Unpub7 Recap

Unpub 7 was this past weekend and overall I had an amazing time. Going in with the mindset that I wanted to socialize and play other people's games more than showing off my own, really set me at ease, allowing me to just have fun. If I'm only able to go to one convention each year for the foreseeable future, I'm more than happy that Unpub gets to be it.

Helping out & Pizza
I got into Baltimore around 8:30am because I wanted to help set up in any way that I could. There were a few other volunteers there to help so we got to it. Sometime shortly after bringing up the steel to build the booths for the vendor hall, somebody got their hand pinched pretty bad on a telescoping pole, enough that it ripped some skin off. Luckily for them, I carry a very basic first aid kit in my bag with me at all times because you never know when you'll need one. After the vendor hall was done, we stuffed the swag bags that each badge holder would get when they checked in, and by "we" I mean the other volunteers. They had an assembly line working so I mostly milled around until a box would get filled with bags to then carry it to the registration table. The bags were finished just before the doors for registration opened up but by then I was hungry so John DuBois and I went and grabbed lunch down the street at Blaze Pizza. Blaze is one of those fast fired oven places where you get to build your own, I'd definitely go back sometime.

Roll & Reign
Once I got back to the convention center, I registered and immediately jumped into a game. First up was Aaron Wilson's Roll & Reign, a roll and write game. Roll and write are all the buzz right now and it showed this year at Unpub because there were a bunch of them throughout the hall.  I've never played a roll and write game before except for Yahtzee because I'm not really a lover of dice rolling games. However, I'll definitely play more of these types of games if they are anything like Aaron's. What was really cool was that I wasn't just rolling the dice and making the optimal move on my board like in many roll and writes (there's nothing worse than playing multi person solitaire) because the other players' sheets affected what I could do. I thought Tony Miller was running away with the game because he seemingly had a ton going on on his sheet but another player was able to edge him out by one late in the game. It was neat concept and looked to be a great introductory game for a much larger game of the same theme that uses different mechanics and components that Aaron also designed called New Reign.

Pixel Factory
Shortly after I got out of that game and was looking for something else to play, Daniel Solis approached to see if I was free to be a fourth in a game he was showing called Pixel Factory. This is a codesign with Graham Russell where players take the roll of video game designers that need to assemble sprites and build stages to score points and become employee of the month. To build the sprites, players collect pixels (cubes) and place them on the corresponding spots of their sprite cards. When complete, the pixels get broken up and the player gets to score that card at the end of the game. With the help of stage cards, there are ways to increase your score, manipulate how pixels are gained, and a few other abilities that'll help you win. I edged out a one point victory by grabbing all of the scoring stage cards I could in the last few turns. This reminded me of a more advanced version of Starving Artists. It'll be interesting to see where this goes. Side Note: The Mayor (Ben Begeal) stole the first hug of Unpub from Ben Pinchback while I was playing this, it ruined my whole weekend. 😂

RPS defeat
After greatly insulting Doug Levandowski on Twitter by stabbing him in the back during a discussion on what the phrase "next weekend" meant, we met up for a rock paper scissors duel. Daniel Newman was our moderator to make sure nobody cheated. In the end I was defeated 2-1 after we tied the first round, both throwing scissors. My strategy didn't work because he used a die roll to determine what he'd throw Curse you, random gods!

Unpub Updates
I waited until after the Unpub updates panel and designer reception (Food!) to play anything else so I spent a while talking to various people. During the Unpub panel it was announced that Unpub 8 would be in the same venue during March 23rd - 25th. Tickets go on sale August 8th at 8pm EST, so 08/08 at 8pm, if you can't remember that then I don't know what to tell you. I'm pretty sure I'll be getting a table but I've already thought about not being there for Sunday because I end up leaving by 2pm anyway and it's super slow until about 11 so it's almost not worth it if I get a table, just to use it for a few hours on one day. Plus I don't know if I'll have something I want to show or if I'd rather just show up as a playtester; we'll see.

Dark Miss Down & Nice lil Beach Day
Back in the player hall, I sat down with Aaron Wilson again and played two of his games, Dark Miss Down and Nice lil Beach Day. The former is an 18 card game that uses multiuse cards for resources and goals depending on whether they are in your hand, draw pile, or on the board. The real hook of the game is how players score which is done by getting the difference between the values on the task cards you collect. So if you have a task worth 5 in front of you, completing a 1 point task would give you 4 points. Nice lil Beach Day is a press your luck dice rolling game that allows players to score points from their dice rolls alone and from completing task cards that score depending on your rolls.

