Sunday, January 15, 2012

Recap from Saturdays Unpub 2: Unpublished Games Festival

This article was cross posted at the wonderful board gaming site, Games and Grub. Visit them at

Yesterday myself and many others trekked out to Dover, Delaware for John Moller of Cartrunk Entertainment's Unpub 2; a convention featuring unpublished board games presented by the designers.

As a designer, it was a day to get feedback for my own game.. but as a board game fan, it was a day to try out new things. Some that I've been reading all about online recently (VivaJava, Princes of the Dragon Throne), and others to discover for the very first time (Wartime, Fat, Pond Farr).

Click through the jump for my full recap of the days events.

Now I didn't get to play everything. :( The only downfall to being a designer at this event is that you have a job to do. Although it's a really fun, easy, and rewarding job (demoing your game), it does cut your time down for playing other games. Luckily I had some help with my demoing own game (thanks George and Rob!) and I was able to sit in on a handful of other games.

And just remember, all of the games that I played were still in progress. The pictures you see are from prototype versions, and the rules and components were different than what you will see in the final product.

VivaJava: The Coffee Game - Designer TC Petty

Did you know VivaJava was pretty much at the top of the Hotness chart at Board Game Geek on Saturday? Did you know that you could have come and played it in a little hall in Delaware yesterday, well before it hits production?

This was one of the games that I really wanted to try out, and I'm really glad I did. Designer TC Petty was on hand to play and walk us through the rules, and publisher/podcasters DiceHateMe were on hand to chat and record audio during the game session.

There were some openings for the first session of Viva Java, so we jumped right in. Now this game combines a ton of the best aspects of board gaming into one seamless 90 minute session. It was social, cooperative, competitive, strategic, fun, and everything else all at once. Players that join up together (not always by choice) must work together to either "Blend" their coffee beans together to get the best combination (the combinations are very similar to poker combos) or "Research" by developing 5 different areas, which give additional bonuses throughout the game.

VivaJava is coming to Kickstarter in a little over a week, so keep an eye out for it.

Pond Farr - Designer Jesse Catron

Jesse Catron was demoing his upstream salmon racing / deck building / modular / hex board game, Pond Farr. Sound crazy? On paper it does, but as soon as you start playing you see exactly how this works. It's very smooth. Smooth enough that Gryphon games recently announced that they will be publishing Pond Farr.

The modular hex board give many different race types, in fact each of the 8 board pieces are double-sided so there are tons of setup combinations. The deck building aspect is very natural as well. Each time your salmon touches a hex with a card symbol in it, you'll pick up the corresponding card and add it to your deck. Another interesting aspect is the fatigue cards. These cards slow a player down (as they don't allow a player to move) and they are obtained when going too fast/far in one turn, and when a bear attacks you. Yes, there is a bear in the game, so you can play dirty. My kind of racing game.

Fat - Designer Nick Ferris

Fat is a deck building game in which players build each others decks by forcing cards on them. And by forcing cards on your opponent, you are basically forcing food down their throat. Each food has a Calorie content, and when a player reaches a set amount of cards in front of them, either forced by their opponents, or (if they are lucky enough) placed by themselves.. then it's time to count your calories!

Too low and you take penalties. Too high and you take more penalties, including fat cards which are bad in game, and at the end when you tally up victory points.

That's basically the game, but there is a lot more to it. Lots of decks to choose from when starting out. Many special abilities, all clearly defined by very nice icons.. and as a result there's virtually no necessary text whatsoever on the cards. Once again, the icons are really nice.

Fat has a ton of depth (hee hee) and feels like it's a system that could be molded in many different directions.. from really funny to educational and many areas in-between.

Wartime - Designer Josh Tempkin

This was the most fun, exciting, and stressful (the good kind?) 6-8 minutes of board gaming that I experienced had in a loooooong time. Even just coming down from a session of Wartime was an experience of it's own. I was so charged, and I'll tell you why.

Wartime is a head to head war game on a hex grid board. There are many variations, but in the mode that I played we each had two types of units with around 8 or so total units for each player. The options for those units were to either move or attack. As soon as you took one of those actions, you placed a sand timer next to that unit. After that you cannot do anything with the unit until the sand timer runs out. 

