Reviewed Games—“Wanna Play” Rankings

I’ve been fortunate to review a number of cool games on my YouTube channel over the the past year or so, probably more than I’ll ever get to play. So I thought it might be fun to rank the games I’ve reviewed on my channel according to my inclination to actually run the games I’ve not yet played. If you know most of these games, I’d love to see how you’d order them!

The titles will link to my reviews, I did receive review copies of four of these games, which I’ve pointed out in my reflections. Getting something for free to review, however, did not impact their placement on the list.

11. Warpland

Warpland cover

I will always be thankful to Gavriel Quiroga for being one of the first people who trusted me with a review copy of their game and, to be sure, Warpland is wild.

The game is set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic, world with reality issues and I appreciate the color it has. In the end, however, there are two things which keep me from wanting to play. First, it’s bleak—way bleak—and I get enough bleakness in real life. Second, the GM doesn’t roll dice, and I like rolling dice. But I still think folks would benefit from checking this game out.

10. Kids on Bikes

Kids on Bikes cover

There is so much about this game that I like, starting with how you assign a different die type to each attribute score. And I’m in love with the artwork.

But there’s something about the way the game’s presented that leaves me scratching my head. Sometimes I think the examples make the game play less clear than if they’d just left the rules on their own, and I’m not sure how I feel about how much time players spend in the first session setting up character relationships. I’ve got limited time to play, so I want to jump right in.

Kids on Bikes may just be a game where I’m not the target audience, and that is no problem at all. They’ve got a second edition of Kids on Bikes kickstarted and I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to revisit it.

But, again, the artwork is stellar.

9. Mutant Year Zero

Mutant Year Zero cover

This is a game I wrestle with. It scratches several itches and has multiple layers of game play. The artwork is well done, and the book design is stellar. It’s also got a fast game mechanic which doesn’t take a long time to teach.

But the game feels a lot like a survival simulator, and the world is small as a result. In the end it feels like it would be more stressful than fun. One of my current Basic Fantasy RPG players echoed this sentiment, so it’ll be a while before I attempt this game.

8. Brindlewood Bay

Brindlewood Bay cover

This game is my first experience with a Powered by the Apocalypse game and, I’m not sold on the system just yet. Folks who enjoy PbtA have raved about this Brindlewood Bay, though, so as I become more familiar with this system I think it’ll move up the list.

I mean, it’s Murder, She Wrote blended with Cthulu-like horror. What’s not to love?

7. Chromatic Dungeons

Chromatic Dungeons cover

I appreciate so much about this OSR game designed to be more inclusive. The artwork is terrific, including several homages to pieces in the AD&D Players Handbook, but it falls apart for me in the presentation.

Roderick Waibel formatted the book as a near facsimile of the AD&D Players Handbook, which is impressive. Unfortunately it also incorporates some design features which made that book a bit confusing to read.

In the end, there’s stuff I want to cherry pick from the game, because it’s great, but there’s just not enough to make me dump another OSR game in order to run it.

Roderick, however, is a great person and a wonderful game designer.

6. Dark Places and & Demogorgons

Dark Places & Demogorgons cover

This is a game which covers a similar setting as Kids on Bikes and, between the two, this feels more familiar. The book’s presentation and art aren’t as good as KoB, but the design of the system is less front loaded with player narrative, and it fits the style of game I tend to enjoy.

DP&D just kickstarted a version of the game which uses Old School Essentials as the base system. I backed this project so I’m interested in seeing how the game develops.

5. Lowlife 2090

Lowlife 2090 cover

This was one of the fist games sent to me as a physical book, and it blew me away. The layout and artwork are top-notch, and the game system is innovative. I love how the roll under mechanics make attribute scores mean something, and the initiative system is really cool. The inclusion of a variable luck attribute to handle saving throws only adds to the fun.

Lowlife 2090 is a further iteration of the system created for a game further down the list, and I love how the system had evolved between the games. The reason this is number 4 on the list is because the characters are…well…lowlifes. And I kinda run a more heroic campaign.

But if you’re looking for a magic-punk game which has a ton of character and is easy to play. Check out this offering by Pickpocket Press!

4. Mutant Future

Mutant Future cover

I describe Mutant Future as a spiritual successor to Gamma World. It’s got the same general feel, some wacky artwork, and distinct saving throws. If you want some old school post apocalyptic play, but with a nice modern polish, this is a game to check out!

My biggest knock on the game is that it uses descending Armor Class. And, look, I get how that works, but I find that ascending Armor Class just works better.

3. Barbarians of the Ruined Earth

Barbarians of the Ruined Earth cover

I grew up watching Thundar the Barbarian on Saturday mornings. This game is basically Thundar in everything but name. There’s gonzo character classes, fun mechanics, and bizarre creatures. This is a quick pick up system with a nice amount of depth while avoiding a huge amount of crunch. I highly recommend.

My only knock is that the characters in the game have the potential to be too epic, but that’s by design. In fact, if I were to play a post-apocalyptic game any time soon this would be the system I’d run.

2. Old School Essentials

Old School Essentials cover

I cannot say enough good things about this game. At it’s core OSE is a re-presentation of the Moldvay-Cook Basic and Expert sets that I first owned. And, from that standpoint alone it’s a brilliant lesson in how to do layout well. I’ve never seen anything like it.

OSE’s “Advanced Fantasy” release added in some flavor from AD&D, while not breaking anything from their “Classic Fantasy” version of the game. It’s got a load of races, and another load of classes. You can split race and class, or play a race class, and parties can have both types of characters in a party and not break anything. The two publicly available issues of their official zine, Carcass Crawler, adds even more fun.

In the end, however, OSE is Basic/Expert. As this is an itch I’m scratching with Basic Fantasy RPG at the moment, I can’t put this in my top spot. It was close, though!

1. Low Fantasy Gaming

Low Fantasy Gaming cover

This is the predecessor to LowLife 2090, which is in spot 5 on this list. Pickpocket Press sent me a review copy after I reviewed the other game.

LFG lacks some of the iterative improvements the latter game, like a calculated initiative attribute which is based on wisdom and dexterity, but the flavor is all there. The character classes, the way progression is handled, and the encouragement to come up with custom “unique features” are all huge selling points for me. And the book is absolutely stunning. It doesn’t have the insane attention to detail that OSE has, but it might be the most beautiful book I’ve got on my shelf 1.

There is so much unique in this game that I’m itching to run it!

  1. The fact that it’s printed on flat paper is a huge plus.

6 responses to “Reviewed Games—“Wanna Play” Rankings”

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