Games Review 2021: It Could Have Ended Better

Gaming Review of the Year 2022

It’s been the same for everyone, a solid year of online gaming. Well, almost. There was a little face-to-face thrown in towards the end before it all went wrong again, but mostly online. When I look back on this year, I think, on reflection, I will remember the sadness towards the end rather than the great games I had throughout it. That may be giving away the plot, but this year doesn’t have a very upbeat ending, gaming-wise.

The Stats

141 sessions were had this year, down from 169 last year and reflecting the relaxation of lockdown and the return to something approaching a normal gaming pace maybe? In terms of frequency, I was clocking in between 10-14 sessions a month, except for December when everything just fell apart and I managed only 3.

Of those 141 games, I GM’d 52 (37%). 17 (12%) were one-shots and 19 (13%) were face-to-face. This year’s Milner Ration was 44%. He’s still stalking me…

In terms of genre, Urban Fantasy (28) beat out Fantasy (26). SF (25) and History (21) with Horror, Western, Supers, Comedy and Mystery also seeing play.

In terms of who GM’d for me, Guy (24) just pipped Gaz (23) to the title. There were many others!

In terms of system, PBTA still reigns supreme (30) over Liminal (21) and the surprise return of D&D (14) after last year’s total hiatus.

(I’ve grouped some one-shots together under just a system name here, to save the sprawl!)

The Games That I Ran

I started the year cleaning up the mess of the previous and finishing The Great American Witch. I tried to run Call of Cthulhu but it just never landed for me, especially online. I’ve been running a P Division centred campaign of Liminal all year which has proved to be a lot of fun and now, moving into the final third of the story, is really heating up. I’ve ran D&D – specifically Theros – for two groups. I’m not too sure about running D&D, just not sure at all. I’ve continued the playest of Duty & Honour 2e with a face-to-face group, and even ran my old Fate Supers ‘Brittanics’ scenario one more time. At the end of the year, I started a short campaign of Righteous Blood, Ruthless Blades.

At conventions, I ran the Last FleetStar Trek Adventures, Wrath and Glory, and a hilarious pick-up game of Fate Cats vs Cultists.

The Games That I Played

In much the same way as running games, the year started with the clean up of a few campaigns that had lingered over Christmas – Mage 20Fate Shogun and Shadow of the Demon Lord (Gorm, the Orc Warrior). We played – and have returned to – a great Star Trek Adventures Campaign (Captain Ezra Alessandro) – and we eventually, across the year, finished our epic Werewolf Accelerated campaign (Redclaw) in a bitter sweet finale. Despite being rudely interrupted by childbirth of all things the Cloudy Brook Academy (Auspicious Panda) wuxia hack of Fate Dresden continues into 2022, as does our now cross-timezone game of Star Wars Scum and Villainy (Mika Chen)

I finally got to play ‘proper’ Hot War (Billy), and Barbarians of LemuriaBrindlewood BayEdge of Empire. We played an excellent campaign of Deadlands Reloaded (Cinnamon O’Haire), The Between (Galverston), World Wide Wrestling (Joey Diamond) and I was part of an live online ongoing game for the first time in Liminal (Prof. Caine Moore)

At cons, I played Bounty HuntersTimeSlice and The Last Fleet and as one shots I squeezed in Exalted, Sentinels, Icons, WFRP, Vampire 5e, Agon, 7th Sea and even Starfinder. Hell, I even tried out some cooperative GM-less gaming with Ironsworn.

What were the high points?

I’ve played a lot of Liminal this year and have really enjoyed it. Both campaigns have been great for different reasons, and I’m looking forwards to the explosive ending the P Division game. Star Trek Adventures continues to be one of my favourite games to play and really is one of the best emulative games out there. The sheer hilarity and synergy of four people who love professional wrestling playing World Wide Wrestling was a Saturday morning joy. Deadlands Reloaded allowed me to thoroughly explore Savage Worlds and play a bad ass gunslinger at the same time. Being on a Twitch show was a lot of fun and I am intrigued about GMing on one maybe next year.

What were the low points?

I’ve become even more hypercritical about my GMing as the year has gone on, and it has got to the point where I am purposefully avoiding GMing online now if I can. Which is silly really, but it’s how things have slid. I’m finding it harder and harder to ‘read the screen’.

The real downside to the year, as foreshadowed in the introduction, has been the apparent death of our home gaming group after 21 years of play. With one player moving to Australia in January, and there seeming to be little appetite for anything even resembling regular play from even my extended family of local gamers, it looks like we either fold it, or start again from scratch. That’s something I might have done when I was 30 and face-to-face gaming was the only show in town, but now I’m 50 and online gaming is here to stay, it seems like a lot of work for little guaranteed return.

And that’s a real shame because that group has shaped my gameplay like no other and given me some of my favourite gaming moments across the years. The charge of the Crimson Flame in battle against the great Shadow in 3e, the saga of the pink inflatable chair in Buffy, the Pennville episode of Smallville, the grand finale of our 4e campaign, my favourite character ever – Morgan Morrigan – in Dresden Accelerated and of course, the rise of the Werebears in Werewolf Accelerated. It’s a shared history of games that many would envy, but I had hoped would be added to.

What makes it worse still is that my *other* local group seems to have gone the same way too, although that one may still be resuscitated under the auspices of a monthly D&D-focused club at a local theatre. We shall see…

So lots of gaming, lots of thinking, and lots of changing landscapes. What about you?

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