring it to Metatopia as well. 

Gears of Defiance

Expect a Kickstater this year! It will either be late 2017 or early 2018. The plan is to have an ashcan ready for sale at Gen Con so everyone who is interested gets a chance to check out the ruleset. I'm pretty proud of this game, and ready for it to get out there in the world. The feedback I received from Metatopia last year was phenomenal. I'll probably bring it back there one last time to polish the final version before the Kickstarter launches. I'm currently in talks with a potential publisher, so we will see where that leads. 

The Space Empire RPG

Yes, the Space Empire Game, of which I haven't spoken much about yet. I am co-designing this game with Jason Hilberdink and we are still fairly early in the design. My hope is that we have a working prototype of the RPG ready to go for Metatopia this year, with plans on focusing on the game in 2018 and maybe publishing it next year as well. It is an interesting take on Powered by the Apocalypse and I can't wait to see where it takes us. 

Thanks for checking in

That's all for now, but stay tuned to this blog for future updates on the games we are designing! I'm sure I'll pepper in a few blog posts on relevant topics, other games, and just my life in general. 

2016 Top 10 Part 3: Video Games

Well, I've done board games and tabletop RPGs. Lets move on to another form of gaming new and dear to my heart: video games. 

2016 was a very good year for video games, with the release of two long anticipated games. How do you think they will stack up on my list? Keep reading to find out! 

10. Battlefield 1, Dice (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

The Battlefield franchise has always excelled at delivering large-scale battles that take place across a wide variety of terrains and environments. The more recent Battlefield games have been modern, showing future warfare along the lines of what Call of Duty has been presenting. Battlefield 1 takes a step back to World War One and presents an online experience like no other. The graphics, sound design, and gameplay all work together to recreate the experience of fighting in the World's Greatest War. Fight in the trenches, pilot authentic aircraft and tanks, and use inaccurate WWI weapons as you fight in a variety of game modes, based on real locations and battles fought in the war. Battlefield 1 is a must have for any war enthusiast. 

9. Batman: Arkham VR, Rocksteady  (PS4) 

It is impossible to convey this game to an audience in print. Videos and screenshots won't do it justice. The only way to really understand why this game made it on this list is to play it for yourself, and you should seek out that opportunity. Akrham VR puts you in the role of Batman, literally. It isn't as much a game like the Arkham series, as it is an interactive experience, much closer to the Telltale Games series. You literally see Gotham through Batman's eyes as you travel from one location to another looking for clues to solve a string of murders. This game is like nothing I've ever played before, and it proves the VR experience for me. The opening moments, when you're standing atop the Gotham City Police Station looking down over the city, brought me to tears; it was such an experience. 

8. Pokemon Go, Niantic (iOS, Android)

Of course Pokemon Go is on this list, and I probably don't need to explain what it is or how it works because, if you're reading this, you've most likely played it. Pokemon Go brought a new dimension to Pokemon gaming by using your GPS and mapping software to force you to hunt down Pokemon in real life locations. Get out of the house, get to your arts district, and start seeing new parts of your city as you search for Pokemon and hit up landmark Pokestops to refill your items. Then, when you have a team assembled, battle for control of Gyms that are linked to real world locations. There are some features lacking in this game, but the promise of a trading system and player-vs-player battles leaves me thinking Pokemon Go still has a lot of surprises left. 

7. Doom, iD Software (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

This game is a return to Doom's roots. After Doom 3, which featured a slower, more survival horror version of Doom that turned off a lot of players, this new iteration is Doom as you know and love it. It is fast paced, frantic, gory, and full of tons of fun (and up-gradable!) weapons that let you shred the battlefield. Doom also features exploreable environments, tons of hidden secrets, character upgrades and progression, and tons of gory kills. The action never slows down as you fight your way through horde after horde of mutated demons, making your way through a high-tech facility on Mars. Don't doubt this game, it is the Doom you grew up with, only better. 

6. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, SquareEnix (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Cyberpunk? Check. Dystopian Future? Check. RPG Elements? Check. I have always been a fan of the Deus Ex franchise, and so I was already hyped for Mankind Divided, the direct sequel to 2011's Human Revolution.  Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an open world FPS/RPG hybrid featuring a huge tree of character upgrades, tons of customizable weapons, and many paths to your objective. Seriously, you can make your way through Deus Ex's sprawling environments in a variety of ways: fighting your way through, using stealth to knock out your opponents Metal Gear Solid style, sniping them out from a distance, crawling through the vents and using secret pathways to avoid detection altogether, or hacking computer systems to turn security in your favor. Unlike its predecessor, Mankind Divded doesn't shoehorn you into forced combat boss battles either, which is a welcome relief. The story, the world, and the characters are memorable, and the game will have you searching every nook and cranny to expose new secret paths. It is a true staple of cyberpunk gaming. 

