PAX Unplugged is a place to check out the new hotness either as it’s released or sometimes before release. The games below may or may not be available but they’re the ones that we are keeping an eye out for. Some we want to play, some we want to see in action, and some we’re ready to exchange cold hard cash for.
Architects of the West Kingdom – The North Sea series of games is a favorite in our household due to the ease of play and colorful theme. Architects of the West Kingdom looks to build off of the success of Raiders of the North Sea and I’m curious to see if it’s an improvement over that worker placement game or if it’s too similar and thus not worth adding to our collection. Shem Phillips gets the benefit of the doubt for now but it’s definitely something that’s rolling around in the back of our minds.
Arkham Horror Third Edition – I personally thought Arkham Horror Second Edition was a bloated mess and much preferred Eldritch Horror to it (but still think that was a little too long for our tastes). But The Old One’s have a grip on me and I am always jonesing for a chance to tackle Cthulhu and their minions. Maybe Third Edition is much more streamlined and enjoyable?
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra – Since we started tracking our board game plays, Azul is our most played game and the next closest non-card game sits twenty plays behind it. It’s no secret that checking out the next iteration of Azul is high on our list but I have major reservations. In looking at previews and the rulebook, it appears that Stained Glass of Sintra is going to be more of a gamers version of base Azul. There’s nothing wrong with that but I remember Queendomino becoming the gamers version of Kingdomino and frankly, we hated it. I hope the same doesn’t happen here.
Betrayal Legacy – I’ve avoided spoilers so far but am very curious how the legacy aspect is implemented. Betrayal is a game that I enjoy the experience of but not the actual mechanics of. I wonder if the Legacy component makes the experience even better and helps mask those deficiencies?
Blackout: Hong Kong – I don’t know if we’ll be able to find time to play Alexander Pfister’s newest game as I fear it will be one of the hottest commodities at PAX. Nevertheless, we’re incredibly intrigued. The theme is novel and original and Pfister has a track record of solid to great games. We’ve never attempted his crown jewel that is Great Western Trail but we will be picking that up at PAX through a trade. I don’t see us purchasing Blackout (if it’s even available) due to us grabbing GWT but this could be a game that our FOMO (fear of missing out) overtakes us on.
Carpe Diem – Stefan Feld is one of our favorite designers. Games of his are either instant classics for us (Castles of Burgundy, Trajan) or we hate them (Aquasphere, Notre Dame). Two of his new games will be on display at PAX with Carpe Diem and Forum Trajanum. I’m interested in both but Carpe Diem has caught my eye as the game play appears to be smooth and the time of play short. We’ve gotten to the point where we can run through Castles of Burgundy in less than thirty minutes and if we end up liking Carpe Diem and can equally shorten that game time, it might be a new favorite. The game itself features many of the Feld-ian tropes and includes tile-laying that we love.
Cerberus – A semi-cooperative hand management game where you race to exit Hell before the guard dog grabs you. I could tell you how excited I am about the theme or the production quality and the meeples but this game is 99% on my radar because it has a Corgi Meeple. I have no shame in saying that.
City of the Big Shoulders – If I wasn’t expecting a child, I would have blindly backed this project on Kickstarter. I really enjoy stock and commodity games as trading fictional money is much easier than my actual holdings (cue what holdings joke). I hope I can sell this to my spouse.
Cryptid – Cryptid appears to be a different take on the mechanics that I know and love from Tobago and honestly, I don’t see that blind information gathering enough in board games.
Dice Hospital – I really like games that utilize dice as more than just rolling devices (Lords of Vegas for example) and Dice Hospital features a mechanic and a theme that I believe to be undervalued. I’ve watched a few playthroughs on the game but nothing with the final production pieces. While components aren’t the end-all be-all, they’re helpful to suss out if the game will be easy to follow and learn.
Fireball Island – I regret not backing this on Kickstarter. It’s big and dumb and full of randomness and chance but I love it. I did not grow up with Fireball Island (the original) but I did grow up with Tornado Rex (cough Restoration Games cough) and seeing this re-implementation just takes me back to those days. The nostalgia factor is strong but sometimes you just want to play something big and dumb and I think Fireball Island will fit the bill.
Edit: I couldn’t wait. Placed a pre-order during Miniature Market’s Black Friday sale.
Forum Trajanum – Feld’s other game that will be available to at least demo. It looks like Trajan mixed with Keyflower and Fresco. I think I’m more intrigued by this than I am Carpe Diem but I feel like Trajanum also has the higher burn factor for us as well. The game could turn out to be a blast or it might just simmer like Bora Bora did for us.
Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) – Mother of Dragons – The Game of Thrones board game is a guilty pleasure of ours. It’s long, exhausting, and always ends with hurt feelings but yet it stays in our collection and gets played once or twice per year. This expansion appears to add more to alliances and adds a side board for more conquering. As there are zero reviews, I’d love to just get a preview of the game if it’s available.
Hanging On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr – I like when board game designers create something that’s outside the box of the normal style of games that we’re accustomed to seeing. I may not like those games once I play them, but I appreciate the uniqueness and originality. Hanging On seems like it fits that category to a t.
Here Comes the Dog – Admittedly, this game is on my radar strictly for the way it looks. According to some of the people I follow on social media, the game has a bit too much randomness to contest with but the theme is different and it definitely catches my eye at first glance.
Magnastorm – One of the themes of these games is the complete lack of information on some games. Magnastorm might be the poster child. Little is known (in English at least). I enjoy space colonization games and utilizing a fictional planet lets the designers free themselves from some of the tropes that we’re stuck in post “Martian”. This is one of the heavier games I’m looking forward to seeing and I just hope I get the chance to learn more.
