Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9's regular column all about board games and tabletop roleplaying games. It’s almost the holiday season, which means it’s time to think about those last-minute gifts you forgot! Otherwise, maybe a couple of titles to bring for family game night during the holidays. Either way, here are some of the latest releases, upcoming expansions, and some crowdfunding campaigns that could make for fun surprise gifts. Cats, anyone?
Renegade Games has announced a new edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, which hasn’t had a print edition in over a decade. Werewolf is a tabletop roleplaying game that takes place on a supernatural version of Earth, called Gaia—one where vampires, werewolves, and monsters living among humans. Players take on the role of Garou, folks “born of two worlds” (the material and spirit) who hide among humans while trying to survive and save the dying planet. Unfortunately, each Garou tribe has different needs, ideologies, and ideas of how to help Gaia, so success doesn’t always mean having to work together. Werewolf: The Apocalypse 5th Edition is set to come out sometime in 2021.
Cephalofair may have recently announced Jaws of the Lion, the expansion designed to introduce newer players into the Gloomhaven world, but they’re not done yet. The company has unveiled a new massive sequel three years in the making: Frosthaven. As reported in the newsletter (via Reddit), Frosthaven is geared toward veteran players of Gloomhaven. The roleplaying game takes place at a small outpost in the north that mercenaries are struggling to protect—against the elements, attackers, and some Yeti-like creatures, which may be friend or foe. According to Gamesradar, Frosthaven is set to launch with a Kickstarter campaign sometime in 2020 with an expected release date in 2021.
Free League Publishing’s venture into deep space is finally here. Alien: The Roleplaying Game core book has officially been released, along with the Chariot of the Gods scenario and supplements. The game can be played as a full campaign, or in what Free League calls “Cinematic Play,” where each session plays out like a movie—meaning most (if not all) of your players may not survive the encounter. A print edition of Alien: The Roleplaying Game’s core book is available on Free League’s website for about $48, and the digital edition costs $25 on DriveThruRPG.
Another game that’s out in time for the holidays is the Kingdom Hearts edition of Talisman. In this game, players work to save all the worlds from the Heartless, venturing through lands in the Kingdom Hearts games to wield their keyblades and seal the Door to Darkness. Kingdom Hearts: Talisman is available for about $70. USAopoly sent me a review copy and let me tell you: If you’re a fan of Kingdom Hearts, it’s pretty fun. If you haven’t followed the franchise’s frankly overwhelming history and lore, you’re going to be confused. In other words, I wouldn’t bring this home for a holiday family game night. Keep it for yourself.
What if the Game of Life was more existential and involved way less inexplicable wealth? You’d have Inner Compass, a board game from Alderac where players try to search for meaning in their everyday lives. Whether it’s creating memories, learning to navigate their emotions, or making life choices, it’s all about finding enlightenment and understanding, well, your inner compass. It feels like a helpful game to get through the holidays as your in-laws try to suss out why you’re still a journalist covering Star Wars when you’re almost 35 years old. Unfortunately, it’s not coming out until April 2020, so those existential crises are just going to have to wait.
You know what they say: Never promise what you can’t deliver. Fantasy Flight Games learned this lesson the hard way, as the company’s Barkham Horror: The Dogwich Legacy April Fools’ joke was so popular they’ve now made it into a standalone scenario pack. In The Meddling of Meowlathotep, puppy investigators have to work to stop Meowlathotep, Meowsenger of the Outer Feline Gods, from imposing their reign of terror over the streets of Barkham. It’s currently available to preorder on their website for $20 and goes to help Fantasy Flight’s work with Pets for Vets, a program that pairs veterans with companion animals.
The Barkham Horror pack is unique in that it’s only designed for this scenario. You can play it without any other cards in the series, possibly serving as a way to introduce new players to the game (players can integrate other cards from their Arkham Horror set if they so choose). Furthermore, Fantasy Flight has made it clear that the puppy investigators are not supposed to be used in any other Arkham Horror scenarios. Although I mean, come on, they can’t stop you.
Z-Man Games has released a bunch of small expansions for some of its most popular games, including Cacao, First Class, NMBR 9, Stone Age, and The Voyages of Marco Polo. They’re all available and range in price for $5 to $10, designed to be stocking stuffers that add a bit of extra play.
Needing a bit more Expanse time after binging season four? Green Ronin has released the first adventure supplement for The Expanse Roleplaying Game. Abzu’s Bounty introduces six full-length scenarios into the game, which include things like making a “fateful discovery in the rings of Saturn” or working to acquire a ship. The supplement is available on DriveThruRPG for $19.
Note: Kickstarter, a huge fundraising site for tabletop gaming, has come under fire for opposing its employees’ attempts to unionize under Kickstarter United. This includes firing two staffers who were members of the organizing committee. In a statement, Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan denied the company was engaging in union-busting but confirmed that the company is refusing to voluntarily recognize Kickstarter United and called unions “inherently adversarial.”
We do not support Hasan’s comments, and GMG Union stands in support of Kickstarter United. As of now, Kickstarter United has not yet called for a boycott of the company, so io9 will continue to showcase creators as we monitor the situation.
Now we all get to play as Matt Damon in The Martian. Unsettled is a cooperative survival game where players struggle to survive in the depths of uncharted space. There are no enemies, nor is there fighting—that is, unless you count the constant fight to survive in a hostile and alien world. Players work together to complete a series of tasks, which will combine in different ways for each game, making it equally varied and terrifying. Unsettled will be on Kickstarter through January 8. The minimum pledge for a copy is $89 and it’s set to come out in October 2020.
Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars is a cooperative Graphic Novel Adventure designed for kids, where each one takes on a different character (each with their own graphic novel) to work together to solve mysteries. It’s a fun concept designed to introduce kids to roleplaying games, and is the latest in Van Ryder Games’ Graphic Novel Adventures series. Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars will be on Kickstarter through December 23. The minimum pledge for a copy is $30 and it’s set to come out in May 2020.
Just go look at these cats. Look at them. Everybody needs them in their roleplaying games. They are perfection. Legendary Cats miniatures will be on Kickstarter through January 4. The minimum pledge for male or female cats is $18, while both sets cost $29. They’re set to come out in June 2020.
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