5. Titanfall 2, Respawn Entertainment (PC, PS4, Xbox One)


Titanfall 2 is a fast-paced FPS where you play as the pilot of a massive Titan, a giant mech equipped with advanced weaponry. You can battle other pilots in a variety of multiplayer modes, like capture the flag, domination, bounty hunt, and standard deathmatch. There are a ton of new Titans in this game, which will allow you to customize your characters to your playstyle. I can't stress enough that the multiplayer in this game is VERY GOOD. You can quickly traverse the battlefield with a variety of skills like sprint, double-jump, and wall-running, as well as an equip-able grappling hook that will pull you towards your destination. You are always moving, always running, and everything happens in seconds.  It is a great multiplayer experience, but it is the single player campaign where Titanfall 2 shines. Normally, multiplayer games such as this have campaign experiences that feel tacked on and lifeless, which is why Titanfall 1 discarded the campaign mode. I'm so glad they brought it back for TF2. The campaign is solid. I won't give away spoilers here, but there are SO many cinematic moments and so many cool levels that are really well-designed with multiple paths to the objective. Just like in the multiplayer, you will be constantly moving as you bounce off walls, run across gaps, and perform cool executions against your enemies. Then, get into your Titan for some truly epic Titan-on-Titan boss battles. It is one of the best campaign modes I've played in an online multiplayer shooter. It could stand alone, for sure. 

4. Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog (PS4)

If you're already a fan of the Uncharted series, then you know what you're in for with Uncharted 4. I had expected the game to be breathtaking, and to feature amazing panoramic shots and unique vistas (which is what the Uncharted games have always been known for), and Uncharted 4 does not disappoint. You'll find yourself getting distracted by the scenery way too often. If you've played the first 3 games, Uncharted 4 offers more of the same, just with a better story, cooler moments, and smoother gameplay. For those new to the franchise, you can start with this one as it does a good job filling in the gaps. However, it is definitely worth playing through the first 3 games, especially with an HD remaster collection out for the PS4. It is a classic adventure game, with puzzles to solve, enemies to shoot at, and quick-time events that allow for some really cinematic moments. Uncharted 4 is fantastic, and in any other year might have been my top pick. 

3. XCOM 2, Firaxis Games (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

I came aboard the XCOM franchise with the reboot that Firaxis did a few years ago, simply titled XCOM. I had never really played the old PC games and so I didn't know what I was expecting, besides an isometric turn-based strategy game. XCOM gave me so much more: the ability to design a base, to customize characters, to pick from a variety of classes with their own trees, and to play complicated strategies and wait for the pay off. XCOM thrilled me in a lot of ways no other game has, and I thought it was the pinnacle of strategy gaming. Until XCOM 2 came out. It is not an exaggeration to say that everything XCOM did, XCOM 2 does better. It is smoother, more elegant, graphically better, and tells a better story. The stakes are high in XCOM 2 as you control a rag-tag group of resistance fighters moving around the world to build a resistance network. XCOM 2 has you working to defeat the aliens while protecting your own people and having to choose between several missions, knowing you can't save everyone. It is often gut wrenching, difficult, and brutal. But when your strategy pays off, it gives you a high like nothing else can. Soldiers will die in XCOM 2, but when you manage to end a mission having saved everyone, its a nice pat-on-the-back. Try the Ironman mode for a seriously brutal, realistic experience where every decision is permanent and you can never go back to load an old save. 

2. Final Fantasy XV, SquareEnix (PS4, Xbox One)

Final Fantasy XV was first promised to us back in 2006 (under the title Final Fantasy XIII: Versus). A lot has changed since then, but the anticipation for this game has remained high. It had every chance to let us down, and the odds seemed high that it would. Surprisingly, it lived up to the hype, which I highly doubted it could do. Final Fantasy XV is an incredible game, and an experience worth playing. It takes the things that players loved about the old FF games and brings them into the new generation. It is also the first FF game (outside of the MMOs) to feature an open world which, like most open world RPGs, is filled with side-quests, interesting characters, and a lot to do. The battle system is fun, but requires more participation than some of the older FF games, since this turns into more of a button mash a la Kingdom Hearts then choosing attack options from a list. What really makes FFXV shine are the characters. The game has been called a road trip on steroids, and that is basically true. The characters really get a chance to bond as they travel together, drive together, play games together, talk to each other as they walk through new areas, camp together at night, eat together, and even pose for photographs along the way. Each character has a unique personality, a different fighting style, even a favorite food. And watching these characters grow and bond as the game progresses is a very satisfying experience. 

