Boy 2020 sure was a year wasn’t it? But for all that, there were some pretty amazing games released this year. Here’s a look back at some of our faves.
Well now that we’re two days past it, it feels like the time is ripe to look back at 2020 and talk about our favorite games. Since there’s much less danger of it being 2020 again tomorrow–though I don’t know if I’d put it past it. Time is a flat circle, if I’ve learned anything. Regardless, there were some amazing RPGs released this year, and here are our favorites.
If you like Gundams, and specifically the part of any Gundam series where the personalities of the pilots is just as important as the action being carried out in the mecha, then this is the RPG you’ve been waiting for. We were super excited when this came out not just because it’s a neat adaptation of the Forged in the Dark rules, but also because it hit that 08th MS team vibe in a way we didn’t know we wanted.
Speaking of Forged in the Dark games… Goblins in Shadow is one of the best we’ve come across in a while. It’s a streamlined version of your typical Blades in the Dark fare, you won’t have to worry about a lot of the cruft of the system–instead you get right to the delicious marrow. It’s the story of goblins rebelling against haughty, terrifying elves who have taken over the city and rule with their mastery of magic. Forged in the Dark systems work best when they’re tuned specifically to a task–and Goblins in Shadow hits this perfect, delivering the experience of revolution and uprising in a solid packet.
As a bonus, this game features an Arcade mode making it perfect for one-shots.
There were a lot of D&D books that came out this year. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything was a huge step forward, and the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount let the worldbuilding of Critical Role shine–but our favorite book this year was actually Mythic Odysseys of Theros, and here’s why. It provides the template for what a setting book should be. It’s not just a world that you can go adventure in–but it’s a whole new genre for 5th Edition. It’s still very much D&D, but with rules and guidelines for running more heroic adventures. You’ll find the best advice for running games with gods, having characters feel like mythic heroes, and of course, the mythic monster mechanic that will probably carry D&D forward into whatever lies beyond 5th Edition.
Ironsworn is one of our all-time favorite fantasy RPGs. It’s Powered by the Apocalypse at its finest. If you want a somewhere between grim and dark fantasy adventure, this is the system for you. It can be played with a GM or GMless, which is an option more games should feature. It’s also got some of the best mechanical improvements to the PbtA “engine” if you are into that sort of thing. It’s a ton of fun and it’s free–but really what you’ll want to check out is Delve, the expansion that takes you into Dungeon Crawling. If you want a fantasy adventure game that breaks from the traditional d20 mold but still feels the way you want a “fantasy game” to feel. Check it out.
This came out at the tail end of 2019, technically, but it won the Golden ENnie for best game this year, so we’re counting it on the list. Alien the RPG does some real interesting stuff with regards to “cinematic play”. It basically crosses over into LARP territory, creating a scenario where you play specific characters each with their own agendas and the focus is on the tension and terror of a mission in space going wrong. With so many games trying to pull off “horror” who knew that the licensed tie in for Alien would actually nail it. It’s moody, it’s atmospheric, your characters will probably all die–it’s great.
What were your favorite games of 2020?