Unpub 6 – The Best 2 Days in Unfinished Gaming
Unpub is one of my favorite conventions because it’s a chance to play games before they’re finished and anyone who attends can help influence a game into what it will eventually become. The convention is free for anyone to attend and play games, which means it’s a great opportunity to also increase knowledge of our hobby. I got to play a lot of great games and want to talk about them to get other people excited for them!
There are a lot of games to play at Unpub, a lot more than anyone could play in a weekend. I got to try twelve games between Friday and Sunday. I’ll list them in alphabetical order for ease of reading. Instead of links to their BoardGameGeek entries, most of these will have links to their Unpub entries. If you’re really curious about a game, you can use that page to contact the designer and maybe figure out a way to try it!
BEEEEES! is a real-time dice rolling and tile laying game. Players are rolling their dice and trying to match the faces printed on the backs of tiles in the middle of the table. Once a player finishes a tile, it goes to the person with the most dice on that tile. If you aren’t the one with the most, you get a helper bee which is still worth something at the end of the game. If you get to claim the tile, you add it to your beehive where you’ll get points for each connection between like colored hexes. There was a lot going on, but it’s a quick game and easy enough to learn. I really liked the way the game worked, and I won, which was a bonus.
Threee player beeeees!!! pic.twitter.com/l9lnvfNOLF— Water Bear Games (@waterbeargames) August 4, 2015
Dubai is a resource management and tile building game where players are trying to build locations in India. Players use an action selection system that looks a lot like a conga line. When an action is taken, everyone present at that location can do some form of the action. Once everyone has taken the action, the last player in the chain gets to select the next action. This link between actions and which player is next really made the game memorable and the game overall felt very polished. I can’t wait to see a finished product as the game was very fun and one I would love to play again.
Explorers is a game about exploring (shock!) between your civilization and the ones your neighbors have. Cards from a shared deck are combined with action selection cards to feel like a cross between Race for the Galaxy and 7 Wonders while being faster than either of those. There are a number of blank spots between players and these spots can be filled in with different terrain cards from the common deck. These now known areas can be explored by your meeples. Players can also spend cards to construct buildings in their cities which may give them bonus points at the end of the game. The game was very enjoyable and worked very well.
Fate of the Elder Gods has players acting as the monstrosities from the other realms trying to break through to our reality. Players will influence cultists in different locations on the board, cast spells to help themselves or slow their opponents, fight off investigators, and maybe end up cursed. The art direction is gorgeous and the game play is very solid. The way that the players have to compete against each other as well as the investigators keeps the game challenging. When a player is cursed, the player on their right take the curse card and waits for the cursed player to do what is listed on the card and punishes them. I loved every minute of the game, but beating Richard Launius (co-designer and creator of Arkham Horror) at his own game made it even cooler.
Hand Solo, aside from a silly name for a game, is a solitaire sandbox space game where the player will gather cargo, deliver goods, fight pirates, befriend bases, and make their mark on the universe. Most of the cards in the game are kept in the hand, so the amount of table space is minimal. The challenges in the game and the open choices made this really interesting and I can see different people playing this game very differently. I want to see how the game evolves and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
The Blood of an Englishman has Jack fighting the Giant from the fable. Jack is trying to chain beanstalk cards together to reach the treasures being held by the Giant while trying to keep the Giant from getting Fe, Fie, Fo, and Fum together to squash the intruder. It’s a game that I think would grow with time where players would try different strategies and the premise is fun. (Note that this was known as Jack and the Giant.)
Lanterns: Fireworks adds onto an already great game and gives players more options and strategies without changing the game very much. Players now move the boat around and if they create a match, they are allowed to take a favor token or a new rocket. When the boat is on a tile with a platform, after the player dedicates, they may place two matching rockets to get a bonus. Red fireworks let players turn in favor tokens for points. Green fireworks give the player a card from the supply of their choice. Purple fireworks allow the player to trade a lantern card for another from the supply or another player. Blue fireworks let players dedicate again after playing their tile and collecting their lantern cards for the turn. Each platform can only hold four rockets, which leads to the boat moving onto other platforms so player can launch more fireworks. The expansion fits very well with the base game and once it’s published, I don’t know that I’ll ever play without it.
Match Quilt is a game where players are building a four by four grid of cards with different quilt patterns on them. When we played, we did the basic game where the individual abilites on cards were not active. Players score for each card in the row and column where the card is played where another card shares at least two colors or the block size with the new card. Overall, the basic version of the game seemed very simple and there was almost no player interaction aside from choosing which cards to select from the center row. I’ve heard the card abilities make the game take longer but make it a better game, but I have not tried that variant. (Please ignore the typo in the tweet text)
Seven More 7’s is an expansion and follow up to the very fun and smart Seven7s. There are seven more kinds of cards in this set, and we got to try five of them. The new cards feel like they belong in with the original game and the goal for the final production is for players to be able to mix and match which sets they use each game. The abilities were new but also seemed similar, feeling balanced and fun. I can’t wait to see what the last two new sets are for this game.
Songbirds is a game about collecting birds and trying to make mating pairs. Two birds start on the feeder and other birds get played to the ground on either side of the feeder. When the total of those cards is more than the value on the feeder, that bird gets collected by the active player and the largest bird from the ground moves to the feeder. When players do this, they also take a card from the feeder. This card is usually bird seed and worth points, but sometimes it can be a crow or squirrel who will cost you points at the end of the game. The gameplay was quick to learn and the strategy was simple but fulfilling. I really enjoyed this one and want to try it again.
The Fox, the Witch, and the Mirror is a two player trick taking game. This doesn’t seem like it will make sense on the surface, but the game is very clever. Each odd valued card has a special ability and the interaction of these abilities make the game shine. Players are able to trade out cards, change trump, and pull cards from their opponent’s hand. Points are awarded for taking the most tricks, taking the last trick, having the most 7’s, as well as however the trump card says extra points can be awarded. It’s only 31 cards, but the game is very entertaining and I can’t wait to play it more.
2 player trick taking game. The Fox, The Witch, and the Mirror. Really thinky. pic.twitter.com/B300TcqT89— Ken Grazier (@demo_ken) April 9, 2016
Vinyl is a game about making collections of records in different genres of music. Sometimes a collector wants country songs with only one singer, or other times they will want signed blues albums. In order to claim a record, a player must play cards showing the qualities of the record they’re trying to take. An album will have one, two, or three singers and can be signed or in mint condition. These extras can make the album worth more points at the end of the game. The turn planning and set building is very well done and keeps players in the game.
It was an amazing time, and this is the second year we’ve gone. I honestly can’t imagine not going next year because the convention isn’t one where you’re being flooded with sales pushes or hoards of people. It’s purpose driven for the designers and a great event for aspiring designers as well. If you’re able to make it in 2017, it is worth it to go.