Unfair, up on Kickstarter now from designer Joel Finch and Good Games Publishing, is a card game where 2-4 players compete with each other to build the most profitable, prestigious theme park. With fantastic art, a tight 8-turn playtime and the potential for widespread backstabbery, does Unfair live up to its name? Or is it actually a much friendlier, more inviting game?
**Kickstarter Prototype Warning – We received a pre-production copy of Unfair for this preview from the folks at Good Games Publishing. Our pictures will be from that, or stolen from their Kickstarter page.**
Top down, Unfair is a tableau building game. You will spend your eight turns building up your park by adding rides, amenities, and staff, all in the hopes of attracting the biggest crowds to earn the most cash.
You’ll then reinvest that cash on making your park that much more awesome, possibly building your park to match the specifications on secret Blueprint cards for a ton of bonus points.
This cycle lasts for 8 rounds, and along the way you’ll be subject to events, both good and bad, which add some chaos to the game.
Jess: Of course, you can also spend your time kicking over the hard work of your fellow players.
Andrew: All’s fair at the fair. But you don’t have to, and that’s important. The take-that elements of the game are fairly well contained – each player can amass powerful event cards that can be used to screw with their opponents. However, each even card also has a useful self-targeting ability, so players who don’t want to play aggressively never have to – they can always use events to their own benefit instead.
Jess: And there are even global rules, called Game Changers, which can be used to change the flow of Unfair’s gameplay. World Peace is one of them, and it outright forbids players from wrecking each other. I really appreciate the choice of how to play; that’s just good design.
Unfair’s unique appeal, and it does have a certain amount of that, lies in, well, the themes of its theme parks. Every time you play, you will select one theme deck per player. These decks get shuffled together, creating the pools of cards that players will use to build their parks – these cards are communal, so it’s not like one of us is building the Pirate park while another is working on Jungles.
Jess: The Themes that came in the base game were Pirate, Jungle, Robot, and Vampire. And the Kickstarter has already added Ninjas and teased Dinosaurs. We love almost all those things!
Our main criticism of Unfair, ironically, is also about theme. While the game embraces the meta-theme, that of building these theme parks for profit, the four base theme packs felt quite uneven in how much theme they conveyed (whew, that was a lot of theme in one sentence). Sometimes, the set’s theme shone through perfectly; robotic attractions were easy to upgrade and often did so automatically, and the staff at the Vampire parks tended to be spooky and supernatural. However, the Pirate pack in particular felt incredibly flat; sure lots of water rides, but no truly ‘piratey’ staff or attractions. What’s here is good, but we feel like it could have been better.
Jess: Another little criticism is that scoring attractions can be wonky. Each upgrade you attach to an attraction increases its value, and at the end of the game, each of your 5 attractions will need to be scored individually. These numbers can get really big and tend to jump by a lot the more upgrades you have. The score sheet is great, but it could use 5 extra rows, one for each attraction. A scoring app would be awesome, too.
That said, we did have a fairly (hah) good time with Unfair. One of the best things about it is how quickly the game lets you play. In many games like it, you would spend a turn or two building small things, gathering resources, and getting ready for big plays down the line.
In Unfair, you can often build one or two attractions and maybe even hire staff in the first turn. It feels incredibly satisfying to build up your park, and the fact that you can start as early as the first action is awesome! Add to that its incredible art (seriously, the art is absolutely fantastic, and we’re just playing a pre-production sample), and it’s got a lot going for it.
We think Unfair is a fun game. In its current form, it has potential to be a great one, and already has a lot of fun packed into the box. With a successful Kickstarter and even more Theme packs, it can only get better. We totally recommend heading over to the Unfair Kickstarter page and checking it out!
(Thanks to Good Games USA for providing a prototype for our preview. Their generosity didn’t influence our opinions)