The Unpublished Games Network, or Unpub for short, is “a community of game designers, publishers, players, retailers and artists working towards the creation of new and unique tabletop games”. They run events in major conventions such as Origins, where aspiring designers can demo prototypes of their upcoming games and gather feedback from players. Personally, I had a blast presenting Worldbreakers, my two-player card game, at the Unpub in PAX Unplugged. Here are five reasons why you should visit Unpub next time you attend a con!
You are reading this post so I am guessing you like playing board games. Unpub offers a glimpse into the future of the hobby. I counted over 40 unique games at PAX Unplugged. Each game brought something that I have never seen before, either thematically, mechanically, or both. One table has a dexterity pinball game where you flick dice. Another had a strategic, legacy-lite zombie game that seemed to support anywhere from one to five or more players. Toward the end of the day someone brought in a huge tablet that had a video/board game on it. There was even a game inspired by the swipe culture of dating apps. Most of these games will take years to get to the market, and Unpub allows you to play and enjoy them now, ahead of everyone else.
It will save you money
I often encounter players who voice their frustration at overspending on board games. During PAX I met several people who said that they came with a certain budget and ended up buying more than planned. FOMO is a powerful emotion, and it is a dear frenemy to board gamers in particular: there are more and more board games coming out. However, the games in Unpub are just that: unpublished! You cannot buy them because … they don’t exist yet! The most mature games I encountered were still months away from even having a crowdfunding campaign. There is no FOMO and no pressure to buy a product that is still under development.
You will meet passionate people
Ever sat down to learn a new game and ended up with a boring, confusing teach? That’s not going to happen at Unpub. The game’s designer already taught the rules dozens or even hundreds of times. They will give you a perfect introduction, probably with a nice chunk of context and game history that will never appear in the rulebook. Like any other artist, board game designers love talking about their games — they’re our babies! Cons can be overwhelming and tiring, and meeting a designer who is invested in the game and in you enjoying the game is a breath of fresh air.
You will make an impact
Finding playtesters for your game is hard. Finding random people, who don’t know your and never heard about your game, is even harder. As a result, everyone at Unpub wants you at their table, and you will be courted and listened to. Now is your chance to make an impact on the game’s development. I left PAX Unplugged with five pages of dense notes, and every person I played Worldbreakers with contributed in some way. It could be something small, like tweaking a number on one of the cards, or a more significant change, like changing the pacing of the early-game or designing new cards that address an awkward interaction. As someone who playtests often, nothing equals being able to say “I was there! I contributed to this game!”
Creating a board game has never been easier. There are scores of guides, blog posts, videos, and podcasts. Producing prototypes at home is readily accessible. Online tools such as Tabletop Simulator and services like The Game Crafter mean that turning your design into reality is only a few mouse clicks away. All you need is the spark of inspiration, and Unpub is overflowing with it. Even if you never dreamed of making your own game, you will leave Unpub with a sea of ideas!
So next time you visit a convention, check out their Unpub section. Drop by for a couple of hours, have fun playing a new game, influence that game’s development, and save some money along the way!