GAME REVIEW/KICKSTARTER PREVIEW: Unfair

Normally, I don’t review a game until it’s available to the general public in retail stores, but I was fortunate enough to get a pre-release copy of Unfair at GenCon so I could review it while the Kickstarter campaign was going on.  I got to play it a few times this past week, so I will share with you my thoughts:

UNFAIR (2016/17; Depending on when it comes out to retail stores) – Designed by Joel Finch; Published by Good Games Publishing & Cool Mini or Not/  2-4 players and takes about 60-90 minutes depending on the player count. 

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Have you ever wanted to build you own theme park?  Well, in Unfair, that’s what you get to do!  In this card game, each player is in charge of their very own theme park and can build it any way they so choose.  You want to build scary roller coasters?  You can!  You want to build easy going rides?  You can!  Want to have a Freak Show at your park?  You can!  Players will not only be able to build park cards from their hand to make rides, but they can also upgrade their rides to make their attractions worth more points at the end of the game.  But be aware!  Bad events can happen, closing attractions and even demolishing rides.  Players can also play event cards on each other to ensure their opponents don’t win.

The game is played over 8 rounds.  Each player begins the game with a Gate card for their park that they play face in front of them.

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During the game palyers will be building up to 5 attractions to the right of the gate and hire staff members on the left side of the gate.  Every player will have a starting hand of 5 park cards, as well as 2 showcase cards.  They will also receive 20 coins and one loan card that they can use to take coins from the bank if they’re desperate for cash (and it’s most likely going to happen, ha!)

Before I tell you how a round is played through, let me tell you what you’re trying to work towards.  At the end of the game, you will score points for the size of each of your attractions (rides, food outlets, sideshows,etc.).  The size of your attraction will be determined by how my upgrade icons you built onto it.  You will also score points from Blueprint cards that you can acquire throughout the game.

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Blueprints are pretty much secret objectives you will be trying to complete throughout the game.  If you complete them, you get the points listed on the card, if not, you will lose 10 points.  You will also score points for coins (1 for every 2) and staff members who will give you the points listed on their card.

Each round has 4 phases: Events, Park, Guests, Cleanup.

Events Phase: Each player draws an event card from the event deck.

 

These event cards will have 2 choices on them (one will give them a pretty good bonus for the round, and the other will usually prevent a bad thing from happening to them). Then a city event will be flipped over.

There are 8 of these in the game, and act as a game timer.  8 City events for the 8 rounds.  These city events will affect all players.  The first 4 will be good events (giving players extra money, etc.).  The last 4 cards will be bad (closing attractions, etc.)

Then players, in turn order, can play event cards from their hand.

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Park Phase: In turn order, players will take turns taking actions.  They will get 3 actions to play per round.  There are 4 actions to choose from:

  • Draw – You can take one of the 6 cards face up from the market and put it into your hand.  You can draw 2 cards from the park deck (which have attractions, upgrades, staff, etc.) and keep one of them. You can draw 2 cards from the blueprints deck (which have secret objectives) and keep one of them (Blue prints can only be drawn during the first 4 rounds of the game).  You can draw 2 cards from the events deck and keep one of them.  Or you can discard a card from you hand and draw 5 cards from the park deck and keep one of them. (Only park cards and event cards are counted for your 5 card hand limit at the end of the round) 
  • Build – You can build a card from your hand or directly from the market on the board into your theme park.  To build a card you pay the cost in the right hand corner.  Cards you can build are attractions, upgrades, staff members and super attractions. (you may only build one super attraction per game)  With upgrades, you can build as many as you like on one attraction.  You can even build the same type of upgrade, just not with the same title.
  • Demolish – You can use an action to remove a card from your park, possibly making way for a new attraction (since you can only have 5 in your park).  If you do demolish an attraction, all of it’s upgrades will be demolished along with it.
  • Loose Change – You can use an action to take coins.  You can take as many coins from the supply for as many attractions you have (which would be up to 5 coins).

Guests Phase: This is pretty much the income phase.  During this phase, players will get money for the guests in their park.  To determine how many guests, players will count how many stars they have in their park.  Star points are located at the top right corner of the park cards.  Add those up, and you will get that many coins.  However, you can only earn as much as your park capacity will allow (which is stated on your gate card)  Each player begins the game with a capacity of 15 stars, but there are cards that you can play that will increase your capacity.  If one or more of your attractions are closed (flipped over by nasty events), you will not count those stars during the guests phase.

Cleanup Phase:

  • Discard cards from the market and refill it.
  • Discard events in play.
  • Turn any face down cards (closed attractions) in your park face up.
  • Discard cards from your hand until you have a hand limit of 5.
  • Pass the starting player marker clockwise.

