Wow, Unpub4 was a fantastic event, and I want to start by thanking Darrel Louder and all of the volunteers for Unpub that made it so successful. There were 2 full days of testing, game playing, prizes, and a lot of fun. I was able to meet a lot of great people in person for the first time and really enjoyed seeing the people I knew. So here is a recap of my experiences.
Friday night was the designer and publisher dinner, sponsored by KickTraq. This was much bigger than I expected it to be because there were so many designers and publishers at Unpub. They handed out some awesome swag bags with some neat pieces, chits, tokens, and some exclusive Unpub promo cards for games, and each bag even had a copy of the nano game “Where Art thou Romeo?” Thanks to Game Salute, Crash Games, Andrew Tullsen of Print and Play Productions, MeepleSource, Dice Hate Me, and everyone who contributed promo cards. If you came in to playtest at the main event Saturday, you may also have been lucky enough to get a bag, too. It was very nice that Darrel thanked John Moller for founding the Unpub Network by giving him the Perpetual Start Player Meeple award, which he may use to override any start player rules when playing a game. (I just realized that I had forgotten all about that ability when he sat down to play New Bedford on Sunday. Sorry, John!) Scott King was there as the official Unpub Photographer, and took pictures for the whole weekend.
I am a little sad that I didn’t spend any time at the hotel playing games into the night, especially some of the DiceHateMe 54 Card Challenge games that looked really cool. But I definitely needed the rest because Saturday and Sunday were two full days.
Saturday morning at Unpub started with some last minute sharp turns following Unpub
34 signs. Once you entered the hall, you could almost feel the sense of excitement and fun shared by everyone setting up. I grabbed my table and was happy to find myself next to Charlie Hoops, who I had met before, and Chris and Suzanne Zinsli of Cardboard Edison, who an incredibly helpful site for anyone interested in game design.
People were already coming through the doors at 10, and I didn’t have to wait long to start a game of New Bedford. I only got 3 games in on Saturday, because with 4 new players, there is a bit of a learning curve. Some of the feedback commented on that, but overall, people think it’s easy to learn. In general, people think it’s right where it needs to be, but everyone thinks it’s fun. I heard from a lot of people that New Bedford was getting some buzz, and it sounds like there are a lot of people eagerly awaiting its publication. In the playthrough I was most proud of, an 8-year-old girl won (fair and square). So it’s good to know it’s accessible to families, younger players, and more casual players.
I was able to get 10 Acres out twice on Saturday, and got some good advice on where it is going. I had a quick pitch with Game Salute, and while they liked the concept, they recommended I take another look at the theme. Eric Handler (@reldnahcire) also helped me work out how to make it less fiddly. Right now, my thoughts are that it is a good mechanic waiting for a better game.
Also of interest on Saturday, Dice Hate Me announced the results of the 54 Card Challenge and Human Resources is a finalist! It’s a sign of how busy I was this weekend that I’ve only now had the chance to post about it! All of the finalist games were available for playing on Sunday to get some player feedback before picking winners. Watch the Dice Hate Me site for an announcement about that when they post their plans for the year.
Sunday started with the pancake breakfast and publisher panel sponsored by Eagle and Gryphon Games. Thanks to the publishers who participated, Eagle and Gryphon, Game Salute, Crash Games, Dice Hate Me Games, Nevermore Games, and Van Ryder Games. There were some great topics discussed. Highlights were the influence of Eminent Domain showing the viability of Kickstarter as a platform for selling games, the friendly and open relationships between publishers, and interested from publishers in games that have proved themselves through self-publishing and print-on-demand sales. Of course they all agreed that an important part of pitching is doing your research and making sure the theme and style of the game match the publisher, while being open to changing the theme. I spent the remainder of Sunday demoing New Bedford, and I got 5 games of 2 or 3 players in. It seemed like every time I walked away from the table someone sat down to play, but Anna was incredibly helpful and started teaching the games. A huge thanks to everyone who stopped by, played, or just looked at New Bedford and my other games over the weekend. I’ll have to write about the changes to New Bedford that are coming out of Unpub in a few weeks.
I was only able to play 3 other designers’ games over the weekend, because I was busy at my table most of the time. Saturday I tried Daniel Solis’ The River Ancient, which was actively being changed throughout the day, and had already changed from the previews I read about it. There were some balance issues that he was working on, but the core of the game is a neat combination of tile placement, area control, and auction mechanics. Sunday I got to play 2 games that I had been looking forward to since playing them at Previous Unpub events: Charlie Hoops’ Firebreak and Dr. Wictz’ Post Position. Firebreak is a co-op game about fighting a forest fire. The balance has been adjusted since my first play, and it’s now a more tense, entertaining game that I’m looking forward to seeing soon. Post Position is more of a party game about horse racing, that focuses not on the race, but on buying and selling shares of horses. The gameplay has been streamlined a bit since my first play, and it still is more exciting than a game about short-selling has a right to be.
Anna played a few other games, and a few friends came down for the day on Saturday and played through several more. I’m hoping I can get their thoughts written down soon. Apologies to everyone I missed. There were some really neat looking games that I just didn’t get to.
That about wraps it up for the Unpub 4 Recap. I’m already looking forward to more Unpub events and next year’s Unpub 5!