Everything Action at Pax Unplugged 2022
It was time to shuffle cards, count spaces, and spend action points when Pax Unplugged returned this December 2nd to 4th. Unplugged is the annual gaming event focusing on tabletop and board gaming. This event has been a welcoming show with exciting stuff to do for gamers of all interests. The vendor hall featured aisles of game companies and shops, special guests gave talks about different aspects of the industry, and there were a ton of options to play various gaming, both casually and professionally. We were invited to check out the products from various studios, learn about the newest developments on upcoming titles and meet some interesting people while we gamed. Read on to see what we did at Unplugged and the cool things we saw along the way.
For the shopper and casual browser, the Expo Hall was the main spot to see new products and exciting displays of games. However, Unplugged has so many activities and events around the place that you have to do some time management to squeeze in window shopping, trying demos and chatting with people. Over 150 vendors were open for visitors every day between 10 AM and 6 PM on Friday and Saturday, and till 5 PM on Sunday. From new games, custom accessories, and apparel, you can a treasure trove of goodies. With lots of things to see and play here, you can easily spend hours like we did wandering this area alone.
The Pokémon Company – Pokémon Play Lab
It was hard not to miss the gigantic Pikachu that was floating above the Expo Hall, which conveniently directed people to the Pokémon Lab. This booth was themed after a Pokémon research lab that had staff give tutorials for first-time players of the Pokémon Trading Card Game and held small tournaments for competitive play. A few tables were set up with cameras that allowed people to watch games and see what cards people were pulling.
Kosmo – Catch the Moon
If you enjoy games like Jenga but aren’t a fan of the loud noises from falling blocks, then Catch the Moon is the perfect game. Published by Kosmo, Catch the Moon is a stacking and balancing game that has players add ladders to a pile in order to towering structure. Each player rolls a die to determine if they have to place a ladder that must touch another ladder, or two ladders at once or has to be the highest ladder in the structure. Failing to do what the die says results in a penalty raindrop (because mistakes make the moon cry?) It was a fun title to pick up and play since the gameplay is simple to understand and every ladder added to the pile affects the next player, so there are some fun opportunities for risky plays or screwing over your friends.
Anomia Press – Anomia: Pop Culture
The latest edition of Anomia was being showcased at the Anomia Press booth with creator Andrew Innes. Anomia: Pop Culture brings the same award-winning game design of mixing trivia and memorization with pop culture themes. We talked to Innes about the process of researching his facts to add to his trivia and the many test runs it takes to work out the kinks. It is surprisingly difficult to find timeless fun and unique trivia questions when you want to stand apart from other game titles and random internet quizzes. This Pop Culture edition draws inspiration from movies, TV, celebrities, and more. If you’ve never seen or played Anomia before, each player has a card with a symbol and some sort of category. You need to keep an eye on your opponent’s card and if they turn over the same symbol that you have, you need to say something that fits the category on their card before they say something from your category. The first person to get out a response gets the opponent’s card and a point.
Pop Fiction Games – The Shivers
One of the coolest-looking games at PAX Unplugged, The Shivers from Pop Fiction Games is a tabletop RPG mystery game where players explore a haunted house. The house is actually a pop-up, 3D model that you can actually explore by opening windows and doors and you can connect various rooms to make one big area to explore. There are also plenty of puzzles and challenges to overcome, so it also has some escape room vibes for 2-4 players One of the players is the Storyteller, who reads the narrative for the story you’ve decided to playthrough and introduces twists and enemy creatures into the game. There’s a base game that comes with multiple stories and rooms to explore and you can add expansions that add other places in the fictional town of the fiction and other rooms for the main haunted house.
Rebellion Unplugged – Joyride
We played Restoration Game’s Thunder Road last year at PAX Unplugged and Joyride from Rebellion Unplugged is similar but definitely carving its own chaotic path. Set in a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style road, you and your fellow players are cast as racers in a deadly racing league. There are tracks that are designed for 2 players going up to large tracks for 4 players and there are multiple ways to set up the checkmark gates on each track, so there is a ton of replay value on each board. You have a set of dice and you use them to figure out your movement. you can shift gears up and down to gain or lose dice as needed. The higher your gear, the more dice you can roll and the farther you can go but if you overshoot, you’ll end up smashed into an obstacle or wall. Downshifting allows you to turn and maneuver. There are weapons icons that you can pick up and you also get weapons when you pass the 1st and 3rd checkpoint gate each lap. The weapons add an extremely fun Mario Kartesque element to the game as you can launch a rocket or drop a mine to screw with your opponents. Even with just two players, our race was a chaotic, insane mess, so we can’t even imagine the mayhem of a full four-player game. The shifting and dice management takes a few turns to get the hang of but once you understand it, there’s a great strategic layer that is a ton of fun while you can also push your luck and go for broke as well.
