PAX Unplugged Review: Tabletop Heaven
Recently, Penny Arcade Expo held it’s first ever Unplugged event which focused solely on tabletop gaming. PAX continues to experience immense growth every year since its founding in 2004. The tabletop area at PAX is often the most popular with attendees due to its social aspects and late hours. Even with the current boom in tabletop gaming, some wondered if a con of this type would even be viable. Holding an event this close to the busiest traveling day of the year is often seen as risky. However, their gamble was rewarded with strong numbers for all three days of the convention. Not the madness that you would see at PAX East, but they more than filled out the allotted space at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
When attending PAX Unplugged, you can expect to see plenty of old and current. If you like competitive games like Star Wars Miniatures, Scythe, or even competitive D&D; this is the place for you. There were official signups as well many places where people could freeplay. PAX even has a tabletop library where people can use the QR codes on their badges to check out board and card games. And like most conventions, there were plenty of panels and workshops.
Like all PAX conventions, one of the best things to do is to playtest either unreleased or very new products. One of the games to make their public debut at Unplugged is the game titled, Weave. Weave is a role playing meets tarot card game. It doesn’t use a traditional Dungeon Master, but instead utilizes a phone application.
Another game that we got to play around with is called Dragonfire by Catalyst Games. It’s a deck building game meets D&D; which means there’s no need for DM as well. It plays very similar to Pandemic where the goal is to use an all inclusive strategy for the progression of the group. Unlike most deck builders, this one has progression and is meant to be played over several sessions.
Star Wars Destiny is the newest collectible card game set in the Star Wars universe. It played a lot like Magic The Gathering except there’s an lower barrier for entry for newer players. It takes about a round or two to get the hang of things. The lightside alignment cards are more about mitigating and outright reassigning damage. While the darkside is about building high burst damage. We also got a look at the Hand of Fate deck building game. Yes, it’s based in the same world as the video game. It takes place between 1 and 2. The makers of the card game even had some influence about some of the things that went on in the sequel to the video game. It plays out like a competitive dungeoneering game which may take a few times to really master and learn the deck. Things can get out of hand quite quickly as you make you way through minions and bosses. It’s still in need of funding but looking to go into full distribution by spring of next year.
Another good thing about a convention of this kind is that many of the vendors make their products. Which means they can answer any questions regarding the game or game related item you’re purchasing. Hero Forge was on of the more popular gaming supply vendors attendance. Hero Forge creates costume 3D printed miniatures. Another popular gaming supply company was Level Up Dice; who are known for their high quality dice sets. Even though their least expensive set is still a bit on the high side, they’re worth the money if you really appreciate good craftsmanship.
Overall PAX Unplugged was a great convention that ran pretty smoothly for the most part. There were a few hiccups but nothing to really worry about. And it’s expected since its the first one they’ve done of this kind. If you’re planning to attend PAX Unplugged next year, be on the look out for announcements around late winter/early spring. It will most likely be held in the same place which means the closest hotel is the Marriot attached to the convention center.