2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

INDEPENDENT GAME OF THE YEAR, 2004

The Runners Up (and selected peer feedback):

PRIME TIME ADVENTURES / with 58 points

"Primetime Adventures is an extraordinary game, probably the best role-playing game ever written. PTA goes way beyond making good television and touches on making good friendships and good people. The play it produces is consistently excellent and entertaining, and at times deeply personal, intimate and even spiritual."

"PrimeTime Adventures enhances actual play so much through its use of fan mail. It wields in-game rewards with social approval around the table--an explosive combination!"

"Primetime Adventures -- man, this nearly was first choice for me, but dropped down because it doesn't have quite the depth in the field of Dead Inside -- it's got a fantastic gimmick but, in the end, could use a little more meat for that gimmick to play around in. Still, PTA is regularly brought up as one of the games that Gets It Right with such force that a big chunk of indie gaming is simply working in its shadow."

"PTA- This game works cause it functions like any sort of performance based production. We are part creator, part actor and part audience. We build the story together like writers, play out the drama ourselves, and really really hope Billy gets the girl."

"Primetime Adventures will be this hobby's breakthrough game. The competition this year is so stiff - I can't believe I can't mark this as #1. It's also the first truly story-based generic game that lives up to that promise."

"PtA: Easily the most influential game of 2004. Creates a collaborative synergy among the players that puts everyone in the driver seat, while keeping the hot spot cool enough for anyone to step into."

DEAD INSIDE / with 49 points

"Dead Inside was stunningly original in its premise and concept, at once realistic and fantastic."

"Dead Inside is way underrated, I think. Chad's made a game that hides its ambition under the bush of traditional RPGs. It is thematically one of the most interesting games I've ever seen, and does wonders for opening up what a role-playing game can be about."

"I think Chad's doing a fantastic job of building settings that turn assumptions on their ear, and the PDQ system backing Dead Inside is pretty choice -- like the bastard child of Over The Edge, Fudge, and Fate. All in all, pretty sexy stuff."

"Dead Inside takes most currently-common gaming techiques, strips them down to a working minimum, and carefully creates something that purrs like a hot rod engine. I particularly like the inversion of the D&D "kill things, take stuff" theme, in that Dead Inside focuses on healing people and giving them your stuff."

"DI sets itself up as a moral counter-point to traditional RPGs, but the result is a completely new mythology for modern magic games. The setting is detailed, interesting, and supports the games themes. The mechanics are innovative, but too heavy-handed in enforcing the game's themes. (i.e. Moral actions are good because they provide mechanical benefits, not because they're prosocial or prevent suffering or any of the other things that make some actions "good" and others "evil" in the real world.)"

"DI: A game that brings the players themselves deeper into the game. Great innovation."

"DEAD INSIDE combines superb GMing advice with a focused approach to feel and flavor, and a conscious choice to emphasize positive character growth over amoral murder and theft. The system is elegant, though perhaps over-grainy."

"Dead inside is the first game ever published where you get experience for helping people and giving them stuff and not killing them and taking their stuff."

THE SHADOW OF YESTERDAY / with 29 points

"The fact that I can't place The Shadow of Yesterday at the top of my list is indicative of the insane quality of RPG production this year. The TSOY system excellently combines elements from a hundred other fantasy games, and yet still manages to be its own unique beast. The mechanics keep the action fast, furious, and at a human scale.

The mechanics, however, are at their best when they are tied into the game's extraordinary setting. Near is an awesome piece of work, a fantasy world full of dark people and disparate cultures, a deeply human place where your characters can become people. It is, quite simply, the most adult fantasy world that I've ever seen. And I don't mean porn."

"tSoY - In my book innovation isn't the most important thing to a game. It is the ability to learn from what others have done before you, take that knowledge, add something of your own, and create a quality fucking game."

"TSoY has so many good parts but really, the keys are the thing. And Clinton does such a wonderful job of evoking a mysterious otherworld in just a few pages. Again, it\'s an rpg that gave me something to think about."

"The Shadow of Yesterday cuts the crap and gets to the heart of what makes fantasy enjoyable. "

CAT / with 24 points

"Cat breaks new ground in genre: the domestic fantasy. Who hasn't watched their cat act strangely and asked "what are they doing?" Wick tells us that they're heroes. And who doesn't want to have a hero around the house?"

"If you are a cat lover this game will make you fall over laughing. It explains why the animals we live with act as they do. So when my little turd cat bites me - she\'s really biting the monster attached to my hand! This is better than Bunnies and Burrows."

"CATS is a triumph of high concept, well written, again married to a satisfactory system with the minimum of bells and whistles."

a|state / with 22 points

"A|State was very strong in its atmosphere and setting."

"A|State has some of the best CG I\'ve ever seen in an RPG, with a setting that is well-developed."

"Blends sci-fi, steampunk, and gaslight horror into one huge, rich, and fascinating setting. To a fan of lite systems, the traditional mechanics are a lead weight around the setting's neck."