During that game is where I met Jason & Donna Dinger. Jason and I have interacted on Twitter some but it was really cool to meet him in person and learn more about him. He had tweeted at me that he forgot to bring his copy of STAC for me to sign and I said there was always next year at the time but ended up signing and giving him a copy that I had brought with me. It was an absolute honor to have somebody ask me to sign a copy of something I had designed. That was a real highlight of the weekend.

In an effort to get as much gaming in, I quickly looked for something else to play. Matt Riddle asked if I wanted jump in on a game he was going to play from the Cardboard Edison team. Along with two guys from Mayday Games, we played the hidden roles game, Trap, a couple of times. In Trap, each player takes a roll as a good or bad spy and each team has win conditions but nobody knows who is on whose team. The good spies know where the trap is but the bad spies do not, so trapping them is the key to victory for the good spies. Players make a move suggestion to the player to their left who can either agree or say no. If they agree, the pawn moves to the suggested card which is then removed, if they say no, they make a suggestion to the next player. This continues until somebody gets trapped or there are only two cards remaining. The first game ended somewhat abruptly because I forgot what number the trap was so I agreed to go to it as a good spy. We played again and I redeemed myself as a good spy by trapping one of the bad spies. I liked how quickly this played and could definitely see my group playing it.

Weather or Not
The last game of the night for me was Weather or not, a trick-taking game by John Prather. Trick-taking games are my jam and this one definitely didn't disappoint. Each played gets dealt 9 cards, discards one, and then plays 7 of the 8 over a series of 7 hands. Over those 7 hands, you're trying to balance your score to as close to 0 as you can by playing cards to hopefully win, or not win, temperature cards that range from 0 to 9 in both hot and cold. So if you had hot cards that added up to 5 and cold cards that added up to 2, your score would be 3. In order to win, or not win, those cards, you will play one of the 8 cards in your hand that has two temperatures on each of them (the invert of each number except for doubles, so there is no 44 because it can't be inverted but the card with 12 also has 21), either one can be used. Daniel Newman was playing and said the phrase "son of a bitch" more than once, a phrase that can really tell you how good a trick-taker really is.

Pocket Wargame
I got to the convention center really early after not sleeping well so I sat upstairs waiting for people to show up. A guy named Mike showed up and ended up showing me a wargame that fit inside a standard deck of cards box. There were a bunch of mini tanks, cards, and even a fold out ruler. I haven't played any war games aside from maybe Risk, but even that isn't they type of war game I'm talking about here. This was more the big map, thousands of chits type of thing with miniature tanks, just shrunk way down. It was easy enough and played pretty quick but wasn't really my type of thing. However, the guy did tell me a some cool stories about RPGs he's played so that was entertaining.

13th Floor
My table didn't start until 3 so when the doors opened I waited until people had time to set up so I could play some more stuff that I hadn't played the day before. First up was 13th Floor by Matt Wolfe, a push your luck card game about building towers where you have to avoid building to exactly the 13th floor. In a two player game each player has two towers each that they control and then there are two towers that both players can control. When a building reaches 14 or higher floors, the player scores points for that tower. Whoever completes one of the shared towers gets more points than the other player. This was quick game that I would love to see at three and four players to see how having only one tower of your own to build while also contributing to the shared towers between your neighbors on either side of you. It was a fun game to start the day of as I tried to wake up more.

Pitching Easy As Pie
In between playing games, I was able to show Randy Hoyt from Foxtrot Games my game, Easy As Pie. I explained the rules and started a three player game. It was apparent early that it wasn't going well but we finished up and talked about it some. There were clearly some major things wrong with it, "too thinky" are the words that stuck in my head. If he thought so, I could only imagine what the general public might think. I thanked him for his time and knew I needed to make some adjustments to the rules before my table started. More on that in a bit.

Lord of the Things
Next up was Ben Begeal's Lord of the Things, or rather, a stripped down version as he tries to access if the mechanic it's built on is a thing that works. It's a smart mechanic where players have a hand of cards and they are trying to build the best poker hand they can by wining cards that are played up on the board. Going down the line, each player plays a card and if you played the highest card alone then you get the card that was on the board and add it to your discard pile. If you don't win the card, you keep the card you played and put that in your discard pile instead. After all the cards have been won, your discard pile becomes your new hand. You plays a few rounds, with decreasing amounts of cards available in some rounds, and whoever has the best hand at the end wins. Now this still needs to be coupled with some other scoring mechanics but I like where it's going and hope it becomes a things so Ben can no longer say he isn't a designer.