1. Overwatch, Blizzard (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

What other game would be my number 1? Overwatch is the game that I sunk, by far, the most hours into in 2016 (even more than FFXV!). Overwatch is a team-based FPS that plays on the some of the same beats as Team Fortress, but with far more style, more character options, and better gameplay. Overwatch features over two dozen characters to choose from, divided into four classes: Damage, Defense, Tanking, and Support, but even two characters in the same class play so differently. It takes hours to learn and master a hero, but it is important that you learn a variety across all different classes, because team composition is an important aspect of this game! Every character serves a specific role, are good against certain characters, counter some and are weak to others, and even work differently depending on what other characters are in your party. The game is very much an MMO when it comes to party make up. If you run in with 6 DPS characters, you will do a ton of damage, but you won't survive along. You'll find yourself changing characters a lot as you realize your character just isn't working against the opposing team's makeup, which adds a cool layer of strategy to the game. Every hero has their counters, and if someone on the enemy team is giving you too much trouble, switch to the character best suited to take them out. And the characters are really where Overwatch shines, and why so many players are drawn to it. Much like League of Legends, every character in Overwatch has a unique personality, interesting quirks, cool costumes, backstories, and their own part to play in the game. Every character is viable in the game, depending on the situation. Overwatch is lacking in a campaign mode, but still tells a story through its various maps. Each map features a different objective: capture points, push a payload, or king of the hill. The game has a ton of modes too: a competitive mode where you fight for ranking, a variety of arcade modes that twist the game in fun new ways, and a quick play mode that drops you right into the action. I think Overwatch will be my favorite shooter for years to come, and definitely is my favorite game of 2016. 

2016 Top 10 Part 2: Tabletop RPGs

Welcome back to my Top Ten list! Last week I talked about my favorite board games, and today I'm going to shine the light on something else I'm very passionate about: role-playing games. I present this list with a caveat: I have not played every game on this list! As other RPG players know, its very difficult to play every new RPG that comes out. They require a dedicated group of people, preparation, and time. 

Some of these I have played and, in full disclosure, some I have contributed to. However, none of them are my designers, property, etc. I don't stand to make any money off of any of these games or anything like that. What I have done is read them, made characters for them, studied them, and talked A LOT about them. 

Here is my list of Top 10 RPGs in 2016:

10. Fantasy Age Bestiary, Green Ronin

Fantasy Age.jpg

I've loved Green Ronin's Age system back before Fantasy Age was even a thing (it is the same engine that powers the Dragon Age RPG). I love the Fantasy Age core book that they put out last year, and I'm glad to see them continuing the line. The Fantasy Age bestiary is everything you want out of a supplement. First of all, its huge and filled with amazing artwork. The graphic design is fantastic, they present a huge variety of monsters, and every entry is incredibly detailed, including ways to weave these monsters into your campaign. It is a great resource for Fantasy Age, or for anyone who likes looking at pictures of awesome monsters. 

9. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Ed: Curse of Strahd, Wizards of the Coast

I am a huge fan of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It made a lot of the tactical portion of the game (which has always been my least favorite, even though it is a draw for many others) optional and allowed players to focus on creating unique characters and telling cool stories. I love the character creation system and the streamlined mechanics. That out of the way, Curse of Strahd is the single best companion book they've released so far. First of all, it is a return to Ravenloft, my favorite D&D setting. The game is dripping in suspense, mystery, and danger. I won't spoil the adventure here, but the inclusion of one singular bad buy that acts as the party's nemesis throughout is a great inclusion. Unlike some of the other adventure modules that have been released, Curse of Strahd is a sandbox style game, where the players can explore the castle at their own pace, feeling a bit like Castlevania turned into an RPG. Seriously, if you're a fan of D&D or have been waiting for a reason to try 5th edition, this is your reason. 

8. 7th Sea, 2nd Edition, John Wick Presents

At last, 7th Sea returns. After a record-breaking Kickstarter, John Wick, the original creator of the 7th Sea line, brings us a new edition of the classic RPG of swashbuckling swords & sorcery. For the most part, 7th Sea did not disappoint! 7th Sea was one of my most anticipated games of the year, and I was sure it would hit the top spot on my list. However, I wasn't prepared for everything else that came out this year! 7th Sea is a return to form, with heroic heroes and villainous villains, in a world that is maybe a little too black & white, but makes for pretty cool moments. The entire look of the world has been re imagined, and the book is filled with vibrant artwork that sucks you into the world of Theah. 7th Sea, 2nd Edition surpasses the first edition and is, simply, incredibly fun to play. Plus, you get to be a pirate. 

7. Shadowrun Anarchy, Catalyst Game Labs

This year, Catalyst did the impossible. They made Shadowrun fun again. At least, fun for me. See, I've always, ALWAYS loved Shadowrun. It was one of the games that got me into tabletop gaming, way back in the day. You'll be able to tell from this list that I am a huge fan of cyberpunk games, and Shadowrun is responsible for most of that. However, the game just got too unwieldy for me. It requires a ton of planning, so much math (literally spreadsheets and tons of reference sheets are needed to easily play the game). I've grown to enjoy more of the indie-game story-telling method where the focus is on telling a story together instead of doing a bunch of math. Then here comes Shadowrun Anarchy, a game that takes indie story-telling mechanics and combines them with Shadowrun's math in a way that seems impossible but that ends up being incredibly elegant and, best of all, incredibly fun. Anarachy does not replace the main Shadowrun rules, so those who prefer the old way still have everything they need at their fingertips. But for me, I won't go back. I love the focus on collaborative story-telling, while still keeping the fun of building dice pools. Some of the more complicated aspects, like cyberware, hacking, etc, have been streamlined into a system of Amps, like Feats in D&D, that get added to your dice pools and allow you to pull off cool maneuvers. If you like Shadowrun but have also turned your back on the system, I think its time to try Anarchy. 

