There’s doom, darkness, horror, an in-game mechanism for calculating how close the end of days is, and award-winning graphic design; Mörk Borg has it all.
Some games are made for utility. They present the rules clearly and concisely, lay out for you the playable races and classes, maybe offer you a sample dungeon to crawl through and a few pieces of out-of-the-way art to reference for a clearer visual reference to the world and send you on your way. Mörk Borg is not that game by a long shot.
The first thing you’ll notice flipping through the pages, and one of the many things Mörk Borg won a 2020 ENnie gold prize for, is its layout and design. It’s a playable RPG core book, but each page is splashed with wild art and graphic design and hugely varying fonts. This sounds like it should be prohibitively distracting, and that’s an issue we will touch on later, but this feature also works overtime to remind you that you’re entering a world of doom metal and high stakes. Every little bit of Mörk Borg wants you to know that the world you’re playing in is in the process of ending, and somehow even the font drives this point home. It’s a well deserved gold ENnie.
The world, as we mentioned, is in the processes of dying in a gigantic, prophetic, almost biblical way, and this is baked right into the playable mechanics of Mörk Borg. Players periodically roll dice to see if the next seal of the end times will be triggered and on a 1 some new and horrible disaster will befall the world and now the players get to cope with this new ongoing disaster. Once all seven seals have been triggered the characters lives and the game ends. Mörk Borg is bleak in the same way that Call of Cthulhu or Alien can be, but all of these games are ridiculous and even surprising amounts of fun. They probably all hit that same part of our brains that enjoy horror movies.
Mechanically, Mörk Borg is a exceptionally simple game. Topping out at just under a hundred pages where some of them are almost completely full of art or only hold one piece of information, you may expect pages to be densely packed with rules. Instead it mostly utilizes a simple d20 system with ability modifiers of -3 to +3, a system of four attributes and a small handful of d6. This isn’t a technically dense game, and much like Powered by the Apocalypse gams, Mörk Borg is a system where the DM may never have to roll ever.
Personally, I love a rules-light game. They’re easier to learn and sell new players on, they leave more room for creative problem solving and roleplaying, and they cut down on the slog of long crunchy battles. That said, this sort of gameplay isn’t for everyone and some prefer the crunch of a more densely packed core book. For Mörk Borg, I think it keeps things moving along at a brutal pace that the game thrives on.
Despite multiple awards, a very cool concept, and a simply fun system to play, I can’t say that Mörk Borg is without faults. Like I mentioned earlier, the style of the book can leave some things physically difficult to read, and in many places, rules would have been easier to understand or even simply notice if they had been written in a more standard font on a page with other rules as opposed to on their own as part of a larger design. Even the official website – which is incredibly helpful for new players once you actually get into it – prioritizes style over usability.
But you know what? It works. Everything about Mörk Borg, good and bad, works to paint a very clear picture of what this game and the world you’ll be entering are like. It’s not always pretty or easy or user-friendly, but it’s going to be a buck wild ride that I bet you’ll enjoy.
If you’re interested in checking out Mörk Borg, you can learn more on the official website, here.
Have you played Mörk Borg? How do you feel about rules and mechanics light games versus crunchy ones? How grim and dark do you enjoy your games? Let us know in the comments!