In the world of amusement park management, the competition is cutthroat. Though selling fun is the goal, it’s not always fun and games. In CMON Limited and Good Games Publishing latest game, Unfair, players compete to build the best possible amusement park.
Designer: Joel Finch
Artist: Nicole Castles, Lina Cossette, David Forest, Philippe Poirier
Publisher: CMON Limited & Good Games Publishing
Genre: Card Drafting & Set Collection
Play Time: 50-120 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 6
In Unfair, players have been given the task of creating the best theme park. Over the course of eight rounds, players will build attractions, hire workers, and upgrade theme parks to bring in more customers. Attractions can range from an exhilarating roller coaster to a highly-thematic restaurant. If you want your attractions to draw even more attention, add features that offer better seating or restrooms nearby. Lastly, staff members with special skills can help bring in more guests or defend against a rival’s attempts at sabotaging your park. At the end of the eight rounds, the player’s theme park with the highest score is declared the best in the city!
At the beginning of each game, players will shuffle together all cards of each type (park, events, blueprints) from theme decks equal to the number of players. Players will then receive five park cards, twenty coins, and two “Showcase” cards (Super rides based on theme) to begin the game. Each round of Unfair will consist of four phases:
During the event phase, players will gain an additional event card and have an opportunity to play event cards. This phase also reveals the City Event card, a global effect that applies to all players for the round. The first four rounds will always benefit players, and the last four rounds will always put players at a disadvantage. The steps in this phase are listed below:
- Each player draws an event card
- Reveal one City Event card
- Play event cards (optional)
In the park phase, players build attractions, hire workers, and add upgrades to their park. It consists of three park steps in each round. In each park step, players will take one of the following actions:
- Build an attraction, upgrade, or hire a staff member from your hand or from the market
- Take a card from the market and place it into your hand
- Draw two cards from the blueprints, events, or park deck and keep up to one. Both cards drawn during this step must be from the same deck.
- Event cards: can only be played during the events phase. Each event card will consist of two action choices. The top portion is beneficial to you and the bottom portion is harmful to other players or used to defend yourself from attacks. Only one action can be performed from the event card.
- Blueprint cards: objective cards to complete for bonus points at the end of the game. If you cannot complete the blueprint card, you’ll lose points.
- Park cards: cards that are played onto your tableau to represent your theme park. The cards in this deck will be attractions and upgrades for your park/rides.
- Discard one card from your hand to draw five park cards and choose one to keep
- Collect a coin for each open attraction in your park
Additionally, players can also trade in both of their “Showcase” attractions for ten coins or take out a loan that gives them money in exchange for a deduction in points. These two actions can be done at any time and do not require an action to perform.
The guest phase is where players will reap the benefits of their hard work. In this phase, players will total up the number of guests that visited the theme park. Unfortunately, once your theme park is at maximum capacity you’ll have to turn away guests and have them come back the next day. The steps for this phase are:
- Count the number of stars in your park and collect coins for each star, up to your park’s maximum capacity. Any extra stars that are above your maximum capacity do not generate any income.
- Collect income from any cards with a ticket icon. The ticket icon represents getting additional income from guests once they’re inside of the park. There is no limit to the income gained from these cards.
In the final phase of the round, players discard down to five cards (only event and park cards count against the hand size limit), and clear out any cards in the market. Six new cards will be placed out in the market for the next round. Lastly, the first player marker will move to the next person in a clockwise direction.
The game will continue until the last City Event card is drawn. Players will use the provided score pad to total up their points for attraction size, blueprints, staff members, and subtract points for any loans taken out. The player with the highest score has successfully built the best theme park and is the winner!
I remember back when I was in middle school and discovered a PC game called Rollercoaster Tycoon where you got to manage your own amusement park. I had a blast coming up with ridiculous park layouts and creating physics-defying roller coasters. When I got into the board game hobby, I was kind of surprised that I hadn’t found a game that had the theme park management theme. So when I first saw Unfair on Kickstarter, I knew I had to back it since it looked like a board game version of that classic PC game. Unfair does a good job with the theme and the artwork makes it an easy sell to get anyone to try the game out.
