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Last January I played Tessen with designers Chris and Suzanne Zinsli and Belle of the Ball with designer Daniel Solis months before either game went on Kickstarter. Would you like to play preview versions of what could become the next hottest game of 2014 or 2015 with the designer, then tell them face-to-face how to make their game even better? Then figure out a way to get to Dover, Delaware, for the weekend of January 18-19 because Unpub4 is for you. What’s the price of admission to be a play tester for the weekend? $0. That’s right – nothing, nada, zilch, free.

While Unpub Mini playtest events are held year-round at game stores and conventions across the United States, the annual January event in Delaware is the big one that publishers, designers, and game players from everywhere flock to. Unpub’s growth continues to snowball every year. For Unpub4, the 40 designer tables sold out in under a week, while there are at least 10 publishers who will be in attendance to try to scout out the next gaming hit.

Is Unpub as friendly to casual gamers as it is to hobby gamers? Absolutely!  Casual games Tessen, Belle of the Ball, and Pig Pen were among approximately 10 games that were signed to publication contracts following Unpub3 in January 2012.

Looking at the first of CGR’s three criteria for casual games (played in an hour or less), 39 of the 56 games registered for Unpub4 list a maximum play time of 60 minutes or less. Shigami is the quickest of the lot, advertising a play time of 5 minutes.  What about the other casual game criteria (taught in under 10 minutes and some light strategic thought)? I know for a fact that the trick-taking Les Cartes Miserables, micro-game Monster City Planners, and dice-rolling Lesser Evil meet these criteria, as I have had the pleasure to play them myself at Unpub Mini events.

Unpub4 will also feature the final judging of Dice Hate Me Games' 54 Card Challenge. DHMG asked in November which designer could produce the best game using only 54 cards — and rise to the challenge the designers did, with over 40 entries submitted (that’s over 40 potential new games!). Although who can blame us designers when the prize for the winning entry is nothing less than a publishing contract with DHMG?

 Game testing at Unpub

What should you expect if you come? The entire Unpub4 event is held in one large room with about 40 tables, each with a different game designer with their unpublished game prototype(s). All prototypes are expected to be in a fully playable form. Take a look around, find a game that interests you, and sit down. The designer will briefly show you how to play, and then the fun begins. Publishers, podcasters, reviewers, and bloggers will also be in attendance, so who knows who else might be playing with you. Afterwards, you have a chance to give the designer direct face-to-face feedback.  There will then be a station in the middle of the room to fill out an anonymous electronic feedback form that goes to the designer and maybe to any potential publishers. Unpub only works because of volunteer playtesters (like you) who participate in the feedback process.

If you come, please visit me at table R9 in front of the stage. I’ll be more than happy to show you my two casual game prototypes, a path-laying board-disappearing abstract I call Attatat and a cooperative forest fire fighting game called FireBreak. Even if there are other games in the room you would rather play, I hope that won’t keep you from saying a quick hello.

While Unpub4 is free to players, pre-registration is encouraged to help organizers gauge the expected attendance. How do you learn more? I am so glad you asked.

http://unpub.net/unpub-4/  - this site includes venue details, the free registration link and short descriptions for every game that will be at Unpub4.

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