B.A Games – Cult of the Deep
Everyone wants to be your friend when you’re part of a cult, but once you throw in mystical monsters and rituals to give you power, friendships crumble if you get what you want in the end. Cult of the Deep is a Lovecraftian horror-inspired title that has players in a cult, with many of its members with hidden agendas. One player takes the role of High Priest, the leader of the cult that has to survive being assassinated. The other players take up the undisclosed roles of followers in the cult. There are three roles: Faithful, members who protect the Priest and eliminate the threats. Cabalist, the opportunists that want to kill the High Priest and become the cult’s new leader. Heretics, are members who want to destroy the whole cult and will take down anyone standing in their way. We got a run thru with the B.A Games staff, who showed us the basic rules and some of the strategies each role can perform. The game’s mechanics rely on bluffing and deception, so the game varies based on the type of players that join. On a player’s turn, they can roll dice and determine one of four actions: perform a ritual, gain or lose health points or attack. Everyone knows who the High Priest is, but every player has to figure out the other’s roles and see if they are allies or enemies. Heretics adds an interesting challenge where they are allowed to be a chaotic force and wipe out everyone, including themselves if needed. Dead players can still assist in the game as they turn into wraiths to help or hinder the High Priest. The artwork on the cards looked great and captures the Lovecraftian visuals very nicely. We talked to the B.A Games staff about the process it took to find the right artists to bring the game’s graphics out. From searching on online portfolios, looking at romance novel covers, and cold emailing others, sometimes the art is the hard part of making a game. You can find copies of Cult of the Deep over at the B.A Games online store and retail shops now.
Giant Fox Studios – BATSU! The Punishment Card Game
Like whacky party games and aren’t embarrassed by having your friends laugh at your pain? Then Giant Fox Studios has a title for you. Based on the Japanese batsu-style game show in NYC and Chicago, BATSU! The Punishment Card Game brings all the fun of performing improv and physical challenges to the comfort of your home, or whatever you think you can get away with singing aloud to strangers. Players start a round by picking a player to be the judge, then picking a challenge card, an audience suggestion, and the Batsu, the punishment for the unlucky player who performed the worst in the challenge. The challenges range from doing a dance, giving a eulogy, or making up a witty movie catchphrase. At the end of the round, the worst player has to enact the punishment, like gurgling a drink while singing, revealing a guilty pleasure, or tapping themselves with a spoon. BATSU! doesn’t promise this, but it could bring friends closer together, make you question your own family members, and discover new hidden talents. The game is a blast for players that love to get into the performances and are quick-thinking on their feet. However, if you think you got the improv skills to take the game to the next level and looking for a great thing to do in the city, visit the real-life Batsu! performance in NYC or Chicago!
Zephyr Workshop – AEGIS: Second Ignition
A new expansion of the robot combining tabletop game AEGIS is coming this January in the AEGIS: Second Ignition. AEGIS focused on a card battling system that lets players quickly pick up cards and set up for fast pace combat. Players pick a commander that leads a team of five robotic warriors from five different mech types (Assault, Evasive, Guard, Intel, and Support). These mechs can attack individuality but have the ability to combine and form into powerful forms. If players manage their resources, all five can transform into one mega mecha to unleash powerful attacks. In this expansion of the tactical robot dueling game, Second Ignition adds twelve new robots and new commander characters that amplify the number of robot combinations and playstyles. The new Kickstarter for the expansion starts this coming January 13th.
Gadabout Games – Turf Wars
The suburban lawn may look like a passive decoration, but it hides a battlefield for passive-aggressive neighbors. Turf Wars is a 2 player game that has them build the most eye-catching backyard space to win over the neighborhood. Players take turns gathering supplies, building structures to attract favor from other neighbors, and traveling to work to earn money to do it all again. The game has some good art assets that are very colorful and lively and the game’s mechanics are easy to set up and play. We spoke to the game’s creator, Dan Nichols, about how he came up with the concept and the strange things that go on in suburbs. We also got a preview of the upcoming expansion, Turf War: Trick-or-Treat that will be going up on Kickstarter. The expansion pack adds new mechanics with trick-or-treaters that visit the lawn and can greatly mess up the place if their demands aren’t met.