Men at Work – We are big fans of dexterity games and are excited to see what Pretzel Games offers with Men at Work, a stacking and balancing game based around a construction theme. It has a first time female designer (Rita Modl) as the lead and we’re intrigued to see what she brings to the genre. Junk Art is a hit of ours, Ka-Boom sees a fair amount of play, Rampage is always fun, and Meeple Circus is a cute novelty in the genre. I hope Men at Work leans more towards Junk Art than Meeple Circus.
Racoon Tycoon – I wanted to back this on Kickstarter so bad. I flipped and flopped like John Kerry as I tried to figure out if I should spend money on it. I like games with an economy and the theme was fun. But I already have a lot of economical games in my collection that I already enjoy and don’t get to play enough; do I want to add yet another? I need to find out if I’ll regret not springing for a pledge.
Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition/Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition – While I think the train theme has overstayed its welcome in our household, the ease and simplicity coupled with the random strategic decisions offered by Railroad Ink (in a condensed time frame and small box to boot) has me incredibly intrigued. The different editions has peaked my curiosity as well as the Deep Blue edition might be more relaxing due to the inclusion of the tranquil lakes whereas Blazing Red appeals to our love of ‘Team Chaos’ as it introduces meteor’s and volcano’s. Artwork alone, I enjoy the subtle blue but I hope we get to take either or both of these editions out for a spin.
Seal Team Flix – I like dexterity games and the idea of a campaign-based dexterity game intrigues me. The theme doesn’t excite me or turn me off but will be a harder sell for those at my table. Seeing (and/or playing) the game would go a long way in knowing if this is might be a worthwhile investment.
Smartphone Inc. – I like economic simulation games. I like unique themes. I like games that are above average in heaviness without becoming too complex. Smartphone Inc. looks like it plays the part.
Strange Vending Machine – Not every game needs to be an hour long (or more) slugfest and here at Two off the Top, we love our lightweight filler games. My interest in this game started with the novelty of the physical vending machines that are included with the gameplay. The game is definitely geared towards a family friendly game night but that doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy it.
Symphony No. 9 – It’s like beating a dead horse but unique themes draw us in. Of course I want to play a game where I can contend for classical pieces of work. At two-players, the game does include a dummy player and I’m not particularly fond of that inclusion which might be the deal breaker for us.
Tiny Epic Mechs – The Tiny Epic franchise is pretty solid in our book. There are clear winners (Galaxies, Zombies) and losers (Western) but we’re never not impressed. I decided against springing for the Kickstarter for Mechs as at the time, our shelf of shame was getting out of hand. With our enjoyment of some of the games, I sometimes wonder if I’m going to miss out but maybe they’ll have a copy at PAX so I can put my mind at ease or sink lower into my depression. Can’t wait to see!
Treasure Island – A bluffing, misadventure treasure hunting game sounds like a game that could really land with our group. I think this game will be something that is totally dependent on a group. I know very little else about Treasure Island and like actual treasure, this excites me and worries me as I don’t know if it will be a tale of riches or fools gold.
Underwater Cities – Of all the games on this list, Underwater Cities is probably the one I’m most on the fence about and would rather watch five to ten minutes of gameplay than actually play myself. The concept is great: creating underwater cities due to overpopulation utilizing card placement. Based on my little knowledge of the game at this point, it appears to be in the vein of Terraforming Mars and then the question I’ll have for myself is “do I want two of the same games (albeit with different themes) in my collection?” Hopefully I get to see if my assumption is wildly incorrect.
Walls of York – This looks like a slightly quick puzzle game that randomizes itself each time it’s played due to the modular boards and dice rolls. On paper, it sounds fun and could provide me with another abstract-style game (and I love abstract games). It could also suck. There’s just not much information out there right now regarding Walls of York.
Western Legends – Red Dead Redemption 2 fever is ravaging my home at the moment and I’ve always had a fondness towards the Wild West as a theme (Pioneer Days, Saloon Tycoon, Tiny Epic Western). I’m interested in Western Legends strictly for the theme and the idea behind it. I’ve been burned by large, sandbox games with themes I enjoy before (Merchants and Marauders) but maybe this will be different? My main concern is how the game scales. If it doesn’t work at two-players, it won’t necessarily be worth checking out at all.
The beauty of PAX is that not everything is about the new and shiny games of the past few months. PAX offers an extensive library to try games for free and the vendors themselves offer many demos on games. Last year, we grabbed some favorites (such as Go Nuts for Donuts and Great Dinosaur Rush) that weren’t on our radar until we sat down and played them.
7 Wonders – We’ve never played 7 Wonders and that might sound like blasphemy to some people. We’re just not really into card drafting. However, 7 Wonders Duel has been a hit for us and while the mechanics are different, we’re curious now to see if we missed out on something with the original or if this will go the way of Lords of Waterdeep and just be too light for us to enjoy anymore.
Castles of Burgundy – Yes, we own this game and yes we play it a lot. But I would love to play against some complete strangers just to see how different we value certain decisions.
Concordia – A classic game that gets mentioned constantly but one I’ve heard suffers at two-players (until an expansion is added). I want to see if it’s worth the hype.
A Feast for Odin – This game is the number one recommended game to me by people in the hobby. I’ve read reviews and watched playthroughs and while I think the game is solid, it doesn’t set off any burning desire within me to play it. Maybe I’ll get a chance to play a game or see a demonstration or something so I can finally lay this one to bed.