You get 4 timers that take from 30 − 90 seconds to expire, so the placement and the choice of sand timer is key to your victory. The game is extremely simple, yet chaotic and your body feels like it's going through a war. We saw jackets flying off, and players standing up to get themselves in the best position to move as quickly as possible. And while it seems like there would be a lot of waiting, the variety of the sand timers makes sure that you don't have enough time to think, let alone wait. 

Throne Dice - Designer Josh Tempkin
Wartime Designer Josh Tempkin also brought his dexterity castle building (and destroying) game Throne Dice. While I only was able to play a few minutes of it, I watched a good part of an earlier game session.

The attack used a modified dice tower with most of the middle randomizing parts removed. A player would aim the exit area of the dice tower at their opponents castle, and then throw a die down into the dice tower, so it would bounce off the bottom and hopefully destroy the castle wall and ultimately destroy the throne room as well. I sadly never had a chance to attack, but even just watching was super fun.

Sandwich City - Designer Jason Tagmire 

This is my own game, and I've played it many times before, but I thought I'd take a second to describe the feeling of being the other side of the table.. as a designer. Sandwich City is a resource management game, where players are trying to obtain food items, manage their kitchen to preserve the longevity of those items, and then ultimately, use the food to make sandwiches and score points.

I had about 7 or 8 game sessions throughout the day, and received extremely valuable feedback both verbally and in writing. Other designers played, as well as dedicated board gamers, Some people played more than once, and even taught new players while I was off playing other games. :) I took this as a huge compliment, especially with the high quality of games in the room.

As a designer it was the feedback that fueled this event. Players were eager to share their ideas to improve any weaknesses or confusion. They were quick to tell you if something felt wrong at any point during the game. Everyone was friendly about it, but very honest. I had a bunch of post-game discussions on both sides.

The final positive of being a designer at this event was being in a room of people who are doing exactly what you do. We may all be at different levels with our own projects or success, but everyone had the same passion and similar goals. The designers here were a really good bunch, and are working on some really great games. I am already looking forward to the next Unpub.


There were around 25 games... and looking at my list I only played 4 and a half. I missed out on a few that I really wanted to play. Especially Princes of the Dragon Throne :( If there was enough time I would have played every game there. I tried to take as many photos as possible, but I made sure to personally ask the designer and players permission first. Nobody refused (like I said, it was a really good bunch), but looking at the list, I still missed out on quite a few due to my timing. Also, please ignore my color correction issues.

Princes of the Dragon Throne

The Market 

Jersey Devil Chess

Dungeon Freakout


Here's the list of games that were on the schedule as of a few days before the event.

Designer: Benjamin Rossett Games: The Market & Stranded

Designer: T.C. Petty III Game: Viva Java

Designer: Jason Tagmire Game: Sandwich City

Designer: Darrell Louder Game: Compounded

Designer: Jesse Catron Games:Walls of Light & Pond Farr

Designer: Mike Young Game: Escape From Pirate Island

Designer: Joe Hopkins Games: Companies Inc. & Travelling Salesman

Designer: Seth Roback Game: Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge

Designer: Nick Ferris Game: Fat

Designer: Fred MacKenzie Game: Princes of the Dragon Throne

Designer: John Moller Game: Flummox

Designer: Alex Strang Games: Dungeon Freakout & Escape from Alpha Mega

Designer: Josh Tempkin Games: Throne Dice & Wartime

Designers: Bruno Faidutti, Sergei Haliban, & Andre Zantz Game: Haathi

Designer: Donald Sauter Game: Scrabble 2

Designer: Michael Richardson Game: F-1: A Racing game

Designer: Weston Stapleton Game: Tabgha

Designer: Stephen Craig Games: …Off To College, Staples, & Toys

Designer: Cherilyn Joy Lee Kirkman Game: Pulsar

Designer:Kathy Scoppetuolo Game: Jersey Devil:Legend of 1735


Thanks to everyone involved! It was an awesome day.

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