6. The Sprawl, Hamish Cameron

Another cyberpunk game?? Yes, I do love cyberpunk. But that isn't what earned The Sprawl a place on this list. It is a brilliant implementation of the Powered by the Apocalypse system. I may be a bit biased here, because PbtA is my favorite game system, and so you'll see a few games using that engine on this list. But The Sprawl really shines in its adaptation of PbtA to a cyberpunk game not unlike Shadowrun. The Sprawl has you running missions with your team, at the behest of multinational corporations. The game includes a new concept for PbtA, called "Legwork," which is basically a montage of everything you did to prep for the mission. The better your Legwork, the more of an advantage you'll have on the mission. There are moments for drama to shine as well, as each character gains XP for different things that might pull them in different directions during a mission. (Yeah, sure completing the mission is important, but I want to level up too!)

5. Epyllion, Marissa Kelly

Another PbtA game on my list? Yes. But this one is about dragons. Scratch that - baby dragons. The setting, theme, and artwork in this game should be enough to draw you into it, but the gameplay itself is very solid. It has you taking on the role of semi-typical baby dragon archetypes, like smart academic, the risky daredevil, the brave warrior, etc. The goal of the game is to explore your world (and solve mysteries) while making friends and collecting friendship gems. But eventually, you will have to face the sad truth that you can't stay a baby dragon forever: eventually it is time to grow up and take on your adult responsibilities. The game does a lot of cool things with PbtA, including the addition of the Royal Dragon Houses, which grant different bonuses to your character, not to mention that everything about it is pretty dang adorable. Its a great game to play with kids and families. 

4. Bubblegumshoe, Emily Care Boss, Ken Hite, Lisa Steel

The Gumshoe system came out a year or two ago and presented a system that focused on investigation. Normal RPG trappings, like combat, take the backseat to investigating crime scenes and looking for clues. The system is responsible for great games like Trail of Cthulhu and Timewatch. But Bubblegumshoe is my favorite. Bubblegumshoe is Veronica Mars meets Scooby Doo. You are a team of high school investigators solving crimes in your small town while dealing with normal high school stuff, like how cool you are, and who your best friend is taking to prom. The game focuses on social combat through a verbal "Throwdown" that pits two characters against each other in an argument, insult contest, or, in the case of one of my games, a rap battle. It is a more lighthearted take than say Trail of Cthulhu, but it isn't all sunshine and daisies. The game also deals with your character's relationships with their parents and other characters in the world around them, which can lead to some intense drama situations! If you like teen crime solving shows like Veronica Mars or Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,  this game should be on your list. 

3. Undying, Paul Riddle

Another Powered by the Apocalypse game on my list? Yes. Spoiler: it isn't the last one either. I've said it already, but I'll say it again: I absolutely love this system, and I love seeing games that use the system in a unique one. And Undying is maybe the most unique RPG I've ever played. Players choose their playbooks from a list of fairly standard vampire tropes. After that, they compete for hunting grounds, stalk their prey, and try to drink as much blood as they can. Undying is interesting in that it is a dice-less RPG. Yes, no dice at all. Instead, every vampire accumulates blood, which they can then expend to take certain actions. The more blood you are willing to spend on an action, the better your result. In contests that pit vampires against each other, each vampire secretly bids an amount of blood to spend on the altercation. It is really a unique system that turns blood into a much-needed commodity. Undying focuses on the political side of being a vampire, like Vampire: the Masquerade originally touched on. Vying for control of the ruling house and picking the best hunting grounds for yourself will ensure that you have the most blood and power. The game is also unique in that time can pass very quickly. Since the characters are immortal vampires, when an action scene is done, decades may pass before the vampires re-enter the world to enact their newest machinations. 

2. Blades in the Dark, John Harper  

If you know what Blades in the Dark is, then you know what it is on this list. It is one of the coolest, most innovate RPGs I've seen in awhile. It is an "industrial-fantasy" game where your characters are members of a thieving crew trying to make a living for themselves and build a criminal empire by carving out a piece of the haunted city Duskwall. (Yes, you live in a haunted city). The game is split between various phases: planning the mission, executing the mission, and investing back into your empire. The game will see you fighting other games for territory, taking control of new buildings and locations, and being dastardly thieves, right from the beginning. You start at the bottom rung and fight your way up from there, with the goal of achieving some sort of notoriety for yourselves. It is brilliant, beautifully designed, and puts the focus on the amazing, and often dark, deeds your characters pull off. It is seriously worth checking out, and is not only near the top of my 2016 games of the year, its close to the top of my favorite games of all time. 

