Building Better Board games Together

Review: City Hall

While it is not within the mission of to review or preview games, we MAY from time to time post reviews of games that have been played in our program with the permission of the designer/publisher.   I had the pleasure of meeting designer Michael R. Keller at the very first Unpub Mini event at Redcap’s Corner in Philadelphia in April of 2012. Michael brought a fairly complex but utterly engrossing game called Municipality to the event. Fast forward several months, the name has changed and the game is better than ever. City Hall is very unique hybrid of role selection, bidding and tile laying, set in a political climate and historically themed to the creation of New York City. Players will use their influence to manipulate the growth of the city and the political offices overseeing that growth. The more people and business you can bring into the city, the greater your power will be. At it’s heart, City Hall is about Role selection. There are several to choose from each turn, but the key is remembering that choosing the role does not guarantee that you will get to use the role. For me, this is where the game lives. Each turn you will place your pawn on a role. This activates that role and starts the bidding. Players will use their influence to bid on actually executing the role. Players can pass or bid once. When you bid, you match or exceed the highest bid. Finally the player who activated the role gets to bid, either paying back to the bank influence equal to the highest bid and executing the role, or accepting the influence from the player who bid the highest and allowing that player to execute the role. This has fascinated me every time. It’s a chance to poke your opponents and see what’s really worth it to them. I will often choose something I know they want and bleed them of influence. Not always…but often. The more influence I have the better my position in the next bidding round to get what I want. I often vary what I want from round to round to keep players guessing. With 7 roles to choose from, there’s always an option. I allow other players to pigeon hole themselves into a strategy, while keeping my options open. So, for me the bidding is the real excitement in the game. It generates a fair deal of interaction and drama. The tension is palpable. The rewards are often great. The rest of the turn just builds to the bidding for me and is full of the head game...

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Recap: RinCon

This post was written by Ian Stedman of G.U. Games and awesome volunteer who facilitated the event. Special thanks to his wife. Trish, as well, for helping to bring Unpub to RinCon! The RinCon 2012 Unpub ProtoZone was a great success, attendance looked like it was going to be low, but we pulled some strings and got an announcement out on The Game Crafter at the last minute to bring in a few more local designers to fill the roster. Among which were Seth Jaffee, designer of Eminent Domain showing off TMG’s new upcoming game Captains of Industry; Patrick Nickell of Crash Games showing his newest creation Dungeon Heroes, which is set to launch on Kickstarter soon; and the legendary James Ernest of Cheapass Games joined us to demo his newest project Fish Cook which is actually available as a Print-n-play “open beta” project. G.U. Games hosted the event but wasn’t too busy to show off their newest deck-building creation, BattleMage! We didn’t have a chance to play all the games, although there were two other standouts: Toil and Trouble by Marcus Ellsworth, and Uncle Otto’s Vault by Red Rook Games both had a lot going for them and offered very unique and innovative gameplay, keep an eye out for them at future events! Thank you very much to everyone who participated, and to RinCon and their staff for offering the venue. Can’t wait to see you all again next year. For More Information on Upcoming ProtoZones and other Unpub Events, go here! For More Information on Unpub: ProtoZones, go here! Information on how to Host and Run an Unpub: ProtoZone, go here!...

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Recap: Congress of Gamers (Part 1)

