#53: Groundbreakers

I. Dear Reader,

This week, I’m really excited about the 2021 Indie Groundbreaker nominees! These are the awards handed out by the Indie Game Developer Network chosen by a rotating cast of judges. This year has a particularly great line-up! Compared to the Ennies (which was also announced this week), this list is way more my style.

But their announcement page is just a page with a list of games. No context or links or anything. So let me remedy that. Here are the nominees:

Our Mundane Supernatural Life: Nominated for Most Innovative, Best Rules and Game of the Year. From the designers of Good Society, it’s a cozy game about a supernatural person and their partner doing ordinary things like going to a shop. Now comes in a beautiful little box!

Space Goblins: Nominated for Best Art, Best Rules and Game of the Year. The most goblin-y goblin game you can imagine. And it’s in spaaace. You play goblins commanding a rickety ship as you salvage junks on your way to Junktopia.

Karunduun: Nominated for Best Setting and Game of the Year. A game about killing god inspired by Filipino culture and over-the-top anime action. I love this game’s overall aesthetic. The designer’s new game Gubat Banwa also seems awesome.

Mainframe: Nominated for Best Rules and Best Setting. A cyberpunk game based on the rules-light Tunnel Goons engine. You play as agents hunting rogue AI programs in a surreal cyberspace.

Beak, Feather & Bone: Nominated for Most Innovative. BFB is a “map-labelling” game that comes with a city map and players take turns describing each building and the factions that claim them. It’s a really neat worldbuilding game that also has an SRD and inspired a bunch of other games.

The Wizards and the Wastes: Nominated for Most Innovative. The nomination is almost definitely for the game’s really fun magic system. It asks you to take a book of your shelf and use it’s text as inspiration for your spells. You could also use a comic book, songs or poems. Pretty neat!

On the Wings of a Red Dragonfly: Nominated for Most Innovative. A game based on the Japanese Buddhist holiday of Obon. In the game, you play a family trying to a communicate with a spirit come back from the dead for the duration of the festival.

This Discord has Ghosts in it: Nominated for Most Innovative. A game played over discord where you go from room to room (channel to channel) looking for a ghost and the ghost, well, they do spooky things.

Crescendo Giocoso Ritornello: Nominated for Game of the Year. A collection of translated Italian LARPs that come with a vinyl record with music for every game. I hadn’t heard of it until now but it’s undoubtedly a very cool project.

Honey & Hot Wax: Nominated for Game of the Year. Another cool anthology project. Published by Pelgrane Press, this is a collection of games about sex and bodies. It’s got a really stellar list of contributors.

Visigoths vs Mall Goths: Nominated for Best Setting. Lucian Kahn has won a couple IGDN awards already I believe and his latest game continues the tradition. A game of conflict and romance among goths (of all kinds) in a mall.

Hounds of the Tsar: Nominated for Best Setting. The setting is 16th century Russia under the tsar, Ivan the Terrible. You play the tsar’s agents trying to catch traitors - which includes the other players!

Barrow Keep: Nominated for Best Setting. A system-agnostic old school fantasy setting where you play as young residents of a keep that’s full of treachery and intrigue.

Last Fleet: Nominated for Best Rules. Inspired by Battlestar Galactica, this is a game of humanity trying to survive an alien threat in the vast darkness of space. Black Armada Games are really good at PbtA and I’ve heard great things about this game.

Slayers: Nominated for Best Rules. A rules-light monster-hunting RPG that has asymmetric mechanics for each class. So each class feels really different in play. And there’s also a bunch of 3rd party classes on itch as well.

MoonPunk: Nominated for Best Art. Leftists on the moon fighting against the man!

No Stone Unturned: Nominated for Best Art. A worldbuilding game about a society rebuilding after collapse. There’s lots of innovative mechanics here - really strange that it was nominated in this category to be honest!

Sunken: Nominated for Best Art. Based on Trophy, this is a game of doomed sailors trying to get rich and instead dying in the depths of the sea.

Lutong Banwa: Nominated for Best Art. A cooking game where you play spirits going on adventures to find ingredients so they can make human recipes.

If you’re in the US and interested in picking up print editions, Floating Chair put together a really great storefront.

Yours fully blurbed and linked,


II. Listen of the Week

On the Draw Your Dice podcast, an interview with Kevin Nguyen on his game, Volley Boys!!, inspired by the anime, Haikyu. And lots of other things. I’m also personally super interesting in playing his other game, They Took Our War.

III. Links of the Week

IV. Small Ads

All links in the newsletter are completely based on my own interest. But to help support my work, this section contains sponsored links and advertisements. If you’d like your products to appear here, read the submission form.

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Hello, dear readers. This newsletter is written by me, Thomas Manuel. I’m half-man, half-beast, half-journalist, half-game designer.

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