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PAX: Games We Played and Saw


PAX Unplugged has offerings for every flavor of gamer, from the novice to the veteran, from the board gamer to the RPG players, from the quick and light fans to the heavy Euro aficionados. No matter who you are or what you want to play, there’s that availability at PAX Unplugged, which is what makes it such a great weekend in Philadelphia.

For us, PAX Unplugged is all about playing the new games (at least, new to us). We were able to sit for demo sessions, got some sneak peeks to some upcoming projects, and get in quite a few games throughout the weekend. Below is a list of the games we saw, the games we liked, and the games we could leave behind.


Quacks of Quidlenberg: Fresh from winning the Kennerspiel des Jahres and now published by North Star Games, Quacks is a nice twist on the bag-building game with a fun press your luck mechanic and engaging play. A better theme and rulebook would help, but are not dealbreakers for getting Quacks to the table. For us, this was the game of the convention, and one that I am looking forward to adding to my collection.

Tokyo Highway

Tokyo Highway: A dexterity game from Itten, Tokyo Highway provided a lot of laughs as we constructed our pillars and wove our freeways in and out to place our vehicles. Definitely not a game to play late at night after one or two beverages, but a ton of fun. I am normally not a fan of dexterity games, but this one was right up my alley with spatial analysis. This is a game that would never see the table with my home game group, so I am glad to have gotten in a play.

Soul Raiders: A future release from Marc Andre (of Splendor and For the Realm fame), Soul Raiders is shaping up to be a choose-your-own-adventure type of game, with cards providing multiple paths to follow in an adventure type module. While reminding us of 7th Continent, it was unique enough to pique our interest. We look forward to following news about this release as 2019 progresses.

The Estates

The Estates: Thanks to Andrew for the heads-up about this title. Simple to explain yet deviously complex to play well. Both of my plays started off slowly and quietly, and quickly devolved into deep strategizing on how I could best mess with my opponents. Published under the Simply Complex imprint from Capstone Games, it is an apt description of everything about The Estates.

War Chest: I did not play War Chest. Jon played and purchased War Chest. Maybe he can comment below and fill everyone in about it.

Dice Settlers

Dice Settlers: I was really jazzed up to give this one a try. Sadly, it left me a bit wanting – the combination of dice pool building with area control was not greater than the sum of its parts. While the other members of my group enjoyed Dice Settlers, I do not need to give this one another try.

Tsuro – Phoenix Rising: We got an advanced look at this, slated for Kickstarter in early 2019 by Calliope Games. With some new rules to add another layer of strategy to standard Tsuro, this new version looks really slick, with great art and theme to go along with the Tsuro gameplay we all know and enjoy. Worth keeping an eye out for when this title is released.


Battlestar Galactica – Starship Battles: Ares Games brought their newest title to PAXU for a bit of pre-release sale. I was shocked to see copies still available when I wandered past their booth late Friday and early Saturday. Then I had an opportunity to demo the game out, and could then understand why. Needlessly complex, lots of fiddly rules about movement and game mechanisms that did not seem to mesh together well, BSG left me very disappointed. Admittedly, it could be that I was expecting X-Wing-type rules, and got something far, far more complex.

Tiny Towns

Tiny Towns: The game I wish most was available at the convention. I loved everything about this game – fast play, pattern creating and matching, building towns. Everything about it was horrendously difficult and amazingly enjoyable at the exact same time. This is another title I would have liked to have walked away from the weekend with.


Pipeline: Complex economics and limited actions, with major penalties if I do not meet my goals? Count me in. While two of us completely messed up our strategy and ended up leaving ourselves high and dry, this is a game I look forward to adding to my collection. Definitely a must-buy for me when it is released to retail.

The River

The River: I heard a number of people dismissing The River over the weekend because it was “too light.” Far from the truth, my friends! The River may be on the lighter side of the worker placement crowd, it still has plenty of depth to satisfy fans of complex Euros. As the game progresses, you lose workers to place (as opposed to gaining them as you would in most games), causing you to be more tactical in your actions. Worth checking out if you are dipping your toes into the Euro world.

Illimat: When Jon usually comes to the table with a small game box, raving how he found a hidden gem of a game, I am usually skeptical based on his previous “finds.” Not so with Illimat by Keith Baker. In this card game, you are playing, matching and collecting cards in four different areas, each corresponding to a season, with a slight rules change. As gameplay progresses, the seasons change, opening and closing options for play. There is a really neat occult-ish theme surrounding the game, and it is one that I hope to play again sooner rather than later.

For those of you who went to PAXU, please chime in below and tell us about the games you loved, the games you passed on, and the games you wish you passed on.

Alex likes his barbells heavy, his beers hoppy, and his board games thematic and fun to play with two players. When not at the gaming table, you can find him wearing short shorts and carrying a weighted rucksack for miles on end.

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