‘Tis the season. With this being the last weekday of the year, it only figures that this post would be some kind of 2022 retrospective. In this case, this retrospective is going to be about my gaming this past year. In addition to some summaries, I am going to add some gaming insights I learned throughout the year.
So how was my gaming in 2022? Overall really good, and some of the best gaming post-Lockdown.
Here are the games I played this year:
- Aux (Cortex Homebrew)
- Long Live the Queen (Cortex Homebrew)
- Night’s Black Agents
- D&D 5e
- Solar Rangers (Cortex Homebrew — 2 one-shots)
- Brindlewood Bay (one session as a Guest Star)
Aux, Long Live The Queen, and Night’s Black Agents were games I ran throughout the whole year. Aux and Night’s Black Agents are bi-weekly, and Long Live The Queen was weekly. My D&D game is a new campaign that started playing this Fall and is meeting bi-weekly as well.
The Year of Cortex Prime
This year, I played a lot of Cortex Prime. It has become my favorite “generic” system. I really enjoy its narrative components with the dice pool mechanics. It is the kind of mix for me that allows me to play out stories that fit the genres I am running while maintaining some mechanical crunch that allows for interesting mechanic-based decisions.
For a long time, Fate was my go-to system when I wanted to make up a game based on some media, ideas, etc. While I still enjoy Fate quite a bit, I see Cortex taking over as my go-to system when I want to create a certain type of game. Its modular system allows for greater customization, allowing me to fine-tune the mechanics to fit the game I want to run.
Game Summaries and Lessons Learned
For my three most played campaigns, here are some takeaways from this past year.
Aux – The Game Without Combat
Aux is a sci-fi game about super geniuses traveling around the galaxy and helping people. It also has a meta-story about the past and the super-advanced civilization that went extinct.
What I enjoy the most about this game, was that at the start, when we built the game we decided that there would be no combat. We did not include any combat skills, mechanics, etc. In my 40 years of GMing, I have never played a campaign without combat, until now.
The game has exceeded all my expectations. With some custom modifications to the Cortex system, we were able to build a game where using Science was exciting. I am beyond thrilled that this game is just about helping people and solving scientific mysteries, and still remains interesting in terms of drama and suspense as well as mechanically interesting as the players make their rolls.
- You can run a whole campaign where combat is not the solution to any problem, and never comes up in the game, and have the game be exciting.
- Just In Time Campaign Design. Part of what I love about this game is that there are many parts of the campaign that I did not plan out until the last minute. In fact, I am not even sure how the campaign will play out because I am waiting to see how the players react to an upcoming story.
For 2023 – This campaign is heading into Act 3 and will end sometime in the new year. I am excited for it to play out. After the campaign is done, we are going to see what we can do about making Aux a published Cortex game (no promises, just intentions).
NBA – Playing the Full Conspiracy
Years ago, I ran a failed Night’s Black Agents (NBA) campaign, where the characters had only started to uncover the conspiracy before the game fell apart. I was not sure that I would ever get a chance to play a full campaign of it again. Then, in 2021, one of my groups picked it for our next game.
We played the campaign this whole year, uncovering layer after layer of the Vampire’s conspiracy. There were gunfights, chases, infiltrations, and more than one vampire encounter. As we wrapped for the year, the characters are in possession of a Vampire bio-weapon and are making plans to bring down the whole Vampire conspiracy in Europe.
- Getting to play out a full NBA campaign is highly satisfying. I know people play one-shots of this game, but it truly shines as a campaign. The ability to uncover the conspiracy and all of its tendrils creates great satisfaction.
- It is a hard game to remain in character. NBA requires so much analysis and synthesizing of data that it pulls players out of character space and into player space. I find that my games are about 40% in character and 60% the players discussing the clues, conspiracy, etc.
- Sometimes the players win. There were two operations where the character’s plan was so well-thought-out and executed, that they just got away without any vampires attacking. That was ok. It was tense enough to see if they could pull it off, there was no need to force a combat scene for work that was so well done.
For 2023 – This campaign will be wrapping up before Spring. The story is advancing quickly to a vampire showdown.
Long Live The Queen – A One-On-One Campaign
This game was originally a Thirsty Sword Lesbians game that wasn’t working because of the more espionage nature of the stories we were telling, so in 2022 we re-tooled the game for Cortex Prime. The end result was much more of what we were looking for.
As a Cortex game, we built it for the style of game we wanted to play, creating a Prime Set (stats) that matched our desired tones. We went lighter on the mods with just a few to make combat a bit more drawn out.
This game is a one-on-one game, and the first one-on-one campaign I have ever run. Overall the campaign has been a delight, we have played through a few missions and have had our share of intrigue, combat, seduction, and espionage.
- We play shorter sessions. A one-on-one game is more of a cognitive load on its player than the GM. In fact, as the GM, it is somewhat less of a cognitive load since I don’t have to manage a group of people. The player is under the spotlight the whole session. As such, we tend to play 90-120 min sessions, and still get through a good amount of material.
- The Main Character needs strong NPCs. Since our main character can’t do it all, they have a pair of competent NPCs as part of their team. They have character-level stats and not only fill in for skill deficits but also act as support for combat scenes.
For 2023 – This game is chugging along, and for the foreseeable future, we will keep playing it. I have a few story arcs in mind, and it can keep going as long as we are having fun.
2022 Overall Grade: A
Overall this year has been a strong year for gaming and did a lot to re-invigorate me after Lockdown. This was a year of stable campaigns. This meant that I got to run multiple sessions of three good campaigns, but it also meant fewer games played.
In fact, this year is the year I feel the most disconnected from what is new and hot in gaming. A number of good games came out in 2022, and I have not been checking them out because I have stable campaigns that are running.
On top of that, my to-be-playing stack is made up of some games from the past few years that I want to get to the table, but I have not had the chance. I will get to play them eventually, but I am fortunate to have stable campaigns, so I am going to enjoy them while I have them, and play them until they are done.
Your Year In Review
How was your 2022, game-wise? What did you get to play? What are you hoping to play next year?
Poppy Playtime is the most amazing game I ever played during 2022.