PAX Unplugged 2018: Cheapass Games Won Our Hearts With Their Fun, Easy-to-Learn Catalog of Games

I have only begun to scratch the surface of the gaming world. That’s the beauty of PAX Unplugged though: it introduced me to game devs and games I might have never found otherwise. It has solidified itself as a must-attend convention. One of my favorite discoveries? Cheapass Games.

At PAX Unplugged, Cheapass Games demo’ed a few of their titles. This included The Island of Dr. Lucky, Girl Genius: The WorksTak, and Pairs. I had the chance to sit down and try all of them and had a really great time.

The Island of Dr. Lucky

I was unaware of the Kill Dr. Lucky game, and man was I missing out. The latest version, The Island of Dr. Lucky takes the same plot and plops it onto a tropical island. Players choose one of many characters who would like to see Dr. Lucky dead. Game play involves chasing him around the board while collecting weapons and avoiding your fellow would-be murderers.

The winner is anyone who can kill Dr. Lucky without being seen. It is a quick, simple, and easy game to pick up. It can accommodate up to eight players for some really fun murderous mayhem. I thoroughly enjoyed it – especially the bit about Dr. Lucky being based on a real person.

Tak

Tak is truly a beautiful game. Fans of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles will likely recognize the title. It was a little mind boggling to see a game described in text come to life.

The game is played on a board reminiscent of checkers. The pieces are squares of wood with a single “Capstone” piece. While the goal is simple, build a “road” across the board, the game takes a strategic mind and some finessing to best an opponent.

When I played (and won, by the way) I found it to be as intellectually engaging as Chess without being quite as exhausting. It also goes a bit more quickly than a typical chess game. Adding to the fun, Tak is very much a three-dimensional game thanks to the ability to stack and move pieces.

All in all, I can’t wait to add it to my collection. It is approachable, but will still provide a meaty challenge for anyone who likes simple strategy.

Girl Genius: The Works

I learned a lot at PAX, including more about Girl Genius. It is a long-running web comic that now has a card game based on its namesake. Whether you are a fan of the series or have never heard of it, you’ll likely still enjoy the game.

Players work with a board of mostly face-down cards to start. Each turn consists of flipping, spinning, and trying to “pop” cards by aligning symbols found along their sides. When you “pop” a card you activate its effect and get to add it to your score pile.

There’s set target numbers of points based on the number of players that everyone is trying to get to. The more cards in your score pile, the closer you will get to that target number. Whoever gets to the target score first, wins!

PAIRS

At the very heart of who I am, I’m a lover of simple games. That’s exactly what PAIRS is. If I could make up a quick card game to play on the go, this is what it would be. There are more themed PAIRS decks than anyone could possibly imagine, each of them boasting beautiful sets of art that make game play fun and beautiful.

PAIRS is like 21, but in reverse. Points in this game are bad and the deck is stacked in a way that tempts you to try your luck with the odds probably not in your favor. I played and lost, miserably, but still somehow thoroughly enjoyed the gamble.

Every round a card is dealt face-up to the players. From there, the player with the lowest value card decides if they want to take a hit, or if they want to fold. A hit means they take a random card from the top of the deck with the hope of not getting a pair.

If you get a pair, then the number on that card goes in your point pile. If you get enough pairs to reach the point threshold (based on number of players) then you lose. However, if you choose not to take a hit on your turn you can fold and take the lowest face-up card in the game for your point pile.

This was only one way to play the game. According to Cheapass Games, there are more than 20 different games that can be played with the same deck of cards. Plus, you can collect decks to your hearts content. We played with a leaf deck that I was admiring even as I had my ass handed to me. It made the loss a little easier to handle.

I had a lot of fun hanging out at the Cheapass Games booth during PAX Unplugged. They had a unique and interesting array of games that should suit any gamers needs. I’d also like to point out that these games would make really great gifts this holiday season. You can pull out PAIRS at your next work holiday party and impress your coworkers.

If I’ve caught your attention, be sure to check out their website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.