Of course that is ridiculously far from being accurate.
Thanks in large part to the Internet connecting game developers in ways undreamed of not so long ago, and bolstered by access to dollars through crowdfunding, there are new games emerging on a near daily basis.
Try as one might to search sites such as Kickstarter.com and Boardgamegeek.com to find new games of interest we undoubtedly miss many.
But, sometimes you hit upon something that is new, quirky and simply intriguing.
Which brings us to the new game that has just been funded through Kickstarter in under two hours; Be Like a Crow.
The name catches the eye, so a mouse click to check it out more closely was a must.
“All you need is a pen and paper, a deck of playing cards, and your unbridled imagination to take flight. This Kickstarter is for a solo-RPG that will allow you to become a crow and do crowy things whilst journaling your experiences,” was near the top of the page.
The first thought was ‘unique weirdness’ to be truthful.
Reading farther down the page you actually play as a crow, or magpie, rook or jackdaw, with the raven added as a successful stretch goal – so basically the Corvid bird family noted for their intelligence.
You can choose from various settings too, cyber-crow, clockwork Corvid, gothic and high fantasy, so sort of the core genres of role-playing games.
Then with a deck of cards you play the solo game, writing your adventuring in a journal as you go.
The writer in me was interested although I have avoided journaling games because I write tons as it is, although there is an unpublished D&D tale we ran through in a binder in my game room.
Since the game is on Kickstarter, Be Like a Crow is still in development, but an email to its developer Tim Roberts and we had him agreeing to an interview via email.
Roberts is originally from the north of England but spent 15 years living in Spain before relocation back to the South West of England.
“I currently live in Somerset which is a pretty inspiring place,” he said. “We are not far from Glastonbury which is steeped in Arthurian mythology so I love to visit there for inspiration for my writing and games.
Given that Be Like a Crow is a solo RPG it’s not surprising Roberts is a fan of the genre.
“I started playing the red box edition of D&D in the mid ‘80s,” he said. “I was fortunate to have a cool maths teacher who ran sessions on lunchtime for a small group of me and my friends but, of course, we never told anyone we were into D&D back then. It simply wasn’t considered cool.”
Then Roberts grew up – some of us prefer not to as gamers.
“I had a large hiatus due to life but, about six years ago, whilst in a comic store I saw the starter set for 5th edition in a dark corner,” he said. “I bought it out of nostalgia, but soon found myself back down the rabbit hole.
“To say RPGs have changed my life is not a platitude.
“Not only have they become my full-time job, I’ve also made lots of new friends through them.
“They are also an important part of flexing my creative muscle and mental health as it allows me to escape from the stresses of life for several hours each week. I only wish I had more time to play.
“I’d add that it’s amazing now to see so many people getting into the hobby, both newcomers and people who are returning to it. It’s inspiring to see all the different communities who have embraced RPGs and how they are bringing new ideas into the ecosystem and the plethora of exciting new RPG ideas outside of D&D.”
But it’s a big step from getting back into D&D and writing a game of your own.
“Although I enjoy tabletop games, my gateway into game design was through writing one-shots for D&D,” said Roberts.
“During the pandemic I published my first one and I was amazed by the response it received. It gave me confidence to start writing more and experiment with creating my own creatures and magic items.
“With so many eyes on my work I knew that just having a good story wasn’t going to be enough, so I started deep diving into game mechanics; reading blogs, Reddits, books, anything I could get my hands on. I was a software developer for almost 20 years so, as much as I love the narrative side of game development, I suppose I was always going to be drawn towards the mechanic’s side at some point. I’d never really equated the two things, but that past career knowledge definitely helps when problem solving which is a big part of game development.”
Then along came the crow, a dive into something more Robert’s ‘own’.
“It’s the first one I’m happy to present to the public,” he related.
“Undoubtedly, a solo RPG is still in my comfort zone, but the truth is that there are other prototype games in my journals that I am going to work on once Crow is out in the world.
“I’d love to work on a co-op game because I think learning how to work together is what the world needs more of now. That said, I do have an idea for a card game in the works that is highly competitive. The working title is ‘The Secret Life of Rocks’.”
As a long time group player, solo gaming is still a rarity for me.
Sure I play solitaire, sometimes too much solitaire, and I remember shooting crokinole by myself listening to 8-track music growing up in an era of only two TV channels and being on a farm, no kids next door, and games such as Utopia Engine, Zombie in My Pocket are certainly fun, generally the social interaction of gaming is sought.
So why did Roberts go the solo route?
“Good question,” he replied. “There’s no one reason, but rather a few things that all came together.
“I’d always wanted to write a multiplayer RPG but it felt like a massive undertaking for my first project.
“Then, when the pandemic hit, I was thinking about all of those people who were stuck alone in lockdown and the strain that puts on mental health. Games are a great form of escapism, but with RPGs it’s scheduling a group of people to get together at the same time that is notoriously difficult.
“Then at UKGE, (a game event), this year my trader stand was opposite the stand for Colostle, another solo RPG created by Nich Angel. I had a good chat with him, bought his game, then the next day went out and scooped up another one called Apothecaria. It was a confluence of things that led me to writing my own, but those two games were definitely a big influence.”
So how did Roberts come to settle on players become birds?
“It started with a narrative, as all my ideas do,” he related. “I have no interest in creating a good set of rules and then trying to bolt on a concept. Story always comes first.
“I can’t remember exactly when I landed on a game about roleplaying a Corvid, but I do remember doing lots of research into crows in fantasy and reality. Once I knew there was enough scope for a host of settings and potential objectives I started thinking about rules.
“Actually, I think it came on the back of a one-shot I wrote called Lock-in at The Blind Raven. Plus, I’ve always loved crows, especially in literature. One of my favourite books is Grief is The Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. The way the crow in that is anthromorphosised is unlike anything I have ever read before — I’m sure in some subliminal way it steered me towards writing a game where corvids are centre-stage.”
But, rules are hard, to the point Roberts said they were the greatest challenge in creating the game.
“For me, they have to feel like an integral part of the story and not just a set of arbitrary constraints to gamify the narrative,” he said.
“From the outset, I decided that the rules had to serve the story that players would be creating. I worked top-down and started with lifecycles of a bird which are analogous to levels.
“Then I started thinking about how you transitioned through those lifecycles, always from the perspective of becoming a bird.
“Rules in an RPG are always going to be a tightrope of having enough to make it challenging, without constraining creativity, yet simple enough to learn.”
And, in the end what does the creator like best about his game.
“Two things really,” said Roberts. “Firstly, it’s a creative tool. I love to inspire creativity in people and I think Be Like a Crow does that. The game can only take you so far, your imagination has to do the rest.
“Secondly, you can start playing it in minutes. There are quite a few rules, but you can pick most of them up as you go along.
“Once you’ve started playing, the cards you draw will guide you.”