Null Signal – Netrunner
The Netrunner series has been around for over a decade but the original game from Fantasy Flight Games went out of print. A group of fans operating under the Null Signal Games banner has revived the series, putting out a new starter deck along with new expansions starting back in 2018. The core gameplay of Netrunner remains the same, it’s a two-player card game where one player plays the runner and the other player is the evil corporation. The runner is trying to hack into the corporation’s servers and get valuable data to score points while the corporation is trying to block the runner and advance their “agendas” which allows them to gain points. There are tons of options on both sides and lots of different strategies for how to proceed. The runner can pound the corporation every turn making runs but they might run out of resources or run into a trap the corporation has set up while the corporation can put out firewalls and other defenses and either bluff or actually put out valuable cards. Once you get the rules down and play a few hands, you will start to understand all the options at your disposal and discover your own unique play style. Unlike a lot of other games like Magic or Hearthstone, the players have lots more control as you are the ones deciding how you get resources to use your various tools, so you are not at the mercy of drawing mana or waiting for your energy to build up so you can play more powerful cards. If you do some key plays early enough and build up the resources, you can unleash super-powerful tools a few hands into the game. The theme and art on the cards are also just really rad and it’s a fantastic game for those who love strategic play and building up decks of cards. There’s a new expansion out now, Midnight Sun: Parhelion, that adds new runners and corps to the base deck.
Forever Stoked Booth
From tactile puzzles, quirky party games, and scientific games designed to make you yell at your friends, Forever Stoked had a bit of everything to play at their booth. We took a tour around different tables to play or watch demonstrations of the new releases titles and upcoming projects.
Something right up our alley, Made Up Movies has you trying to pitch ridiculous reboots to the other players via a set of cards. You’ll pick the movie you are rebooting, the stars of the reboot, the genre, and two movies that this reboot is a mash-up of. When we played at PAXU, Chris had to pitch a reboot of Scarface that was a western starring Melissa McCarthy and Eddie Murphy that was like Sonic the Hedgehog meets Fight Club. All of the other players are executives who will offer up criticism, suggestions, or offers based on cards they have in their hand and then they award points via the budget. The reboot with the highest budget wins. It seems like a fantastic, wacky party game, especially if you have friends who are fellow movie nerds who can understand all the references and can draw on their knowledge for crazy pitches. If you’re a fan of stuff like Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, this will probably be right up your alley.
Based on the characters of HeroMaker Studios, Kumite is coming to Kickstarter soon. We got a quick rundown and it’s a card-battling game where you’ll take control of one of the main factions of the HeroMaker universe and battle each other in different arenas. Each arena has a certain affinity and each character has different characteristics, so you want to try and play the best character for the location. There are going to be multiple factions in the base game with room for expansions later on.
Team3: It was a sight to hear and watch a group of three mimic poses, cover their eyes and make wild guesses to solve a puzzle at the Team3 table. We saw the Team3 Pink and Team3 Green, two games that are played in groups of three to act out the Three Wise Monkeys proverb. One player is allowed to see a blueprint of a design and is allowed to motion the design without speaking. Another player must have their eyes closed and has to listen for instructions. And one player must be the interpreter of the muted player to translate the body gestures into real instructions. It’s wildly engaging to be part of the game and to also watch. Team3 Pink and Team3 Green feature different pieces and blueprints. Team3 Pink has a mini-expansion pack, Dimension Tension, that adds a boost to the challenge since the blueprints are based on certain perspectives instead of a flat shape. We can’t imagine what kind of frantic dancing the muted players will have to do for that.
Everyone Else Thinks This Game is Awesome: We got a preview of Everyone Else Thinks This Game is Awesome from Unplugged 2021 and we got to hear about the latest developments on the title. The game remains the same with players trying to answer scientific trivia and debating about it. However, the artwork and some trivia questions have been revised and new game pieces are being introduced. The game was recently ordered for printing this November, so backers of the Kickstarter should get their copies and more places soon after.