1. Headspace, Mark Richardson

If not for Headspace, Blades in the Dark would be my number one game. It was a touch decision on how to place these, but Headspace just barely nudges Blades out. Headspace is a cyberpunk game utilizing the Powered by the Apocalypse engine. What a minute, didn't you just read about this game? Yes, Headspace is similar to the Sprawl. When they first came out, I wasn't sure there would be room in my life for two PbtA cyberpunk games. But I was wrong. While Sprawl focuses on the corporate intrigue and mission based running, like Shadowrun, Headspace goes to a much deeper place: emotions.

The premise of Headspace is incredibly interesting. It is a cyberpunk future where your team is able to connect their minds together remotely, in order to hear what they are thinking and to access each other's memories, a bit like the TV show Sense8. See, in Headspace, every character can be compared to Jason Bourne. When they are doing what they are specialized in, be it hand-to-hand combat, driving, piloting, using weapons, etc, they are the best at what they do. But when one character is forced to do something they have no skill in (like the pilot needing to fight their way out of a situation), they have to rely on their mental connection and borrow the skills from another character. This turns them into somewhat of a badass, but every time you do this there is emotional bleed, which is one of the coolest things I've seen in an RPG. See, every character has an emotion linked to their skills that represents some past incident. Maybe fear, or guilt, or anger. When someone borrows your skills, they experience the linked emotion too. If they experience too much of a linked emotion, it can drive them crazy. The game also presents a "Ghost" player to borrow from. Right before the action of the game, one of your teammates dies. But their consciousness still exists,  trapped in your neural network, still experiencing the same emotion they felt when they died. They will speak to you, offer guidance sometimes, and allow you to use the abilities the rest of your party might not have. Headspace is a roller coaster of emotions. It isn't about doing the mission and getting paid, its about telling a story full of drama and coming to terms with your past actions. It deserves its spot as number 1, and it is a must have for every RPG library. 



2016 Top 10 Part 1: Board Games

As 2016 wraps toward a close (good riddance!) its time to look over the GOOD things that happened this year. There were a few, in my personal life, of course, but that isn't what these lists are about! I'm going to take some time of the rest of this month and post a few of my favorite 2016 Top 10 lists. 

In honor of my favorite video review channel, Man vs Meeple, posting their top 10 board games yesterday, I figured this was a good place to start! If you haven't seen their video (or if you don't watch Man vs Meeple), you can find it here. PS: this is definitely a show you should be watching if you're into board games! 

Without further ado, my top 10 board games of 2016:

10. Bloodborne, by Eric Lang

Bloodborne is based on the From Software video game of the same name. The game pits you up against a series of interesting, and sometimes crazy, monsters in a competition to do the most damage to the monster before it dies. The game throws in a cooperative aspect as well: if you don't kill the monster in time, it will run away and no one gets the points! Be warned, however. In this game, much like the video game, you will die a lot. Every time you die you lose all your banked points, called "blood" unless you take a turn to rest. It is a hand management game with a little cooperation and a little "take that" thrown in. Its quick and easy to set up and plays in about 30-45 minutes. Its a fantastic filler game while you're waiting. The best praise I can give it is that it is the most accurate representation of a video game in another format that I've ever seen. 

9. Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition, by Nikki Valens

Mansions of Madness was a game a loved to play, but could never get to the table. Part of that was the obscene amount of time the game took to set up. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition has completely removed that problem. Not only that, it takes away the 1 vs many element and lets up to 5 players play cooperatively. The narrative is controlled by an app, which is one of the coolest integrations of technology I've seen in a board game yet. (X-Com was a good start, but this knocks it out of the park.) The map is revealed piece-by-piece as you explore new rooms, so you never know what will be waiting for you through a door. Couple that with the great presentation: music, sound effects, even voice acting, and the replayability of dozens of modular scenarios and you have a game that will hit the table over and over. 

8: The Others: 7 Sins, by Eric Lang

This is the second Lang game to hit my list, which isn't a surprise given Blood Rage was my number 1 for 2016 (and still probably my favorite game of all time.). The Others is not for everyone, as it is a difficult, punishing, one vs many type game. One player takes on the role of a Sin (choose from all 7!) and controls their grotesque minions who are out to destroy the world. There are a variety of different modular setups and 3 different types of stories to tell. This means you might be playing a different objective on a different map against a different sin every time. There are dozens of cool heroes to choose from, and the sculpts are amazing, as Cool Mini just keeps upping their mini game. Its post apocalyptic, its nail-biting, its modular, its got tons of RPG elements, and it looks beautiful. I understand why this game didn't make it to a lot of top 10 lists, but I would gladly play it. 