Today’s post, a recap of this weekend’s ProtoZone at the Congress of Gamers,  is written by Darrell Louder. (Much Thanks to Darrell and TC PettyIII for taking the reigns of this event onsite.) This past Saturday morning (October 6, 2012) a Congress of Gamers was held in a little senior center Rockville, Maryland. Unpub was there with the Big Blue Noodle for an Unpub: ProtoZone. Designers Kevin Kulp, Alex Strang, Brad Smoley, Darrell Louder, TC Petty III, and Paul Owen were there at the start to let the good times roll! The first game hit the table, that game was MOVIE PLOTZ by Alex Strang. Sadly, I did not get to participate in this play session, but from the laughter and general hoopla the game was causing it looked like a lot of fun, and therefore I felt the sting of jealousy that I could not join in on the game about making a movie about a Dog (played by a carpenter squirrel) who wore his Sister as a sweater, but then she got kidnapped and the dog hired James Bond to rescue her from the clutches of the Taliban, who were stationed in the Roman Colosseum- which was moved to Afghanistan and converted to an Alien Spaceship (by the Afghans), and also was the secret hideout of an alien army who was addicting to reality TV and feared dogs. Yeah, that sounds crazy, but who wouldn’t see that movie?! So, I can’t give my feedback on this, but Paul Owen can (and has) in his blog here. The first game that I got to play was Paul Owen’s newest prototype EAST INDIA COMPANY.  EIC has you portraying ships from around the world, working for the East India Trading Company. You sail around the world purchasing goods and then delivering them to other remote locations. All this while battling pirates, debt, an ever-changing supply and demand, and the European Bank. The game was setup at 10:15 and from the first turn to the last- an adventure.   I freaking loved it. Paul knows he has the time issue to tackle, as well as a few minor balance issues- truly all TINY, TINY fixes. I don’t throw high praise around to just anything. The last prototype I threw high marks to was VivaJava, and we all know how that turned out. This game, EAST INDIA COMPANY, is by far the best prototype I have played since VivaJava. If this title isn’t on your radar- it better be, seriously. If you are a publisher looking for an amazingly smooth & heavy Euro, a publisher who doesn’t skimp on design or component quality, then you need to turn your focus to...

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Recap: Escapist Expo

The Escapist Expo in Durham, North Carolina was our first official ProtoZone. We were at the event at the invitation and guidance of Game Salute and the residency assistant of DiceHateMe and Monkey238. We’re always grateful to be part of a Game Salute area, they provide us with plenty of players and activity all weekend long. They’re the place to be at a convention. I was pretty excited about the possibilities going into all of this and the weekend did not disappoint. Despite the exhibit hall opening later than expected on Friday due to technical issues with some of the video game systems, board games were up and ready to play on time. Actually, as soon as the exhibit hall opened Unpub games were on the table. I started the ball rolling with a 4 player game of Flummox which ranks high among the best games of Flummox I’ve ever played. Whilst that game was happening, Daniel Solis was able to get a group together to play one of his games, I think  it was Utara. Daniel’s official selection for the event was Belle of the Ball and I know he was itching to get to that, but he had a panel to rush off to, so I think he went with a shorter selection. Things got busy once the exhibit hall was opened for sure and players were using the Game Salute Library to borrow and play all kinds of great games. Unpubs were still happening. I got in several plays of Flummox, Daniel came back with Belle of the Ball, and Chris Kirkman even got in a game of Compounded by designer Darrell Louder. I am always sad to miss getting in on a game of Compounded, but I took the opportunity to get another one of my prototypes on the table. Pageantry is something I’ve been slowly working on over the past few weeks, and I enjoyed a play through at the Escapist. I got some great notes on this one and will continue to develop it. That’s what an Unpub event is about.. I finally had a chance to sit down with Daniel and play Belle of the Ball. It was a good experience. I really like the interactivity of the game. You get to take actions based on the actions that other player’s choose. There’s a lot of strategy to that, and I didn’t plum the depths of it as much as I could have. The theme is original and really fit what was going on within the mechanics of the game, which is always a plus. It’s a game about mingling at a  Victorian...

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Unpub Preview: Fixed Le Mans

As we move towards upcoming Unpub events we’re going to preview some of the games which will be exhibited.   What type of game is it? What was your inspiration for this game? My daily bicycle commute to work What is your favorite part of this game? a continuously altering game board of obstacles.   What has been the most challenging part of designing this game? Amounts of each card type to have fair play. What advice would you give to players attempting this game for the first time? Just let the game evolve as you go. What has surprised you most in play-tests of your game? the amount of “interesting” rules and actions that just turned out to be tedious.  What do you hope to accomplish at this event? Fine tune some rules and fix bugs. Tell us anything else you want to say about the game that I haven’t asked or you haven’t said already.First to finish the 3 lap race wins! But beware of pot holes, road debris and the other players! People will be racing to play Fixed Le Mans by Shepard Ritzen at the Unpub Mini at Redcap’s Corner on Saturday April 13, 2013 from 1pm to 8pm!...

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