The latest game from Cyanide & Happiness, Master Dater sees you trying to match heads and bodies to create the perfect date. The person looking for a date is essentially the judge from Cards Against Humanity and they pick a set of cards that will give an idea of what they are looking for in a mate. Each of the other players looks through their cards and then decides on what head and what body will work best to fit those criteria. Once everyone has made their choice, everyone needs to make their best pitch for why the insane character they just made is the best choice for the date, and then the judge will assign each of the criteria cards to players he or she thinks best matched that card. Each criteria card you get gives you a point. In true C&H fashion, there are some truly outlandish cards to choose from, including an anthropomorphized gun, a guy threatening a baby with a knife, an anime pillow, a neckbeard, and more. The art is obviously fantastic and hilarious and there’s seemingly an endless choice of combos to make. The game is out now from the Explosm site or on Amazon.
R. Talsorian Games
We stopped by the R. Talsorian booth to see the latest Cyberpunk series and take a look at the awesome graphics of the Witcher books. R. Talsorian has been the publisher of the original tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2013, which built a huge lore of a technological dystopian future that still entertains today. The fourth edition of the series, Cyberpunk Red, takes place in the same universe as Cyberpunk 2077 and serves in the past of 2045. Since the success of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, R. Talsorian has been expanding the series with more models and expansion books to let new and returning players experience more of the 2077 world. With Edgerunners unfortunately not getting a second season and CD Projekt Red taking a break from continuing the video game versions for a bit, the tabletop RPG is the best way to get your high-tech fantasy needs.
1First Games – The Boys: This is Going to Hurt
He’s wreaked all sorts of knock-off heroes in the comics and he’s been a total nut in the TV show. Now you have a chance to see if you can outsmart Homelander before he destroys everything in The Boys: This is Going to Hurt. 1First Games launched a successful Kickstarter back in November 2020 that nearly doubled its goal to bring The Boys to the tabletop world. This is Going to Hurt has players take up the role of CIA agents that must recruit various Supers and members of The Boys, in order to build enough force to face off with Homelander. Each player must build their own array of members, by use of bribes and some violence. Players have to gather enough resources to manage their network of connections and fend off attacks from other players. After 21 rounds, if Homelander is not defeated, he will go ballistic and it’s game over for all the players. 1First Games worked closely with Dynamite Comics and original series artist Darick Robertson, to make this game has gameplay that suits the comic’s tone and has perfect comic-book-accurate artwork. The Deluxe Edition of the game includes miniatures of The Boys, Starlight, Queen Maeve, and Soldier Boy. Plus the big trimming bust of Homelander to place in the middle of the board (Or placed neatly on a mantle). This is Going to Hurt looks to be a great addition to fans of the series and makes for competitive players looking to put a squeeze on their friends. 1First Games is also developing an upcoming expansion pack based on the Dear Becky mini-series with new cards and pieces to add to the game. More details on that will follow before the Kickstarter launches.
Boss Battle Games – Boss Battle
Got what it takes to take on a massive boss? Or can you enforce your rule against pesky heroes? Boss Battle is a strategy card game where heroes and a villain face off to defeat one another. Players take up the role of either a member of a group of adventurers or a villainous boss and can be played in different styles with the number of players. There are single-player options to let a player take either side of the battle and a competitive multiplier that lets three hero characters go against one villain. The gameplay is a card-casting system that lets players lay out moves and abilities and activates them. Hero characters can chain combos and assist each other, while the boss grows more powerful as the duel goes on, building up more devastating attacks. We got a run down with one of the game’s creators, running down a few different abilities of two characters. The game relies on a bit of luck of the cards being pulled and making smart moves early on in the fight.
At the Expo Hall, we found publisher Maestro Media showcasing their products and a photo cut out for one of their upcoming titles. We stopped by to check out the check out two video game-based tabletop titles, and grab a photo in the stand-in display.
Sally Face: Strange Nightmares – Based on the Portable Moose’s Sally Face, Strange Nightmares follows four friends as they explore an apartment complex that recently became a crime scene. As the group goes out to investigate, they encounter the living and the dead along the way. The group communicates with ghosts by using their “Gear Boy” game device to get clues about supernatural events happening in their town. Strange Nightmare follows the early parts of Sally Face’s episodic adventure and has the series creator Steve Gabry heavily involved. We got to speak with Gabry about seeing the project become a tabletop experience. This wasn’t going to be a simple facelift on an existing game, but that acts like a companion experience to the original source. The game’s Kickstarter will launch on February 7, 2023.
