Best Setting: Tie - Hillfolk and Hillfolk: Blood on the Snow
Some games come to the table with a perfectly crafted, expansive world that blend theme and tone with perfect consistency. This year that wasn't the case. Hillfolk strives to emulate the feel of cable drama so when kickstarter stretch goal planning rolled around the best idea was to add more outlines for different series from a number of different authors and designers. Then that went viral, so backers ended up with two volumes crammed to the gills with different settings. These volumes showcase the breadth and versatility of the ruleset while giving jumping on points to suit any groups taste and creative spark.
Best Supplement: Tie - Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide and Fate System Toolkit
Welcome to the age of the house rule. They've always existed, most of wargaming arose from increasingly baroque forms of variant chess, no one plays Monopoly by the rules in the box; but right here, right now is the era when pulling games apart and putting them back together to get to do just what the group needs it do is accepted, encouraged and the professionals are hopping on the wagon in the best ways. Both of these books show players how to rearrange the core mechanics of the games to suit the needs of the story in novel ways. The reason for this being a tie is my inability to decide which is more valuable: the Hacker's Guide's generic versions of the previous Cortex Plus rules or the fact Fate's came right of the gate as part of the main game line.
Biggest Letdown: Shadowrun 5th Edition
Is it really a letdown when expectations were rock bottom to begin with? Yes, when you let the fact that the game has gotten better distract from the question of whether or not the game is actually good. Sorry guys, but the farther I get from this game and the more I think about it the less I like this version. There was a new team with an opportunity for new directions and instead they opted for the same uninspired art direction, terrible layout, dated in six months futurism and in-character prose style that is overwhelmingly player-facing when the book is mostly for the game master. Meet the new Shadowrun, same as the old Shadowrun.
Best Game of the Year: 13th Age
I got this gig because I was sick and tired of d20 fantasy games, both at my table and on the site, and now here I am turning in my gaming hipster cred and saying 13th Age is a fantastic game. In the spirit of the age of the house rule, it takes the well-worn d20 system with some great home game tweaks and adds some solid story gamer elements and delivers a wonderful package that gets even the most jaded gamer to stab some orcs and take their boots all over again. This is the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons RPGamers need, but not the one WOTC deserves.
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