Unpub recap

I’ll start this off with food as that’s one of the things I think about when planning a trip. Last year I was driving down and got lunch at Wendy’s only to immediately see a sign for Isaac’s. This is a regional chain of sandwich places that we used to go when my wife still lived in the area. So I cemented in my brain, next year I’m getting Isaac’s. I stopped and got a club and it was pretty good. I mean it’s a club, hard to mess it up, but it was a lot. Not that it wasn’t good, but I think I’m good to grab something else next year on my way down.

Friday morning was my annual trip to Fat Boy’s Cafe. They’re only open M-F so that’s my only day to eat there. I get a plate of French toast and bacon and it’s just really good. Small hole in the wall place in the middle of a commerce park.

Saturday afternoon I went to Mission BBQ (along with what seems like half of the con). I got a pulled pork sandwich with fries. The fries were a nice fresh cut house made style and had a good taste to them. The pork sandwich was huge and I chose their Memphis sauced which was a bit more mustardy than I usually go for, but it grew on me. I also got a Nehi Grape Soda from their ice box of various drinks.

I found a bagel shop on Sunday that had a really good asiago bagel and got an egg and cheese sandwich. They also had pork roll which I haven’t had in years so I got that on the sandwich too. I think I’ll likely return there instead of hitting up McDonald’s for breakfast.

Sunday I stopped in Pittsburgh and ate at a favorite place called Hoss’s. These were all over where I grew up but don’t exist in Ohio where I live now. So I stop here every year and get a sample of home. They have a nice soup and salad bar and sometimes that’s just excactly what I want.

Monday morning I stopped at Primanti Bros as I never ate there while I was in college. I got a burger and fried cheese wedges. The cheese wedges were fantastic and the burger was just OK. It was fine but not worth the money in my opinion. I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t expect to return there next year.

Now onto the games.


My day started with my usual Unpub staff work, but when my shifts were done I started browsing around the room. I got drafted for Favor of the Gods by Travis DeAngelis. This is a fairly large game where you add units to the map, move them around, do some battling, gain favor tokens, and try to be the first to complete three goals. It was pretty good. It’s not my kind of game, and I tried a strategy that I was pretty sure wouldn’t win and it didn’t. It does have these spikes that you put skulls onto when you defeat a unit in battle which is a pretty neat gimmick.

I then played Barn Quilts by Rosco Schock (not pictured). This one was pretty early in design and we were joined by my friend Matt Wolfe for the game. I was the winner of this one and we discussed some ways to add more player interaction. I stopped by later in the weekend and it looked like some big changes had happened, but I didn’t get the chance to see what had changed exactly.

Matt and I then moved onto TL;DR by Chris Chen. This one has you working in a family bookstore trying to inherit the store after grandma retires. To do this you’re trying to earn points by making stacks of books with popular genres, swapping books in displays around, and adding things to the front display window. This one was really solid. I got off to a slow start (not as slow as Chris) and stayed that way. It felt like it was fairly locked in place as to who would win, but Chris claims that it is possible to have a big swing at the end due to end game scoring, just didn’t work out that way this time. I would consider getting this one when it’s published, but I also might let it pass.

I then moved onto fellow Unpub staffer Danielle Reynolds’ table where she was showing off Trekking Through Nature. A potential next title in the Trekking series. It has a pretty unique slide puzzle function where you’re taking a tile each turn from the main board and then sliding them through your display trying to align symbols to score cards. She told me it’s not a 100% guarantee this gets made, but I hope it does because it was a really neat puzzle and I’d be likely to buy this one.

The last game of the day for me was The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde by Adam Hill (also not pictured). I haven’t seen Adam in years so it was nice to get to talk to him. This one is ready to publish and I’ll buy it when it does. It’s a 2 player only deck builder where you both use the same deck. One player is Jekyll and one is Hyde and each card has a feature that is useful to only you. Hyde wants to kill off all 6 of Jekyll’s friends while Jekyll wants to either get arrested and confess or find all 5 parts of the remedy. It was a very tense and close game where we were both down to one thing left to do to win and we were waiting for the hands to align in just the right way. Eventually I was able to restore enough sanity that I could upgrade my character giving me the last remedy and winning the game. It was a really fun and unique take on deck building.


