Comfort food is food that provides nostalgic or sentimental value to someone. It may remind them of someone special, a time in their life, or a place they remember. I think games have this sort of resonance for a lot of us. I know it does for me. These are the games that I return to time and again or games that I will always play if my schedule allows. I’m sure others have their games as well.
Dungeons and Dragons
Obviously. I mean it’s the game I (and many others) cut our teeth on. It’s where most of our “no shit there I was” stories come from. Many of my formative gaming years were spent playing D&D, running D&D or planning to run D&D. It’s a sense of familiarity and a return to the basics that speaks to us and a good D&D game is an absolutely amazing time. It can offer something for everyone. Political intrigue? Sure. Monster stomping? Yup. Big Damn Heroes fighting the ultimate evil? Absolutely? Small, interpersonal games of found family making their way in the world? Definitely. There is a reason the game is as popular as it is and it’s something I can always go back to either to play or to run.
Let’s be clear – Shadowrun is a game I enjoy despite the system. I honestly can’t remember the last time there was a good edition of the rules and the less said about 6th the better. The setting though is awesome and carries 98% of the weight of the game. The cyberpunk trappings mashed together with the fantasy elements is just pure gold. One day they will have a system that works well and honestly they really just need to take the parts that do work in the various editions (because no edition does more than one or two things right) and rebuild it around those. Unfortunately the current license holder seems to have little interest in actually making a good game.
The original Torg is definitely a child of the 90s. Weird concepts, significant power creep, bazillion sourcebooks, niche mechanics but it was fun. Torg Eternity, released via Kickstarter a few years ago, streamlined everything and kept what made the original game so much fun. The mash up of genres, the surprisingly deep lore and the special cards players (and GMs) can use to manipulate the story. It all works so well. You can have a Victorian monster hunter teaming up with a cybernetically enhanced knight and a potent psychic to stop a mad scientist from resurrecting the mummy of his ancient love. If that doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend a few hours with your friends I don’t know what to tell you.
I can’t think of any game that hits the same notes Deadlands does. You can play it as a straight up western and it would work pretty well. Adding in the other elements – horror, steampunk, alternate history and it becomes something truly special. I love any game that can switch seamlessly between a old fashioned train robbery and some Cthulhu-seque horror catching the players as unaware as the characters. Additionally, for a game that’s a quarter century old, it has one of the best metaplots in RPGs. How this hasn’t been adapted for a TV show is beyond me.
Also, this cannot be stressed enough, Deadlands classic or bust. Reloaded is okay if you have no choice but Deadlands d20 is like Highlander 2. No true fan acknowledges its existence.
The newest game, for me, on the list is this ode to classic hex crawls from Fria Ligan. The rules are simple but there is a good amount of depth. It rewards smart play and really dives in to the style of game play known as “hexploration”. Due to it’s roots being outside of North America there are some very different takes on races, fantasy religions and other things that make it a truly different game and not just a D&D clone. It’s the sort of game, after playing for 26 sessions in our streaming game, that I can definitely say I’d be up for another game either as a player or a GM.