"I think a|state does the best job of presenting a setting, rules set, and showing the potential for game play via the text."

HARDNOVA II / with 19 points

"Hard Nova ][: As usual from PIG, this book is crammed cover-to-cover with goodness! Beautiful, inspiring design and a simple-yet-workable system. What's not to love?"

"HN2 - Solid, simple, easily customizable, Space Opera. Terrific gaming!"

WYRD IS BOND / with 16 points

"WiB -- a remarkably playable game; I expected to dislike it strongly when I picked it up, assuming that it would treat urban issues too lightly, but I found this wasn\'t the case, and ended up enjoying it quite a bit. extremely playable."

"Wyrd is Bond is a great read. The game system, while neat for the setting, is designed a little too artsy for my tastes. I have not used it as a stand alone game, but the groups in the setting color my modern game worlds when I game master."

LACUNA / with 15 points

"Lacuna is another in a long line of innovative games from Jared Sorensen. It get my vote for sheer inventive weirdness."

"Just when you think that he can't do an even better pickup-and-play-a-whole-session-in-under-two hours game, Jared blows your mind again with Lacuna."

NINE WORLDS / with 13 points

"Nine Worlds has a robust, yet intricate system that promotes precisely the sort of action at which it aims."

IRON GAUNTLETS / with 13 points

"Iron Gauntlets is a fresh take on standard fantasy, still my favorite genre."

PULP FU / with 12 points

"Pulp-Fu: I love the setting; and the rules are true to the flavor of the game."

BOOK OF JALAN / with 12 points

"Jalan was interesting and unusual; tech and magic are often mixed in games, but rarely so well."

"I selected the Book of Jalan because I felt it was an overlooked treasure. It provides a great fantasy setting with loads of campaign potential. What more could you want out of a game?"

"Jalan has an innovative magic system that gives the characters great flexibility and lots of fantastic options."

CONSPIRACY OF SHADOWS / with 5 points

"Conspiracy of Shadows combines a lot of nice mechanics to form a coherent engine."

"Conspiracy of Shadows is a great fantasy product. Not since Glorantha have I been as impressed with the amount of detail and love instilled in a fantasy product."

OTHERS:

ENEMY GODS: "Enemy Gods, in players play both a hero and a god, is a fun game which does a good job of replicating that ancient Greek feel with a clever system whilst remaining quite light."

"Enemy Gods is brilliant and one of the games I really want to play."

TOMBSTONES AND TUMBLEWEEDS: "I started in the gaming hobby in 1976 and quickly fell in with the oldtime gamers. They ran skirmish games that I still remember today. This game continues that tradition."

BONES: "BONES is a unique new way to use dice. Can be lots of fun."

d4-d4: "Is a nice generic ruleset. Generally I don't like system only books with no setting but having used this system in game play, I find that it works really well."

d4-d4 "Sweet and elegant rules light game with a surprising abount of substance. Excellent writing."

JAGS-2: "I just downloaded this about a month ago. Like d4-d4 above, it's a generic rule set. It's every bit as good as d4-d4 but unfortunately I haven't been able to play through it. What I really like about Jags-2 is the system support that's in place."

TRIALS OF THE GRAIL: "Trials of the Grail is clearly written and laser-focused, managing to be both specific and general at the same time. Specific in there is a very standardized way the story goes, and every mechanic is bent toward supporting this, while general in the sense that the details of the Quest can be nearly anything, from fantasy to science fiction to a psychological modern-day thriller, and because of the archetypes involved, unlike most "generic" games, it WORKS because of its focus on story structure. Wonderful stuff."

UNDYING LANDS: "I have a weakness for light and innovative mechanics, which these games have in spades. I picked Undying Lands as my first choice because I love the "Looking-glass" Fantasy genre and find it under-represented in gaming products."

RUN ROBOT RED: "Run Robot Red just made me laugh. I have not played this game like I've played my other two selections, but it stays true to the comedic voice through and through, and as a died-in-the-wool humorist, I'm required to give it a point for first time brilliance."

FASTLANE: "Fastlane is an astoundingly clever, underappreciated game that can\'t be beat when you want frantic, all-or-nothing characters on the edge."

FASTLANE: "I love the way the results of roulette wheel bets in Fastlane constrain and inform the conflict outcomes. And I love the mechanics for characters forcing other characters to owe them favors; I've not played another roleplaying game where I've enjoyed player vs. player conflict more than Fastlane."

CODE OF UNARIS: "I haven't played Code of Unaris, but I've seen it played. From the observer standpoint, gameplay has a frenetic quality that took me by surprise. It sure seemed like fun, just not in ways that I typically associate with roleplaying. I'd quite like to play it. And if my life situation were to change, where I was remote from my current group, it would be the first game I reached for."

BLOOD GAMES: "Blood Games is an excellent, dark, religiously oriented horror game with great research behind it."