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io9's Tabletop Gaming Roundup Returns With a Spotlight on Sandy Pug Games

The Gaming Shelf lives! Read on for updates on crowdfunding projects, TTRPG news, and more.

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The cover art of Monster Care Squad: Legends of Ald-Amura
Leafie’s cover art for Monster Care Squad: Legends of Ald-Amura.
Image: Sandy Pug Games

Welcome to the revived Gaming Shelf! We’re back with a bimonthly schedule, a new creator’s spotlight, and a whole lot of links that will be rounding up the gaming news, notable releases, and crowdfunding campaigns that grabbed our attention over the two weeks.

Creator Spotlight: Sandy Pug Games

When I received a copy of Monster Care Squad, by Sandy Pug Games (10 Million HP Planet, You Are Quarantined With Adam Driver And He Is Insisting On Reading You His New Script), I was stunned. This book is not only a masterpiece of game design, but is full of incredibly vivid, wonderfully rendered creatures and characters, drawn by Leafie. The collaboration inherent in this book is on every page, with writers noted throughout. The game has its roots in anime and video games, creating a world that not only feels rich and expansive, but familiar and immediately recognizable.


Across Ald-Amurra, monsters are sick. You are a Monster Care Specialist, sent out to heal and help the mystical creatures that inhabit the world. You’re something of a tall tale yourself, traveling across the land and seeking to calm and help frenzied wyvrens and spirits. The game uses a unique system that is part skill-check based and also uses Moves, an RPG style made popular in Apocalypse World. The book provides unique settings, vivid monsters, and mysterious adventure seeds, as well as gameplay examples and alternate rules for solo play. There are hints of games like Ryuutama and Monster of the Week, but Monster Care Squad is a wonderfully unique thing, created with collaboration and over-the-top epic adventures in mind.

In addition to the 175-page core rulebook available online (and in print, which is, as I said, an incredibly art object in addition to being a fantastic game), there are a handful of free digital assets to help with gameplay, including a Character Keeper, and an original soundtrack. You can draw connections here to media like Pokémon, Nausiccaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Monster Hunter, but Monster Care Squad takes all of that and blends it into a game that is incredibly imaginative and utterly delightful.


Featured Releases: Tattoo, Torq, Back Again From the Broken Land

In the indie scene we have TATTOO, by Sean Patrick Cain (Long Haul 1983, Fake Chess), a party game reminiscent of Ink Master that uses some parts of the classic board game, Taboo to play. You play as artists and clients as the former tries desperately to design a tattoo that encapsulates all the clients’ ideas. The client, of course, is horrible at describing things… they can never seem to say what they really want! There’s also the Producer (of course) who acts as DJ and mediator. This game is built as a no-prep party game, and the mechanics are fun and encourage both collaboration and competition. It’s a tight book, and it’s well worth the price.

The cover of Torq on a black and yellow playmat
Image: Good Luck Press

From Good Luck Press comes TORQ, a two-for-one game that takes inspiration from post-apocalypse road warrior media that alternates between a fast-paced racing tactical and character-driven roleplaying. As you go from community to community you work to build the world back from the brink. With both high tension and low stakes gaming, you can pace out the game to suit your table, and create a complicated, messy future that features drag races through canyons and romance at hideaway road houses.

The cover of Back Again from a Broken Land depicting rolling green hills with a black castle in the background. Four small black and white figures walk in the foreground.
Image: Cloven Pine Games (art by Emily Cheeseman)

Currently taking preorders for the 60-page physical zine edition, Back Again From the Broken Land (Cloven Pine Games) follows small adventurers who are returning from a big war. Directly inspired by the long walks and meditative stretches of travel in The Lord of the Rings, this is a game that de-emphasizes combat and focuses on the moments of weariness, hope, and reflection that can happen when the battlefield is at your back. It uses the Powered by the Apocalypse system and is accompanied by art from Emily Cheesman, a fantastically talented TTRPG illustrator.

Crowdfunding: Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, Justicar, The Twilight Throne and the Houses of Ruin

Image for article titled io9's Tabletop Gaming Roundup Returns With a Spotlight on Sandy Pug Games
Image: Possum Creek Games (Art by Katie Hicks)

Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast (Possum Creek Games): “A slice-of-life legacy tabletop role-playing game about a found family and their magical home. Similar to a Choose-Your-Own game, this book is played over the course of 48 chapters, each of which is a one to two-hour scenario with its own unique but quick-to-learn rules. Players can take control of one of the seven long-term residents of the B&B or choose from a cast of 50 quirky guests, each of whom has their own ongoing storylines.”

Image for article titled io9's Tabletop Gaming Roundup Returns With a Spotlight on Sandy Pug Games
Image: Nevyn Holmes

Justicar (Nevyn Holmes): “A role-playing game about romanticized courtroom drama, intrigue, and comedy inspired by the likes of Phoenix Wright and My Cousin Vinny. Players each embody a unique key Role as they collaboratively tell the story of a crime and its mysteries.”

Three humanoids feature, one holding a sword, the other a book, the third a cup. Chains criss cross the cover.
Cover art for The Twilight Throne
Image: Sword Queen Games (art by Adrien(ne) Valdes)

The Twilight Throne and the Houses of Ruin (Rae Nedjadi/Sword Queen Games): “A political intrigue TTRPG of surreal magic and tragic intimacy for 3-7 players. The Twilight Throne uses the Forged in the Dark (FitD) system of Blades in the Dark fame, and restructures the system dramatically. Players are powerful Nobles, beings of pure magic in a broken land of fairytales, serving a Throne that will be the last in an age of curses and corruption.”

In Other News

  • Bones Deep, by David Schirduan, a Tabletop RPG of Skeletons Exploring the Ocean Floor for Troika, launches April 4.
  • Graeme Barber (also known as PanzerLion) has written an introspective essay on D&D’s issues with lore.
  • To Catch a Hellforged Swine is a system-agnostic adventure from Roll 4 Tarrasque that is deliciously dangerous and tightly written.
  • The Dragon Prince has released a Cortex-system TTRPG penned by Cam Banks titled Tales of Xadia.
  • I recently received my Kickstarter reward for Coyote & Crow (described as “Science-Fantasy Roleplaying in an Uncolonized Future”) and the final product is ambitious, expansive, and incredibly versatile.
  • World Champ Game Co. has published Chainface, a character on a quest to understand power, for use in any game.
  • The Snow Queen, by Jeeyon Shim, is fully funded and taking preorders!

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