7: Flamme Rouge, by Asger Harding Granerud

I wasn't sure what to expect from Flamme Rouge. It is a game about long distance cycling, which is an interesting theme. My experience with racing games is limited to Formula D, but Flamme Rouge took racing in an unexpected direction. It is a hand / deck management game with a surprising amount of strategy that isn't visible at first blush. You have two decks, one for your Rouler and one for your Sprinter, that each have a set amount of cards. You draw a few at a time and use them to move around the board. Inclines and declines will either slow you down or speed you up, and being at the front of the pack leaves you exhausted, which clogs your deck with low speed cards. Those who are behind can position themselves correctly and drift up to the pack, closing the gap. There are a lot of strategic decisions to made here: if you play your fastest cards first and get in the lead, you'll get so exhausted that all you draw in the end are slow cards which let you watch as everyone passes you. It is a fantastic game. 

6. Lorenzo il Magnifico, by Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, and Simone Lucian

This game, on the other hand, I knew I would like right away. Its by the same designers as two of my all-time faves, Grand Austria Hotel and The Voyages of Marco Polo. It takes a lot of familiar elements from those games and re-invents them. Also, it is set during the Renaissance which, as many of you know, is one of my favorite time periods in history. It is a Euro game that allows you to use some of the great leaders of the time (like Leonardo Da'Vinci) as you use a combination of resource management, worker placement, and tableau building to get an engine up and running. Getting that engine going and watching a chain reaction of cool things happen for you is very satisfying. There are other things to manage, such as a Faith track that could get you ex-communicated from the church, and a military track that is needed to clear new lands to allow your resource engine to grow. And, unlike Grand Austria Hotel, you don't have to wait 15 minutes for your turn to come back around! 

5. A Feast for Odin, by Uwe Rosenberg

I know many people have this game higher up in their lists, but for me its a solid choice for spot 5. There is an absolute TON of things going on in this worker placement / resource management game. You'll have the choice of over 60 actions to take on your turn, but the way they are divided and laid out on the board never leaves you feeling overwhelmed. The 60 actions are broken down into easy-to-digest categories, like farming, hunting, exploration, etc. This game has agriculture, it has whaling, it has ship-building, it has markets, it has tile placement, it has has SO much going on. Yet for all that, its actually a medium weight Euro. The game never feels out of control and there isn't a ton of "take that" happening, though other players can snipe your best placement spots, like in most Worker Placement type games. It combines a lot of aspects of Rosenberg's other games (even a tile placement mechanism very reminiscent of Patchwork.). It is a little expensive for what it is, but that is due to the huge amount of components that come in this box. There are like 20 punch boards: a dream come true for many gamers! 

4. The Networks, by Gil Hova

This game came out of nowhere to quickly become one of my favorite games of the year. It has a theme which appeals to me (I love television and really get into all of the TV puns on these Network cards), and is a tableau building game about trying to build the best television network. You will have to manage your money and take on ads to pay for your shows, slot your shows in the best time slots, attach the most recognizable stars to your shows, and make sure they don't dip in popularity as the seasons go on, all in an attempt to score more viewers than the other networks. There is a small bit of "take that" with Network cards that can be grabbed to affect other players, but mostly its a race to grab the show you want for your time slot before someone else does. There is a bit of set collection here too, as you get genre bonuses for having similar shows. This game really makes you feel like you're in charge of a TV network, and an expansion due to come out next year adds drafting and asymmetric player powers, which do amazing things for the game.  

3. Great Western Trail, by Alexander Pfister

Pfister is one somewhat of a roll: Isle of Skye won several "Best Of" awards last year, and both Mombasa and Broom Service were highly reviewed games. I think Great Western Trail is his best game yet. It also uses one of the most interesting mechanics I've ever seen in a board game. Its a play on a rondel, where you are constantly moving your cattle from your ranch (the start of the board) to Kansas city, where you will put your cattle on a train (in a set-collection mini-game) to sell it along your train route. The farther your train route extends, the more points you'll get for your cattle (but never more than the total from your set!).  Along the way, you'll stop at outposts and buildings, navigate hazards, trade with natives, recruit new workers (engineers to help build buildings, conductors to help move your train, and ranch hands to help you herd more cattle), and try to move wooden circles from your player board onto the score board in order to access the abilities hidden beneath them. As more buildings and hazards get added to the map, you'll have more options of places to stop along whichever route you take to get to Kansas City. Once you get to Kansas, you reset to the beginning and do the whole thing over again: over, and over. This may sound repetitive, but its not. Every path through the West forces you to make decisions, as some of the best buildings may be hidden behind hazards or by tax stops placed by the other players. There is seriously too much going on in this game to give it justice. You just have to try it and play it for yourself. 

2. Clank!, by Paul Dennen


This should come as no surprise to those of you who know me best. Deck builders are my absolute favorite type of game. No wait, Worker Placement. No wait, deck builder. Okay, whatever, they're tied as my absolute favorite. Clank! takes a fairly standard deck-building mechanic and builds an entirely different game around it. The cards you use to build your deck are used to buy new cards and fight monsters (pretty standard deck builder fare), but that isn't all. They're also used to move your meeple around a game board, where you are trying to race other players down into the depths to score the most valuable artifact and get back out of the castle in one piece. As you do, you'll make a LOT of noise, called Clank!, which will stir the dragon that lives in the depths. Every Clank! you make is added to a pool, and when the dragon awakes, those cubes are put into a bag and a few are drawn, dealing damage to players. You don't have a lot of health in this game, so managing the amount of Clank! you are making is critical. If you die while in the depths, you score 0 points, so it definitely becomes a push-your-luck, race to the finish game. Its going to be hard to go back to a regular deck builder after this one. 

