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Games of the Year 2020: Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall co-creator Banana Chan

From games about a magician's dog to RPGS about eroticism, here are Banana Chan's favourite Games of this year.

Banana Chan has written for RPGs such as Kids on Bikes and multiple releases of The Golden Cobra Anthology, as well as co-designed board games like Scooby-Doo: Betrayal at Mystery Mansion. Their latest game is a horror RPG called Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall that releases next year.

Xenolanguage

Xenolanguage game artwork

I've always been a huge fan of Thorny Games and when I heard they're coming out with another game about language, I was ecstatic to get a chance to play it. It's a storytelling roleplaying game, where players are trying to decipher what aliens are attempting to tell them through symbols. Though players are trying to learn about the aliens, they end up learning more about themselves and their relationships. Think the movie Arrival (2016) in terms of tone played on a cool board requiring players to move to different symbols to communicate (like on a Ouija board).

Find Xenolanguage on Kickstarter.

Have I Been Good?

Have I Been Good artwork

In this epistolary game for two players: you play with your dog. Yes, your dog is the other player. A touching, emotional, connective game, Have I Been Good? imagines the player as a magician casting a spell to communicate with their dog. You write letters back and forth over the course of a full day spent engaged in bonding activities with your most loyal companion, and discover the goodness they see in you along the way. (Insert crying face emoji here).

Find Have I Been Good on Itch.io.

Visigoths vs. Mall Goths

Visigoths vs Mall Goths artwork

If you've ever watched The Craft, Empire Records or Clueless and was like "I want that to be in a weird game, but with some extra added romance," then this ENnie-nominated tabletop roleplaying game is for you. Set in a shopping mall in '90s LA, players flirt with one another, while goofing off, with challenges. I'm all about that kind of silly humor, so if that's something you're interested in, definitely check this one out from Lucian Kahn!.

Find Visigoths vs. Mall Goths on Itch.io and Indie Press Revolution.

Honey & Hot Wax

Honey and Hot Wax artwork

An Anthology of Erotic Art Games: For a collection of roleplaying games, you might want to check out this anthology! With games that explore sexuality and intimacy with a focus on consent, Sharang Biswas and Lucian Kahn have gathered a lot of really interesting and exciting games from a diverse team of designers!

Find Honey & Hot Wax on Pelgrane Press.

Tattoo Stories

Tattoo Stories artwork

Moving to a digital platform has been quite tricky this year, so finding games to play online easily is a bit of a challenge. Luckily, with Tattoo Stories, I was able to pick it up and play easily over Zoom. It's a party game with drawing elements, where you're trying to make the best tattoo design based on some word prompts for another player who's acting as the client. Eric Slauson definitely made this one very accessible to play even over webcam!

Find Tattoo Stories on Bicycle Cards.

Alice is Missing

Now that we're all playing at home, we're seeing more live action online games take the stage! One that I really enjoyed (and had some bleed to unpack after) was Alice is Missing. Players are teens trying to find their missing friend, Alice and the game is played through text messages. Spenser Starke did not hold back on making this an emotionally intense experience!

Find Alice is Missing on Hunters Entertainment.

Golden Cobra Challenge

Long Time Listener and Last Time Caller

Speaking of live action online games, I've found myself going through the Golden Cobra Challenge archives, looking for short one-shot larps to play. A couple of my favorites are Long Time Listener, Last Time Caller by Jeff Dieterle, where players are dialing into a radio station, as the GM takes calls (you can play through Discord easily), to simulate a daytime show, and As We Know it by Aven, where players are literally texting in a dark enclosed space (not recommended for anyone with claustrophobia), hiding from an alien invasion.

Find Last Time Caller on DriveThruRPG.

Note: The games I've noted take on an intense apocalyptic tone, so they're definitely not for everyone! I just personally enjoy games like that.

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