This weekend was the much anticipated Unpub 6, which has found a good home here in our neck of the woods. Budding and established game designers alike set up shop on the 3rd floor of the Baltimore Convention Center to show off their latest designs and ideas while eager playtesters traversed the convention center landscape that was inundated with cheerleaders for a competition in a nearby area. Our very own league member Dan was a part of the madness, showing off his game and getting very positive feedback from his play tests. But, Dan’s game Supercell was only one of the many offerings at this years Unpub. Here are a few that we got to check out.
Full disclosure, this is Dan’s game and there is certainly going to be some bias on my part. This game is legit fun. Players take the role of storm chasers, driving across the board to capture photos and perform meteorological research to fulfill various contracts. Storms and tornadoes can pop up at any moment, and players need to race to the best vantage point to capture the most thrilling photos. Everything you do causes time to be spent, so you need to manage your turn wisely so you don’t waste half the day doing just one thing. If I was a playtester roaming the halls of Unpub, I would be drawn to this game for sure. It was really cool to see how a game changed as it was put through the wringer of public opinion. There was some great feedback offered and Dan took the comments in stride, making some changes on the fly. Stay tuned for more as the game progresses! Who knows, maybe you will be able to purchase your own copy of Supercell from the site sometime in the future!
My life as a nurse is not nearly as exciting as my fake life in Supercell, in which I am an adrenaline-crazed storm chaser on the lookout for the biggest and baddest of storms. In this game, you play a storm chaser as you move around the board to take pictures of storms of varying intensities while also completing research and trying to see as many storms as possible. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Some of the time management stuff was wonky, but I know that we were even changing things up while we played. Then again, that could have just been poor strategy on my part that I need to develop through future plays. The graphics were great, even if some of the pieces were a little difficult to manipulate (prototypes aren’t the real thing, though, so that’s not a major factor). I look forward to watching this game develop in the future!
Dan made a game! While it’s still a work in progress, Dan seems to have a winning concept on his hands with his light competitive storm-chasing game. The graphic design needs some touch-ups, but Biff’s artwork and tiny storm chaser standees seemed to really win over the Unpub crowds. I’m looking forward to seeing where the design goes!
Rocky Road A La Mode
Multi-use cards – oh how I love thee! Designer Josh Mills has taken this beloved mechanic and transformed it into a nostalgic summer treat. Players take on the role of ice cream truck drivers supplying the kids of the neighborhood with whatever frozen vices they demand. The game is driven by a time track in which every action you take has a time cost associated with it. Similar to a game like Tokaido, the player who is furthest back in line is the next player to take their turn making efficient use and timing of your actions crucial as you race to be the first to nine points. Like its theme, the game will make for a refreshing addition to the family game shelf when it hits Kickstarter this summer.
This is Only a Test
So, when anyone asked me if I played anything cool at Unpub, this is generally the first game I recommended. Set in the Cold-War era, it’s a game of hidden information, negotiation via worker-placement, and hoarding, with three potential game-ending scenarios. Victory points are available to be acquired in three categories as well, depending on the type of supplies that you’ve managed to hold on to; survivalist points, cash, and… self-defense, or something that I can’t remember, this category was mostly weapons. Over the course of the game’s nine rounds, cards are seeded along the timeline from two decks, one of which holds the ‘Bomb Dropped’ card, and another which contains the potential ‘Russians Invade’ event. If either of these cards are flipped, then the game ends immediately and the player with the most survivalist or self-defense points, respectively, is the winner. If the full nine rounds go by without either of this, then ‘This is Only a Test’, and the player who managed to keep the most money wins.
Now, the fun comes with the way you can manipulate the cards on the timeline; by taking various actions you can secretly look at cards on the track or from the two draw decks, as well as add or removing hidden cards from the timeline itself in an attempt to tweak the game towards ending in your favor.
