Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.
An impact you say? What kind of impact?
The past year has been an enlightening one. I’ve found that the more that you look into this hobby, the more riddles & enigmas you discover. Often the games & how we interact with them & the other people show you things about yourself, and about the complexity and diversity of human nature. ~ But this blog entry isn’t about that…
A bunch of games crossed my radar this year, but one has stood out in terms of “impact” for me this year ~ Hollow Earth Expedition. Written by Jeff Combos of Exile Game Studio, HEX (as it is often called) is a pulp adventure RPG set in 1936. A Raiders of the lost Ark vibe complete with Nazis, dinosaurs, and a mix of the real world with the supernatural in whatever ratio you wish is as good of a description of the game as any.
Although my experience with the game and with the Ubiquity system which powers it has gone on for more than just the past 12 months, HEX is still the best answer for this year based upon my experiences. ~ This RPG has been consistently enjoyable and satisfying every time I’ve been a player or a GM. The experience is fairly reliable, and that’s not as easily done as one might imagine.
I know, the question didn’t ask which game was the most enjoyable or satisfying, but hang on. If you pay attention you’ll see where the impact fits in.
If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that I’m dreadfully ignorant of the depth of some genres. I like “pulp” in it’s various incarnations, but I have not read or otherwise experienced much. A lot of this literature & media is on my “to do” list. ~ However, reading this game I instantly knew the vibe Combos was going for. The tropes are obvious & compelling.
The impressive part is that the system itself does a great job of creating the feel that the flavor text of the game suggests. Ubiquity is a system that excels when all hell breaks lose. And break loose it shall ~ as long as the GM and the players keep the genre in mind. This isn’t that hard. As a GM you just need to give the characters about as much rest as Indiana Jones ever got, and as a player you need to be be willing to go to absurd lengths to push your character in the direction of their strengths, while playing up their weaknesses.
The great thing is that the system rewards & encourages that sort of play. It takes some getting used to, but the more you do it, the more natural and “right” it seems, and as a result you end up creating the exact kind of fiction you signed on for when you decided to play the game. ~ HEX is an impressively good match of intended genre & system. It’s not over the top super heroic, (characters are human and more fragile than in some other games), but it’s not gritty & unforgiving either. For me it’s a “Goldilocks Zone” RPG.
After all, this is a blog about me right? ~ The past year has been full of discovery, & part of that discovery is what play experiences feel the most natural and satisfying to me. While it’s too simplistic to say that I like or prefer one feel, I have discovered that I gravitate to a few types more than others. I can see where on the various spectra I lie compared to my friends.
As I’ve consistently discovered, HEX is one of those RPGs which creates or supports one of my favorite types of gaming experience. Even the character creation is a win for me. They instantly become something special. ~ I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed not only all of my characters, but I’ve also really enjoyed all of the characters that the other players brought to the table, either by my side or when I have been on the other side of the metaphorical screen.
So I get two impacts for the price of one. HEX continues to reinforce the concept of system reinforcing & co-creating genre in a powerful way. My experiences continue to bear this out. At the same time, I have discovered one of those spots in the RPG landscape which feels like “home”. ~ While I’m always hopeful that my friends will find the same enjoyment with it that I do, the experience also makes me open to trying their favorites which produce a genre via system as well.
Hey that’s three impacts ~ Buy two, get one free.