To finish off my month of conventions, I went to Congress of Gamers in Maryland, to participate in the Unpub Protozone. This was my second visit to CoG. If I had not spent the entire month traveling, I would have loved to stay both days, but I was only able to stay til about 7 on Saturday.
As such, I only got a few games in. I had one 2-player game of New Bedford that also involved a good conversation with someone starting off on the game design journey, so I hope his experience with Unpub was a good one. I got a few quick playtests of some small game ideas I’ve been working on, but nothing of particular note, yet. I need to sit and decide what direction I want to go in with my game design, but that deserves a separate entry.
I played two games from other designers: First, Cattle Car from Dr. Wictz. This is a small 2-player deck-builder game with some great twists, about getting your cows into town so you can send them out on the train. It looks like a great portable game, and almost a micro-game. The two great twists are that you buy cards for your deck, but they are only temporary, and are lost after they show up in your hand, whether you play it or not! The other twist is that you have a limited number of cows to start, and if you get them into town when a train arrives, you can load them onto a cattle car for points. But you also use the cows to buy the more powerful cards in the deck. It felt very close to being ready, and it just needs some wooden cow meeples.
The second game I played was Market Square from Dave Chalker. This is another simple, small, and deep game, so it looks like it’s going to be a good year for great small games. Players collect resources to build buildings in a town. Each building is a unique way to generate points or manipulate resources. Resources come from a dice-rolling mechanism, where the dice can give each of the 4 resources, or raw points, or coins, which can be used as wild in later rounds. While I don’t normally like dice, I like what the game does with choosing them. Instead of simply drafting dice from a common pool, each player can simply take some number of dice. The next player can take other dice from the pool, or take dice from a previous player. When that happens, you have to return at least one resource to the middle. This results in a fair distribution, and adds a more strategic, interactive twist that depends more on how you play the other players than the randomness of the dice. It plays in about 45 minutes. I’m almost ready to buy it.
I also watched a bit of Planet Chasers from Hoop Cat games. This is a loose take on orbital mechanics, but I really enjoyed watching the gameplay. A dice roll controls both the movement of the planets and players’ ships, but players choose when and how to move. Players earn points from completing missions between planets, and simply from exploring planets. So this looks like a really interesting take on a race game. I’m hoping to actually sit and play it during Unpub 5.
It was great to see all my friends and designers, and sorry I couldn’t stay longer. An extra thanks to Dr. Wictz for managing the event, and for recovering my money from the board game flea market that closed unexpectedly early.