Hoo-ray For U-ni-ty Games!

As I said, Saturday was Unity Games 18, which I was determined not to miss after not being able to attend last year.

The preparations for Unity begin a few weeks before the event. There’s a math trade which I usually participate in, but as I said before I skipped it this year and instead just put my stuff in the auction. I ended up making almost $300 from sales. What’s more, I only bought two things:

I rode up with Matt and Jim, and Justin, Bryan, Kiri, and Bob also showed up. I also got to see some pals there such as Jim C #1, Jim C #2, Phil, and a few others.

We got there a little after opening time at 9AM, and I started distributing auction sales, but quickly joined in on a game of Power Grid: The First Sparks instead.

I have to say, this was kind of a mess. I admit I was distracted during the rules reading, as I was interrupted with auction deliveries, but I thought we as a group still had a pretty good handle on them. That’s doubtful, though, since there just didn’t seem to be much to this. There was an abundance of food and apart from one player who “got screwed” (I never really understood what he was saying hosed him so much) nobody had much of a problem. I’m almost certain we were doing something if not several things wrong, but to be honest, the gist I got from the game doesn’t make me too worried about figuring out what it was. This doesn’t seem to buck the trend of me absolutely adoring Power Grid and not caring for any other Friese games.

Last year I also sold games in the auction, and one of them wasn’t getting any bids, so I added a “sweetener” to the deal: I would do a little dance for the winning bidder. I turned out to be unable to attend and Matt kindly took care of my transactions, but I wasn’t going to make him do the dance for the winning bidder. This year, during The First Sparks, I saw Carol, who won that item, called her over, and did a little dance for her. She said, “You’re a man of your word!” and then I sat back down at the table, with my co-players having no idea what had just transpired.

There are a LOT of games at Unity, and it can be overwhelming, to the point where I’ll look at a pile and have no idea what I want to play. This year I made a list of games I specifically wanted to try out, and the next game was on that list:

That is a great cover, and it alone is over half the reason I wanted to try Flash Point: Fire Rescue. A modern-day theme that isn’t war? Yes, please! Jim and I joined two other people for this one and we set out to save victims from a burning building. We did not do well. I had to cut out before the end of the game and my place was taken over by someone else, and it turned out the building ended up collapsing, killing everyone inside. Still, we rescued the dog, which is a win in my book. It’s a very appealing game, tense and exciting (though a lot of the fire-spreading rules were vague to us), but it’s a co-op game, and those just don’t get much love from my group. It reminds me a lot of Pandemic, and that’s sort of the problem. I already have Pandemic, and I like Pandemic and Pandemic doesn’t get much play. So as much as I’d like to support games with fresh themes and attractive delivery, I don’t see much need to have another game that’s just not going to get any play.

The reason I had to leave was because I was scheduled to teach Belfort. We got a full complement of players in no time, I explained the rules (I never play in teaching games so that everyone is on equal footing and I can dispense help without any problems. I also like to do all the bookkeeping bits if there are any, so that players can concentrate on the game.) and they picked it up quickly. It went on a little long, but they seemed to enjoy it (at least one of the players ended up buying it afterwards) and were playing like champs by the end. I’ve always had fun teaching games at Unity and this was no exception.

Matt, Justin, Jim and I decided to beat the rush and have an early dinner after that. When we returned, we felt fortified to tackle something heavier.

Trajan is one of the new hotnesses, and it’s by Stefan Feld, who I admit is not a favorite designer of mine, though this game was on my list* to try out. The deal in this game is that your actions are determined by this interesting mancala board. However, as is the case with many of Feld’s designs, this neat mechanic has little to do with the game’s theme (wouldn’t an African theme have been better?) and the other parts of the game were a weird mish-mash of stuff, all of which game you some kind of points every turn (during the game I sneezed once and that alone gave me four points). It was a good enough time, and I’d play again, but it did kind of feel like someone took the “lost bits” box from last year’s Unity and made a game with them. (To be fair, I did terrible, and the guy who played before did well, so there is a thing going on here.)

After Trajan the same four of us headed down to the hotel bar and got some adult beverages. Matt said he’d make fun of my drink (I often end up with something in an attractive pastel shade) but I got a Long Island Iced Tea like he did, so ha! As we imbibed, Jim pulled out Army of Frogs, which he’d won in the auction, and we played on the table there. If any of the games we played summed up what board gaming is all about to me, it was this one. A good time with good friends.

It was getting late, and even though the event runs until midnight, we’re not spring chickens anymore. Justin took his leave from us and Jim and Matt and I looked for something light and short to finish up with.

Grimore fit the bill. It was also nice because it was completely new to all of us; I don’t think any of us had heard of it before. It’s one of the weirdo Japanese card games that Z-Man puts out from time to time. This one has an interesting premise behind it, but I think we were two few (I suspect you want 4 or 5 for it) and too tired (it was the last game at an all-day game convention) to really give it its due. One really cute touch is that every round you pick a spell to cast, and you actually have a little spell book of spells and a “bookmark” card to indicate which you chose. I think most companies would just give the players a deck of cards to pick from.

We left after that and headed back to Western Mass, all tuckered out after a long but fun day of gaming.

* – The other games on my list, which I didn’t get to, were Eclipse, Leader 1, Asteroyds, A Few Acres of Snow, Dungeon Petz, and Prêt-à-Porter. Eclipse was everywhere, and I saw a fair amount of Dungeon Petz. I didn’t know Prêt-à-Porter was even around until it was too late to start in on it.

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One Response to Hoo-ray For U-ni-ty Games!

  1. Michelle says:

    Boy, I’m behind on new games. Which is pretty much okay; in the limited time I do get to play board games, I’d often rather play a couple of favorites I haven’t played that much of late, rather than try to get my head around new rules. I feel like this makes me an oddball in the board gaming community. Anyway, Curtis and I have played A Few Acres of Snow and had a lot of fun with it. I have never quite warmed up to Dominion, and I think for my taste A Few Acres uses the deck-building mechanic better.
    Glad you got to go to Unity this year!