The 2023 Rosies


Welcome to Unscripted–a lighthearted, unrehearsed, and sometimes silly Q&A series with Rose Gauntlet Entertainment founders and tabletop game designers Isaac Vega and Lindsey Rode.

In this edition of Unscripted, it’s awards season, as we pick our gaming highlights of 2023.


Let’s get right into it -- Gaming Moment of the Year!

Lindsey: For a big Halloween party this year, I played Bluebeard's Bride with a bunch of my friends. It's an RPG about being the brides of Bluebeard, and if you know the story, that never ends well for the bride. In the game, you're trying to escape the house, investigate what's going on, what happened to these other wives, and it's a really fantastic kind of one-shot horror RPG.

So, I think my moment of the year was my friends were so scared of the room that they were about to walk into and what they thought was happening in this room that they couldn't sit still. This was great, because there's a fantastic mechanic in this game called shiver with fear, where if I see a visible physical reaction of their fear manifest, they have to tell me what exactly they are afraid of is going to happen to them, and then I have to make what happens worse than that.

This happened no less than five times in this room…

It turned into a complete disaster for their characters. I'm not going to go into the gory details because this is a very family friendly blog, but I have never felt more badass than running this game on Halloween and seeing my friends absolutely lose their minds trying to tell me what they were afraid of and then me being like, “Oh, it's so much worse than that,” and then just seeing the blood rush out of their faces.

100% my gaming moment of the year.

Isaac: That is awesome. I feel like I have two because like you just triggered my memory with RPGs -- what was the game called that we played at Cabin Con?

Lindsey: Brindlewood Bay.

Isaac: Yes! Brindlewood Bay! Oh my gosh, so, so good playing it in that like old schoolhouse that was at the camp. We were all just sitting around this folding table in the cold while it's raining outside, pretending to be old ladies solving a mystery of who killed Paul Hollywood while we're all contestants of the Great British Bake Off.

There's so many moments in that game that were just hilarious and that I'll remember for the rest of my life, but particularly Ross's old lady character trying to delay and distract the police while being stuck in a port a potty! Probably the highlight moment of my year.

That was so good. But I also want to give a shout out to some Oink Games that I got to play at PAX UnpluggedDro Polter and Rafter Five. Both had such fun, tense moments.

For instance with Dro Polter, the entire game is so easy but fun. You start out with five different little items you must hold in your hand. Then you flip a card, noting which of those specific items you need to drop from your hand WITHOUT dropping anything else. Whoever does that first wins the hand, adding a tiny bell to your hand as well. You need five bells in order to win the game, but you also have to now have them in your hand, which is getting more full of stuff that you can't drop. And if you drop any of your bells, you lose them!

It's such a simple game but so cleverly designed. We just kept going back and forth on who was about to win the game and there were so many fun moments and shouting just from this silly little game where you're holding stuff in your hand.

Rafter Five is the other Oink game. It’s also a very slick dexterity game where you're characters sitting on this raft that you make out of cards on top of the game box that you're slowly building bigger and bigger and you're just trying to figure out who's going to fall off the raft by continuously adding more and more cards to it. It's neat to see how big this thing can become and how structurally unsound this little card raft that you're making is. It's a very interesting game as well, with both Oink games adding a lot of fun tension and great memories that will stick around.

How about your most memorable Con Experience of the Year?

Isaac: I think for me, I have to give a shout out to the Bipoc Lounge. The mixer and everything else came together so much easier this year, and just seeing the amount of help and support we had, the people that loved us coming back for the second year hosting, and just seeing how many people were able to utilize the space for mentorships and to have a space to get to know other people was just amazing. I can't express how special these moments that we're accomplishing through the Rose Gauntlet Foundation are to me.

Seeing this continue to grow every year, with programs like Big Gay Dinner and Game Changers, it's just so cool to continue being able to build something that means a lot to people, with new friendships and bonds forming and new opportunities to be had just because of what we're putting together. So, I'm just overjoyed over to the moon that this has really been working out and seeing a lot of support and I can't wait until next year as well.

Lindsey: Absolutely! Game Changers at Origins was a blast. So, that we’re not saying the exact same, I’ll just say Gen Con, specifically our exhibit booth. It was our first booth at Gen Con and to go from volunteering at booths 7-10 years ago, to now seeing my own company's booth rocking and rolling with an amazing staff and people going nuts for Wild Gardens was incredible. Just such a cool flashback to working my first booth with you, Isaac, back in the day when I was just a grunt to now seeing my own logo on the wall. That was such an amazing moment for me.

On to a big one – Game of the Year.

Isaac: Honestly, the game that was most impactful to me this year was Baldur's Gate 3. It’s insanely good and the amount of joy that it brings over from tabletop RPGs and the amount of invention and different things that you can bring to it yourself, it’s the closest I've ever seen a digital product be able to recreate the feeling of playing an RPG around a table with your friends.

I thought it was absolutely amazing and it makes sense that it swept the video game awards this year. If we’re talking about tabletop… umm.. Lindsey go!

Lindsey: Mine has to be a tabletop RPG because that's what I've been playing a lot of in 2023. My group met every other week this year to play through a campaign called Mutant Year Zero: Gen Lab Alpha. I don't know how many total sessions we had because after 15 sessions I started to lose track, but that game is my first real long-term role playing campaign, and it's just been amazing.

