It''s a 2023 Jubilee
Looking back over a year
Look, it’s our annual review! We like to take a minute every year to stop and appreciate what we’ve accomplished. We’ve only got a minute though so let’s get started:
We kicked off 2023 with a new city-building game! Ok, technically we haven’t released it yet, but we’ve used our Untitled City-Building Game to generate the High Magic Lowlives setting of Hycadia, letting cards and dice guide the development of the city guides we released one neighborhood per month, all year. Developing the setting live, direct to our newsletter & itch, has been hard some months but we’re glad to have done it.
Hycadia opened with the commercial, industrial, and green areas of Mill Hill. Kali really liked drawing the teeny art museum.
Also, DUKK BÖRG (Original Edition) won an Award and we were Happy Jacks RPG Network’s Designers of the Month!
2023 was a big year for germs at Gem Room Games, and ground us to a halt multiple times. February was all about nyquil & 9 Lives to Valhalla - we officially wrapped the 2022 ZiMo kickstarter and got an exclusive sneak peek of the 9 Lives to Valhalla Creator’s Kit into the world.
Bole View & Yakawood brought both High Magic Lowlives’ Immortal Aristocracy and bears to Hycadia. Dan really enjoyed the Opera House as bridge to the God Vault, and Kali wished the Stitchwitch Apparel Factory was real.
Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk Podcast of the EN World Network chatted about 9 Lives to Valhalla, saying "... in like 4 years of doing this podcast, that is, I've gotta say, head and shoulders, without doubt, above the rest, the best introduction to a game I have ever seen, can you even?"
Meanwhile, Dan talked about Blood Feud and masculinity on RTFM! It was a good chance to discuss the virtues of rolling your gender into the shop for a 30-point inspection.
College Park was the fourth neighborhood of Hycadia, introducing the highly exclusive bastion of magical arts and sciences, Widney College. Dan was partial to the haunted house party on Heron Road but that could just be nostalgia.
Also, Dan appeared in the Cybermetal 2012 Creator Kit for World Champ Game Co. saying a lot of cusses in his expression for the design engine driving the world of Pentagram City.
In May we moved again! New office, new walls, new windows, new setting for the kickstarter we were quietly putting together!
Somehow despite operating out of a box fort we managed to release the fifth neighborhood of Hycadia, Chine Market. Kali was pretty fond of Potatonly, The Restaurant That Serves Only Potatoes.
We were also real pleased to make friends with former The Awards-judge Sam Dunnewold, who released an updated essay on what is great about DUKK BÖRG (Original Edition).
The sixth neighborhood of Hycadia was Crown Hollow and contained Dan’s favorite piece of civic engineering: the municipal party bus.
We also officially released the 2022 Hex & Setting Collection, laid out together to play through or scatter around your hexcrawl campaigns, linked by mysterious portals.
We also also relaunched our website! The one you’re on right now! It was kind of like moving house except instead of cardboard boxes it was blog posts.
Finally, DUKK BÖRG mascot Grin Gadwall (he’s a duck skull!) joined our team for the DUKK BÖRG (Expanded Edition) kickstarter announcement, which happened on June 29. Fabulous new member of the team, really brings something special to our vibes.
Overdale, our seventh Hycadia neighborhood, dropped in July. Kali liked getting to make Dracula a canonical part of the High Magic Lowlives universe.
We were appropriately honored by the IGDN Indie Groundbreakers Honorable Mention for 9 Lives to Valhalla, especially among such titans as Slugblaster, Dinocar, VOID 1680 AM, and RUNE.
Plumstock was the eighth neighborhood of the Hycadia neighborhood directory, featuring the unfortunately (but wonderfully) named necromancer Mort Opress who happens to live cemetery-adjacent.
After extensive playtesting up and down a number of freeways and highways we released our official rules to Rainbow Car, a game primarily about wishing more people bought purple cars.
PLUS we kicked off the never-shut-up-about-it portion of our September crowdfunding campaign for DUKK BÖRG (Expanded Edition) and coordinated with our quack team of contributors to have everything in place for a smooth launch.
Big month: we launched the kickstarter campaign for DUKK BÖRG (Expanded Edition)! We were tremendously flattered by all your support for an ambitious expansion and print release of our Award-winning MÖRK BORG module. As part of Operation Never-Shut-Up-About-It, we talked about MÖRK BORG with Sam on Dice Exploder, chatted ducks with John Hambone McGuire, played VOID 1680 AM as apocalypse-weary duck dj Karva MacLoon, released Karva as a playable associate, AND Kali talked with Kegan & Sarah of Character Study.
And on top of that, we released Pearl Crest, the ninth neighborhood of Hycadia and home to one of Kali’s favorite antagonists: Huge Mean Goose.
We took a breath after all that kickstarting to release City Center, the tenth neighborhood of Hycadia. Dan’s a fan of a delicate status quo, and the ghost witch vs. construction foreman vs. teens at the stalled out Tech Conconstruction site is a perfect example.
October was also a big month for quiet development on our contribution to Adam Vass’ Wondercabinet Invitational.
Surprise big month: we dropped a brand new game into print! Letters to Sandra was our first single-player ttrpg, inspired by the enticing odds & ends we’d been given as part of the 2023 Wondercabinet Invitational. Getting to see what all the other contributors created with their own bundles of ephemera was a great cap on a project we loved being part of.
The Weekly Scroll made our week, also, by giving 9 Lives to Valhalla their highest ever ranking for a zine game.
Also we figured out how to arrange seasonal outlet sales!
Ok, December kicked our butts with germs, trying to wrap things up, and more germs. Everyone had rsv and/or pneumonia! But we still pulled off quality control review for our second print run of 9 Lives to Valhalla (no repair kit stickers needed this time!) and first print run of Letters to Sandra, with both available through our shop before year’s end.
We also squeezed in one more neighborhood guide, with Lunary Greens becoming the eleventh part of Hycadia that we released mid-development. Kali enjoyed drawing the sleeping stone giant most of all.
We released 14 things. We kickstarted an ambitious expansion. We got a new game in print. We survived so many germs. AND we worked on behind the scenes development of multiple long term projects that have a hold on our hearts.
We always intend to blog more, and life always gets in the way - but doing this annual round up is worth squeezing in. Sometimes when we’re in the thick of it - whether “it” is our biggest kickstarter ever, or launching a type of game we’ve never designed before, or nursing our family through an unfairly dense number of germs, or moving again, or even just trying to get one more box labeled “SORT ME” out of the office - it can be hard to keep track of time, hard to realize what we’ve accomplished in a year. Taking a moment to look back is good for us because we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, when we get a chance to sit down and consider it all. Thanks for looking back with us, and for supporting us throughout.
Next year, we’re gonna finish & release DUKK BÖRG (Expanded Edition); finish, enrich, & expand 12 Hycadia neighborhoods into a full city guide setting; layout & release the well-playtested city development game that brought us Hycadia; tie up loose ends across the Trello (wait, we switched to Notion!) boards; get our printed games in more shops for your easy access; and keep our hearts & minds open for more opportunities to make great things.
Happy New Year, Gem Friends!