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PAX Unplugged 2023 - Day 1

PAX Unplugged is a three-day convention focusing on tabletop gaming. Board games, card games, role-playing games, and all the surrounding peripherals can be found. Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX, was created by the creators of the Penny Arcade webcomic, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. The conventions are centered around gaming culture with the Unplugged version, first run in 2017, being entirely based on tabletop gaming. PAXU 2023 was held at the beginning of December in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as it always is. The folks at Penny Arcade first came to Philly in 2017 and apart from 2020 (you know why) have been back every year. This is the second year I’ve attended as a “Content Creator” for all three days and every year, I go home amazed, exhausted, and excited about the board gaming hobby.

So, what is there to do at PAX? Well, first and foremost and most obviously, GAMES!

There is an entire floor just for vendors to demo, promote and sell their newest games. There are rooms where you can play games under development, and you can give your feedback directly to the developer. The convention provides their own gaming library where games can be rented out and played all day — even well into the night. RPGs aplenty, panels discussing all elements of game design, teaching how to play certain games and even how to tackle the tough issues you may be running into when designing your own games, hosting a game night or roleplaying in another's game.

It also doesn’t hurt that right across the street is the Reading Terminal Market, so you can find all kinds of delicious meals and treats! 


WizKids was one of my first official booth tours as a media member last year, so I decided to keep that tradition going. Last year, I reviewed Marvel: Age of Heroes and SiliconVania for WizKids, who graciously provided review copies. This year, I was really interested in seeing Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught.

A competitive skirmish game where two players each take control of a premade adventuring party. You can run it as a last-party-standing fight or use one of the provided scenarios that give objectives and add monsters who try to ruin the plans of both parties. I had missed it last year when it was being showcased but made a point this year to check it out and Mitch gave me a great overview of the game. The base game is all you need to start getting your D&D combat fix, but different party and monster expansions, with new maps, have been released as well.

I was also shown a preview of Star Trek: Into the Unknown. Another skirmish game, but this time you're controlling ships from the Star Trek universe and choosing a crew to man it. One interesting note about this was that Diplomacy will be a mechanic in the game to win, which intrigues me as something in a skirmish game.

Finally, I played a demo round of the Blob Party.  Players begin with their own blob of playdough-like substance and the round begins with a Category and Word in which everyone writes down an individual answer. Players that have the same answer combine their blobs together and are now working as a team. The goal is for everyone to merge into one blob before seven rounds are up. A fun party game that could be brought to any party gathering. 


Arcane Wonders

Arcane Wonders is another publisher that I have worked with in the past. My first CBY Review was for Neotopia, an Arcane Wonders game.

GAP was up first! This quick card game was a great way to start off my booth visit and to my surprise, board game content creator Amanda Panda was demoing! Amanda does a great job in the board game space and I highly recommend checking out her Twitch channel, Panda8ngel, and her other social links.

GAP is played over multiple rounds where players will play a card from their hand. If the same numbered card is in the middle, players take all cards of that number. If there are no same numbered cards, you then take cards directly one number higher or one number lower. If no cards fall into those two scenarios, your card played adds to the middle. All collected cards are played in front of the player and when all players have no cards in their hand the round is scored. You take your highest total number of cards for one color and subtract the lowest total of another color and that is your score for the round. Point goals are determined based on how long you want to play and the first player to reach that goal wins. I’ve been super into small-box card games lately and this one made a good impression.

Next was World Wonders, a competitive tile-laying game with killer components. I received a copy of this courtesy of Bree at World Wonders and will save most of my comments for my upcoming review. This game hits the sweet spot of being able to be easily taught, but also containing a good amount of strategy and interesting decisions to be made. Maximize your turn by buying buildings, roads, and monuments all on only 7 gold per turn. These tiles increase your population and resources all counting towards Victory Points.

For lunch, like most people at the con, we made the short walk to Reading Terminal Market. Chicken Tikka Masala from Nanee's Kitchen. I would have like to tried some other dishes, but we wanted to get back inside and to the gaming.


After lunch we roamed the Expo Hall and was drawn to the Allplay area. This section was crammed with many different small booths to display and demo Allplay's many small box games. Mountain Goats is a fast and fun push your luck game. The ease of teaching and quickness allows this to be a great game to kick off a game day while waiting for everyone to arrive or for when you want to play one more game, but not a long one. This was an easy purchase.

After the Expo Room closed, we moved to the free play area and got our first play of Cascadia, big thumbs up and as of this article has been purchased. Also, we rented the Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze box set. We only grabbed the four characters to try them out as we were too exhausted to learn the co-operative rules. Love this game and loved the new characters.

Day One came and went in the blink of an eye and I'm ready for more booth visits and a special meetup with some friends in the community. Stay tuned for my Day 2 article coming soon!


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