What are your favorite hidden gems?

edited August 2017 in Story Games
Most of us have heard about great indie games like Fiasco or Microscope, but what about the great games that many of us haven't heard about? Or games that don't have the audience yet that they should? What are your favorite indie games that are less in the spotlight? What are the great games out there that arn't being played widely enough or being talked about enough, which we should all know about?

Please list your favorite hidden gems.

Note: Usually, I'm very much into folks listing thier own games—just because the game is your own and you're mentioning it doesn't mean it's not amazing or worthwhile—but just for this thread I think it's a good idea to hold off on that.

Comments

  • Chris Perrin's MECHA is a really clever little game that does exactly what it says on the tin, with a tightly themed scene-framing system and simple but satisfying tactical combat. I played the final third or so of a long running Heavy Gear campaign with MECHA, and it was just a joy to play after the clunky simulationism of Silhouette.
  • Soth

    Purchased. Thanks for the suggestion :smiley:
  • I love the pitch for Soth, but couldn't tell: is it "gmless"?? I'm mostly interested in games with distributed or shared narrative control...
  • These games may more well known, but I love "the final girl" available on drivethrurpg, and "poutine" sounds great but I haven't played it. I'm currently trying to figure out where to get me a mess of poutine...
  • Enantiodremia's old inofficial Fudge Buffy game is a hidden gem.

    Some games that are not hidden gems exactly but have some unrealized potential:
    • Everway (well known here on S-G but… a forerunner in so many ways)
    • MHR. Fell down on the prep part. Such an interesting rules system for superpowers, but you only got premade, linear adventures…?!?!! Imagine if the game on the GM side had been as good as on the player side. Even if all the adventures and the heroes had been premade, having them be less linear, more open ended but leading to an emergent conclusion would've been great. Like how Fiasco has its playset culture, MHR could've had its 'hero' and 'scenario' culture.
  • edited August 2017
    Some of these games, you probably heard me mention before. Here are some games that we tend to play in the Indie Room on Swedish conventions.

    English
    Alienòr. Sisterly friendship talking about the legendary Alienór. It creates a really specific feeling.

    The Coyotes of Chicago. One player, four game masters. Each game master has its own secret agenda, and each game master has to take what the others say into account. The playtest document contains holes that needs to be filled in, but the conflict resolution is ingenious.

    Kagematsu. Not enough talk about this one. Beautiful cover, and a really interesting way of creating scenes in this ronin tale. The game has a game master, but the "players" suggests scenes.

    Swedish
    Daughters of Verona. Perhaps you didn't know that you could improvise a Shakespearean comedy that is actually funny? Well, with this game you can.

    Supercrew. It's a silver age superhero game, as a comic. 'nuff said. This game has a game master but has a really high amount of player influence.

    Svart av kval, vit av lust (in Swedish). Uses the Swedish fish tank theory, that creates intrigues through a mindmap. It's what Vampire should've been. Hopefully soon coming in English.

    French
    Psychodrame (in French) Using Dogs in the Vineyard mechanic, but card based, and creating social conflict by guiding how they are played out. Using the same character creation principle as Alienór. Well worth checking out, just to be able to play French social-realism in a really slow pace. (And I hated slow pace before I tried this game.)
  • edited August 2017
    @Rickard, thanks for mentioning The Coyotes of Chicago; I had yet to hear about the new game from the creator of The Shadows of the Trees. Peter really has a way with naming titles; I have an education in, an interest in, and have been exposed to a lot of, literature, and I think his titles are great—for whatever that's worth haha :smiley:

    I think I'm going to finally have to buy Daughters of Verona. I own all of Wilhelm's other games, but I've always held off on DoV because I just didn't think the subject matter was to my taste. However, the more I think about it the more I realize that I often enjoy certain setting and themes in gaming that I initially didn't think I would. I've just heard too many good things about it to resist it any longer :smiley: Thanks for your suggestions; I very much appreciate them :smiley:
  • I love the pitch for Soth, but couldn't tell: is it "gmless"?? I'm mostly interested in games with distributed or shared narrative control...
    There's a GM-type role and players with Player Characters, but everyone gets to contribute to the world.
  • These games may more well known, but I love "the final girl" available on drivethrurpg, and "poutine" sounds great but I haven't played it. I'm currently trying to figure out where to get me a mess of poutine...
    Poutine is free to download, and Adam Robichaud (the designer) is working on a new version as I type this. The current and future beta versions will be here:
    http://apo.calypti.ca/poutine/
  • Probably not hidden, but perhaps forgotten:

    Zombie Cinema - I can't think of a better introduction game to story gaming. And once you have played it one or two times you can change it into a generic natural disaster movie RPG with like 5 minutes of work. It is limited in scope, but it does that kind of survival stories very well.

    The Shadow of Yesterday (and Solar System, which is the rules from TSoY broken out and expanded into a generic system) - Traditional gaming with GM and players. Skills, stats, all very generic. And then BAM! Keys and Secrets which turns it into something so much more. Good game if you have a trad group who are a bit story curious, but not ready to make the leap into full blown story gaming.
  • Speaking of Daughters of Verona... @Wilhelm I want to buy the DoV book from Hulu but don't want to cut the cards out...do you have a way to get the PDF at a discount if I purchase the book...I know I could have PMed you but since someone mentioned it as a hidden gem I figured I would bring some more attention to it for newer members ...plus I want everyone to list more of the "hidden gem" games, haha. Please let me know when you have a sec :smiley:
  • I think you're long since caught up on all the games I can recommend based on actual play, Jeff. I did read a very cool game called Run Robot Red that I don't think I've mentioned to you yet, though.
  • Send me a photo of yourself, proudly brandishing the book and I will send you a pdf in return.
  • edited August 2017
    Awesome, thanks Wilhelm! I just ordered it from Lulu; I will send you a photo when I comes :-) thanks again :-)
  • Okult and Society of Dreamers never get enough love, nor does Amidst Endless Quiet.
  • I like "The society of dreamers", too.
  • I wish "Swords Without Master" and "Wolfspell", both by Epidiah Ravachol, came up more often, as I see them as funções, elegant, and evocative pieces of design.
  • Let's see... This is all obviously subjective, but here are some picks that I feel have a generally low [fame]/[quality] ratio. The list is long-ish (and could easily be made even longer) because there's a huge number of great games out there that deserve more attention than they get.

    Agon
    Bacchanal
    Best Friends
    Bliss Stage
    Capes
    Covenant
    The Dance and the Dawn
    Dead of Night
    Death's Door
    Drifter's Escape
    Elfs
    How to Host a Dungeon
    It Was a Mutual Decision
    Kagematsu
    kill puppies for satan
    Labyrinths & Lycanthropes
    Legends of Alyria
    MSG
    Nine Worlds
    Orx
    Perfect
    Poison'd
    Primitive
    Remember Tomorrow
    Serial Homicide Unit
    Society of Dreamers
    Sons of Liberty
    Space Rat
    Spione
    Time & Temp
    Urchin
    With Great Power

    I created the above list by taking a list of old story games from last decade and picking those that have not had much attention in the recent years (does not necessarily indicate a flop, merely that it seems to lack staying power), but that nevertheless possess remarkable audience appeal or design merit. I left out titles that are "classics" (mentioned a lot) or popular (played a lot), of course.

