Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9's column all about board games and tabletop roleplaying games. This one is bittersweet because it’s the last edition of Gaming Shelf I’ll be doing for the site. I’ve shared more about that below, but in the meantime let’s dive into the latest news about roleplaying games for Dune and Avatar: The Last Airbender. These are a few of my favorite things!
Dune: House Secrets is now available for pre-order from Portal Games. The cooperative game has 1-4 players taking on the role of rebel agents who have joined the resistance against House Harkonnen. It uses the same game mechanics as Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game and has a multi-chapter narrative where each section impacts the next one. There’s also a limited edition available that has extra content. I pre-ordered a copy of it myself! I’m just that into Dune.
The moment I heard that there was going to be an Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra roleplaying game, I thought, “Yes. Humankind has achieved.” This is seriously a fantastic premise for a tabletop roleplaying game. It’s basically the game that elementary school kids have been playing in schoolyards for years! You get to make your own bender and send them on missions, protecting the world... and maybe encountering the Avatar along the way. Avatar Legends will be on Kickstarter in August, but in the meantime, Magpie Games has released a free quickstart guide so fans can check it out.
Gen Con announced that this year’s in-person event would proceed as scheduled in September, and the goal is to let fully vaccinated people attend the conference without masks or social distancing. In a statement, the con claimed that folks will be required to show proof of vaccination to receive a special wristband that clears them to attend mask-free, while unvaccinated attendees who take off their masks will be approached by staffers. There are many ways this could go wrong—especially with the delta variant causing a new surge in cases—so it’s possible we could see this decision changed in the coming months.
Japanime Games has made pre-orders available for Attack on Titan: The Last Stand and Tokyo Ghoul: Blood Masquerade, two highly anticipated games based on some seriously popular anime. However, I’d take this news with a huge grain of salt, as the website says they’ve been released as of June 29 but the links are still for the pre-orders—with a note that each game “may not ship until all stock is in the warehouse.” It might be best to reach out to the company before putting down some money for a copy.
My colleague James Whitbrook published some exciting news about the recent D&D Live event, which announced the next two chapters in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition... among many other things. Be sure to check out James’ coverage for everything you can expect from the future of D&D.
Some personal news: This will be my final Gaming Shelf. After five amazing years with io9, I’m moving on to the next phase of my life and career. I’m sure io9's game coverage will continue without me in some form, but I’ll miss chatting board and tabletop games with all of you. In lieu of a list of crowdfunding games, I’ve decided to close out this chapter of Gaming Shelf by sharing my top five board and tabletop games. Be sure to let me know some of your favorites in the comments.
There’s a reason I’ve written about Disney Villainous as often as I have: because it’s a really, really, really good game. What I love about Disney Villainous—besides the opportunities to geek out over my favorite Disney baddies—is how each player gets to do their own thing. It’s perfect for folks who don’t want to constantly be stepping over each other to get ahead on the same game board. You can mess with other players, sure, but in the end, it’s about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
This is a bit of a cheat because I couldn’t pick just one. It’s still so new to me! During my time at io9, I got into tabletop roleplaying games. It was something I’d never done before because I didn’t have people to do it with. Since then, I’ve gotten to play the Dungeons & Dragons Rick & Morty set with the game’s creator—and DM a few D&D sessions of my own. I’ve also been introduced to unique roleplaying games like Star Crossed, Til Dawn, and Tales From the Loop. I still only feel like I’ve dipped my toe into tabletop roleplaying games, and I’m hoping to find more opportunities to explore them outside of work.
I gave up on Cards Against Humanity a long time ago—frankly, I’m surprised it’s still being sold in stores. I love a good party game, but CAH is little more than an excuse to be casually racist, homophobic, and misogynistic for the sake of shock value. Besides, there are plenty of better party games that use similar mechanics, without the bigotry. One of my favorites is Silicon Valley Start-Ups. On the surface, it seems like another stupid box set you’d find at Target (because it is), but it’s also one of the best party games I’ve ever played. Players take turns creating fake start-ups using card prompts, and then have to explain to the potential “investor” what the hell their product does. It’s part improv, part Shark Tank, all good clean fun. I don’t know if you can still find it in stores, but if you do I recommend picking it up.
There are a lot of things to regret from losing a year to the (still-ongoing) covid-19 pandemic. One of them, as small as it is, was having to stop a group playthrough of Betrayal Legacy my husband and I were doing with some friends. I love Betrayal at House on the Hill. Much like Mysterium, it’s a horror game that envelopes you in its creepy, surreal world. It’s Lovecraftian Horror meets a soft, easy-going roleplaying game that just about everyone can get into. We’ve since moved away from those friends, and hopefully they’ll forgive us if we continue the game with someone else. I’m sorry!
This one is personal. Cribbage is a classic board and card game dating back to the 1600s, but I remember it as the game my grandfather and I would play together. He taught me the rules when I was, like, 6 or 7 years old, and we would play regularly until he passed away. I’m sure I wasn’t very good, at least not at first, but that wasn’t what mattered. What was important was getting to spend time with someone who I cared about, just sitting down and playing together. To this day, cribbage is the game I pull out when I want to relax. There’s a reason my son’s middle name is in honor of his great-grandfather. It’s not just because of who he was to the family. It was who he was to me.
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