The Best Tabletop RPGs of 2015

Cypher System Rulebook
Publisher: Monte Cook Games

It’s hard not to be a fan of Monte Cook's excellent dying earth-themed Numenera game from 2013, which was followed by the dimension-hopping fun of The Strange in 2014. The prolific game developer has now adapted the system to a more general setting, allowing gaming groups to determine their own setting and style of play. The full-color Cypher System Rulebook looks great and is an easy but lengthy read. It provides a complete set of rules for running Cypher games in any setting, and includes enough spells, equipment, and character descriptors to fuel a role-playing campaign of science fiction, fantasy, horror, history, or any other imaginable setup. The streamlined rules system makes for fast and narrative-driven gameplay, with a strong focus on player involvement and communal interaction across the group.

D&D: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons has taken a different approach to rolling out published content with the 5th edition of the game, with a focus on organized play and shared adventures for the whole population of players. That's why many veteran fans may be excited to check out the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, which is reminiscent of the old campaign setting guides that were popularized in earlier editions. While focused on the Sword Coast region, the book is as much an update to the popular Forgotten Realms setting, with plenty of new character options, and a wealth of detail about the popular setting's places, gods, and historical events. For new players, be aware that this book isn't a standalone product –  you'll need the three core D&D rulebooks to get started – but the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is an excellent base for any short or long term campaign.

The End of the World: Wrath of the Gods
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Part of a series of role-playing games that each deals with a particular world-ending catastrophe, Wrath of the Gods puts players in the midst of a real world scenario that is suddenly confronted by the very unreal potential of ancient gods and supernatural beings rising to devastate the world. Instead of playing powerful wizards or superheroes, you create a character based on yourself, complete with statistics, strengths, and weaknesses that you designate about who you are. The game's setting is your hometown, and as supernatural events unfold around you, it's the everyday resources at your disposal that must be used to survive. Multiple scenarios are sketched out, so your group of friends can decide what catastrophe to confront. The Mayan Apocalypse might finally come to pass. Or Cthulhu could rise up out of the Pacific. You and your buddies get to (try to) live through both the end of the world, and what comes after. The game system is smart and quick to learn, and the character creation process is almost as fun as the unfolding narrative.

Night Witches
Publisher: Bully Pulpit Games

Easily one of the most intriguing and unusual RPG releases of the year, Night Witches is a historical game in which players control women who were part of an all-female Soviet air bomber regiment during World War II. These real-life pilots and navigators flew endless night missions behind German enemy lines in obsolete biplanes, while facing sexism and discrimination at home. In the game, players navigate the relationships and daily grind of life in the military, and then risk their lives in harrowing raids at night. Night Witches tackles issues of gender equality, homosexuality, and the brutalities of life in the wartime Soviet state. As such, it's a game for adults, but one with a captivating historical grounding. It helps that the game rules do such a remarkable job in communicating the themes and narrative. Single sessions can last just a couple of hours, or an entire campaign can track the regiment across the entirety of the war.

Star Wars: Force and Destiny
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight has been on a role with its approach to the Star Wars RPG license, with three games in as many years that explore different branches of the fiction. Previous entries explored the gritty underbelly of bounty hunters and smugglers, and then a second RPG flung players into the midst of the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. But there's no doubt that many players were eager for this third entry, which puts players in the control of force-sensitive characters, complete with multiple styles of lightsaber combat, and a deep morality system that shapes your character along the light and dark side of the force. Along with the innovative dice mechanic at the core of all Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPGs, Force and Destiny is a great way for narrative-oriented gaming groups to get their fix.

What are your favorite tabletop games from 2015? What will you be playing with your friends and family in the coming months? Share your picks in the comments below, and thanks for reading!