Well, we had our Unpub Mini at the Game Parlor in Chantilly, VA this past Saturday - and I'm confident in saying it was a smashing success! In fact, it really exceeded my expectations. Now that it's over, I can say that I had some trepidation leading up to it. First, I was nervous about getting enough designers to show up. Well, we had 5 sign up within the first few days, and I think we had 10 slots filled after a week or two. In fact, we pulled a Spinal Tap and went to 11 when there was some sort of glitch on the Unpub website that allowed an 11th designer to sign up. Furthermore, I had a 12th designer, Andre Chautard, contact me a few days prior to see if he could bring his game. I told him that he should come...I didn't know if he'd get his game out, but it was at least a good networking experience. Andre did come, and got in a few plays of his game, so it worked out great.
|A couple of early designers await the opening...|
My next trepidation was our location. The Game Parlor is the normal haunt for our group, because it's close to many of our offices. I like the Game Parlor, and I've been going there for 20ish years, but they don't exactly have their finger on the pulse of the gaming industry as much as, for example, Labyrinth Games in D.C. And Chantilly, while in the D.C. metro area, is a bit out of the way. But, they do have lots of tables, and room for playing.
Finally, and this was my biggest worry - was getting playtesters. I feared that the 12 of us would just have to split up and play each others games all day. I printed flyers, sent emails to several local gaming groups, and tried to spread the word in the Game Parlor itself. More often than not I was met with a blank stare that read "why are you interrupting my game?!" However, my fears were unfounded, as we had over 30 folks playing games at our event! I had 30 on the sign up sheet, but I know there was a few I missed. Every designer got multiple plays of their game(s) in, as far as I know. So, huzzah!
|Not a bad turnout...this is just about all Unpubbers!|
Now, let me talk a little about the designers and their games. I'll start with the ones I played.
Escape Velocity - Shadowsong Industries
|The endless track of Escape Velocity|
I like the theme here, and this game has some things definitely going for it. I like the asymmetric ships, and I like the board swapping mechanic. I think some of the cards and some of the powers need further refinement and balancing - one card in particular killed me as Alf switched places with me when I was nearly a lap ahead of him - a killer in a 3 lap race. The person who went first each turn was the person in last place, and it was not always clear to me who that was - you sort of had to look at the board...and at each player's ship tableau to figure that out. The cards are also very text heavy - which means a lot of reading, particularly when you're dealt your initial hand. I think if Alf and Kiva can get a little more balance in some of the card effects, and streamline things a bit for quicker play, they'll really be on to something here.
Knot Dice - Black Oak Games
This is a very interesting dice game by Matthew O'Malley. The game consists of 36 identical dice, each face having a portion of a Celtic Knot inscribed on it. One of the great things about this, is that Matthew actually has several games designed using the dice. There's a speed game, a puzzle game, a co-op game, and a "team" game where you are teaming (sort of) with the players on either side of you. I sat down with Matthew and had a chance to play each of the iterations except for the "team" game.
The "speed game" (rolling your dice until you have no loose ends - whether it's one knot or several) and the "puzzle game" (where you can pass dice to your neighbor as you try to build a know) are pretty fleshed out games, and need little to no tweaking at this point. In the co-op game, where we work together to build the highest score possible (scoring a point per die intersection - meaning a 6x6 grid would be the highest) - it was interesting but lacked a bit of tension. Matthew and I spent the most time talking about this particular variant, and we eventually hit on the idea of being able to limit the amount of dice you could "throw out" of the game. This was a little bit inspired by the "fuse" mechanism of Hanabi. We played again, and the game definitely seemed more tense, and enjoyable. I don't know if that's the final answer, but I think it was a step in the right direction.
I very much look forward to Matthew getting this published, as I think Knot Dice would make the perfect game to carry around and play at dinner, or in between other games or activities. And for me, I am particularly drawn to the Celtic Knot theme (maybe I should have worn my kilt to the event).
Salvation Road - Michael Kelley
|Waiting for Master Blaster to show up....|
I enjoyed this game, as much as for the setting as for the game play. Thank god it wasn't another zombie game! The game was tense, as we searched for supplies in an increasingly dangerous environment. I enjoyed the asymmetric play of each character having different attributes (the "survivors" tend to have hindrances). I look forward to playing this game with final artwork, as I think that will add to the overall theme.
Horrible Hex - Stone Circle Games
|Not so horrible, really...in fact it's quite good!|
Aesop's Gambit - Michael Karg
|A "Fabled" variant of Poker|
Other games I did not have a chance to play -
East India Company - Paul Owen
|East India Company in action|
Reactor Scram - Paul Owen
A game very much still in progress, Paul reported that in the two plays at the Unpub Mini, one went very short (which was his main concern) - the but the second went very long, which was a surprise. But I believe he got some good feedback from all of this.
Trove - David Somerville
|The very popular Trove in action...|
Lords of Baseball - Max Jamelli
|Baseball junkies...take note!|
|And they're off!|
Post Position - Dr. Witcz
Another one I meant to play but didn't get a chance. Paul had been talking this one up since last Unpub. If there's one thing that I feel bad about, it's that I think I let down Austin Smokowicz a bit. He was wanting to get a large player count in (the game holds up to 12), but we were only able to get him a 6 player game.
|Is this legal?!|
Underground Street Racing - Dr. Witcz
Austin was able to get in a few playtests of their new game. I watched Paul play a few rounds, but I had trouble following the action. I look forward to see how this is developed prior to Unpub 5
Boondoggle - Michael Karg
|There's the "Bridge to Nowhere"|
This was Mike's main game to bring, and I believe he got in 1 playtest. I'm not sure how the game went, but from the discussion I saw afterward, I think he got plenty of feedback.
Movie Links - Andre Chautard
Thanks to Matthew O'Malley for getting me the correct title of this game by Andre. I think he got in at least 2 playtests, and I heard positive reviews. This is a party game where you have cards with movie titles, and then are disks with things like "racy" or "adventure" on them, and you have to connect the movie cards with these disks somehow...I didn't get the full explanation...but I will tell you that I think it was neat that we had a "party game" mixed in with our allotment of euro and strategy games.
Last Bastion - Peter Gousis
Several people expressed interest in this game based on the description, and I know they got in one play...I myself didn't hear the feedback, but I hope the designers got good feedback.
Hey...what about Santa's Workshop?!?!
|Who's naughty and who's nice here?|
Oh yeah, I had a game there! Well, I plan on dedicating a whole blog post to not only what came out of the Unpub Mini, but what I've been doing on the game since Unpub 4. I had snuck in a playtest the previous Tuesday, and made some tweaks before our event. At the Unpub Mini, I got in 2 playtests, and got some valuable feedback. I think I'm headed in the right direction after a few months flailing since Unpub 4 - but there are still some tweaks to be made. In the 2nd playtest on Saturday in particular, one flaw became much more clear, and I think I have a better grasp on fixing that. Stay tuned to the next blog post!
So, that wrap things up - I'm sorry if I missed a game or two in my recap. I'm definitely looking forward to the next Unpub event - I even have a devious plan to maybe do another "Mini" prior to Unpub 5, in order to do some tweaks prior to the big event. We'll see. In any case, I would like to thank the designer that came out, and all of the playtesters, and I look forward to seeing you folks at future events!