Saturday continued the gaming festivities. I once again had to do a little work first off helping at registration, but then got to playing. My first game on Saturday was Towers and the Things Between Them by Mark McGee. This very early design was an unusual and abstract game that we both had to kind of discuss the rules to before playing since he hasn’t settled one rule set to try yet. In it you’re adding pieces from your hand out into a map with various placement restrictions. Eventually you’ll try to capture cities which grant you more pieces allowing you to continue. There was a good back and forth to the towers which led to some interesting strategies. We played for a bit until we didn’t quite know what else to do as there wasn’t a well defined end condition and then discussed some options to give it some shape. I like abstract games a lot so I thought it was a neat game even if it was very bare bones and didn’t have a lot to it. I hope something comes of it and I can give it another shot next year after seeing a lot of improvement.

I played two games by Connor Wake, Conveyor Inc and Amoeba Lab. I first played Conveyor Inc which had a neat conveyor belt mechanic. You draft a set of cubes and energy from a general row and then add them to your belt. Then using robots you can spend energy to move them around trying to lump them into shapes that can score. When they reach the end of the belt they drop down into a “warehouse” kind of area and fill in spaces that give you energy or score you points. I struggled with this one, mostly from the conveyor puzzle. We gave some feedback on ways that could help with that in different ways, but he suggested this was derived from another design, which I later got to try. That was Amoeba Lab. This one I enjoyed a lot more. There’s a neat box you shuffled Boggle style to determine what resources are available each round, then drop those into your lab. As the amoeba gain food and grow you try and finish off a variety of shaped puzzles. This one clicked in my brain better. It was pretty easy to do things, but it was also satisfying to play. I think there’s room for both in the market, and hope he has luck with both of these in the future.

I stopped by a table to say hi to a friend and spotted Overlapping Mappers by Dan Schumacher on a nearby table. This is a layering map mapping card game. 100% my brand of game. So I waited for their game to wrap up and then went over to join in. This one is a competitive one where you start with a deck of cards and add one each round. You have four animals that you want to place as they are how you score. I misunderstood one of them which I think led to me losing, but I also made an assumption that I logically should’ve known was wrong but didn’t think it through. Overall, it was pretty good. I’d likely pick up a copy of it if it gets published.

One game I’ve seen for a while is Genetic Lab by TAM. I’ve looked at it for a bit but haven’t had the chance to play. Someone asked me if I knew whose game it was and I did. I told them if they get a game started up to come grab me, and he did just that. We only had a short time to try it out before TAM had a pitch to give, but we got started and I was really enjoying it. They’re both more genetics based than I was so they were nerding out over the legitimate science being modeled in the game. I was just having fun with it. I know TAM was looking for ways to improve it, but I think it’s pretty good right now. I’d be inclined to buy it as is, but I’d have to see what those changes are before committing. Some of them weren’t as exciting to me, and others were optional versions which would add some variety without changing the game I enjoyed.

The last game I played was SCOUT by Oink Games. This is a published game which is kind of against the rules of Unpub, but whatever. I played with four other people which was a first for me with this game. I almost won, but had one really bad round where I lost 4 points. Had I not lost those I would’ve won the game. SCOUT is fantastic and one of those games that’s so annoyingly simple that you wonder how you didn’t think of it first.

My day ended with a 30+ player game of Just One. Mark McGee wondered if the game has a player limit of 7 because that’s just how many markers they included in the box, or if the game breaks down after that point. So we put it to a stress test. It does still work. It was a clever system where we had a Google form where you supplied your response to the prompt. Then Mark would filter out any duplicates and give the results to the guesser. I only played for about 4 rounds because I got suddenly very hungry and left to get food. But it’s something I’m going to think about in the future if given the opportunity to have a large group game.


Sunday was a quick day for me. I was heading out early and so I only played one game and it was Dave Chalker’s Decryption Squad. I don’t typically like word games or trick taking games, and this was both. We snagged one more player and gave it a shot. After playing through one game, we discussed some changes and played it again to see how those work. Despite my tendencies against this style, I really liked this one. You’re all playing letters out, and however plays the highest numbered card then has to build a word from those played and the letters in the supply. You’re trying to make words that fulfill some goals in order to win the game. It was pretty nice. I agree that it needs something a bit more to it, but it worked pretty well as is.

We had about 450 people at the show this year which was great. There were tons of games being played and I rarely saw an empty table. We tweaked the formula this year for how badges and tables worked. There were a few hiccups as to be expected, but overall the show worked great. I’m already looing forward to next year.

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