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Subject: Capsule Review - Unfair rss

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Richard A. Edwards
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Unfair. CMON, 2017. $50. Designed by Joel Finch. 6 themed packs of cards (Gangster, Jungle, Ninja, Pirate, Robot, and Vampire, with 57 cards each), 5 “Game Changer” cards, 2 player reference sheets, 1 double sided game board, 1 Starting Player marker, 1 Current Step miniature, 1 Blueprint Closure card, a score pad (and pencil), 80+ “coin” and various other tokens, and 1 beautifully illustrated, well and humorously written rule book. 2-5 players. Ages 14+. 30 minutes per player.

Starting with only a dream and a Main Gate, this very thematic card tableau-builder game has players creating theme park attractions and upgrading them while adding staff and resources with various effects. In each of the game’s eight rounds, players will draw an Event card, be affected by City Events, and play Event effects, then take three actions, one at a time, in player order. At the end of each round players collect their income based on how many guests they attract to their park, within the park’s limited capacity.

Park actions include taking cards from various decks, including the Event deck (which provide various powerful effects, both pro-player and “take that” mechanics as well as defenses), Blueprints (which provide lots of extra end game points IF you complete certain objectives), and Park cards (which are the heart of the game and include the many, varied Attractions and Upgrades that make them worth more, as well as Staff and Resources to enhance your park.) Having taken cards, you can Build cards from the openly displayed Market or from your hand or one of your “Showcase” major attractions. You can also Demolish cards to make room for new attractions, and gather “Loose Change” to gain a little quick income.

The entire game from card illustrations to core design to the phase tracking miniature roller coaster car is thematically fun! Once packs are selected, each contributes cards to every deck creating a unique game setup for every mix of themes. With expansions this variety will only increase. Each pack is rated for Attraction Size, Blueprints, Coins, and Unfairness, so if you want to play with a lot of money use Gangster; if you want lots of opportunities to mess up your opponent, choose Ninja.

Unfair isn’t just about building a Thrill Ride with a Vertical Drop Element and an Express Queue to score big points for the Short Sharp Shock Blueprint, nor creating a park with a Nature Area and a Food Outlet with a Quality upgrade as well as a Theatre in order to complete the River Romance Blueprint, it’s also about the most effective way to get there in terms of resources (coins and actions) while trying to attract guests to your park and hold off your rivals. There are a lot of deep game play decisions to be made while adapting to an ever changing landscape. While there is a lot of randomness in the game (it is a card game with many decks after all), this can be mitigated by knowing what effects might happen and adjusting your strategy accordingly.

However, having built a beautiful park with a huge, unique attraction, it can be very disconcerting to have your opponent tear it (and your plans) apart. A lot of decisions require an in-depth knowledge of which cards have been added to the various decks and what your (and your opponent’s) options may be. This knowledge is really only gained through repeated game play.

While half the fun is discovering the highly entertaining, thematic cards during play it’s important to learn each pack’s potential effects as well. It is highly recommended that you play your first few games with low Unfairness rating packs and/or use the “World Peace” Game Changer card so players can focus on building their parks and discovering the various cards and possible effects before being blindsided by them. Jumping straight into the game’s deep end can be jarring.

Unfair has become one of my favorite games of 2017! The beauty and theme easily draws you in and the game play has a lot to be explored. The ability to mix and match the various theme packs creates many fun mixes and modifying game play with “Game Changer” cards allows you to customize the game to your preferred style of play. Expansion packs (including the already announced Western, Alien, Dinosaurs, Hackers, Zombie, and Medieval themes) are eagerly awaited.

This review was written based on a privately purchased Kickstarter copy. No compensation was involved.
c2017 by Richard A. Edwards
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Kim Brebach
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Thanks for the punchy review Richard.

Re first game, the rules (pages 2 and 3) do indeed have a suggested first game setup that we recommend all players try first, no matter how experienced they are with games.
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Richard A. Edwards
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kbrebach wrote:
Re first game, the rules (pages 2 and 3) do indeed have a suggested first game setup that we recommend all players try first, no matter how experienced they are with games.

Which is, IMHO, more a necessity than a suggestion.

And beyond just a first game setup to learn how to play, my comments are to recommend every game played with a new pack should be played the first time with "World Peace" so players can see the cards and get a feel for their potential "take that" mechanics.

