Friday, January 25, 2013

Unpub 3 (Unpublished Games Festival) Mega Recap!

Last year, we kicked off the board game convention (pre)season by heading down to Delaware for the intimate, yet innovative Unpub 2. This past weekend was the 3rd year for the Unpub program and it was bigger, longer and better than ever.

With two days and 65 unpublished board games, there was a lot of ground to cover. I was also running up to 15 sessions of my own games so it was tricky. In the end, I only played about 8 other games (mostly quick ones) but still had a blast.

Click through the jump for my full recap!

Wok Star

The first game I played was Wok Star with MTVGeek's Matt Morgan and Game Salute's Dan Yarrington. Wok Star has been pending with Z-Man Games for a few years now and it appears that it's now on Game Salute's radar. I've heard a lot of good things about this game and was eager to give it a shot.

Wok Star is a realtime game about running a chinese kitchen. We're all trying to make and earn recipes as quickly as possible while using die rolls to create more and more ingredients. The game is supposed to be pretty crazy with players reaching across each other to quickly refill the food and make a recipe before the clock runs out. But we played it a little wrong (ok, a lot). Each turn you should add X cards to the deck and we missed that for about 4-5 rounds.

In the end, it went longer than we wanted and it wasn't as chaotic as expected, but that's all because we missed a few rules. I'm still very much interested to see where this one ends up, and also to try it out correctly next time.

Escape From Pirate Island

I was quickly pulled aside to join in on a co-op match of Escape From Pirate Island. It was a familiar layout (hexagons forming a Catan style playing surface) and we were adventurers (?) trying to make our way off of the island before the pirates had their way with us.

The game played a little like the well known co-operative game Forbidden Island, but had a few distinct differences. We needed to eat food each round, which literally ate up our resources when we ran out. Also, we had some buddies. The buddies were extra NPCs that would work their way around the island with us, giving group bonuses when applicable. They were also part of the win condition of the game. We had to get them off of the island before we could get off.

The game was interesting and had a few nice touches to set it apart from the standard co-ops. I'm assuming the demo session was on an "easy" mode because we didn't have too many issues winning the game. Except our lack of food would have killed us!


This was Daniel Solis' entry to the Bryan Fischer mini game challenge. The limitations were 20 cards, 4 dice and 15 wooden cubes. Daniel bypassed most of that and used just 13 cards to make a captivating game that lasts just 5 minutes. I played at least 4 times throughout the weekend, squeezing sessions in whenever there was a tiny gap between events.

In Xenophobe each player is trying to find the tool(s) that will help them escape a space station before a loose alien gets to them first. A card that describes the tool (basically using number and color) is placed face down, and the remaining cards are distributed to the players. Each card shows a title, a number, a color and a unique win condition. And since the win conditions are in your hand are not face down on the table, you can start to try and figure out the hidden win condition.

The game plays like a smarter, multiplayer, strategic "Deal or No Deal". You can try it out for yourself using the print and play version from Daniel's website.


I've talked about Wartime before at last year's Unpub and at the World Boardgaming Championships. It's now becoming a staple of the east coast gaming events, and it just NEEDS to get published so I can play it every day. 

Wartime is a two-player realtime war game that plays in 8 minutes or less and uses sand timers. It's the sweatiest 8 minutes in gaming too. Every time I've played I've had a blast and so did everyone at Unpub.

Maximum Throwdown

This was the first of the games that I displayed at Unpub. It's a card-throwing battle game that plays up to 6 players. 

Basically players throw cards trying to cover each others icons. And when your turn comes around, if your icons are still showing, they provide special abilities (draw or throw more cards, attack your opponents, etc)

We played a lot of games, and people seemed to love it. Many came back for seconds and thirds, and it often drew a good sized crowd of people just watching us play.  

Pixel Lincoln 2

The second of my games was Pixel Lincoln 2. The title is just a working title for an expansion for Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game. The expansion will introduce additional enemies and items, but I really wanted to test out the environment cards. Most players hadn't played the game previously, but did really enjoy the game with the environments. A few had played before and also really enjoyed the changes. I'll keep pushing forward this as we anxiously await Pixel Lincoln to ship from China. Sometime soon!

The Pitch 

Kevin Kulp's The Pitch drew some great crowds as well. It was very simple in that one player would have to pitch a product to the rest of the group, earning points if they could hit specific talking points. You were encouraged to pitch Billy Mays style, and it set a great tone for the game. Then you see what you have to pitch and the tone is set even further. I had to pitch a Sofa that doubled as a flotation device, that children adore. And it's DUST FREE! The game was a blast, and Kevin just needed to tailor the scoring side of it.


Compounded was pretty  much the star of the show. With a prominent table, designer and publisher in the house, and a 24 hour-funded Kickstarter campaign which funded the morning of Unpub 3.... it was hard not to be excited about this game. And the game is about creating chemical compounds, which turns out to be pretty awesome!