The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls Requiem – All the monster-battling fun of the tabletop version of The Binding of Isaac is expanded in the Four Souls Requiem. The gameplay stays the same, with players taking turns to duke it out with monsters and be the first to collect the four souls the fastest. The newest expansion adds more playable characters, more monsters to battle, new loot cards, and rule modifier cards called The Room Deck that acts as new effects for the game. We checked out some of the new cards and miniatures that give the game some new depths on the already fun title. The game is entertaining and has some chaotic feel when you either get a string of cards that let you attack repeatedly or get a series of bad dice rolls and inefficient cards (and probably get killed).
Resonym – Retrograde
Retrograde takes the fast-paced gameplay of old-school 80s arcade games to the tabletop. You are competing simultaneously with the other players in a Space Invaders-style shooter. You all have a set of dice and you are rolling them at the same time to try and get combos. There are cards up for grabs with certain combos of colors on them and if you manage to roll the combo on the card, you can grab it and then use it to take out certain invaders by filling them in on your sheet with a pen or pencil. You want to build up combos and take out lines, so you need to think fast and figure out what you need, and try to roll it before someone else grabs the card you need. You can also collect coins that give bonuses and power-ups that you can spend those coins on to take out more invaders or get other bonuses. The game is a ton of fun and really keeps you on your toes as there’s almost no time to think when each round starts and the aesthetic is really well realized across the sheets, dice, and cards to get you into that old-school arcade feel.
At this booth, we check out some officially licensed titled games that take some creative designs on classic movies and tv shows.
Rear Window: Can you determine if a murder happen or are you just seeing things? Alfred Hitchcock’s suspenseful Rear Window lays out clues for the amateur sleuths to see if they can solve a potential crime. One player takes up the role of the director of the situation, setting up pieces and giving subtle clues to the others if what is unfolding is just neighbors going about their day or covering up evidence. The other players have to figure out eight key clues to determine which neighbor is the most likely suspect and if a real crime actually existed. This title is pretty cool for the fans of murder mysteries and the mechanic of a director that sets up the situation adds a great replayable factor.
A Goofy Movie: Powerline is playing in LA, but can you make the cross-country trip without getting too distracted by Goofy? Based on the 1995 film, A Goofy Movie follows the plot of Max and Goody’s road trip. Players take on the role of Max and his friends as they collect scrapbook memories while making their way to a Powerline’s concert. The goal of the game is to score the most points based on their scrapbook collection and get the most valuable seat at the concert before Powerline arrives. Players race to gain as many scrapbook points as Powerline slowly moves up the game map. The game looks easy at first, but there are many ways for players to gain points and bonuses that can totally change the overall scores at the end. Powerline’s movement is based on the chance throw of other players and can end the game early if some players are not prepared. This retroactive game would’ve been a killer hit in the 90s and seems to have a big following by busy this game was at the booth.
Dolphin Hat Games – Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
A simple but incredibly fun party game, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza will test your reflexes and recognition skills. With each turn, players turn over a card and say a word in the order of the title. So the first player says “taco” and flips over the card, the next player says “cat”, the next “goat”, etc. If the card you flip over is the word you said, you have to try and slap it, with the last person to slap it getting all the cards. The goal is to get rid of all of your cards first. There are special cards that will make you do some silly moves before slapping them, like a gorilla where you have to pound your chest and then slap. The game has some extremely cute and charming art and other versions, like a holiday edition, and it’s so simple but fun that it’s perfect for any group or setting.
Rock Manor Games showcase
Rock Manor Games invited us to go slightly off-site to check out some of their upcoming releases.
Seas of Havoc: Seas of Havoc is a pirate-themed skirmish/worker placement game where 1-5 players can battle it out on the high seas as pirate captains. Each captain has a unique ship and special skills and you have a wide array of options for how you proceed on each turn. You can place meeples at different locations to gain different resources but your main goal is to combat your fellow pirates and score points by hitting them with cannon fire. The combat is interesting and unique in that all the movement and attacks are card based, so you play a card from your hand that will allow to move and/or shoot in a certain way. Positioning is king and you can move off the edges of the map and come back on the other side, allowing you to escape or get the drop on your enemies. There’s an expansion that adds sea monsters to spice things up and you can also add sunken treasure that can be collected to gain more points and bonuses. The components are all great and the art on the cards, especially the various pirate captains, is fantastic. It seems like it might take a bit to learn but once you have it down, we can see it being a blast to battle it out with other players.
