Hey friends! Last weekend, all three of us got to experience our first Unpub convention, held in Hunt Valley, Maryland. We wanted to share our awesome experience with all of you – so check it out!
Confuzzld Meeple’s thoughts: Unpub 8 as an overall convention was a total blast. It was lots of fun to try new games in development with friends, meet designers, and have open gaming available in the evenings. Meeting and gaming with other content creators contributed to the overall excellent experience of Unpub as well.
My favorite prototypes of the convention were River Valley Glassworks and Magnificent Marvels. River Valley Glassworks has a nice twist on tableau building and set collection, with an interesting historical theme. Magnificent Marvels is a worker placement game where you are literally building your engine, a mechanical marvel. I’m very excited to see where these games go in the future.
Some great games we played during open gaming were Downforce and Herbaceous. This convention will definitely be a mainstay for us going forward. I truly enjoyed every prototype I played and had a wonderful time. Many thanks to Lesley and Darrell Louder for organizing Unpub and to all the Unpub staff.
Solitary Meeple’s thoughts: Having only been to one other tabletop gaming convention, and only for a day, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Unpub, especially as it’s not the usual type of convention. I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and excitement pervading everything and everyone. The designers really wanted to show you their games and the playtesters really wanted to try them and give feedback. I had a blast.
I thoroughly enjoyed every prototype I had the fortune to play, but I think my favorite was a unique mashup called Pizza Coven. Witches brewing ingredients/slices in cauldrons, trying to make pizzas with the toppings people want that week, occasionally picking up recipes, but having to bet a limited pool of numbered chips to get the ingredients you want.
The theme and mechanics fit so well together that playing it was a delight. The first player marker was even a wand with a pizza cutter at the tip. LIttle touches like that always make a game better for me, and the gameplay itself was solid (even though I lost) that I really hope it gets published and plan to back it or pick it up if it does.
Fluffy Meeple’s thoughts: At this point, Sarah and I have attended 4 different conventions – Origins, PAX Unplugged, PrezCon, and UnPub. While I love the hustle and buzz of the big conventions, I think that Unpub is the best con that I’ve been to. I love the warm and supportive atmosphere that is for designers, publishers, and the playtesters that attend the event. I’ve always enjoyed the city of Baltimore and its suburbs, and the local food options are on par with Columbus’ North Market and Philly’s Reading Terminal Market. You have to go a bit further to get them, but since you’re in the suburbs of Baltimore, it’s not too bad to get from place to place.
I really appreciated the split of men and women at the con – I’d guess it was about 70% men to 30% women, and I never felt talked down to or looked down at for being a woman. The designers that I interacted with seemed to really appreciate the feedback I provided to them and the conversation was very positive.
As a media person that was also playtesting, I felt like I had a lot of networking opportunities while, at the same time, checking out some great games. I’d like to have had some sort of media indicator on my badge, but that’s a minor qualm that I could have fixed myself with some sort of Open Seat Gaming bling (pin, etc). I’ll know for next year.
My favorite prototype was J. Alex Kevern’s Vistacrats, a game where you’re building castles for clients that want to have certain views. In this tableau building game, you have multi-use cards that have different symbols on them for different types of landscapes – water, forest, fields, and mountains (each is also a different color). On your turn, you place a card onto your tableau, and you score for the landscapes, as indicated on the card and the direction that the card points, that are represented in the immediately adjacent column. Your opponents also get to place meeples on their cards of that same color that you placed, which can be used to score more points later on. The game was the right level of thinky and the puzzle was always changing. It was a balancing act that I loved sinking my teeth into. It feels like Kevern’s style that he had in World’s Fair, but it was also different, so I hope that it gets published and into our collection someday!
I also really enjoyed Those Meddling Kids, which Chris Kirkman (Dice Hate Me) was showing off on behalf of KnA Games. This is a dice placement game (think Elder Sign) where you’re playing as kids that are going through their little area, trying to solve mysteries that the adults just don’t seem to be doing anything about (think in the vein of Stranger Things, Scooby Doo, etc). You go from location to location, looking for the pieces to each puzzle – but you have to go to school, do your chores, be home for dinner, and go to bed on time or you could get grounded, which makes it harder for you to do your crime solving! This game is a ton of fun and, while I’m not always the biggest fan of co-ops, the story, theme, and overall 70s/80s/90s vibe really drew me in and kept me engaged for the entire experience.
In short, Unpub was an amazing experience and Lesley and Darrell Louder did an amazing job when it comes to organizing the event. The space wasn’t too crowded and we felt very welcome and comfortable in the environment. We even got to get some already published games to the table during their open gaming time as well! We cannot wait to go back next year and for years to come.
Sarah, Scott, and Marti