The story of Gen Lab Alpha is so good. The system of Mutant Year Zero is so good. It's super fun like any RPG, but what I thought was gonna happen in our campaign is nowhere close to what's happened – the players completely side railed me, and I have no idea where the story is going at this point, because they've made so many decisions that are so far out of the scope of the book – and I’m really enjoying it! It’s a living, transformative story that’s been surprisingly emotional, and everyone's really into their characters. We’ve had some character and NPC losses that the players took very hard.

I've never really experienced a campaign like this before, but from here on out, this will be my standard for all RPG campaigns going forward.

Isaac: Wow – amazing!

Lindsey: And other than that, I played a lot of Viking Seesaw and I really liked it and I can't find it anywhere. Message me if you know where to get Viking Seesaw!

Isaac: From a tabletop perspective, one that I've been thinking about a lot, especially with the innovations that it brought to the is Daybreak from designers Matt Leacock and Matteo Menapace.

It’s a very fascinating and hopeful game, talking about the ways in which climate change can affect the world moving forward and the ways in which we can combat it.

It is also incredibly hard. We did not win it the few times that we played, but it has so many interesting things going. I’m not a big fan of co-op games without some sort of deceptive element to it, but this one really gripped me with its mechanics and the rulebook is just so cool.

I'm really glad I backed it and it's a game that I'm probably gonna keep thinking about and try to continue playing throughout 2024 to just kind of see what else there is to learn in there. There's just so many cool and interesting things that are brought up as far as like technologies and things that are actually being worked on in the world to create better opportunities for people in the future to help combat the effects of climate change.

So, I think it's a really interesting game for people to check out.

How about Component of the Year?

Lindsey: I’ve got this one – Oh No, Volcano. It’s brilliant and I wish I would have thought of it. I kick myself every time I see it.

Isaac: So for mine, we are playing through Sagrada Artisans right now which has been a lot of fun, and the booklet that you're actually playing through in the legacy game format is just an amazing coloring book!

It’s an adventure that you're just chilling there with your friends, enjoying coloring in all of the different squares that you need in order to win the game, but also all the other little panels too. They did such a good job of encouraging you to fill in the entire page how you want to. It also has these cool envelopes that you open on the covers on either side and it opens to become even more of your board space – it's just so cleverly designed.

I really appreciated the Sagrada booklets. I wish that the coloring pencils were better, but we're just using markers now, so we're all good.

The next category is … always a crowd pleaser … Rulebook of the Year!

Isaac: For me it’s Daybreak's rulebook. It’s a standout new thing that I'm very interested to see how it’s received and how rulebooks might change going forward. It's so clean and formatted like a magazine. I was a little bit concerned about the usability of being able to refer back to things, but we didn't seem to have any problems with it at all.

It'll be interesting to kind of see how people react to this format as it continues to get more eyes on it. I'm so glad to be bringing it up here. Hopefully we'll get some responses or people saying something about it as well.

Lindsey: So, for me, the Rulebook of the Year and this may be cheating because I got early access to it, but the Wild Gardens Rulebook is gorgeous.

I love it and think it's perfect in every way. I can't wait to hear the contradictions of feedback later when it comes out, because I'm sure not everyone will feel that way, but I think it's perfect. The art is gorgeous and our graphic designer Stephanie Gustafsson did such a good job with the layout, and I'm just really pumped.

I think the whole game is really good.

Here’s a fun one -- Most Anticipated Crowdfunded Game That Was Delivered, but You Still Haven't Opened It.

Isaac: Ah, man, I have two – it's so to choose between the two. Mercurial is so pretty – I still haven't opened it – but it's very, very pretty and I very much want to play it. I'm also super super interested in seeing how Earthborn Rangers plays, but technically I opened that one, so it has to go to Mercurial.

Lindsey: Alright, so, this is weird. I only ordered RPGs this year. I didn't order any boardgames off of Kickstarter. I have really entered a full RPG zone. So, I’ve gotta go with this RPG from Monte Cook Games called Old Gods of the Appalachia. It's a horror game, my favorite, based on a lot of local lore in the Appalachia where I grew up. It's also based on a super popular podcast that I've never heard, but I'm going to listen to.

The book is gorgeous! The cover has this awesome stag with gilded antlers on it. It also came with like, a thousand props like brochures, train tickets, and just a bunch of stuff that I can use with my players. The whole thing is just so well made.

They gave me PDFs of everything and it took an hour for it to download because it was that big. I am super pumped to get into it. Have not cracked that book open once. But my god, is it gorgeous. And I cannot wait.

Let’s end with this one – Proudest Rose Gauntlet Moment of 2023.

Lindsey: Yeah, for me it was getting the foundation off the ground. Just getting things going, having so many people get involved to help, hosting Game Changers, having our official launch, another awesome year for the BIPOC Lounge and Big Gay Dinner.

It was a dream that the company's had for years, and seeing that actually come to fruition this past year was really amazing.

Isaac: Agree completely. Another one has to be that we made and funded our second game. We took a risk going to a new crowdfunding platform with Wild Gardens and we’re happy to have been able to achieve our goals with the campaign. It’s still getting pre orders and people are super excited about it.

We made an absolutely gorgeous and interesting game, I’m very proud of it, and I am so excited to get that out to players. It's in production now and I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react to it once it's a real physical game in their hands. Building that world, has been a lot of fun to work on and work in. So, I'm just over the moon that we were able to do that and able to make that happen.

Lindsey: Yea, that solo campaign is one of the most fun things I've ever worked on. ​

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