This is a quick 2-4 player set collection and majority control game. The idea behind the game is that different birds are coming to a central bird feeder, taking seeds and flying away. Players can alter which bird is available on the perch by playing different birds to the ground, causing the first one to fly away with some seed. There are some interesting mechanics that are easy to pick up on; the sliding and collection of the birds and the seeds for points had a Guillotine vibe to it. I really look forward to see how this progresses and what kind of art gets used.
In an homage to games like Arboretum and Parade, this clever card game about birds lining up at a feeder was an pleasurable escape after a full day’s worth of play-testing my own game. Players take turns supplying birds to the either side of the feeder in an attempt to collect sets of like birds and seed cards all worth varying amounts of points. In the end, I got trounced but nevertheless I really liked this game – simple rule set, interesting decisions, and an untapped theme. I hope to see this again in the near future.
In the vast sea of Unpub filler games available, across from our table was a game called Access. It had intrigued me all weekend and finally got to play it in my final hour at Unpub. It is very reminiscent of Istanbul as far as mechanics, but with a couple pegs up in difficulty. Players are hackers for hire and are accessing the different servers on the board which offer upgrades to do more actions or place more connection cubes. Placing connection cubes are your ways of traversing the board. There are other types of cubes that allow you to port around to other locations. The movement mechanics, as it is at the moment, is a little tough to wrap your head around and can cause some high early game AP and downtime. The game did progress pretty well and I had fun trying to figure out the puzzles offered in the game. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this to see how it comes along.
I didn’t get many games in at Unpub, as I was only there for a few hours, but Access was one that I did get a full beginner play of. I was a bit confusing at first and I had trouble prioritizing, but the innovative pickup-and-deliver system, coupled with a cyberpunk theme, was enjoyable. We’ll see how it shapes up across its lifespan; I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.
Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The dynamic-duo of Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle has struck again with another theme-heavy game. I feel like I don’t even know these guys anymore however, this is a theme I can really get behind. The game itself is a scenario-driven jaunt through the stories of Sleepy Hollow. Players take on the role of villagers in search of Ichabod Crane. While your normal scenario-based tropes are included – map exploration, monsters, loot and dice (eww) – the heart of this game is its action selection mechanism. Each character in the game has their own unique player board which determines their base actions, weapons, armor and special abilities. Actions are selected using a unique “cool-down” system by which an action you have chosen on a previous turn is unavailable to you again until you have spent all of your action discs at which point they “refresh.” In talking with designer Ben Pinchback he stated “I wanted to simulate old-school RPG game battle cool downs or the action bar in World of Warcraft.” Altogether, the player board action optimization was an entertaining puzzle to work out in conjunction with the tension of the ever-present flow of enemies and the objective at hand. It gave the game a truly hybrid feel which I enjoyed. I’m looking forward to trying future iterations of this game in the coming months.
A worker-placement style game in which you are trying to run and upgrade a library with a limited budget and few employees. Starting with a bare-bones player board and a few communal actions, players must manage their workers efficiently, purchasing items for their library that will either provide a new action that they may take, or a recurring automatic bonus that is applied during the upkeep phase. With two types of workers, and a whole slew of potential upgrades, it may be a recipe for confusion as you try to plan out the best path forwards. While it was interesting, this prototype has a little way to go before it’s ready.
A quick set collection card game with some basic “take that” elements. Players are giants, and are competing to complete the best halfling recipe before anyone else can. At the start, you draw a secret recipe card to see what ingredients you will need. All recipes require several of halfling cards to complete, along with other various ingredients. The game boils down to timing and how to manage your hand. This was quick and interesting play but didn’t quite offer anything very new or exciting.
With an amusing premise, and a playing time of maybe ten minutes, I can forgive the drawbacks of Halfling Harvest… namely that as with most card games of this sort, the luck of the draw will make or break you. I had my recipe completed in the first three turns, but could not draw a single Halfling card, while everyone else was getting two or three a turn. Even with attack cards to steal them, it just wasn’t fast enough.