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