Everybody gets a Theme Park! You get a Theme Park! You get a Theme Park!
Over the past nine months of doing reviews, I’ve come to realize that I really enjoy modular games because I feel like it adds a lot of variety and replayability to a game. This is something that Unfair does really well with six different themed decks to choose from every game. Each deck has some unique themed attractions, theme upgrade cards with special abilities, events, and blueprints. Each also comes with a nice little reference card with a one to five rating for each category (attraction size, blueprints, coins, and unfairness).
With a two player game, you only use two theme decks, which will give you some decent combos depending on the deck combination. However, once you increase it to three or four players, you can get some really crazy combos together. The combination of decks really does create a unique experience every time.
A good example of this was when we played a game with ninjas, pirates, and vampires that left us strapped for cash which resulted in smaller attraction sizes. Whereas, when we played a game with gangsters, we were just swimming in cash, which makes sense since it has a five rating for coins. This opened up a lot more spending possibilities compared to previous games we played.
Guest Passes for Everyone
At first, I thought this game might be a little tough to teach with all the symbols and text on the cards. After teaching it a couple times, I realize there are a lot of aids provided with the game, including the main board that does a great job of representing every step that needs to be taken every round.
The big reference card also gives players a lot of details about iconography, each step of the round, and final scoring. After seeing it in this game, I wish more games provided something like this that can be easily passed around the table. With each player only taking one action per park phase, it gives people just the right amount of time to think about their next move as turns usually go pretty quickly.
This is a great game for new board game players to jump into the hobby. The mechanics of the game are easy to understand and the theme of building your own amusement park is very fun. When the end of the game is reached, it’s also really fun to go around the table to see how everyone’s theme parks turned out. I’ve learned that I’m apparently a big fan of fully automated theme parks since I don’t hire staff members all that often.
Glass Case of Emotion
There is one element of the Unfair that I didn’t enjoy that much, and that was how brutal some of the event cards were. Most of the attack event cards weren’t too bad, but the ones that let you close multiple rides can be crippling especially early on in the game. There were a couple times where either Mandee or I had an opportunity to use a card like that, but felt like it was a little too mean to use it. I usually don’t have a problem with games that have a lot of “take that” elements to it like the game Smash Up.
For some reason, some of the event/city cards in Unfair felt exactly like the name of the game. This is probably a result of one of our first games, where the second half of the city deck just destroyed my income by closing almost all my rides for a round. That kind of sucked the fun out of that one particular game for me, and that was without Mandee even playing event cards on me. That was our first game of Unfair we had played, so I wasn’t too familiar with how I should handle negative events like that. Though there are a lot of cards that can negate event cards and help you recover from negative events, one of the hardest decisions in the game is trying to figure out if that one park card is worth discarding a defense event card.
On the other hand, I can see that the game was designed so the event cards could add in more player interaction. Without the negative event cards in play, I could see a runaway leader being an issue if someone builds a good income engine early on. There isn’t really a way to slow another player down without event cards or staff members that can affect them.
Overall, I enjoyed Unfair because of the theme and how great the artwork on the cards look. The artwork really differentiates the decks, and many cards have a thematic touch added to cards. For example, the Cinema has a different title movie in each deck. It shows that there was a lot of attention to detail in production.
Each game feels unique with six different theme decks (robots, pirates, jungle, ninjas, gangsters, and vampires) to choose from. I’m pretty excited to see what other themes they’ll be releasing in the near future and how they’ll be different from the original six.
I would recommend this game to anyone that’s looking for a theme park building game with fun decisions to make. If you aren’t a fan of “take that” type of game, I’d be a little more hesitant about buying it before you try it. Either way, I feel like the theme is something that can easily draw people in and make this game one that can easily be brought out on game night.
