Unfair from CMON is a delightful game that nearly slipped under the radar. Lacking the usual fanfare CMON has become known for with their record-setting Kickstarters, I didn’t know what to expect from it. Thankfully, I had a chance to see it in action and hear rave reviews at CMON Expo, so while I didn’t know what the game would be like, I knew that it was good. Unfair is a game where you are trying to build the best, most successful amusement/theme park, either by pushing to give yourself the biggest edge possible or by sabotaging all of your competitors.
Unfair is a 2 – 5 player game that has 8 game turns, with different phases that push different aspects of gameplay. The game comes with 6 different Themes (but the box has space for more, so I eagerly await future expansions) and each player selects a Theme to play with. Each of these decks is shuffled together and everyone has access to all of the cards, which creates an interesting dynamic when attempting to choose upgrades. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins, but there are many different ways to score points so if every player is chasing a different path to victory, it can easily be anybody’s game until the final scores are tallied.
When playing Unfair with only 2 players, it feels a lot more like chess where you are attempting to outsmart your opponent and guess/disrupt the path to victory they are taking. In larger games, it becomes challenging to keep track of cards (how many are still in the huge draw deck or even in somebody’s hand?) and the competition for key upgrades and attractions gets fierce.
The top of the turn starts with revealing a City card. The first 4 of the deck are Funfair City (which offer global benefits that apply to all players) and the last 4 are Unfair City cards, which hamper all players. After that, players play event cards in the aptly named Event Phase, which is specifically designed to force interactions. Each Event Card is split where the top half of the card is a positive outcome for you and your park, while the bottom of the card is designed to sabotage your opponents. When you play the card, you have to indicate which effect you are playing.
The Parks Phase is where every player gets to build and upgrade their own park. You only get 3 chances at it (or a 4th if you have a special resource or event card) and you only have so much money, so choose wisely. Finally, the Guests step lets you bank up the sweet cash all those fair-goers spent in your park.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR FAMILIES
The first few times I played this game, I played it with my 8-year-old kid. The mechanics are easy to understand and the game turn is literally on rails (the phase tracker is a tiny roller coaster car). When playing Unfair as a family game, the adults have an unspoken agreement to not attack other players. This makes the game a good natured, fun, and satisfying experience for everybody. There is less of a focus on winning through sabotage, and more of a Sim City vibe where you are trucking along and trying to build the best possible Theme Park. It is deeply satisfying to pick an attraction an add every upgrade or feature that humankind has ever thought of and scoring a pile of points for that attraction at the end.
If you are playing with children who are less familiar with gaming, Unfair even includes a number of “Game Changer” cards. These cards all modify the base game in an attempt to make it lighter and easier to play. First time playing a board game? Include a game changer until you get the hang of things.
WHY IT CAN BE CUTTHROAT
A legitimate, game-winning strategy is to mostly ignore your own park and focusing on taking every single other player out at the knees. I’ve played Unfair a pile of times so far with a pretty even split between friendly family game and “all bets are off” style grudge matches. In the latter, I think of the Events phase as the phase of the game devoted to dismantling the hopes and dreams of your friends or spouse. I have been called names that would make a sailor blush for destroying entire attractions (including ALL of their upgrades) or stealing Blueprints. There is a sort of sadistic satisfaction to inflicting that kind of damage to a rival’s park. If these are the types of gaming situations you enjoy, Unfair delivers on them.
The best part? Because you shuffle all of the Theme decks together, the types of event cards, park attractions, and even paths to victory can DRASTICALLY change every single time you set it up. One complaint I often have with many games is low replayability, and Unfair is not guilty of this. This doesn’t even factor in the ease of releasing new Themes as expansions which further add legs to the game. That said, one issue I’ve encountered with the game is income scaling can be a struggle in the early game. While loans can offset the struggle of building enough attractions to generate income to grow a park, the unevenness of income generation is something I hope future expansions can fix.
Now, where is my Sea Park expansion? A Gangster-themed Dolphin show is begging to happen. And who doesn’t want to ride the splashdown ride, “Swim With The Fishes”?
What kind of board games do you like to play? Let us know in the comments!