Unfair is a game that came up on Kickstarter a couple of days ago. It was brought to my attention when the organiser of ConCentric made a little noise about it on Facebook. This put the game in a favourable light right off the bat as I consider Ben a trustworthy source when it comes to board games. Not only because he organises ConCentric, but also because he’s worked with the team behind Unfair on their previous game project – Monstrous.
The Unfair team have made the full draft files for the game available for print-and-play, so I felt it prudent to give the game a go before jumping into backing it. To be honest, the art had already won me over so it was with some nervousness that I suggested we try the game. I was afraid that the mechanics would not hold up.
It took a little bit of convincing, but tonight I managed to get John to sit down and play the game, and I can safely say it’s solidly crafted. Relevant information on the cards is laid out quite orderly-like, so I took a chance on printing it in black and white. By keeping things black and white I also made sure that I’d still have an incentive to purchase the game even if the mechanics weren’t so strong – I’d need to back the game to get the full-colour art!
Spending an hour with the grayscale cards did get kind of tiring after a while. We had no issues telling the cards apart but a lot of the fun, vibrant cues weren’t there. The wonderful colour gradients translate especially badly to grayscale so things that you just know look great on the complete cards become bothersome in the black and white context.
Anyway, to the game itself! The game is centred around creating theme parks with all the shnazzy attractions, and includes themed decks, each with a slightly different emphasis on mechanics. We played the recommended decks for a first-time two-player game: Robots and Pirates. The game is played in eight rounds, and global events make things rosy for the first half, but meaner for the second half. There’s a suggested “First Date” set of rules that reduce the number of “Unfair” rounds but since often when playing games we talk about needing more turns, extra time to explore mechanics or time to make up for newbie-mistakes we decided to play out all eight rounds. I think this was the right decision.
There’s a strict-ish order to things, and while Event cards can be gained freely during the “Park” stage of the game, they cannot be played until the next “Event” stage rolls back around. Combined with a hand-limit that gets enforced between the rollover of game rounds and a fluctuating game situation between the opportunities to actually play the event cards means the number of events that can be played are moderated. The events tend to be situationally powerful, even occasionally useless. Each event card has two choices on it however so you can usually pick something to do.
We didn’t use the attacking events terribly liberally, but with the coming of the second half of “Unfair” global-event cards we did start attacking each other. This was interesting in the context of the two-player game as there was only one rival to keep track of. Most nastiness goes away on its own by the next round, but it’s also possible to build defenses around yourself.
Money is an interesting thing in the game, and is mostly only earned at the end of a round. Fortunately there’s no upkeep costs as I spent much of the game on not a lot of money. John however managed to put together a nice engine, and ended the game on well over 100 coins. Quite a handsome bounty considering the two-to-one coins to points conversion.
My overall impressions right now are positive, and I have backed the game, but I’m trying very hard to *not* do a “review” (with only one playthough I don’t think I can do a good review). That said, I’m sure I’m not giving a decent enough overview of the gameplay itself for it to be useful to anyone reading it in deciding if they want to back the game so I’ll wrap things up here.
Tell you what, EVACers – if people are interested I will print the additional theme decks to allow up to four players to play and we can give it a go tomorrow. You’ll just have to put up with the cards being in black and white.
I’ll need to play some games of it with you some time. A cursory glance at the kickstarter had me assuming it’s taking a lot of influence from Elysium.
I think I like it more than Elysium. It does share the themed decks in common with it, but I hadn’t really thought of that link. I don’t think the themes shake up gameplay as much as Elysium having looked through all the cards.
There isn’t the conflict between having things out to use them and having them put away for scoring, which is good for me as I tend to be bad at that aspect. Generally you want to build things bigger to get your money returns, and eventually those same big things will get you points. I dunno, I think there’s a lot more room for exploration than what we saw tonight. I’d be interested to see how well chasing the different the scoring methods might get. I feel like perhaps more blueprints may be required too, there’s few enough that you could memorise and possibly even track positions of all of them.