Set a Watch: Set a Watch has been out for a bit but there’s a new expansion, Forsaken Isles and Doomed Run. Set a Watch, if you’re not familiar, is a cooperative game where 1 to 4 players try to survive against waves of evil creatures. One player needs to stay at camp and build up the fire, as the bigger the fire, the more enemies you can see coming, allowing you to plan your strategy more effectively. There are a number of unique heroes, each with their own abilities and skills, and the new expansions add new heroes into the mix along with new gameplay mechanics. There’s fantastic art on the cards and the components are well thought out, especially the box that converts into the main board. There are lots of strategies to try and utilize and if you have a good group, there are lots of opportunities for epic team-ups and near-miss escapes along with the game pounding you into submission.
Maximum Apocalypse Wasted Wilds: Similar to Set a Watch, Maximum Apocalypse is also a co-op survival game where you and your fellow players need to survive the hostile environment of an apocalyptic event. The big thing that sets Maximum Apocalypse apart is that it has all the apocalypses you can think of, like a zombie outbreak or climate change frozen wasteland, but you can combine them to make an insane apocalypse, like a robot uprising that also has intelligent apes. You have to battle enemies and explore different locations to gather supplies while making sure everyone is healthy and surviving. Along with hostile monsters, there are also groups of tribes that your group can either battle or try to ally with. The new expansion, Wasted Wilds, has a new survivor type, the Beekeeper, and tons of new monsters, items, and map locations. The game has an awesome, comic-book-style art design and it can be played by 1-5 players. If you’re into meaty co-op games and haven’t checked out Maximum Apocalypse yet, you should get it on your radar.
Games hailing from across the globe make their debut appearance in this selection of the show floor. The First Look contains international games in various stages of production that anyone can walk up and play. Many of these titles do have an English translation sheet nearby and very few had vague instructions. Here are a few items that we got to try out.
The Deadland: In a game certainly not based on Indiana Jones, The Deadland is a game about a group of treasure hunters that are trying to survive on a crumbling roped suspension bridge. Players have to pick up cards to determine if they can move around freely or be chased back by a dangerous threat such as zombies, pirates, and a sea monster. Cards have positive and negative values and can be combined to cancel out moving in either direction. However, negative cards with threats on them affect the bridge and will weak the wooded planks. Eventually, the planks will be destroyed, leaving gaps in the bridge for players to fall down in. This title is fast-paced and kind of like Old Maid where you don’t want to be stuck with bad cards or a bad spot on the bridge that’s about to break apart.
Touch It: Use your sense of touch to figure out the drawing before other players can in Touch It. The colorful red box drew us into picking up the game for a bit and feeling around the different cards to see if we can accurately pick out the shapes. It was helpful that the cards had one of four possible shapes on the card we were looking at while our fingers felt around the other side. It was a bit slow in the beginning to understand each shape and make a fast prediction, but after a few rounds, it got easier to call out.
So, You’ve Been Eaten: Harvest space crystals inside a giant space beast and follow the guidelines in So, You’ve Been Eaten. This interesting named game follows a space miner that is gathering as many crystals as they can inside the cavernous belly of a beast. While the minor is hunting for crystals, the beast will be trying to digest the miner, attacking them with bacteria to slow them down. If the miner is able to make it out to the “end” side of the beast, they win. If the beast is able to digest the miner, it wins. The game has an interesting play style that lets two players face off as the miner and beast, a single-player mode that lets the player be the miner or beast, and a zero-player mode that lets the pits a robotic miner to quickly perform the task without trouble from the beast.
Table Top Freeplay
This selection had rows and rows of tables for people to camp out at and play various games. People signed out games in a massive collection and can choose to bring a marker to signal any interested players to join in. The Table Top Freeplay had tons of people coming in and out, staying open for people to play until 11 pm on most days. From quick casual games to in-depth RPGs, there were lots of options for people to pick from and interesting people to meet.
Classic Board Game Room
One of our favorite areas every year at PAX Unplugged, the Classic Cardboard room, sponsored by The Nerd Mall is full of old favorites and obscure classics. You’re sure to find something you played as a kid and it’s fun to see how games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Crossfire or Hands Down evolved through the decades. There are also tons of totally out-there concepts, games based on movies and TV shows and so much more. They also always have some sort of VHS game or games available to experience that extremely unique genre of game.