I think most of the disappointment that has been voiced for the game (including Tom Vasel's) is due to playing once as recommended, enjoying building, and then playing again with higher "unfairness" packs and seeing the game change from a tableau-builder to a game of "take that" aggression.

The difference in play styles between packs can be huge and to the new players, jarring, leading to disappointment in the game.

Allowing players who just want to build to use "World Peace" for every game is a brilliant game provided variant.

I think that if new players are made aware, during play, of the differences between packs and how to learn them at their own, less aggressive pace, they are more likely to play again and again because it's just such a fun, great game. Then they can expand to the full depth of options more easily when they're ready to take the gloves off.

The Strategy Guide is also an excellent guide.
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Kim Brebach
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You may be right. We think it likely that some people are cracking open the game, missing or ignoring the suggested setup, picking their favourite sounding themes, and then somehow being surprised that Ninja and Gangster have some thematically contextualized bite to them. Despite the name of the game, the theme pack titles and their Unfairness ratings.

But yes playing with the recommended setup + the World Peace game changer would certainly be the optimal setup for multiplayer solitaire inclined players.

Having said that, the setup as recommended is designed to ease players into the heart of the game immediately, including the possibility to mess with the leader a little if that is needed to win.

With a few plays under their belts the vast majority of players are learning there is an interesting decision space about whether to go for assuredly beneficial utility or money amplification plays, or play a little attack / defence.

It certainly can help to preview the events of each theme pack before playing them. But some people won't do this as they prefer the surprise.
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Richard A. Edwards
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I agree with you Kim, that people are playing with their favorite sounding theme (who wouldn't want to do that!) and then being surprised at some of the "take that" aspects.

And while the recommended setup is designed to ease players into the game, one game with two low unfairness packs really doesn't (IMHO) prepare players whose first game was mostly just building for the horrors that can occur, especially if a player is just being mean instead of focusing on best strategy to develop his own park for the win.

The game does have, as you say, an interesting space about how to use potential attack/defense or beneficial effects. But such profound decisions require experience with the game and I think most of the sorrows voice about the "take that" mechanics come from gamers who play maybe 2-3 games.

I was one of them! But now with more than half a dozen games behind us, even my partner is willing to play full tilt without World Peace. But I almost lost her on game two when we tried it without World Peace for the first time with Gangster and Ninja packs.

The real challenge is figuring out how to get players to play enough to get the experience needed for the deep strategies and see the attack/defense possibilities as potential options and not an end of fun.

While I know it's been suggested that players review the cards in packs new to them before playing, as you mention some players enjoy the surprise of seeing new cards as they appear. And honestly I won't really remember reviewing dozens of cards before a game as well as I do when they are used in play. Not to mention the extra time it would take to review so many cards among several players.

So my recommendation is to play first time packs using World Peace. Then the cards are a fun, thematic surprise, but without the "take that" issues. Players can see and learn the new potential attack/defense options without being affected by them while playing (and enjoying) the game.

After that, it's their call as to whether or not to take the gloves off or use World Peace anyway. But I don't think we can make an informed decision about our preferred way without playing through the packs at least once first.

Now how to inform first time players about the potential issues? Not a clue. Once the game hits retail there will be a lot of customers who never come to BGG and all they'll have to go on will be the material in the box, which does have the recommended first game setup which does help.

In case anyone is wondering about my views of this game because of my concerns for new players and the potential "take that" mechanics, I think Unfair is a great game and enjoy it with and without those mechanics. Unfair is such a flexible game it really can be tailored to your group's preferred style of play. And it's just plain fun!
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Kim Brebach
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Yes indeed - many who know their group well will tend to play with or without World Peace early on as their preferences dictate.

We will stress the importance of the first game setup in future versions of the rules.

Our main chance of reaching the non-bgg folk is through reviewers and then word of mouth. We are advising the next crop of reviewers about the recommended first game setup and hope this will trickle through alpha players and BGG types into the gaming public.

Curiously - in public testing we saw very little first game aggression from players as they learned the game. And lessons about when to attack or not seemed to be learned within 1 game as the optimal builder / blueprint chaser usually comes out ahead of the randomly unstrategic aggressive player.
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Kim Brebach
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For those interested in the strategic role of event play in Unfair we did a pretty deep pictorial delve into it our piece about the Unfair game experience here.
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