Board Game Review: Unfair

How far are you willing to go to win? Are you the kind of person who just concentrates on their own game, doing all you can to build up a score than can’t possibly be bettered, or would you rather do anything you can do disrupt others and have then swearing at you and wishing upon you a moderate injury in a surprising zebra-based accident?

In truth it doesn’t really matter – after someone has demolished your finely crafted rollercoaster leaving you with a pretty feeble looking theme park, even the most gentle of gamer will be wishing all sorts on pretty much everyone else around the table.

Unfair is essentially a card game, allowing you to build up a funfair based on ninjas, pirates and various other themes. You can upgrade your rides, add new elements to them, hire staff and plenty of other things in order to increase the number of points your park is worth, as well as earn money to spend on new stuff. You’ll also get your hands on blueprints, cards which offer very specific requirements for the end of the game and give big rewards or penalties to reflect whether or not you managed to complete the blueprint.

A blueprint and an event card, giving you permission to damage an opponent’s park. Oh well.

But the kicker here is in the game’s name – event cards crop up regularly, offering the chance to improve something about your own park or, in a swipe of malice (which is very much encouraged), screw up something to do with another player’s efforts. It can be incredibly unfair at times, making a whole game’s worth of planning and effort come crashing down around you thanks to an unlucky flip of a card, but what would you expect from a game called Unfair?

Whether or not you enjoy Unfair will entirely depend on whether you can cope with the fact that for every problem you deal another player, there’s a chance they could retaliate with something more devastating. You might, if you’re doing pretty well with your park, find that every other player starts to focus their attentions on you, chipping away at your attractions until you’ve got very little left and have to start building again. It sounds pretty unbalanced and unfair, and it certainly can be, but that’s what you need to be prepared for. It’s not as if the game tries to hide the fact it’s unfair after all…

But for every game that you end up being the target, there’s another when everything goes right, you pick up all of the stronger cards and get largely left alone to build your park without much in the way of distraction. You can even use a modifier card which removes the negative parts of the cards, stopping you from punishing other players. But… that’s a bit boring really. Just building up your park while others do the same, it’s a bit soulless, there’s less interaction and far less laughing to be had. The beauty here is in the pissing off of other players, waiting until they’ve just unveiled their star attraction, then removing a key part of it just for fun. If you can’t handle being at the business end of that, then you should turn round and walk away – this isn’t for you.

It’d be a shame if that was the case though. The quality of this game is fantastic, from the brilliant artwork on the cards through to the little rollercoaster miniature which shows which round you’re in, the money tokens where all denominations are a different shapes, and the game’s board which is double sided allowing you to play equally well on either the same, or opposite sides of the table. The rules are fairly long but straightforward enough, and with the game working on a series of rounds you can learn bit by bit if you want to. After the first game though you’ll be well aware of how to play – this isn’t a complicated game all things considered.

Personally I enjoyed it, but then I’m not the kind of gamer who gets particularly cross if I suffer a horrible loss, even if it comes moments before I think I’m about to win. Some people wouldn’t enjoy that, and that’s fine, but if that’s you then there’s no point considering Unfair. I’ve said that a lot in this review, but that’s because I’ve spoken to a few people about this and it seems like a Marmite game. There’s no middle ground, and that’s understandable. You’ll love it, or you’ll hate it, and it all boils down to whether or not you can stand having someone ruin your plans after a couple of hours of careful playing (incidentally, aim for roughly half an hour per player when deciding if you’ve got time to play). If you can, you should jump at this and enjoy the hilarity it’ll offer you and a couple of friends as you build up your vampire themed amusement park.

If not, then stay well away or risk some of your friendships ending.

And that would REALLY be Unfair.

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