Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unpub South Jersey Recap!

Saturday was the first Regional Unpub event, a large gathering of game designers showcasing their games in South Jersey of all places! While it was about 25 minutes from my home, it felt like it was right in my backyard.

I've been to the big Unpub events in Delaware and the smaller minis in Pennsylvania, and this one was a solid mix of both. There were about 20 or so designers on hand with a huge variety of games. I saw some kids games, a space mining game, a horse-racing game, a realtime war game, a My Little Pony game, and many more. In typical Unpub fashion, I was able to show off my game a little, get solid feedback, and play a handful of really cool games.

I wish I had more pictures, but if you head to the Cartrunk Entertainment Facebook page, there are a ton (including the one above of my daughter Elle and her game Ponyland).

Full recap after the jump.

Web of Fortune
Why not start with my own game? Well, chronologically it was the first that I played. I set it up and immediately had a few players.

Web of Fortune is a press your luck, roll and move game where players trek their way across a giant spider web, gathering gems and avoiding the spider's lethal limbs. It's very simple and can play from 6+ but probably shines with 8+.

I was a little hesitant about bringing the game because it was sitting with a big end game issue. There was basically no end game trigger and the game ended when all gems were collected. This led to a few other issues with the game slowing down and becoming anti-climactic towards the end.

Thanks to the wonderful players at Unpub, I figured everything out. I'll be fixing a few things and testing everything out again real soon. Thanks to everyone who played and to Charlie Hoops for running the KidZone. (There were little certificates for each kid that played your game!)

One of the games that I really wanted to play was Brad Smoley's Phobos. It's his space-mining, tile-laying, tight little masterpiece.

The game has a bit of a Carcassonne feel to it, but only in the tile laying and unit placement. Placing units is similar to the majority rule in the fields in Carcassonne without the limitation of exclusive placement. This makes the game very competitive and very exciting.

Along with placing tiles and units, players can move their units around, but only through areas that they have a stake in. So it's very important to make your paths, and if you are lucky, create some handy shortcuts. That was my method, which didn't win me the game, but it was a lot of fun. It lasted a little under an hour and felt just right. The entire time you could see the end game clock ticking away, along with all of your ambitious plans.

This game was the standout of the event and needs to be published. In the meantime, I'm tracking Brad down so I can play again.

Star Dice
I didn't get any pictures of Matthew O'Malley's Star Dice, but they were very cool. Ships w/ directions, blasts, asteroids and a few other cool items. It reminded me of X-Wing, but if it were a 20 minute dexterity game. WHAT???

You roll inside of a designated play area, choose a few dice to re-roll (not asteroids), and then set aside anything other than asteroids and ships. If you rolled blasts you can use them to flick towards other dice, knocking them out of the galaxy. Some ships can flick from multiple areas or multiple times. It had a touch of Kingbrick to it as well (dice-flicking) but captured a little bit of that X-Wing feeling (space battle) without the feeling X-Wing leaves on your wallet.

I played with Matthew and my 5 year old daughter Elle, and Elle beat the both of us. Lots of fun.

This may have been the only abstract game at the show? It was Rey Alicea's Kasta, a very nicely made wooden box/dice game where you have to remove dice away from a pool of dice in the center of the table. It's tricky because you can only pull dice that are on the edges, and you will take one and give your opponent three.

The goal is to get rid of as many dice sets (4 of a kind, 4 in a row, etc.)as you can, because when the game ends your score is whatever you have left. And low score wins, so you don't want anything left.

There are a few bonus moves that you will need to do to win the game. You can always start your turn flipping a die or discarding a die. This was very powerful, almost too powerful as a free action. Especially for a mathy player. I'm only semi-mathy, but it helped me win by a good amount of points. Even with that said, it gets tense in the last few rounds when there are only a few dice on the table and you (and your opponent) won't likely be able to get rid of them.

I've talked about Tessen before and it's got even better since the last time I played. Tessen is Chris and Suzanne Zinsli's a realtime samurai battle game that is over before you even know it. It's quick and tense and has been picked up for release by Van Ryder Games. I played a few rounds and even tried out a possible expansion card that totally changes the way you think about when you score your cards.

Animal Run
Kevin Kulp was also in the KidZone with his game Animal Run. I've worked alongside Kevin on this game a few times and it's really shaping into this fast-paced game where players try to predict the road that their animal is running down. A correct prediction gets a better place in line, and a better place in line gets you more gold. Gold is in the form of cards, which will win you the game. I'm going to keep working on this game with Kevin, so I'm sure you'll hear more about it.

My daughter Elle took over my table for most of the day with her game Ponyland. It's based on one of her favorite Strawberry Shortcake games and she'll want me to point out that she "made it in a day" while it takes me "a year" to make my games. She had players and everyone was having a good time until she got a little moody (she's 5). She'll probably be back at Unpub with some of her other games sometime soon. She has a card game in the works and a board game based off of one of her favorite movies, The Rock-afire Explosion (crazy, right?).

I managed to squeeze in a few sessions of my Unpub favorite, Wartime. It's a sand-timer based Wargame, where the timers act as your cooldown time for all attacks and movement. But you have more units than sand-timers so your choices are tough, and you need to make them really quickly. The game lasts no more than 8 minutes and is always a treat. I also successfully won by making it all the way across the board for the very first time. My strategy of just running has finally paid off!

Maximum Throwdown
We closed with a round of Maximum Throwdown, my card-throwing battle game that debuted at the big Unpub in January. It wasn't registered this time, but it's quick and I had a few requests to bring it. As you can see, I'm still playing on the old abstract prototype but I hope to have a fancy-art version soon enough. Look for it this summer from AEG!

Check out for information on attending one of these events. They are always a great time for designers or attendees. I can't recommend them enough.

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