It’s the dream of most millennials who grew up playing Roller Coaster Tycoon to one day run their own amusement park. And the card game Unfair allows you to do just that. Surprisingly, this is our first game with this theme, and with its strong theme, great artwork, and great components, Unfair provides a great game experience.
Rollercoaster of Love
In Unfair, theme decks are randomly chosen, which adds some variety to the game. Some combinations work better together than others, but all do play together nicely. Each deck has unique cards that closely relate to the theme, and some decks also have unique attraction types like the hotels that only exist in the Gangster theme.
The artwork is really what makes this game, and ties to the theme seamlessly. You can tell the artist and writers thought carefully about how best to tie in the cards to each theme deck. On our third or fourth play, I actually started reading the text on the cards, and found many of them to be pretty amusing and still on-theme.
Despite there being only six decks, each game feels different. This came as a surprise to me because I would think the game would get stale after a few plays, only having a few combos. But it really doesn’t. Every game felt different, and there were different outcomes each time. This is likely due to there being numerous potential strategies that are all equally effective. You can go for gaining a ton of money, getting a ton of points from blueprints, employing many staff members for points, or upgrading your rides to add more points. Or you can do all of the above – that’s what makes this game so great!
If you’ve read any of our other reviews, you may already know that I really dislike mean games. Typically, I try to avoid games where it’s a necessity to screw with someone else’s plan in order to win. I like to win of my own volition, and not by playing dirty and ruining someone else’s chances. In some ways, Unfair falls into this category with the Event cards.
The Event cards have a top portion that offers a neutral and “nice” benefit, and a bottom portion that tends to mess with another player’s park. While this does add some interest to the game, I do not find it appealing. In one game we played, a friend used a card that stole one of my employees and ended up costing me six points at the end of the game. Because I had an event card that I couldn’t use for anything but the negative reason, I used it on him and demolished one of his upgrades.
Unbeknownst to me, I actually ended up choosing the one upgrade to demolish – out of the other 7 or 8 he had – that he needed to complete a blueprint, costing him over 40 points. And I ended up winning the whole game – a sour win for me. I really do not like winning by screwing someone over, unintentional or not.
There is an option to play Unfair without using the bottom portion of the Event cards, which I would suggest if you are like me and do not enjoy mean games.
Sorry, We’re at Full Capacity
Overall, Unfair has a strong theme, but there are some elements that I feel do not make sense thematically. For example, the guest capacity portion of the game is still very confusing to me.
Each park starts with a guest capacity of 15, which means, at a maximum, you can earn 15 coins from your park (not including any other bonuses you have). But very few of the decks allow you to increase that capacity, meaning your park is set at only earning 15 coins, no matter what. This makes no sense to me because, thematically, wouldn’t you always want to increase the capacity in order to build more rides to make more money?
Truthfully, I question what purpose guest capacity serves at all, other than potentially preventing a runaway leader. We’ve only played one game where someone went far ahead on earning potential, and he did not win the game. I don’t know how critical of a role guest capacity/earning potential really plays in the game overall, so it really seems like an unnecessary restriction on the game.
In addition, limiting the number of attractions to only five doesn’t tie well to the theme. It’s possible it is a mechanism intended to prevent a runaway leader from building a ton of attractions, so I understand why it’s a part of the game. But it isn’t something I’d consider on theme because someone could still gain a ton of points from upgrading one attraction a ton of times.
Overall, Unfair provides a great game experience with its strong theme and the variety brought to each game. Although there were some elements of the game I had issues with, the overall experience was very positive and fun. Everyone we have played this with has enjoyed the game and especially loves the chance to create their own theme park.
– Strong theme
– Great artwork
– Variety with six different theme decks
– Game changer cards offer nice variants to try
– Some limitations set on players don’t seem that thematic
– Event cards can be mean
– Game can kind of run long with higher player counts
– Bad luck with event cards and city cards can put you at a big disadvantage
He gives this game out of 7 Nimble Chopsticks out of 10.
She gives this game 7 Balloon Artists out of 10.