Unreserved – Physis Games – Some First Thoughts

“Oh and next up we have Physis Game’s auction type game, Unreserved. We’ll start the bidding on £3 to get us going… And that’s £4 with you madam? Now who’ll give me £5..?”

You might imagine that in the voice of David Dickinson, but in truth, he’s never actually held a gavel anytime I saw him. He was never mechanically that important, just the cheeky glue that held the entire show together and made the contestants feel at home. The auction themselves only got exciting when you get one of those hidden gems that shoots off like an unexpected firework, causing everyone to run and hide and a bidding war to kick off. The truth of the matter is that most of the auctions are straightforward affairs and normally either end up slightly above the asking price, or at worse a touch below, leaving the contestant running away with winnings in the region of tens of pounds instead of a fortune. It’s the anticipation of the ‘hidden gem’ being found that compels us to continue watching as opposed to the process that surrounds it. Auctions themselves are otherwise potentially neither excitement or boredom but something in between.

This is normally a line about analogies, and whether the game in question will dah dah dah as opposed to la la la, but I’ve decided to miss it out because even though it adds a bit of flavour, it shouldn’t affect how this write up works. It’s only one of these review garnishes you hope to be there, like adding small strips of bacon into a pasta dish. You know if would be better if it was there and you’re disappointed it isn’t, but not angry. Just a bit surprised someone didn’t suggest it. This is Unreserved in a nutshell.

Unreserved is all about bidding for items through a series of rounds, and hoping that you bid enough to still make a profit at the end of the game. There are six action cards that allow you to look at cards laid out for bidding, or swap cards in the deck or generally annoy other players, but only a little bit. This is all very polite and reserved. I’m expecting cups of tea will be involved. No raised voices. Maybe staring. Probably.
You bid and sometimes you won’t have enough money, but that is okay because every time you’ll be given more money to play. Sometimes you’ll luck in and win something worth so much more than what you paid for it and sometimes you’ll even take a peek at a card to see what it is. It’s not a complicated game by any means, easy to access and learn. The instructions themselves barely take their coat off before they are off out the door, onto the next adventure.

I spent my time with Unreserved a bit frustrated, but never angry. It’s not a game you’ll get overly emotional about. It’s a charming game. It’s a simple game that most people can grasp the basic concepts within about five minutes. It’s only going to take twenty minutes of your time to play through. Then I guess you’ll play something else.
After I played it, I sat there and wrote a list in my head of things I kind of wanted to see.
Because Unreserved should be about ‘Take That Gosh’ and ‘I CAN’T Believe I Paid All That MONEY for That’ and there should be lots of laughing. I’m also surprised there aren’t more action cards that seriously mess up someone else’s winning bids, and people should even swear.
I wanted to say there is this brilliant card that you can play on someone that causes one of their winning lots to be a counterfeit so it’s worth nothing. I wanted one of the action cards to say that the lot you’ve bought is actually discovered to be a rare item, and it’s now worth double. I wanted one of the action cards to fight Unreserved’s corner and scream out it should be noticed. It’s that kind of game. It really should be that kind of game. Why isn’t it that kind of game?

I don’t want to be jumping up and down on this game’s head, because that’s not a good thing and also because Physis are new to this, but at the same time, Unreserved feels like it could have done with another 2 minutes in the microwave. No actually, Unreserved is like ordering Tapas, but not knowing what Tapas is so only ordering one dish. So you are looking around the restaurant at other tables and seeing all the other tasty extras every other table is sampling and then you feel sad because you wish the Unreserved dish was a bit more unreserved and had more to it, and now you have to sit and eat 4 bits of chorizo and you know that’s just never going to be enough.

I wish there was more artwork, as there are no differences between what the £7 China Crockery looks like and the £12 China, the same goes for the doll artwork. I was expecting just that bit more thought? (I don’t think effort though because what is here does look lovely.) I’m concerned there are too many parts where someone has sat back and exclaimed ‘That will do, let’s get the next bit done’

Look, it’s going to be fine as a family game, for those who rarely dabble in the hobby and for those who don’t want complication and yearn for straightforward. It’s going to be excellent for a post dinner party filler, when every feels a bit stuffed and no one wants to think too hard or too much and aren’t such a picky little sh*t as I am.

So Unreserved isn’t bad, it has a great premise and a brilliant core mechanic, but you get the feeling it has been developed in a bubble with little exposure to what is happening in the hobby recently. And that’s fine if that’s what Physis were aiming to do, but then you’ve got bruisers in the other corner like Vault Wars who are going to take your China Cups, and you Porcelain Dolls and smash them to pieces and laugh at you. It’s a missed opportunity that’s potentially got a chance to be a hidden gem, but at present it’s more like costume jewellery that’s been found out.

We were provided a preview copy by Physis Games for us to write these thoughts which we are grateful for.


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