1. Terraforming Mars, by Jacob Fryxelius

This should be no surprise, as I've basically talked about Terraforming Mars non-stop since it came out. I love everything about this game. The tableau building, the engine building, the tile placement, the hand management: all of it comes together to make an amazing game experience that I would gladly play over and over. Add in the advanced rules for variable corporations with their own abilities, advanced cards that scale the game, and a drafting mechanic that really helps plan your hand and get your engine running. Seriously, I can't recommend this game enough. Go get it. Play it. Tell a friend about it. Terraforming Mars is absolutely my number 1 game of the year.

Honorable Mention: Star Wars: Destiny, by Corey Konieczka and Lukas Litzsinger

I'll say this: I like Star Wars: Destiny, the new card/dice hybrid game from FFG, way more than I wanted to. At first, I was very put off by the amount of luck inherent in the dice rolls, and was a little frustrated with it. I kept comparing it to Ashes in my mind, which was one of my top games of 2015. This is nothing like Ashes. The reason this game didn't make it onto my list is because its fairly new, and distribution issues have really botched the launch. I was able to get a pre-release kit (a starter set and a couple of packs), but nothing else, so I really haven't had a chance to dive into the meatier parts of this game, such as deck building. But, I think it is something I will play a lot over the coming year. 




The Star Trek Announcement


 LONDON, ENGLAND (December 1, 2016): Modiphius Entertainment, publisher of the Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant Chronicles, Conan, Infinity and John Carter of Mars roleplaying games, announces the missions for the Star Trek Adventures™ living campaign playtest, to develop the first official Star Trek RPG in more than a decade, are now live with more than 5,000 players and counting. To join the campaign, .


Thousands of players around the world will adventure through the Star Trek universe like never before in an epic storyline written by New York Times Bestselling Star Trek author Dayton Ward and Scott Pearson ( Star Trek novellas: The More Things ChangeAmong the CloudsTerra Tonight), developed by Nathan Dowdell (Black CrusadeMutant Chronicles 3rd EditionCorvus Belli's Infinity: The Roleplaying Game and Robert E Howard's Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of) and lead writer David F Chapman ( Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Roleplaying GameConspiracy X 2.0Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG). Joining them are an interstellar line-up including writers from all previous editions of the Star Trek roleplaying game, as well as big names from across the tabletop gaming industry including:


Shawn Merwin ( Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition: War of Everlasting Darkness, Halls of UndermountainDungeon Delve), Jim Johnson ( Lord of the Rings RPG, Mage: The Awakening, Shadowrun Augmentation), Jacob Ross ( Legend of the Five Rings, Mongoose Traveller, Kaigaku), Patrick Goodman ( Shadowrun: Fifth Edition, Shadowrun: Street Legends, Shadowrun: Storm Front), Ross Isaacs ( Line Developer Star Trek RPG (Decipher) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Roleplaying Game(Last Unicorn Games), Ian Lemke ( Changeling: The Dreaming, White Wolf Publishing, Earth Down), John Snead ( Mindjammer: Traveller, Eclipse Phase, Star Trek Next Generation RPG Last Unicorn Games.), Dan Taylor (IDW Publishing’s Star Trek comics), Bill Maxwell ( Fading Suns, Star Trek Roleplaying Game, Mage: The Awakening), Tim Beach ( Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Red Steel, Maztica Campaign Set, Hail the Heroes, Dungeons of Mastery, City of Delights) and Andrew Peregrine ( Doctor Who, 7 th Sea, Victoriana)


As well as Aaron Pollyea ( Battletech), Oz Mills ( Fantasy AGE Bestiary, Dragon Age: Faces of Thedas), Ade Smith ( Mutants and Masterminds: Atlas of Earth Prime - Northern Europe, Rogue Gallery. Fainting Goat Games: Extreme Earth), Chris Huff ( Mutants & Masterminds Freedom's Most WantedDC Adventures RPG Heroes & Villains Volume 1, DC Adventures RPG Heroes & Villains Volume 2), John Kennedy ( Ninja Crusade 2E, Infinity Tabletop Roleplaying Game, Myth Board Game), Kevin Mickelson ( Mask of Death, A Learning Time, A Frightful Time, A Miraculous Time), Ryan Schoon ( Fragged Empire, Edara: The Steampunk Renaissance, Baby Bestiary) and Chris Huff ( DC Adventures, Mutants & Masterminds, Pathfinder).


The playtest gives fans of the legendary television series and films the opportunity to contribute to the development of the game; to sit in the captain’s chair, seek out new life and new civilizations, give all they’ve got to a warp core breach, or explore their own adventures in the Star Trek universe.