    Also - I could simplify the list considerably by just putting "every Ron Edwards game" in there. His games don't get nearly as much play as they deserve, as far as I can see.
  • Sons of Liberty is so much fun it's ridiculous.
  • Hi Eero, if you have a sec, do you mind letting me know which of the games below, out of the GMless ones, are your favorites and run the best? Thanks :smiley:

    Best Friends
    Covenant
    The Dance and the Dawn
    Dead of Night
    Death's Door
    How to Host a Dungeon
    It Was a Mutual Decision
    kill puppies for satan
    Labyrinths & Lycanthropes
    Legends of Alyria
    MSG
    Nine Worlds
    Orx
    Perfect
    Primitive
    Serial Homicide Unit
    Sons of Liberty
    Space Rat
    Urchin
    With Great Power
  • Let's see, these are the GMless ones of the lot (that I remember - some it's been over a decade since I last considered them):

    Best Friends (?)
    Death's Door
    How to Host a Dungeon (solo game)
    It Was a Mutual Decision
    Labyrinths & Lycanthropes
    Serial Homicide Unit (?)
    Sons of Liberty

    Although these are all legit, I'll pick the two that I would find most inspiring and effortless to take for a drive as of this writing:

    It Was a Mutual Decision
    Serial Homicide Unit

    My third pick would be a tie between Best Friends, Death's Door, How to Host a Dungeon and Labyrinths & Lycanthropes. The former two are non-geeky drama games, while the latter two are dungeoneering games, both of which may not be to your tastes.

    Sons of Liberty gets last place not because it's bad, but because it's sort of finicky and rough. Very much a designer's game, as it is also ambitious and has an unique vision. The best comparison for its virtues that I can think of is Robin Law's Rune, another game with an unique and ambitious vision that perhaps makes the game just a tad too weird to ever be truly easy and popular. Sort of like if Polaris was just that tiny, teeny bit more weird [grin].
  • Eero, is there a reason you omitted S/law w/Me and Dust Devils from your list? Do you consider those "popular" games, or is it for some other reason?
  • Yeah, they got considered popular. This sort of thing is quite hit and miss, isn't it?
  • edited August 2017
    I hear about S/lay/w/Me all the time, so it must have sparked some peoples imagination. I wouldn't call it a "hidden" gem, as much as it is just straightforwardly a gem.
  • I thought Serial Homicide Unit had a GM. Maybe it's just that I played with a big group, so the facilitator didn't play a character...? Either way, cool game!
  • I thought Serial Homicide Unit had a GM. Maybe it's just that I played with a big group, so the facilitator didn't play a character...? Either way, cool game!
    Serial Homicide Unit is designed to be facilitated by a recorded voice. A script is provided, though, thus it makes sense, in the absence of a CD player (or if not all players are native English speakers: understanding a recorded voice ranks hard amongst ESL skills!) for a human to read the rules aloud, thus "playing the part of the CD player". Might that be what happened at your table?
  • edited August 2017
    For me, one of the hidden gems of indie games is Solipsist (Edit: fixed. can't spell myself out of a paper bag). A very elegant diceless implementation of a Mage-like game. It is a GMful game, btw, but the core mechanic could work as a GMLess game if you took an approach like Shock's.
  • Thanks, Rafu! Indeed, we had no CD player.

    Jeff, I haven't played Solipsist, but now that Dreamer mentions it, it does strike me as the sort of game you'd enjoy reading.
  • @Dreamer and @David_Berg
    Gosh darn it, you guys made me buy another game. Solipsist looks really interesting. Thanks :smiley:
  • Hope you enjoy it. I was, and still am, impressed with the clean, elegant diceless mechanic.
  • (re Solipsist, I highly recommend the "Shadows don't exist, it's just solipsist vs solipsist" option from the back of the book. It makes it an entirely different -- and in my mind far more interesting -- game)
  • (re Solipsist, I highly recommend the "Shadows don't exist, it's just solipsist vs solipsist" option from the back of the book. It makes it an entirely different -- and in my mind far more interesting -- game)
    Very cool! Thanks Ben! :smiley:
  • I will second both The Shadows of the Trees and The Coyotes of Chicago. Haven't played them yet, but I whipped up a generic ruleset for them. Might wanna try my hand at adjusting it to a more traditional format (GM and players).
  • edited August 2017
    Maid RPG ! The setting may be a bit "unusual". Still, I think no other RPG sessions made me laugh and enjoy myself that much as Maid RPG.

