Here are some of the games that have caught my fancy of late. As always, these are tabletop games that are new and interesting to me, not necessarily new to the marketplace.
What are you playing these days? Please share in the Comments.
Space Weirdos: A Skirmish Heartbreaker (Garske Games, $5 PDF)
It's inspiring when a little, cheap game captures the imagination of the gamer community and quickly becomes a must-play title. Such is the case with Casey Garske's Space Weirdos. This 16-page PDF zine is all you need to play a simple, miniatures-agnostic sci-fi skirmish game for 5-10 models. Coming to wargaming from old-school RPGs, Space Weirdos uses the typical compliment of RPG dice to play (except d20s, because they get too much attention already :-) ).
There are so many 5-10 model skirmishers out there these days. If you're going to bring one to the table, you better add an interesting twist (or two). Besides its punky zine roots and its "grab some old minis you haven't used in decades and some kitchen-trash terrain and go" attitude, Weirdos includes a cool, shifting "Dice Type" (DT) mechanic. Some situations have you trading up your dice type (from say 2d6s to 2d8s) or trading down (from say 2 d10s to 2 d8s). This can quickly upend the odds of a combat situation, for instance. At 16 pages, the game rules are very minimal, but not as plain as you might think. There's a satisfying, but not overwhelming amount of old-school crunch. Another great thing about Space Weirdos is that you can play solo. Here's a video of a 2-player game in action.
Dungeons & Dragons: Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel (Wizards of the Coast, $30)
If there's one compelling reason to buy this book it's because of the racist reactions it has inflamed. It was written by people of color (and marketed as such). And it contains cultures and ideas not commonly found in Western fantasy literature and games like D&D. So, of course, that's enraged snowflakey conservative players. I, for one, embrace our inclusive gaming future and especially appreciate the introduction of different cultures and mythologies to the game. The adventures in this anthology draw from Asian, African, Native American, Arab, Hindu influences. But, all great intentions aside, buying the book wouldn't be more than a vote for greater inclusiveness if the content wasn't good. It is. It all hangs around the Radiant Citadel, a hub-world on the ethereal plane that's a crossroads and melting pot for diverse cultures from throughout the multiverse. It acts as a jumping off point for the other adventures in the book. There are 13 adventures in all, for levels 1-14, that are designed to be dropped into any adventure, or as a campaign setting. "From glittering night markets to undersea cities, from curse-afflicted villages to angel-ruled city-states—each adventure in this anthology takes inspiration from the writer's personal connection to real-world mythologies and cultures, creating a rich tapestry of never-before-seen lands and stories for you to explore." I haven't played any of it, but reading through the handsome book, it's definitely an excellent anthology and collection of usable content worthy of your support. And, for every copy sold, a Proud Boy gamer fails all of his saving throws.
Dungeons & Dragons: Campaign Case: Creatures (Wizards of the Coast, $65)
Wizards of the Coast has released two new D&D "Campaign Cases." The first is Creatures. It includes a set of very nice, weighted, plastic disk tokens (3 sizes, 4 colors) and a set of vinyl "creature clings." You combine a token with a cling of the appropriate creature and place it on the table for your players to encounter. The vinyl clings are reusable. Like good poker chips, the tokens have an authoritative, weighty quality that make them fun to handle and plink down on the table. One concern is that they cling so well to the tokens, you'll want to have a dulled X-Acto blade or other thin tool to pry them up without damage. There are storage trays for the tokens, a folder to house the clings, and everything packs into a really nice case with beautiful foil artwork on the outside, and a rope handle. The second case, Terrain, will be covered here at a later date. My main criticism is the price. At $65 for each case, you'll need to spend $130 to get the full system. And then you'll have two cases to carry off to the game store (along with your books, papers, dice, DM screen, etc). I would've preferred one case that included everything along with room for other DM essentials.
Frostgrave Fireheart (Osprey Games, $30)
The eleventh Frostgrave expansion, Fireheart explores the magic of constructs (think: golem) and haunted/animated terrain in the frozen city of Felstad. For every Frostgrave (and Stargrave) expansion that Joseph McCullough produces, he thoughtfully and creatively expands some aspect of the gameworld he's creating. It's always exciting to see what corner of the world he's going to flesh out next and the clever new mechanics he'll introduce for exploring it. There have always been constructs in Frostgrave, but they've been limited in how they're built, enchanted, and deployed. Fireheart gives wizards an entirely new set of features to draw from in creating more unique and customizable constructs. The book also adds enchanted prosthetics that wizards in the game can now try to cast to repair lost limbs. Having wizards and captains going around with magically-animated wooden and iron-geared arms and legs adds a fun steampunky element to the game. The second game addition in Fireheart is animated terrain. The ancient city of Felstad was populated by wizards, wizard schools, and magical industry. When that magic went haywire and buried the city in ice and snow for a thousand years, it also froze in time all sorts of enchanted features within the city's very architecture. As Felstad thaws, these weird haunted features are coming to life. Now you can add things like levitating discs, invisible walls, moving floors, and death runes (which strike dead creature types rolled on a random table, including wizards and warband members). As usual, Fireheart also includes new soldier types, new treasures, new beasts, and a 5-scenario campaign inside of a ruined construct factory.
Death in Space (Free League, $50)
It's always great to see a scrappy game publisher claiming the limelight over the rest of what remains a very crowded, ever-expanding field of the tabletop gaming market. A few years ago, it was Osprey Games, with its hits Frostgrave, Gaslands, Wildlands, Stargrave, and Undaunted. Now, Sweden's Free League Publishing is on such a roll, with popular and impressive games, one after the other, like Mörk Borg, the Alien RPG, The One Ring RPG, and the forthcoming Blade Runner. Joining this award-winning roster is Death in Space. This unrelenting dark survival game could easily be characterized as Mörk Borg in space. Like that artpunky, death metal-inspired fantasy tome, Death in Space is an OSR-inspired, aesthetic take on the modern RPG. You want grimdark? Death in Space makes Warhammer 40,000 look like Muppets from Space. Death. It's right there in the title. You'll do that a lot. Space is as unforgiving as… well… space is unforgiving. Here's a thoughtful video review of the game.
Mouse Trap (Hasbro, $30, Players: 2-4, Ages: 6+)
Here's a game I thought I'd never play again, let alone review. But things change when you marry and suddenly find yourself with three adorable granddaughters. One of them, a precocious 5-year-old, wanted to play Mouse Trap. So, we, being stereotypically spoiling grandparents, bought it immediately. When I was little, I adored Mouse Trap. My cousin owned it, and it was often the first thing I wanted to do when I went to his house. Being a proto-maker nearly from birth, I loved the building aspect of it. Playing with the granddaughter, her dad, and us two grandparents, it was a joy right out of the box. There are few rules to learn (the instructions for most everything you do is on the board) and building the Rube Goldberg contraption is as fun as I remembered. I also quickly remembered how madcap it is at the end when all the mice are running around in circles trying to avoid ending up under the trap, like a game of musical chairs that goes on for too long. But it's all in good fun and perfect fodder for 5 year olds. It's amazing is to think that this game has been in production for almost 60 years.
[See me trying to entertain my other two granddaughters with tabletop games.]