Home Board Game News PAX Unplugged 2022 Recap

PAX Unplugged 2022 Recap

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Once again, PAX Unplugged rolled its way into Philadelphia for another edition, giving gamers three days of unadulterated tabletop gaming goodness. PAXU has become a fixture for us on our calendar, being a can’t miss event to experience all things tabletop. While not as large as Gen Con, it provides opportunities for every flavor of gamer, from people looking for the opportunity to play some of the newest titles released from Essen, those looking for a slice of nostalgia in the games of their youth, and everything in between. Your intrepid BGQ favorites Alex and Tahsin blitzed through the convention, trying as many new games as we could.

Games We Experienced

The WolvesThe Wolves – In the top tier of games we played, The Wolves is a solid area control title where you spread your pack to control the most locations. While scoring is pretty standard for majority control of areas, the fact that the game is on a timer, based on the actions of the players, makes for an interesting experience. Do you make moves to spread your pack, knowing that you are shortening the game, or do you try to be more measured in your approach? Either way, The Wolves was a great time, and thanks to the three fellas who took the time for the excellent teach!

Heat: Pedal to the Metal – If The Wolves was #1, then Heat would be #1a. The heir and successor to Flamme Rouge, players take the role of Grand Prix drivers speeding through racetracks, taking corners at breakneck speeds, and trying to keep in one piece as they push the limit of their car to the max. The gameplay is like Flamme Rouge (as they have the same designer) by programming your move through playing speed cards, but taking risks in the form of heat, which can provide boosts but also danger later. Very interactive, easy to pick up, and a ton of fun—watch for this if you are fan of racing games!

Tidal Blades: Banner Season – A game set in the Tidal Blades universe, this appeared to be one of the hotter games at PAXU, based on our observations. However, our experience with 2 players left a lot to be desired—repetitive and boring turns, unclear goals, and a lackluster experience. While we have read and talked to many who said this was one of their top games of the weekend, we realized that they were playing with 3-4 players, which is something that should be considered if you’re interested in playing this spin-off.

Beer and BreadBeer & Bread – A charming little two-player game, Beer & Bread checked off multiple boxes for me—cards with multiple uses, drafting and resource management, a fixed number of rounds, and dour white people trying to survive the winter. The limited pool of resources that are shared between both players adds an extra layer of brain-burning to the planning, and the drafting of cards also gives you a peek into the possibilities of your opponent’s moves. There’s a lot of game in a very small package here, and we enjoyed our plays.

Tiwanaku – A deduction game, Tiwanaku has players trying to figure out where crops should be planted by allowing them to discover the size and makeup of various regions on the board, then using Sudoku-like rules to deduce the placement of the types of crops in those regions. Since each region can only have one of each type of crop, and alike crops cannot be adjacent, Tiwanaku is a puzzler that can be as simple or as complex as you desire. The absolute highlight of the game is the Pachamama wheel, which allows you to program squares on the grid to reveal the terrain type and crop. While the game itself is reasonably straightforward, the components are what truly made our experience.

Deal with the DevilHamlet – It may not be fair that we put this title on the list, as we cannot say that we even got a play of Hamlet, a title that was on our must-see list. What promised to be an interesting resource management game ended up being a dud for us, simply because the components were so small and fiddly, and the iconography and writing on the tiles were practically indecipherable to us. At that point in the convention and the evening, we were happier moving on to something a bit more accessible. That’s not to say that Hamlet is not still relevant to our interests, but it might be a game better played at home in our better-lit game rooms.

Deal with the Devil – A game that would never be bought by us due to the absolute need to have 4 players to play, Deal with the Devil was by far the most unique experience we had at PAX, and possibly in the past year. A resource management and trading game with some hidden role goodness sprinkled in, Deal with the Devil puts you in the position of having to develop your castle while hunting or being hunted for evil spirits. A unique app-driven system allows players to propose and accept trades secretly, Deal with the Devil successfully adds a social deduction component to a Euro game, with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. 

Quick Hits and Misses for PAX 2022

PAX really has cemented itself as a convention for playing games, rather than releases. We love the First Look section, as well as the voluminous games library. The Looking for Gamers area is fantastic for people to make new friends and play a game they might not normally be able to get to the table. Everything about the convention oozes with inclusivity and giving all attendees the best possible game-playing experience.

It looks like PAX added even more space for open gaming this year, which was sorely needed after the last few editions having virtually no space after the dealer hall closed and everyone hit up the gaming areas. Maybe PAX management is reading our reviews? If so…

We understand that Line Life is a thing at a PAX convention, doubly so with the need for vaccine control and bag checks in the times in which we live. However, there must be a better solution than the way the entry queues were handled this year, with bottlenecks at the metal detector area. Saturday was definitely the worst day of the bunch, and I’m hopeful there’ll be a serious debrief over how to approach the problem for subsequent years.

Geek Therapeutics

The Games Library, while awesome, is definitely in need of a refresh and update. While getting a hold of the newest bleeding-edge games might be difficult, I was shocked to find out there wasn’t a single copy of Wingspan even in the library for rental. While some games are definitely not practical to have, doing a little updating would go a long way.

We noticed a lot more mental health organizations with a presence at the convention this year, with a focus on using games as therapy. We love this growing field and accessibility to mental health services and wanted to shout them out—gamers helping gamers not only indirectly but providing a true service to the community.

There is a ton to do outside of playing board games and looking at board games and thinking about board games. We really only scratch the surface of what PAX has to offer, but it is worth the trip for anyone who is interested in RPGs, classic games, concerts, shows, and everything else PAX has to offer.

If you are coming to PAX U next year, you should…

…try to show up on Friday, to be able to get your first crack at the dealer hall and the first play area. Friday morning is not nearly as crowded as Saturday, so if you can swing it, get there early.

Pax Unplugged…not skip the dealer hall. While we have given the opposite advice in the past, there are more smaller exhibitors at PAX than at the larger conventions, allowing you to stumble onto a new discovery. Take your time and visit all the booths!

…not sleep on Hershel’s in the Reading Terminal Market. While DiNic’s gets all the love (justly so), you can get just as good of a sandwich with half the wait time. Same goes for Molly Malloy’s for breakfast.

…make reservations for dinner well in advance. While there are tons of great eateries in the middle of Philadelphia, you want to be prepared, and not stuck eating overpriced convention center food.

…think about not needing to get a hotel connected to the Convention Center. Philadelphia is an easy city to navigate on foot, so if you’re feeling mobile and not going to be weighed down by a ton of packages, maybe book a hotel on the other side of Broad Street?

 

We’d love to hear from you about your PAX Unplugged experience! What games did you play? What would you tell the PAXU newbie or the seasoned and grizzled veteran? Chime in below and let us know!

 

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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