I've played it before and backed the game on Kickstarter, but I was sad to miss out on trying it again at Unpub. The game is wonderful, and with the support and quality that Dice Hate Me puts into their products, I don't think it could be in better hands.


Pigpen is the "wild pig penning game" from Kevin Kulp and Island Officials. It has been officially picked up for an early 2013 Kickstarter release from Island Officials and is now in the late testing phase.  It's a take-that style game where players build a pen to house their own pigs and then destroy their opponents pens. It's casual and very family friendly and has been getting tighter and tighter in these tests. 


Rancheros is an upcoming game from Crash Games. I did not get a chance to play, but it looked really nice. A whole pile of pesos in the center of the table, with a unique main board layout. I would like to try this one sometime soon.

Bryan Fischer's Mini Game Challenge

Bryan Fischer and Darrel Louder presented a mini game challenge (make a game using up to 4 dice, 15 cubes and 20 cards) and there were about 5 or so entries at Unpub. Each was small, and fairly quick so I was able to play each of them in my limited gaming time.

Mill City by Eric Alvarado: This one was really quite wonderful. A tight little, very strategic Euro that left a big impression. It was the big winner of the contest.

Xenophobe by Daniel Solis: As you read above, I really enjoyed this one. It placed second in the contest.

Categoric by Brad Smoley: This was a multiplayer party word game, which we had a lot of fun with. For such a casual game it had very completive scoring, to where we won the game with just a single point or two. 

Fatal Flaw by Jason Tagmire: This was my dice rolling battle game similar to Super Smash Bros with dice. We got one session in and it was nice and loud, but it wasn't as tight and quick as I'd hoped. I was brainstorming the fixes on the spot and hope to get it tightened up soon.

Capture the Cards by Kevin Kulp: I played an earlier build of the game and there were some great mechanics worked into it. I'm sure I'll get a chance to try it again.

Read the full details of how each game stood up straight from Bryan at:

Knot Dice

I didn't get to play Knot Dice, but they looked beautiful. I've seen them before and wished that I made them myself, and they stood out so much in person. Bog, chunky wooden dice with solid consistent artwork. Love em.

TC Petty

TC made the biggest impact on me at last year's Unpub with my #3 game of 2012, Viva Java. Although we played a game together and both sat on a panel together, I never got to play a single one of his games. He had three games there (VivaJava:The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, Club Zen, and his co-designed game with Darrell Louder, Pirates of the Carbon Copy) and I wanted to try each of them so bad. I will make sure I get a chance to play some of these at smaller events in the spring. :(

States: After The Fall


Another game that I didn't get a chance to play, but I heard great things about. 


Carboard Edison's alliteration word game Skewphemisms had a lot of gameplay over the weekend. I sat in one just one round and I was VERY impressed by the team forming mechanic and scoring system. It was very well crafted and I think it will do very well.


Tessen was the other Cardboard Edison game that I actually had a chance to play to the end. It's a realtime samurai duel with just cards. The way it plays is very interesting, each player has 5 locations and needs to acquire 3 or more of a resource before scoring the pile. They have a max hand size of 5, so you are constantly making new piles and shuffling your cards around. It's a race to points, but also a race to avoid your opponents samurai. If a samurai is played on an opponents pile, the opponent must react with their own samurai negating the attack. But if they can't immediately react, the pile is lost as well as that slot, which will slowly cripple your ability to efficiently gather resources. This was tight and chaotic, and right up my alley. I want a copy! 

Hostage Negotiator

This is A.J. Porforio's solo masterpiece (or so I've heard!). A.J. runs Van Ryder games, and one of the things they are doing is making solo games, or at least games that can also play solo in the case of their first release "If I'm Going Down."

A.J. is a great guy with some wonderful Kickstarter and project insight, and I wish I was able to sit down and play the game. I caught him on the way out of Unpub, but left with a copy so expect a full recap here soon. I'm very excited about his solo games approach because it's not always easy to get a group together, and it's not always easy to play games while my crazy kids are awake. This way, I can play alone late at night.


There was a designer panel and a publisher panel, both a first for Unpub. They turned into big Q & A's and were both very informative for the crowd. Both were videotaped and I will post the videos below.

And finally, there were a few games I didn't get pictures of. I played Jay Treat's Intrigue again and loved it just as much as the last time. I won too! I got to hold Jesse Catron's beautiful production copy of Salmon Run and cannot wait to get my hands on my copy. Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solis was one that I swore I would play and totally missed out, although there were sessions non-stop. Crash Games had Pay Dirt by Tory Niemann, creator of the wonderful Alien Frontiers and I got the second hand player experience as my brother-in-law got a chance to play and told me all about it. My good friend Alex Strang didn't make it due to health concerns (wish him the best), but his game Movie Plotz did get to the table. And amidst all of the chaos, I got to spend about 5 minutes with John Moller, creator of Unpub. 

The event was better than last year, and last year it was one of the best events yet. If you missed out, don't miss next year!


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