The living campaign begins with playtest missions and will continue with the release of the core rulebook in the summer of 2017. The living campaign takes place in the Shackleton Expanse, an area of space vastly unexplored by both the Federation and the Klingons. Starbase 364, Narendra Station, named after the battle of Narendra III where the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-C was destroyed, serves as the keep on the borderlands for excursions out into the frontier of space.


As the crews of the U.S.S. Venture, U.S.S. Bellerophon, U.S.S. Thunderchild, explore strange anomalies and discover new life while uncovering an ancient civilization and mysterious technologies, those aboard theU.S.S. Lexington will shape historical events for those very ships.


Assignments are still open for Captains and Officers to take their place aboard the bridge and make Star Trek gaming history. Further, local game shops organizing an in-store playtest group will receive starbase status with pre-order promotions for the game’s retail release. Fans attending Dragonmeet in London on Saturday will have the final chance to receive a free Captain Kirk or Captain Picard figure when they sign up for the Star Trek Adventures playtest.


To register yourself or your group online, visit .


To register as a retailer, visit


Star Trek Adventures will use the Modiphius 2d20 game system ( Mutant ChroniclesInfinityConanJohn Carter of Mars) designed by Jay Little ( Star Wars: Edge of the EmpireX-Wing Miniatures Game). Modiphius is also sculpting an accompanying Star Trek miniature figure line, the first to be produced in 17 years. Resin 32mm-heroic scale hobby figures will feature classic Star Trek characters and crews, boarding parties and away teams. Geomorphic tile maps of burning Federation ships, mysterious colonies and embattled Klingon cruisers will set the scene for dramatic new voyages in the Final Frontier.


Under license by CBS Consumer Products, Star Trek Adventures is slated for a Summer 2017 release and the playtest crews will be listed in the Star Trek Adventures book manifest.


™ & ©2016 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.


About Modiphius Entertainment

Modiphius Entertainment is a London, England-based entertainment publisher of tabletop games and related hobby merchandise. The company launched its first game, the Achtung! Cthulhu Roleplaying Game, in 2013 via a highly successful Kickstarter, followed by 5 additional projects that were among the biggest in the Kickstarter tabletop games category. A slew of games are in development with licensed properties including the forthcoming Star Trek Adventures RPG & MiniaturesMutant Chronicles RPGDUST Adventures RPG based on Paolo Parente’s DUST universe, Infinity Roleplaying GameMatt Leacock’s Thunderbirds, a cooperative board game based on the classic 60’s show and the official Kung Fu Panda Boardgame.


Modiphius Entertainment seeks to inspire with its tales of heroism, adventure and courage and is built on strong principles of fair business practices. Modiphius Entertainment also works to combat global child trafficking through raising awareness of and funds for Vision Rescue. For more information, please visit


I was encouraged to start a blog to help organize my thoughts when it comes to game design. This idea was brought up specifically for designing and prototyping my first board game, First Responders, Inc, but it applies to all of my designs! 

If you haven't seen it already, you can check me out on The Game Dojo talking about First Responders, Inc. 

After the episode, I was given a few assignments; to add some things into the game that I had conceptualized but hadn't implemented yet. 

The number one thing on my list was something that has been obviously needed since the very beginning: player boards. It is much easier to keep track of all your information, and your possible actions, if you have your player board in front of you. It also helps you remember your Corporation's special ability. 

First, I designed the Player Boards in Photoshop. I toyed with the idea of using InDesign for the boards (which is what I use to do the layout for my RPG books), but Photoshop just seemed better for this task. I'm sure there are other programs that may have handled this easier, but I don't know those programs :) 

After that, I assembled my prototyping station. I didn't actually HAVE a prototyping station before, but Jon Gilmour has one, and I'm jealous of it, so I want one too. But seriously, Jon suggested the paper cutter which I can already see will be valuable. 


 RPG books for scale. Also, they happened to be sitting there. 

RPG books for scale. Also, they happened to be sitting there. 

Once that was done, it was time to print the Player boards out onto special full-size label paper, so I can stick it to the foam core. Once printed, it was a simple matter of slicing them up with the paper cutter and affixing them to the foam core.


It was tricky to get the hang of cutting the foam core. I used an Exacto knife for its precision and sharpness and I tried to do it free hand. 0/10 would not recommend. I won't be doing that again. Next time I hit up the craft store, I'm going to pick up a ruler to make sure my lines are perfectly straight.


And Ta-Da! Fully functional Player Boards. I printed them out in black & white, but the designs are color so it works either way. Why black & white you ask? Because I don't have a color printer! That's right! I come from a background of RPG design and am used to printing out hundreds of pages of text at once, which can drain through your black ink like crazy. And so I switched to a laser jet. Absolutely love it. Only have to replace the toner once in a blue moon. It has saved me so much on ink! 

However, that doesn't always work with prototyping. Luckily I think we have our old ink-guzzling color printer somewhere around here. Might boot that up and do color versions for the "final" prototype; the one that I actually show off to publishers.