    Hillfolk (DramaSystem) is also a gem hidden in plain sight.

    Deniable is an almost unknown light PbtA game that is a lot of fun.

    I am also looking forward to playing Soth and Final Girl.
  • Thanks for pointing out Deniable. There's something about it that looks very familiar to me. I can't quite put my finger on it...
  • I'm not sure what's 'hidden' or not, so I'll just list the smaller things I enjoy:

    Final Girl - The Gauntlet podcast kept mentioning it, then after what felt like an age of frustration, Bret Gillen re-released it. I've played it a couple of times and it's great fun. It replicates slasher horror with a stack of shared characters being picked off by the killer (a rotating GM).
    One Ugly Motherfucker - Predator, basically. Ham it up as beefy action movie characters being picked off by a monster. Erika Chappell's made a series of Arnie-based games like "To Hell With You" where you're boastful barbarians turning a wheel or "Abort Retry Fail" where you play the malfunctioning subroutines in a totally-not-a-Terminator.
    Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne - One player is a witch, captured and being taken to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne to be killed. The other players escort her. It's introspective, sinister and a really interesting experience. The witch secretly determines before play starts whether they're guilty or not and the players have to work out whether to go through with the execution or not.
    What Ho, World! - Kind of like a charming Fiasco, with a few more mechanics. You all play whimsical gentlemen and ladies getting into scrapes. You have relationships, a few abilities, goals and resources. You can use your abilities and 'token' cards in your hand to solve problems, unlocking more abilities as you go. Despite all of these mechanics, it plays a tight 2 hr game. There's also a wizardly version, "Wizards Aren't Gentlemen"
    Ten Candles - A tragic horror game where the world is falling apart quietly, covered in shadow. You use ten tea lights and some water to frame passing time and growing darkness. I've not played it yet, but it looks beautiful when I see pictures of people's sessions.

    I back a few people on Patreon, specifically because they make weird, interesting games. Caitlynn Belle and Jackson Tegu are two such people. Some games they do are fascinating just to read (Caitie's latest game is genuinely for 0 players), some are interesting solo experiences (Follow and A Real Story), then there's a plethora of weird and wonderful games from them both (Jackson has a game where you all bring real world books which power the magic system, also one where you play buildings, Caitie has people wanting to bang a spaceship, played using an email inbox or where you're on office chairs for a zero-g airing of grievances in a relationship).

    Bully Pulpit has a ton of free games you can find on their site. We are Here to see the Evil Wizard Kormakur is a hidden identity fantasy RPG which is played in about an hour. Death School is a Lady Blackbird 80's action movie hack. There's also the paid solo game "Metal Showcase 11pm" which is fantastic.

    Grant Howitt posts a free one-page RPG on his Patreon (and later on Twitter) once a month. They include post apocalyptic messengers, bears committing crimes, big gay orcs and recently the spirits of a small village in the south of England in the 1960's.
  • Thanks for pointing out Deniable. There's something about it that looks very familiar to me. I can't quite put my finger on it...
    Yes, I have the same feeling :smile: (maybe the random tales remind me of Lasers & Feellings?)

  • Also - I could simplify the list considerably by just putting "every Ron Edwards game" in there. His games don't get nearly as much play as they deserve, as far as I can see.
    Yeah. I'm starting to feel kind of like the Indie-OSR. Remember all those games we played in 2003? How come we don't play them any more! Let's play them again!

    Sorcerer
    Elfs (the first OSR game, in a way)
    Trollbabe
    Shadows
    The Pool / The Questing Beast
    Donjon (the second OSR game, in a way)
    Universalis
    InSpectres

    And, man, I would love to play me some Space Rat! Don't suppose you could be persuaded to run a game, Eero?

    - N
  • Space Rat would be interesting, yes. Not at all impossible a bit later in the fall...
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