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Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports

My day at UnPub3

UnPub3Last year I had other obligations and missed Unpub2. So this year I made sure not to miss UnPub3. I got to play some fun games and meet some awesome people from the board game community.

In case you aren’t familiar with UnPub, it is a convention for game designers to bring prototypes of their games, players to play those games and give feedback, and some publishers come to see if there is a prototype they’d like to publish. You can read more about the UnPub website.

Since I am neither a game designer or publisher, I went to play some games with friends and make some new ones. I played nine different games and met a lot of very cool people so in my eyes it was a huge success.

I went to the event with my friends Jeff and Josh (of boardgamereviewsbyjosh.com). Once we got there we walked around the room to see all the different games and say hi to some people. Then it was time for some games.

The first game we played was a real-time cooperative card game Meteor by Michael Young. The game is played over three rounds each taking five minutes and each round the game gets more difficult. Your goal is to destroy all the meteors that are on a collision course with your world before the five minutes is up. You have rockets with a value from one to five and the meteors have values of one to six. Rockets require different colored fuel cells to be launched and can only destroy meteors that are equal to or less than their value. You can launch rockets together to hit bigger meteors. During the second round you cannot talk which makes things much more difficult. And you add a Boss Meteor in the third round to make it uber-tough. The game plays quick and is a lot of fun. I really like real-tie cooperatives and this game should be a hit!

Next we tried Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solis. This is a set collection game in which you are inviting guests to your party. You want invite guests that share the same symbols on their cards. You can bribe guests to take ones further up the queue. You place your guests into one of four groups if a group has five guests it scores at the end of your turn. You get point for each matching symbol the five guests in your group share. There are also Belle cards that mix things up a bit by penalizing other players or helping you. This game plays smooth and quick. It is very accessible and can be enjoyed by a variety of ages.

The next game we played was a dexterity game called Maximum Throwdown by Jason Tagmire. In it you toss cards onto a table. The face of the card has different symbols and must land touching another card. If they are completely uncovered on your turn they give you special actions. Some let you force other players to discard cards, opportunities to gain and throw more cards or have a thrown card not be touching a previously thrown card. Some also have dice on them. For every six pips showing you score a VP at the beginning of your turn. Once everyone has thrown all their cards the game is over and high score wins. There are different factions that specialize in the different symbols. This game is light and while not totally balanced it is still a blast. We played it twice in the morning and then went back for more in the evening. It was definitely the surprise hit of the show.

Intrigue by Jay Treat is a trick-taking game and was up next. Each round you play two minions with values from five to eight. There are five factions in the game and you score when one of your three affiliated factions wins. Each player shares one faction with one other player, so each turn you may be teaming up with a different player. The faction with the most points in minions wins the round and each player that is affiliated with that faction scores two points. After scoring, the first player chooses to either remove a minion played that round from the game or take one back into their hand. Each player does one of these actions and on the second round must do the other. So each round you are taking back a played minion and removing one from the game. Intrigue is a very good game and is fun. With a few tweaks it will be a great game and very fun.

I tried the two player Starcraft simulator, The Last Planet, next. It uses foam cut outs that act as your units and buildings. The units fit together to show how far they move. Most other aspects of the game are like the video game it imitates. This game is early in development and we gave the designer, Jay Treat, lots of feedback. It looks super cool but needs some balancing. As it is right now it plays a bit slow and is too fiddly.

We headed to the GameSalute table next. There we played a card game that is a snowball fight and a storytelling card game based on the Wizard of Oz. In the snowball game you are trying to knock off your opponents’ three pieces of gear before you lose yours. Each player starts in a location. Once the total value of snowballs equals your location’s value you are hit and lose a piece of equipment. This game is light, random and fun. It would be great to play with my kids. The Card Game of Oz introduces their Storyline Game System. You roll dice to gain story points and spend those points to place characters, events and items in to the game. Characters travel on a storyline and the game is over once a character reaches the end of the storyline. The locations along the way effect the characters and are from the world of Oz. At game end you get points equal to your characters’ vitality. The player with the most points wins. Though not exactly my style of game, I know people that would enjoy this game. The art is beautiful and once learned should play quickly.

There was a panel of designers that spoke and took questions next. All their games were at UnPub in the past and they gave tips and advice on how to get your game in front of a publisher and the overall design process. I am no a game designer and don’t think I ever will be, but I enjoyed listening to the panel and thought they had some solid advice.

Up next was Rancheros, a rondel game about animal husbandry. This was another game that was not playtested much. You collect animals and their feed. If you land on the market you can then sell the animals. The more feed they have the more pesos you get. But if you stuff your animals too much or don’t feed them at all, you might get busted by the feds. This will cost you pesos which in the end are victory points. Again we has a lot of feedback for Patrick from Crash Games and I look forward to his refinements in future iterations. As it stands Rancheros is fun but just a bit slow ramping up and it need s to be easier to sell your animals.

At this point it was late but we wanted some more Maximum Throwdown action. We played it once more but after winning our first two games the table ganged up on me to ensure I wouldn’t win a third. It still was fun and we laughed a lot.

The last game we played before leaving was Knot Dice by Black Oak Games. The dice are gorgeous and can be used to play a few different games. We tried a cooperative puzzle game called Keys. We lost but it was still fun to roll the dice and then try to complete an ornate pattern with them.

UnPub3 was awesome and i really enjoyed meeting a bunch of new people and playing some fun new games. John Moller did a great job organizing everything. I wish I had had more time to play some more games, but there is always next year!

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3 Responses to “My day at UnPub3”

  1. Brian Frahm says:

    Nice summary of your time there! I missed out and appreciate reading about this “someday soon successes” 🙂

  2. John Moller says:

    Jason, Thanks for coming and giving this excellent recap of your experiences! Thanks for supporting us!

  3. jason@play-board-games.com says:

    Believe me, John, the pleasure was mine. 🙂

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