Best RPGs of 2021

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Best RPGs of 2021

Postby Luke » Fri Sep 24, 2021 1:25 am

So each year I put up a post to get a feel from Wellingtonians what RPGs published that year have been their favourite. Though this thread is aimed at RPGs published in 2021 only, please feel free to mention supplements or any other RPG you encountered this year that stood out.

Last year's thread is here: http://www.nzrag.com/nzrbb/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=943.

This is a first year in a while where I felt like the RPG hobby softened somewhat. A lot of that is driven by the post COVID shipping crisis slowing down the release of many RPGs combined with my RPGing becoming more focused. So I was looking for less games, but also less new games were arriving in my hands. On the positive side, my top pick this year is a standout RPG for me, following Voidheart doing the same last year. So its not all bad by a long shot.

One thing, I noticed this year is that my picks seem to be reflective the games that won Ennies. This could be on the basis that my tastes are becoming more mainstream. However (and its impossible to say this without sounding like an absolute hipster), I feel like the RPG market is catching up on a few things that I have been enjoying for years. The main being the wonder that is Free League, which is now one of the most widely known and successful RPG companies out there. However, it also includes picks like Alice is Missing and Brancalonia, which would previously go by unnoticed by many. What really sealed this thought for me was the outstanding success of Avatar Legends, an RPG that combines some of my favourite IP, mechanics and publisher.

My top five for 2021 are:

1. Hearts of Wulin: Following on from Voidheart Symphony last year, Hearts of Wulin clearly takes my top slot. It is in every way what I would consider to be a perfect RPG and I expect it to be in my top 3, if not number 1, RPGs of all time. I could explain further why I think so highly of its approach to mechanics, genre, and presentation, but I would likely just end up sounding like I was gushing, so I will leave it there.

2. Brancalonia: In comparison to Hearts of Wulin, Brancalonia is a bit of an hot mess. However, it overlays D&D5e with a flavour that I find irresistible. Never has a D&D setting felt so well aimed at my tastes. There are plenty of warts in the writing, mechanical implementation, and its world building but I enjoy the freedom to run D&D in a way that so maximises my enjoyment. It feels familiar and refreshing at the same time.

3. Alice Is Missing: I have yet to run or play this, but the concept of the RPG blew my mind when it was released and I am happy to see that it has been recognised for such in this years Ennies. However, what cemented this at such a high slot is how much it appealed to my daughters, by merging concepts of face to face roleplaying with online communication in such an immersive and emotional way.

4. Root RPG: Like the next RPG, Root has suffered from the slow down in international shipping. So much that the physical books may not even be delivered to me this year. However, electronic delivery has happened earlier this year and the RPG is lovely. I love PbtA, I love Magpie's games, and I love Root, and the RPG is as well executed as I had hoped. It didn't exceed expectations or blow my mind like Voidheart or Hearts, but its a super solid entry.

5. Twilight 2000: Much like Root, this is a solid entry from a game company I love and with a system I enjoy a lot. I originally bypassed Twilight 2000 in its previous iterations as the concept does not appeal to me greatly, but it still looks good and all of the other elements were sure bets. So, I took a gamble and pushed my boundaries and I am pleased it did as the end product convinced me I would enjoy running and playing it.

A notable mention goes to Flying Circus. This RPG had one of the longest wait times I have had for an RPG at almost 3.5 years. The writer really seemed to struggle throughout the process with the game as well as personal issues. However, my interest in the game continued throughout the entire period and the end result is something special, if also flawed by certain decisions. The Ghibli styled setting is charming and the attention to detail on planes and aerial combat is amazing. However, much like Masks in its first iteration, the writer's decision to leave chunks of the books to PDF to save space, leaves the book feeling incomplete. Fortunately, print on demand these days allows me to fix this production issue and enjoy the book as a whole product.

My 2020 choices: Voidheart Symphony, Mork Borg, Vaesen, Labyrinth, Shinobigami.

My 2019 choices: Alien, Liminal, Impulse Drive, Zombie World, Elysium/Things from the Flood.

My 2018 choices: Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2e, Esper Genesis, Kult: Divinity Lost, Forbidden Lands, The Sword, the Crown, and the Unspeakable Power.

My 2017 choices: Tales from the Loop, Masks, Conan, The Watch, Blue Rose (AGE).

My 2016 choices: Godbound, Coriolis, Adventures in Middle-Earth, Amethyst, Genlab Alpha.

My 2015 choices: Shadow of the Demon Lord, Urban Shadows, Mutant Year Zero, Star Wars: Force and Destiny, Exalted 3e.

My 2014 choices: Far Away Land, D&D 5e, Ryuutama, Icons: Assembled Edition, Book of Cairn.

My 2013 choices: Atlantis: The Second Age, Double Cross, Warbirds, Golden Sky Stories, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.

My 2012 choices: Tenra Bansho Zero, Shadows of Esteren, Marvel Heroic , Hellas 2nd Ed., Legends of the Wulin.

My 2011 choices: One Ring, Mistborn, Fabled Lands, Vampire the Masquerade 20th Ann. Ed., Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e.

My 2010 choices: Eclipse Phase, Gamma World D&D4e, Dresden Files, Eoris, Icons.

My 2009 choices: D&D4e, Mouse Guard, Summerland, Anima, WFRP3e.

My 2008 choices: CthulhuTech, Dragon Warriors, D&D4e, Dark Heresy, Grimm.

My 2007 choices: CthulhuTech, Star Wars Saga Ed., Monte Cook's World of Darkness, Solomon Kane, BlissStage.

My 2006 choices: A Game of Thrones OGL, Spirit of the Century, Qin, Burning Empires, Agon.
Playing: Star Wars Saga Ed
Running: Genlab Alpha
Planning: Vaesen
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Luke
 
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