I had seen this really colorful looking game on Twitter from Chris Bryan called Favelas. A favela is a low-income historically informal urban area in Brazil, many of the dwellings are painted in all sorts of vibrant colors. In the game Favelas, players draft hex tiles from the board and add them to their own player board. At the end of each round, players score based on who has the majority of each color. However, each color is not equal because before each round, dice are rolled and the value of each color starts with whatever was rolled. So if you scored 5 points for having the majority for green in round one, it's very possible that green may only be worth 1 point to start the next round. I say start the next round because there is a REALLY clever mechanic where you can cover up a section on your board with a piece of the same color to adjust the value of the matching die, up or down. So not only can you make the colors you are going for more valuable, you can also make the colors your opponents are going for less valuable. There is also a bonus die for having all 5 colors at the end of the round on your player board. After the end of 3 rounds, whoever ends with the most points is the winner. We had barely ended the first round and I was already tweeting out about how much I LOVED this game. My exact words were "I would buy the shit out of @ChrisBryanGames's Favelas right now if I could.". Seriously, it pushed all the brain buttons for me and I cannot wait for it to get published. It will be an instant back on Kickstarter or an instant buy if it goes straight to retail.

The last game that I played, that wasn't mine, was Net Levan's Iceburgh. This game had some spatial movement that was sort of similar to Easy As Pie's. In Iceburgh, players are shifting the towns buildings that are built on ice blocks in order to collect water, gold, or resources. They then use those things to upgrade the town and get points for doing so. As the buildings get upgraded, they have better abilities that should help you get closer to victory. In a two player game, the first player to nine points is the winner. There is great back and for where players can block each other from using the abilities of certain buildings just by sliding the tiles so that they can't be accessed. This is another game I'd like to get more plays in at varying player counts to see how it goes. I'm glad I got to play this one before my table started.

Easy As Pie
Since nobody set up at the tag table I was scheduled to be at, I was able to start setting up whenever I wanted. I grabbed my bag full of mini pies and got set up by 2:30, only to have some people sit down almost immediately. That's what happens when you offer free food in exchange for a playtest. So the rule changes I mentioned earlier....oh my god did they help. First, I made the executive decision that this could only be a 2 player game, I even blacked out the part on my table sign that said otherwise. Then I removed how points were claimed and what the icon in the middle of each card did. The games was streamlined now and soon enough it was clear that these were the changes that had to be made.

I quickly had quite a few people interested in playing so I busted out a second copy and started running two games simultaneously. Overall all the game was pretty well received by the general public but what really made my weekend was having designers like...well I'm not going to name drop....designers that I respect, say that it was good. Some of them would have told me straight up if it were shit or not, so hearing that it was good in its current state was awesome to hear. Many of them asked the same question on whether or not I had shown or planned on showing it to Jason Tagmire of Button Shy games. The game is perfect for the contest they'll be running soon so I will be submitting it and hoping for the best. Another bright spot was when a woman that I played against brought a 7 year olds over to play. I gave them a couple of extra copies to go play with since I had a full table at the time but they came back after playing and she said they really enjoyed it.

Now it wasn't all positive because the game is really an abstract at heart, so the spatial element did throw a good amount of people off. For being such a simple game, it is surprisingly brainy for what it is. I think the name is more tongue in cheek because while it is easy to play, seeing the moves and strategy needed to score isn't always apparent for some. There were a few that didn't like it for that reason but I didn't get any critiques as to how and make it "better", it's just the type of game that isn't for everyone.

Sundays are sloooow to start but by 11am I was running two games at the same time again. There really isn't anything to report because by this time I had pretty much heard everything that I was going to hear about the game. I really only set up to get rid of the pies I had left and give anyone who had wanted to play it the day before a shot. By 1:30 I was tired and ready to go home so I packed up, said goodbye to a couple people and went home. I wanted to make my way around the room and say goodbye to others but also didn't want to interrupt what they were doing.

All in all it was a really great time and I'm very glad I went. As I said, I'll probably go next year but with baby #3 on the way, it'll make things more logistically difficult. Unpub continues to be the best resource for designers so if you can find a way to get there, do it..

Popular posts from this blog

Cribbage with Grandpas

Social Media Break

Turning 39