Attending Unpub 2023: A Board Game Designer's Dream Come True
As an indie board game publisher, attending Unpub is always a highlight of my year. This year's Unpub event was held in Hunt Valley, Maryland, which was a short commute for me. Despite the sparsely attended but still very valuable play test event, I had a local game store earlier in the day, where I was able to gather valuable feedback on some of the technical writing in our upcoming release, Token Terrors Battlegrounds Season 2 - TERROR RISING. I had paid for a weekend pass to Unpub 2023 (because I had missed the deadline to sign up for tester tables) and I made the trek to Hunt Valley after I wrapped my demo event.
I then spent the evening playing rough prototype copies of various unpublished board games from 5 PM to 9 PM. I met some really nice people and got to play some incredibly cool games that never fail to inspire me and remind me of how much I love the hobby side of being a game designer.
Though I planned to return on Sunday either way, as I was leaving, I stopped by the front desk and was able to sign up for any drop-out tables that might be available on Sunday morning. I was fortunate enough to secure a table and ran two of our games: Valka, which is coming to Kickstarter this year, and Kyodai Na Robotto, a back burner design that I've invested a lot of time working on artwork and rules for, but is still quite rough around the edges. All the playtesting went great! In all, I ran one Game of Kyodai and 3 games of Valka!
The networking that I was able to do at Unpub was pretty cool. I met a convention organizer who's looking for vendors for a con happening in Pennsylvania in a few months. I also met some really insightful playtesters who gave me glowing feedback about both games. I had a blast playing/running games and showing our stuff to people, getting positive, negative, and constructive feedback about the gameplay experience.
If you're a game designer, an indie publisher, or someone who just loves playing board games, I highly recommend attending Unpub Prime if you're able to. There are also other affiliated events that happen all over the country throughout the year. This is equivalent to an event like Proto Spiel, which happens mostly in the Midwest, but Unpub Prime and other similar events help build a larger and more involved network of independent designers and publishers who playtest each other's games, whether it's inside a Ritz crackers box or a nearly finished game that is about two or three weeks away from going to Kickstarter. It's a really rewarding and awesome experience to get under your belt as a person who's in the industry side of this hobby.
Overall, I give Unpub Prime 10 out of 10 and absolutely recommend it. I plan on keeping my eye on the 2024 Unpub Prime event so I can sign up for the full weekend and run games the entire time. Keep on rolling dice, keep on having fun, and keep making games, everybody.