I can’t not talk about Melt Me. The core mechanic has a diamond beauty. It’s a game that… I wrote ‘dares you to play it’ here, first, but that’s not the thing at all, is it? It doesn’t dare. It invites. Encourages. Creates space. Conducts, or ushers. And I love the unspoken tension that comes from conceiving it as a project for online play, that wetness and stickiness right next to your computer, or your phone, which has, at least for the last sixteen months, been one of your few points of contact with the outside world, for better or for worse, the seed crystal around which so many anxieties and desires locked into shape. There’s something so wet and powerful about having your tongue right there, about the focus on eating, on digesting, in such a touch-starved and almost hopeless space. There’s real magic in this design.
Countess Dillymore has again graced our contest with her exquisite games dealing with the marginalization of queerfolk in the mid-20th Century. Disciplinary wields the language of bureaucracy as instrument of both narrative enrichment and character persecution. Although safety and context are shoved to a footnote in the end, the game materials themselves are their own argument.
Curimba was nominated for nearly all of the awards, but did not receive any, which makes it a perfect candidate for honorable mention. Umbanda spirits convene to decide on how to help humanity, while also betraying their own fickleness and attractions. Many of the judges learned a lot about this set of beliefs through this game. It is simple, easy-to-pick-up, and full of rich play opportunities.
This game is wonderfully written and an excellent overall deconstruction of the committee larp genre. May all of our characters be as decadent, all our social situations as fraught and shallow!
COVID-19 countermeasures have given rise to a whole sub-genre of Discord spaceship larps, and TANKERS is an example of one that won us all over. The game is sparsely designed, evocative, and leaves us all wanting more.
Look. I’m not too proud to admit it. I’m one of those dudes who, every year on Halloween, watches Nightmare Before Christmas, and as much of the Addams Family as he can stream, and plays Monster Mash really loud. Because. What do you want from me. It’s a graveyard smash! But while this game could have been the bait on one of those Looney Tunes box-and-stick traps designed to catch me specifically, I also think it’s just… great. The roles are clear, the rules straightforward, the conflict real enough to generate honest friction, but the stakes light enough to permit hijinx and hilarity without a great deal of bleed. These days I’m hungry for ways to hang out with friends who can’t be physically co-located for any number of reasons, and Crypt Kickers I could toss at friends who’ve never tried LARP or freeform gaming before, and know we’d have a good and memorable time. That’s a beautiful thing. Also, it would work perfectly online without a great deal of prep—as a parent, an important consideration.
One of the most detailed, powerful, and thoughtful games we've read in a long time. The Personal Testimony of the Last Kings of Heaven maps the real testimony of the leaders of the 1860s Taiping Rebellion in China onto player decision trees. How does one save one's family? How does history intervene? Brilliant, efficient, historically interesting, and ready to play.
Small-town pagans in the late 1990s converge in the chatrooms to attempt the celebration of Samhain. The game captures the utter duress that small-town white Christian American life places on those who seek alternate systems of religion and meaning. First Sabbat uses Discord to perfect, coherent effect, doubling down on its content without inhibiting player freedom or game structure.
The long arm of colonialism extends over centuries to the present, and the Brazilian larp Sobre a arte de bem governar terras e povos shows how small decisions made among an elite committee can ripple outward and cause lasting political and religious animosity, both in the core as well as the periphery. We appreciated the rhetorical power of this larp, as well as different scenes demanding different committee rules.
Kurayami Matsuri, or the Festival of Darkness, is the local tradition that Nomachi Inemuri explores in the game Kurayami Box. While it is a solo journaling game, it directly addresses pandemic conditions and allows players to integrate Shinto prayers into their rejuvenating play.
"Kurayami Matsuri" is a traditional Japanese festival held in "Fuchu City, Tokyo". In particular, it has a strong taste as a "Shinto ritual", and the practice of "not being allowed to see precious things" is a characteristic that is unique to Japan and has a high degree of regionality. It is called "Dark Festival" because "it is not allowed to see" "the sacred spirit moves from the shrine to the portable shrine and then departs", so it is "performed in the dark." In the Kurayami Box, the spirit of "self" on another world line axis is "healed" and healed while the "person" who has become a "box" takes a walk without being seen by people at night. Depart the spiritual body to the next world. Because I am doing that, I can say that I am "made" when it comes to "incorporating the traditional culture of the region." Also, since the "Kurayami Festival" is a festival of shrines, it is one of the religious events called "Shinto". "Norito" is like a spell used in "Shinto." Also, chanting the congratulatory words with the sounds of "3," "5," and "7," is an excellent way to incorporate traditional things. In Japan, we celebrate when we are "3 years old (female and male)," "5 years old (male)," and "7 years old (female)," because these numbers are considered "auspicious numbers." In addition, the "Shimenawa" displayed in shrines and the like is written as "753 ropes," and in any case, the game actively incorporates numbers that symbolize traditional culture for Japan.
There can never be too many games about unionizing. In The Hench Union Larp, voting is asymmetrical and never really "fair." But that's also not the point. Watching fun and interesting characters take on Management, in this case their supervillain boss, is the point.