The Indie Game Developer Network recently released 2023’s batch of tabletop RPG award winners in several categories, and many of the winners are titles that should be familiar to regular Dicebreaker readers.
The annual IGDN Groundbreaker Awards are designed to “shine a spotlight on excellence in the indie game design community”, according to the organisation’s website. The public submits RPGs they feel are worthy of recognition, and the winners are selected from this pool by a panel of judges consisting of two IGDN members and two outside experts.
The overall top award, Game of the Year, was given to Slugblaster: Kickflip Over a Quantum Centipede. First featured on Dicebreaker back in 2020, Mikey Hamm’s ode to youthful rebellion, saturday morning cartoon aesthetics and doing rad shit with your friends has been cooking in the background. The full release uses a lightweight Forged in the Dark system to empower collaborative storytelling - mostly pulling off stunts in other dimensions - within a sandbox setting sure to please your inner teenager.
Most Innovative Game went to Cassi Mothwin and Joshua Peters’ The Sticker Game. Solo tabletop RPGs have been enjoying a prolonged moment of popularity over the last couple of years, but this title definitely earns its Groundbreaker honour by asking players to use forgotten stickers found around their home to unlock doorways to alternate realities where they will assist a weirdo agency and manage their own emotional baggage.
Julie-Anne Muñoz’s Dinocar took home the prize for Best Art this year. A cross between mapmaking RPGs and abstract art project, Dinocar embraces chaos and mess. Players are colossal lizards who must drive a car on a shared road trip, but first they must map out their journey using a collection of art supplies. Mess and mistakes are part of Dinocar’s appeal, and the collaborative artefact that emerges from the other side will be a tapestry of stories, laughter and wicked cleverness.
The award for best graphic design went to Brian Sago’s Butter Princess, with design by Mike Martens. This Rooted in Trophy game (meaning it derives its essential rules from the dark fantasy Trophy RPG) leaves medieval forests behind and takes players to the Minnesota State Faire. Described as a play-to-tragedy experience with a heavy theme of indulgence, players will either assist or solve the thievery of a 90-pound sculpture composed entirely of butter.
Storybrewers’ Saltfish and Almanacs won the Best Rules award. The designers of Good Society, Vee Hendro and Hayley Gordon, created Saltfish and Almanacs alongside three other RPG titles in their Littlebox series - the quartet all use cards and other lightweight implements to play and fit inside travel-sized tuckboxes. In this game, players portray merchants travelling a shared route, leaving indelible marks along their journey and witnessing the changes wrought by other players passing through their lives.
The Best Setting Award went to Gubat Banwa, an ambitious tabletop RPG world and original ruleset heavily inspired by Southeast Asian culture and fantasy. Markedly different from Western influences, Joaquin Kyle Saavedra’s Gubat Banwa is a mixture of Final Fantasy Tactics, Game of Thrones and various war dramas. The art direction from Dylan Bryones paints a world of living legends, romantic heroism and villainy and a Filipino-centric understanding of superstitions, violent traditions and interpersonal conflict set against the backdrop of war.
More information about all of 2023’s winners, as well as those game that were nominated earlier this year, can be found on IGDN’s website. That list is a serious list of heavy hitting titles that just aren’t big enough to garner mainstream attention. IGDN has consistently highlighted some of the best ideas and most ambitious designs in the hobby, and this slate of winners continues that tradition.