Best & Worst of Gaming 2009 [Part 4]

So, this is the last part of my look back at 2009. I won’t bore you with stories from the past from now on, because we live in the future now! 😉
Thanks again for Zach from RPG Blog II, who had posted his “Best & Worst of Gaming 2009” series in December. Ok, without further ado, let’s look at the last categories:

Worst Trend

The notion that ”RPGs have to become more like boardgames/videogames/MMOs/etc.” is the worst trend of 2009. Of course, this idea has been around quite some time, but it again reared its ugly head in the last year. With its powercards, battlemaps and miniature combat D&D 4th Edition already is pretty boardgamey [1], but FFG really managed to overdo it IMHO with the 3rd edition of Warhammer FRP: custom dice, a lot of cardboard thingies, only 3 players plus one GM can play the core game. I prefer a classic game, where I just need the rules, pen, paper and dice to play. What’s so wrong about that?

Trend I Hope To See In 2010

More boxed sets! I have to fully agree with Zach on this. I am especially excited about the upcoming Dragon Age boxed set, that I preordered quite a while ago. But the recently released Doctor Who boxed set looks pretty cool, too. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but I always liked the old AD&D campaign setting boxed sets. And I believe the boxed set format is the best way to get new people into the hobby.

Product Of The Year

Savage Worlds Explorers Edition There are so many great products, it really is hard to pick any one of them. Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG is a strong contender (although I don’t own it myself), but from what I’ve seen, it’ would be worthy of being PotY. My second idea was Dragon Age by Green Ronin. Ok, it’s only out as PDF, yet, with the boxed set to come hopefully soon, but I’ve already fallen in love with it’s old-school charm.
But in the end I went with “Savage Worlds” by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Shane Hensley’s RPG is not exactly new. Even the latest edition, the “Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition” was released in October 2007, but for me, 2009 was a great year for Savage Worlds. Interest in the game rose all over the blogosphere and a lot of great settings, supplements and adventures for SW have been released last year.
And when you consider that the SWEE which contains all the rules you need to play in almost any campaign sets you back mere $10, then it’s obvious why SW is still product of the year for me.

That concludes the series. I hope you had a great year 2009 and I wish you a much better year 2010! Take care everyone. And now back to our regular program!

1 – I don’t want to bash D&D 4th Edition here, I just used it as a popular example, there are many other games guilty of needing too many gimmicks during combat, like my beloved Savage Worlds (which uses “bennies” (poker chips, glass beads, etc.) and poker cards for initiative). So please don’t start another Edition War in the comments. Thank you.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

9 thoughts on “Best & Worst of Gaming 2009 [Part 4]”

  1. Complex rulesets need elegant design solutions. I can’t comment on WFRP, ‘cause I don’t play it, but power-cards in 4e is pretty elegant solution: you have minimum of rules in book, and almost all you need to know right in front of you. Yes, it’s like MtG, but what’s so wrong about that? 🙂 There are many other “heavy” rpgs without similar system (“Dark Heresy”, “Shadowrun 4e”, etc) — it’s bookkeeping nightmare!

    Well, if you don’t like complex rulesets it’s another story.

  2. Yeah, FFG went really overboard with Warhammer 3rd. I got it for my birthday and I think it will be a fun game to play, but I'm definitely considering it as more of a boardgame with some rp'in throw in than as an rpg.

    I too am waiting on my #@$@#@!! Dragon Age box set.

  3. I agree with you about Warhammer. I've not played it yet but it does seem overly complicated with all its special pieces.

    But I disagree with you about 4e being more board gamey. Miniatures and battlemats are seriously old-school and a core part of many people's idea of RPGs. There is a lot I don't like about 4e but these are not on the list.

    However the general trend is for the concept of RPGs to grow more diluted. This is not automatically bad, but RPGs should be something you can play with just a piece of paper, dice and a couple of dice.
    .-= Chris Tregenza´s last blog ..D&D 4e Review: The Desire =-.

  4. Nice series.

    All in all it has been an interesting year. We had dramatic developments (aka Fantasy Flight madness), exciting new game development model (sneaky Paizo), and a solid dose of nostalgia (Ye Ol’School Movement).

    The company (whose name rhymes with Lizards on the Roast) continued to polarize gaming society desperately trying to adapt their collectible card marketing strategy to their rpg line. Delivering their annual setting and even going as far as releasing more rules and content expansions to their MMORPG (unplugged) product. I agree however that their most hilarious scheme was denouncing “The Most Evil PDF format” and choosing the righteous path of global deforestation instead.

    Nevertheless it would be unfair to say that their games are rubbish. The 4th edition might be slightly different, maybe not quite what one had hoped for, but the rumors are probably true, it can be a fun, very heroic fantasy game and the books have certainly high production values and ehm… nice artwork. Some sources also claim that the Star Wars Saga Edition is a success. I wish them all the best.

    I would like to mention a few other developments, some of which were featured here as well and some not but I think they’re worthy of attention.

    Catalyst Game Labs were quite busy last year releasing 20th Anniversary Edition of Shadowrun – which while essentially another printing of the 4th edition featured improved layout, full colour pages, supplement cross-references and other improvements which rendered this book more user-friendly. To supplement the line they also released a few solid sourcebooks. In my view, Shadowrun continues to be one of the most attractive games on the market even if it is an acquired taste.

    They are also to blame for the Eclipse Phase – their trans-human/hard-sf game which appears slightly intimidating at first with it’s percentile mechanic and stats heavy characters but the setting is extremely rich and abundant in ideas deeply rooted in the recent wave of SF literature which might be a fantastic platform for the fans of the genre. Plus, again, production-wise the product is top notch. More stuff to follow next year apparently.

    Mongoose are at the forefront of the initiative to keep the old settings alive via their various imprints. In the lingo of one such product they embarked on the 'Restoration of Classic RPGs to Print After Unduly Prolonged Absence’. That of course is Paranoia which has just been released to celebrate its 25th anniversary. But it’s not the only one, earlier we received third edition of Earthdawn and a new version of Judge Dredd RPG.

    Yet another trend was the reactionist agenda to keep the 3.5/OGL content flowing. Three main culprits here – Paizo (esteemed Pathfinder), Mongoose (Fantasy Craft), Green Ronin (True20) dominated the market each presenting their own flavour. I too agree that Pathfinder is the most impressive – it’s clearly a beautiful book with an eclectic setting tied to it, altogether a safe haven for all 3ed outcasts.

    Like I wrote, all in all an interesting year.

    So what’s in store for the hobby in 2010, I wonder.

    One thing is certain… Darksun!

    Will the “Big Bad Gaming Company” manage to redeem themselves and deliver a product appealing to man and grognard alike? Stay tuned folks.

    P.S. Seriously, I need to stop posting these lengthy comments 😉

  5. I wonder how much of it (pack-in's, dice with weird symbols, cardboard standups, flags, crap) is wired into the game in an attempt to combat piracy.

    The more physical crap you stick in there and build into the rules that's not scanner-friendly, the less chance of a pdf stealing a sale from you…

    That's part of the thinking I believe.
    .-= newbiedm´s last blog ..Alingment as more than just flavor for the PC’s =-.

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