All posts by CapsuleReviews

Unfair

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

Fabled Fruit

fabledfruitFabled Fruit. Stronghold Games, 2016. $45. Designed by Friedemann Friese. Illustrated by Harald Lieske. 240 location cards (60 different cards with 4 copies each), 60 fruit cards, 6 wooden animals and matching tokens, 1 wooden thief, 10 mixed fruit cards, 11 assorted tokens, and 1 rule book. 2-5 players. Ages 8+. 20-30 minutes.

This colorful card game provides two decks, the location cards and the fruit cards, and a wooden animal (meeple) for each player to drive a worker placement set collection game with some unusual twists. During each player’s turn, they will place their marker on one of the location cards in play and either perform the action listed (such as draw 2 fruit cards or trade a banana to another player for 2 cards) or turn in the required set of fruit cards to buy that location card. If you place your marker on a location card with other players, you have to pay them one fruit card. The game ends when one player buys the required number of location cards, which varies depending on the number of players.

How can such a simple single worker placement and set collection game, that lasts only about 20 minutes, be anything novel? The answer lies in the way the game evolves during play. Each time a location card is bought, it is removed from those in play and turned face down as a reminder (fruit juice bottle in game parlance) to keep track of points gained. More importantly, a new location card is drawn off the top of the huge (240 cards!) deck which can introduce a new action and new set turn in cost. So during play, the actions available are constantly changing as players remove locations.

But where Fabled Fruit really shines isn’t just its quick and quirky location actions, but the legacy aspect it introduces. When you finish playing a game, you set aside those purchased location cards and then start the next game with the top (first numerically) 24 cards that were left. Each game sees location cards bought, new actions introduced, and a different end game state. This produces a highly addictive experience that is hard to stop!

While the location cards themselves are tarot sized and seem sturdy, the poker size fruit card deck, which is constantly being handled, shuffled, reshuffled, drawn, etc. seems to be made of flimsier stock and quickly became worn as cards lost their stiffness. These cards should have been made of better card stock. Also, the retail price of $45 for a small game seems rather high, especially when in your first game you only use the fruit deck, animal tokens, and maybe 35-40 cards (only 8-9 different actions) from the location deck. Certainly the 300+ cards must be pricey, but each game using a small subset makes the cost seem very high.

Fabled Fruit is a highly addictive game! If you play one game and walk away you won’t really see what all the fuss is about. It’s just a simple worker placement/set collection game. But if you get hooked on the changing actions during play, which are introduced as surprises every 4th card, and the legacy element which starts each game in a new state which bring surprising changes again during play, it’s really amazing and draws you back again and again. Not only will it take many plays to get through the 60 different locations once, but even starting again will produce a very different, game since different locations will be bought and change the available actions so a different set will be in play every time.

Fast, easy, engaging, fun!

This review was written based on a privately purchased retail copy. No compensation was involved.
c2016 by Richard A. Edwards