And that is how a round is played.  After 8 rounds, players will add points from their attractions, blueprints, staff members and coins.

I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of game I was expecting from this.  I do know that I was very intrigued because of the theme.  I mean, who doesn’t want to build their own theme park?  I will say that the theme is very strong here.  I love games that have different and unique themes.  Sure, I guess pirates, zombies, and vikings are cool, but it does get old after awhile.  So bravo to Joel Finch for coming up with a fun theme!  And it comes through very well.

Judging by the theme alone, one could think that this game could be like Rollercoaster Tycoon, or something like that.  But it’s not at all.  It’s a fun, take-that card game.  The only game I can really think of that I can compare it to is Boss Monster.  I guess because you are building cards into your theme park (where in Boss Monster you’re building up your dungeon).  But that’s really where the comparisons end.

There is lots to enjoy about this game!  The main reason being…. YOU GET TO BUILD YOUR OWN THEME PARK!!!  But the gameplay is satisfying as well.  I loved choosing which attractions to build.  And I thought it was cool to upgrade your rides, by adding a water element to a rollercoaster, or adding a loop to it.

There’s also different strategies to employ.  Do you just work on one attraction in your park, building as many upgrades as you can?  If you have 25 upgrades on one attraction, that’s 310 points!  That’s crazy! (and not the easiest thing to do).  Or do you draw a blueprint card and go for the goals listed on those (like building 2 thrill rides with specific upgrades).  And if you see that one of your opponents is doing well, you can play event cards on them to make it more difficult for them.

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You can also take out up to 4 loans during the game.  Each loan will get you 5 coins, but each time you take a loan out, it will cost you 10 points at the end of the game.  So if you use all 4 loans, that’s minus 40 points!  But it could be worth it if you’re building a giant attraction.  I like that this game has those kinds of decisions.  In our first game, I was behind the other players by quite a bit, but because I didn’t take any loans out, I ended up winning the game because the other players both lost 20 points at the end.

I also really like the variability in this game.  There are 4 different theme decks.  Robots, Pirates, Vampires and Jungle.  You use all 4 decks in a 4 player game, but if playing with 2 or 3, you get to choose which themes to use.  That’s cool!

Also, you can play the game with variants.

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You can play the game in just 6 rounds instead of 8, you can choose to NOT play with the cards that screw with other players, or start the game with a super attraction already built.  Games that come with multiple ways to play are awesome!

My favorite part of the game for me are the blueprint cards.  I just love games with secret goals and objectives, and I usually push my luck and draw more than I can handle, but boy do I have fun trying to achieve those goals.

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And also the little touches the game has, like the carnival looking coins, and the first player token is a ticket!  That’s cool!

A couple more things I like about the game: I love that there is a way to keep track of all the phases in the middle of the board, and of course having player aids for each player and a score card to make end of game scoring much easier!

These are things that every game should have!  The artwork is well done, and does a great job evoking the fun theme.  The city event cards are a great way to keep track of the rounds, and a fun way to change things up each round.  The first 4 rounds you’re going to be like “Oooooh, yay!  Thanks for the extra money!”  And in the last 4 rounds you’re going to be like, “Awwww  crap!  A storm!  I have to close a ride!”   That’s fun!

A couple of minor quibbles:  I think the game could run a bit long for some people.  I played with 3 players every time and felt that it was a pretty decent length.  Around 75 minutes.  I think 4 players would drag the game a bit, but I don’t like games with lots of down time.  However, remember that you can choose to play the game with only 6 rounds instead of 8, so I guess you could play the game in 6 rounds with 4 players if you think the game would take too long.

The other thing is a nitpicking annoyance: Set up and tear down is a bit of a chore.  Once you open the 4 decks, you have to sort all the cards into their proper decks (events, parks, blueprints, etc.), and then after the game, you have to separate the cards by their theme decks.  But again, I think that’s nitpicking, but I’m just noting that just in case that would be a problem for some players.  It’s not for me.

I played this with my brother, nephew, and my buddy Dan.  All of them loved the game.  In fact, even though I like the game quite a bit, they all liked it way more than me calling it one of the best of the year.  So I think there is a big audience for this game.  If you like games where you get to create something of your very own, and also screw your opponents over during the process, you should definitely check this game out.  Also, if the idea of building your own theme park appeals to you, then this one is a no-brainer.

It is on kickstarter right now.  It successfully funded in one day, so you will be guaranteed a copy once you back it!  Here is the link

I think the mechanics are solid, the theme is very fun and well integrated with the gameplay, and comes with lots of replayability.  Unfair is a good time!

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