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PAX Unplugged 2023 Recap

PAX Unplugged 2023 Recap

Another year, another fix of games of all types for those who dare to enter the City of Brotherly Love in early December. PAX unplugged made its way into Philadelphia, the same venue for all those fantastic Essen releases, the unreleased prototypes still in the works, and everything in between—and your favourite BGQ writers, Tahsin, Jon, and Alex, were there to see it all.

Notable Games We Played

Nunatak: Temple of Ice (Alex):

Nunatak, a forthcoming game by KOSMOS, was available for play at the First Look area and is scheduled to release in theatres in early 2024. In Nunatak, you create your ice pillars by choosing cards from a tableau that correspond to different suits. A new floor is erected on top of two-by-two pairs of pillars, awarding points to the pillars beneath it.

Eventually, a full pyramid forms on the game board. In a style reminiscent of Nidavellir, the collected cards score at the end of the game in a variety of ways (sets of symbols, quantities of cards). Nunatak was my favourite PAX Unplugged game since it was simple to understand, easy to play, had a strong table presence, and was quick to teach.

Forest Shuffle (Tahsin):

I bought this game right away while I was playing with Jon and Alex. It may seem like just another tableau builder where players are trying to get points, but what really makes this different is how the players interact with the card market. My son quickly demolished me in points while chewing up all the tasty decisions that the cards had to give when I got home and managed to play with the family. This is the one to check out if you’re searching for something that feels like Race for the Galaxy or Earth.

Nucleum (Alex): 

Almost every copy of this game at the event seemed to be in use, giving the impression that it was the must-play option. We just so happened to stumble into a play on Friday night, late into the evening, which worked out well. Nucleum was a special cross between Brass and Barrage that required us to construct train lines to move uranium and coal so that we could power our different buildings. Nucleum is an extremely deep and intuitive game that is perfect for individuals who like challenging games. I had a great time playing it, and I would like to thank Titan the Enforcer for his excellent tutorial!

Cabanga (Alex):

Cabanga is exactly the kind of game that would be on our radar; we are always searching new games that we can throw in a bag and take to a restaurant or brewery for a fast game. Play numbered cards with a little spacing between the numbers on two distinct piles. An opponent may yell “Cabanga!” and you will be forced to draw cards as punishment if they hold cards with values in the gap. The round concludes when a player runs out of cards in hand. Quick, compact, and entertaining, Jon loved Cabanga so much that he ordered it (in German, of course) after just one game.

Mind Space (Alex):

adorable roll-and-flip-and-write activity in which you color-in polyominoes to represent the feelings you’re experiencing on a dry-erase grid in your brain. I’ve been known on numerous occasions to be a sucker for polyomino games, but this one strikes the perfect balance between being a quick game with a cute premise and easy rules. There are several colours to visualise, each with a different score system, and there are also certain set objectives to fulfil. For a quick mental break throughout the convention, Mind Space was fantastic.

Art Society (Tahsin):

I was excited to test this since, prior to PAX Unplugged, I had read positive reviews about it on BoardGameGeek. Despite being in a competitive market with other auction/art games, this one does something slightly different from the others. Apart from the primary auction, Art Society’s playspace offers just enough player interaction to keep people coming back. After holiday dinners, this brief and entertaining art-food combat is ideal for family get-togethers.

Expo Hall Observations

Paverson Games (Tahsin):

We were able to visit the Paverson Games exhibit as well. The business showcased the present development of Luthier, a worker placement/auction game about creating instruments while attempting to please consumers like Ludwig van Beethoven, in addition to the fact that Distilled is selling well. I’m eager to watch the design and art improve because they seem to be coming along beautifully. Having a gifted artist like Vincent Dutrait bring the theme to life also greatly aids.

Thunderworks Games (Tahsin):

Following a swift detour along a hallway aisle, we discovered Thunderworks showcasing their latest Dawn of Ulos and drawing attention to their impending crowdfunding project, Metrorunner—a cyberpunk-themed card game and route-building game for competing agents in Mirror City. Although it’s too early to say anything about the game, you may find out more by joining their email list. Stonespine Architects is another title that raised money via crowdsourcing this past summer. I was able to listen to a copy of this before supporting it right away. With a range of predetermined collection objectives, they’ve integrated card drafting into dungeon building to create a fun beforehand before engaging in a more intense roleplaying session.

The PAXU Experience

Large-scale, semi-casual gaming convention PAXU has made a name for itself in an otherwise devoid area. Compared to some of the bigger and more reputable conventions, the energy here is distinct. Not only does PAXU lack the “serious gamer” attitude that Origins may provide, but it also lacks the frantic intensity of Gen Con and the “new hotness” crazy. Maybe because of the age range that PAX tends to draw, there’s a revitalising vitality to the vibe and culture of PAXU. Whatever the cause, the atmosphere is unquestionably what makes PAXU unique.