Czech Games Editions Room
The CGE room was offering tables for people to try out and purchase games developed by Czech and Slovak developers. They were offering demonstrations on their latest projects Starship Captains, Galaxy Truckers, and the digital version of Codenames.
Codenames is a staple in the world of party games and it’s coming to mobile devices soon with the Codenames digital app. We got to check out the demo, which goes through the wide array of modes that will be available. There’s the standard Codenames gameplay that you can play with friends or strangers where you take turns giving clues and guessing words but there are also modes where you can submit words and judge submissions from other players, solve daily challenges, and level up to unlock new categories of words and gameplay modes. The app will be a premium app for around $6.99 but Czech Games didn’t want to do a free game jammed with microtransactions. Some of their spin-off games like Marvel and Disney Codenames will most likely be featured in the app at some point after launch. CGE is looking at an early 2023 release for the digital version of Codenames and it seems like there is a ton of different gameplay styles and content that will warrant the price.
The Unpub Room
Sponsored by UnPub, the Unpublished Games Network, the UnPub Room has in development and prototype games that you can actively help with by playtesting and offering feedback to the creators. New games rotate in throughout the day and it’s exciting to play something here and then see it a few years later in its final form knowing you might have helped contribute in some small way by helping test it in an earlier form.
Sweet Deals: Sweet Deals is an auction/bidding card game where you are competing to get the best delicious treats in your hand. Each round, players offer up a card from their hand and other players bid from cards in their hands to try and get the card on offer. If someone offers up a cookie, you can offer two pies in trade if you really need a cookie but don’t need a pie. At the end of the game, you’ll score points for the combos you managed to create and the player with the highest score wins. If you have a large group, this is a game that can handle it as we played with about 8 players and it could have probably handled even more.
Paper Trails: Coming from designer Travis Deere, Paper Trails is still in development but it’s a unique and fun asymmetrical deduction game. One player is the teacher and the others are students trying to pass notes in class. The students have names of students that they need to pass the notes between and each section of students is divided into different colors. If students move between sections, they have to tell the teacher that they made noise in that area. The teacher uses this knowledge to suspect students of having the note, if the students passed the note through that person’s desk, it’s a hit and the teacher uses this info to narrow down where people are going. Playing as the teacher, it’s a rush to start getting hits and seem like you are closing in on the troublemakers. Each side also has special abilities that they can use via rumors, the teacher gets cards that can let them do special abilities and the students can spend points to silently pass through sections. There are still some things to work out but the base game so far is incredibly solid and interesting and hopefully, we’ll see it develop more.
Maestro Media After Party
Saturday night we were invited to Maestro Media’s after-party, where we got to have some drinks and play board games. We got some more time to play Sally Face: Strange Nightmares and The Binding of Issac: Four Souls, and check out a secret project still in early development. Based on the details from the game’s creator and the staff of Maestro Media, the game is about a cat that is helping rebuilt a park. We watched a quick overview with some stand-in pieces and we hear more development in 2023. We got in some rounds of Four Souls, where Chris racked up 3 kills with some lucky streak of cards. We joined a game of Strange Nightmares while chatting with other media groups. It was fun to see everyone pick up the “Gear Boy” and get a familiar nostalgic feeling. The after-party was a nice event to cap off our Saturday, we met up with people we bumped into at previous events and got to share our stories at Unplugged.
Plugging back in
Three days of board gaming goes back fast at this event. It was fun to see new games being showcased and try some demonstrations. Our schedule this year let us wander around a bit more around the expo hall and into some panel rooms for a quick sit down. Tabletop events have a great community that makes it for gamers of all ages and skill levels to feel welcome. From volunteers to random people waiting in line with us, we had opportunities for us to learn the rules or tactics so we were able to join almost any game. By no means we are ready for competitive titles like Warhammer or Magic, but we can absolutely wreck in Catch the Moon, Made Up Movies, or Four Souls. We did miss the joke banners that would give state bizarre and misleading facts about animals, maybe it confused too many people, but we loved them. Unplugged has a great atmosphere and community behind it that makes it one of the best conventions to end the year on and get ideas to play some new games for the upcoming new year.
Bitten by a radioactive video store rental employee and overcome by Pac-Man fever, Chris seeks new comic books, games, and movies to review.