Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9's column all about board games and tabletop roleplaying games. The 2020 Toy Fair is right around the corner, and with that will come plenty of exciting game announcements. Luckily, some teams are getting started early with a slew of RPG announcements—including a Kickstarter debut for Altered Carbon’s roleplaying adventure and a new game based on Dishonored. Grab that d20 and let’s begin!
Free League Publishing has announced it’s acquired the heavy metal tabletop roleplaying game MÖRK BORG (under its newest sub-label Free League Workshop, focused on a select catalog of externally created games). The post-apocalyptic artpunk RPG—which was funded on Kickstarter last May in “roughly 66.6 minutes,” according to the press release—is a rules-light and art-heavy game that’s really hard to describe. But it looks amazing. MÖRK BORG is available to pre-order for about $30 and comes out February 25.
For anyone curious to give Vampire: The Masquerade a try, Modiphius has released a print-and-play PDF designed to introduce new players into the World of Darkness. According to a press release, the short story teaches players and GMs (called Storytellers in this game) the rules as they play through a simple campaign. The tabletop version of Vampire: The Masquerade had not been without controversy over the years—like how 2018's Camarilla sourcebook used the real-life genocide of Chechnya’s LGBTQ community as a plot point. The backlash led to major changes at the studio that made it. It’s naturally made people hesitant about trying it out, but efforts have been made to right the wrongs and move the franchise forward. The New Blood Starter Pack is available for about $6.50 on Modiphius’ website and $7.50 on DriveThruRPG.
Also from Modiphius comes a tabletop roleplaying game set in the world of Dishonored, a popular video game franchise. According to the press release, the sourcebook introduces players to the Empire of the Isles and the so-called “heroes” who inhabit it, ranging from assassins and criminals to “stoic crown loyalists” who will do anything to preserve the status quo. It also includes a mini-campaign, “The Oil Trail,” which introduces players to the city of Dunwall and all of its complexities. Dishonored is set to come out this summer.
Continuing the trend of environmental games, Renegade Game Studios has unveiled Succulent—about the one type of gardening you can probably do without killing all your plants. Maybe. The two-to-four player game has horticulturists competing against each other to create the biggest and most beautiful succulent garden, earning the praise of their peers and contributing to the healthy ecosystem of your community. Succulent is available to pre-order for $45 and comes out in May.
Ready for a buddy cop adventure? How about four of them...at the same time? Black Key Games has announced Code 3, a new cooperative card game where two to four players each take on the role of a buddy cop duo trying to stop the mob bosses, baddies, or crooked cops and save the day. Players choose between different movie and TV show character archetypes to create the best, worst, or weirdest duos, working through a series of storylines that only unveil themselves once the previous one is completed. In short: You won’t know where things go next. Code 3 comes out around summer and costs $60.
The theme-obsessed game creators at USAopoly really need to stop. They wished on the monkey’s paw one too many times with this one, and I don’t think they’re going to like the horrors that await them next—or now.
Note: Kickstarter, a huge fundraising site for tabletop gaming, has come under fire for opposing its employees’ attempts to unionize under Kickstarter United. This includes firing two staffers who were members of the organizing committee. In a statement, Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan denied the company was engaging in union-busting but confirmed that the company is refusing to voluntarily recognize Kickstarter United and called unions “inherently adversarial.”
We do not support Hasan’s comments, and GMG Union stands in support of Kickstarter United, which officially voted on whether to unionize in late-January (the votes will be counted later this month). As of now, Kickstarter United has not yet called for a boycott of the company, so io9 will continue to showcase creators as we monitor the situation.
Kickstarter has declared February Zine Quest 2 month, where creators are invited to create short two-week campaigns to promote unique RPG zines. There are already several great ones to check out, and I’ll be highlighting one during each Gaming Shelf as the campaign is ongoing. This time, it’s The Wait from Travis D. Hill. It centers around an NPC on their deathbed, with three to eight players enacting the roles of their friends or family waiting in the final moments. Players use card prompts to share memories of the patient, piecing together that person’s life and relationships through the stories told about them. The Wait will be on Kickstarter through February 18. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $5 while a print version if $13, and it’s expected to come out in May.
Hunters Books’ previously announced Altered Carbon team-up with Skydance Television, the folks behind the Netflix series, is finally on Kickstarter. It’s set in the year 2384, and players work to create their own characters in a world where the human consciousness has been digitized and can transfer from body to body as Sleeves, rendering the physical form disposable and turning the elite into immortal beings. Will you become an underground fighter, trying to restore the world to how it was before—or will you seek to walk among the gods? Altered Carbon: The Roleplaying Game will be on Kickstarter through March 4. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $25 while a print copy is $50; both are expected to come out in August. As for the series, Altered Carbon returns with season two on February 27, with Anthony Mackie taking over the lead role of Takeshi Kovacs.
It’s a vampire’s world, we’re just undead living in it. Coming on the heels of the Modiphius starter game (shared above), Flyos Games has announced Vampire: The Masquerade—Chapters, a campaign board game in the style of “an RPG in a box.” One to four players navigate over 40 branching storylines, creating their own custom game that grows and changes as their character does. Vampire: The Masquerade—Chapters will be on Kickstarter through February 28. The minimum pledge for a copy is about $113 and it’s set to come out July 2021.
Based on the Eisner-winning comic from Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, Blacksad: The Roleplaying Game takes place in an alternative reality filled with anthropomorphic animals, living in the harsh reality of the Cold War. Players work with John Blacksad, a detective who happens to be a black cat, to solve cases and dig into the deeper mysteries of their complex world. Blacksad: The Roleplaying Game will be on Kickstarter through March 4. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is about $17 and comes out in August, while a print version goes for $35 and comes out in September.
Artist Bodie H has created an awesome series of cards that combine to create different roleplaying characters for players and NPCs. Having trouble figuring out where to start? Pull out a card for a race, a class, a personality type, motivation, and maybe a couple of extra features. It’s a great way to narrow down the choices and make someone you like—or perhaps draw randomly and create a character you’d never expect. It doesn’t hurt that the art is adorable, making it great (and appropriate) for kids and adults to use. The Slowquest Character Cards will be on Kickstarter through February 22. The minimum pledge for a set of cards is about $18 and is set to come out in June. The artist has also made a character creation zine that can be bought separately or combined with the cards.
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