Unfair: An Aficionado Review

It all started off so very well. The town was in need of some fun, and so we decided to open up a brand new theme park for all to enjoy. We could make some good money, and bring joy to the denizens of the fair city. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones…

During the early months, all of our parks saw great interest; our “Robo-Rail” was a surprise success, while other parks grew renowned for their exquisite hotels, delicious eateries, and terrifically terrifying roller coasters. Profits soared, and we were able to keep on expanding our businesses. Soon, we had some of the most amazing attractions throughout the entire country!

Then came the viciousness. 

“Anonymous” phone calls starting coming in, and all of our rides were shut down. In another park, a wild animal had been set loose, leading to more and more complications. The strangest thing? There weren’t even any animals in that park! It was one of the competitors, surely. I never trusted those guys running the Vampire theme park. Always something seedy about them. Perhaps a bribe in the pocket of the city officials could get their “Vlad the Impaler” ride closed down for a while…

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Unfair is easily one of the hottest games to come from Kickstarter in the last few months. It also marks the first game produced by the unity of Good Games Publishing and Cool Mini or NotWith such a large and renowned publishing company behind them, Good Games Publishing have something special in Unfair.

Early previews of the art, a magnificent rundown video during the campaign, topped off with what many have called the best run Kickstarter campaign they’ve seen, all pointed to success as far as the publishing side was going. What about the all important gameplay? Tune in now and find out with me together!

What I Expected Going In

Well, as you may have gathered from the above, my expectations for the game were rather high. I was incredibly excited to see our homegrown Australian company Good Games push out such a highly anticipated game (Monstrous was not quite as hyped).

As far as the production goes, I expected this to blow me away. When I first saw the art and felt the card stock on initial advertisements for the game, I was INCREDIBLY eager. I tried to get into contact with the designer within the week to get a review copy (though that never eventuated). Knowing how much work was going into the production, especially given how Unfair had the potential to be Good Games’s flagship game and footprint in the market, I knew that they wouldn’t skimp on quality.

I hadn’t heard too much of the rules outside of the fact that the game was going to be unfair (go figure). Beneath the incredibly attractive, friendly and colourful looking exterior was a game laden with ‘take that’ elements. I don’t mind a little bit of take that, but I’m not a huge fan of over-the-top aggression between players, so I was a little bit nervous. I figured that the economic/theme park building nature of the game would keep the aggression to a minimum, and as such the attacks would more likely serve as catch-up mechanics than anything. My hopes were high, but some anxiety regarding the take that was definitely there.

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The board of Unfair. SO COLOURFUL!

What I Got Coming Out

I’m going to start off by saying that my copy of the game did come with miscut cards. This issue was addressed rapidly by Good Games Publishing, who have expressed their willingness to send out ENTIRE REPLACEMENT SETS OF CARDS! So kudos to them for that and their excellent customer service and transparency.

I’ve played one or two games of three player (I think), and around three games of two player at the time of writing this review. I’ve also tried out every single deck in the game at least once (though not the promotional cards). As such, I think I have a more than reasonable idea of how the game plays.

The headline is that I think Unfair is a very solid game. Building my park up and playing combinations of cards for powerful effects is good fun, and they feel unfair in the best way possible (keep this in mind). As I play buildings and upgrades for free and rake in bulk amounts of extra money thanks to a celebrity guest and a media blitz, I feel clever, almost as if I’m doing something I’m not supposed to. In another game, I might score upwards of 100 points off of a single attraction. I think this is the game at its finest.

Not only are there multiple different ways to score victory points (and as a result many paths to victory), there are many different combinations of decks that you can play with which drastically change the game. If Robots are in, you can expect a huge amount of upgrading to be happening. The Gangsters bring with them absurd amounts of cash, so much that it feels like I’m playing an entirely different game. While I was scraping the bottom to try and find cash in one game, the Gangsters made me feel like a millionaire; I was almost having difficulty finding things to spend my money on!

Not only is the art fantastic, but there are some cool panoramas featured as well!

Not only is the art fantastic, but there are some cool panoramas featured as well!

It’s not all hunky-dory, however.

I’d like to again reiterate that I am not a huge fan of take that elements. Sometimes they are executed well, and they feel like great additions to the game, even though I may not enjoy them.

Unfair sometimes just feels, well, unfair, and not in the good way I mentioned above.

When you’ve just executed this cool combo and gotten seventy money in one turn, it’s pretty lame that a single card can then steal half of your money. Or when you’ve just taken out four loans to build your super attraction (a really powerful centerpiece to your game) only to have it blown up, or shut down again and again. That’s 40 points you just lost and nothing you have to show for it. This is Unfair at its worst, where a fun game about building amusement parks suddenly feels absurdly mean and in-your-face.

The fact that not all events are equal is fine, but the fact that some cards can be so swingy without cost causes a bit of an issue with randomness. Exacerbating this, the city events may randomly shut down a specific type of attraction. Sometimes they punish all players equally, and that feels bad, but at least everyone goes through the same thing. When you’re already struggling and all of a sudden you and you alone get destroyed by a random event, it’s awful.

While there are variants (introduced by Gamechangers) that can help to mitigate this, these, in my opinion, radically alter the feel of the game in a less than positive way. I don’t mind the threat of being attacked if I’m winning, and I also don’t worry about the fact that I need to be careful about how other players may attack me. However, the game feels too cutthroat with some of the decks in there, and too bland and solitaire-like without them.

I’m glad that there are some decks that give you a happy medium; this is the most redeeming aspect of Unfair by far. You really can make it the game you want; for me, I’d rather play with Pirates, Robots and Jungle themes than I would Gangsters, Ninjas and Vampires. With those decks, the events feel more like catch-ups and appropriate take thats, rather than constant or incredibly oppressive assaults on other players. In addition, none of the park cards in those decks actively harm other players, leaving that to the events only. Much more to my liking!

This ninja is probably the worst culprit; if you're not a fan of take that, DON'T PLAY NINJAS!

This ninja is probably the worst culprit of unfairness; if you’re not a fan of take that, DON’T PLAY NINJAS!

Conclusion
Unfair is a game with high-highs and low-lows. Breaking the rules and raking in large amounts of cash or points feel awesome, and if everyone is breaking such rules, you all get the fun of feeling like you’re cheating. In my opinion, the game really breaks when player-on-player aggression comes to the forefront; it’s so aggressive that I have not played cards in some games purely because I think they would completely destroy the experience for the other player. These are definitely my biases and tastes coming through though; if you like take-that, you’ll probably love every aspect of this game, and you’ll have a lot of fun with it. If, however, you’re like me and shy away from such aggression, you can still get a good amount of enjoyment out of Unfair. You will, however, need to be a lot more careful about which decks you include in your games.

Overall, I think Unfair is definitely worth a play, and is a great addition to the board gaming world. While the take that is not my cup of tea at all, it’s doubtless a quality game, and I applaud Good Games Publishing and Joel Finch for their first major foray into the publishing world.

The Aficionado thinks this game is great, but can certainly miss.

Grade: A-

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