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PAX Unplugged 2018: Part 1

Kevin M. Gallagher, Jr Articles, Cup O' Kev Leave a Comment

Tabletop gaming has never been more popular, thanks largely to TableTop, Wil Wheaton’s web-series that explores tabletop games beyond those most are familiar with. With the podcasting landscape evolving, it was only natural for tabletop role-playing games to grow in popularity via the medium. Shows like The Adventure ZoneOne Shot, and Hello From the Magic Tavern spawned a genre of podcasts that is in a boom. Philadelphia happens to the home to some of the most exciting things in tabletop, including podcasting (Party of One, Heart Points, A Quest for Magic and Steele, Pod of Love, Refugees of Esmerelda, and more) and venues (Thirsty Dice, Amalgam Comics & Coffee House, and more).


While it’s likely just a coincidence that I’m from the City of Brotherly Love, we have a thriving representation for the game industry, and Philadelphia was chosen as the home for PAX Unplugged; it still feels like my hometown is the epicenter to some pretty amazing creative talents. PAX Unplugged, in it’s second year, is a three day event that celebrates all forms of tabletop games. When PAX realized how popular their tabletop section of their other conventions were, they thought “what if we did a whole con dedicated to this?” In 2017, PAX Unplugged debuted in Philadelphia.

People from all over the world traveled to the city to celebrate this hobby and play games with like-minded individuals. From organized tournaments and scheduled games to freeplay areas, panels, and the expo hall; people can meet friends (new and old alike) to play games, learn about games, and buy games.


Day 1 at a convention can always be a little overwhelming, but PAX was actually pretty easy. While it was very busy, they had three entrances setup and (spoilers) the Market Street entrance was fast and easy. I seem to remember most other cons frowning about bringing in outside drinks and beverages, but security here just wanted to make sure everything was sealed or went through the detector. PAX also made badge pick up EXTREMELY easy (for both my media badge and the my son’s badge for Sunday).

While the expo hall was open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (plenty of time to shop and use the freeplay area), shows ran until midnight on Friday and Saturday and until 7:00 pm on Sunday. While my planned day didn’t allow for much in terms of programming, there was plenty for people to choose from:

  • Miniatures (Blood Bowl, Speed Freaks, Star Wars, and more)
  • Megagame (Crisis: Unknown – 50 players in the same room and same game)
  • Workshops (from painting miniatures to terrain and more)
  • Classic Cardboard (Sorry!, Clue, Battleship, and more)
  • Learn & Play (One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Intro to RPGs, Root, and more)
  • RPGs (D&D Adventures League, Star Wars, Zombie World, Masks: A New Generation, and more)
  • Panels (Play Well With Others: Conflict Resolution at the Game Table, Shut Up & Sit Down: The Podcast!, An Afternoon with Pat Rothfuss, Rise of the Co-Op Game, Not Having Racism in Your Campaign, Settings, or Table, and more)

There was a lot more offered on Day 1 too; this is just a small sampling. And yet, with all of that, there was till so much to do that I didn’t get a chance to touch one of those things listed above.


My day started out with meeting up with Ben and Mel from the Pod of Love podcast. We had plans on recording a very special episode of Everything is Awesome (more on that later), but all of us ended up getting a late start to our day. I ended up playing sound guy for them during their interview with Nikki Valens, who was a pure delight to listen to as she talked about the Fog of Love LGBTQ expansion she’s working on.

After some more working the floor and catching up with Blaine from the Refugee’s of Esmerelda podcast, we had some lunch and got back to the con to get ready for episode 150 of Everything is Awesome. The Game Library had the tumbling tower we needed to play Alex Robert’s Star Crossed. While I’ll keep the details of the game vague until the episode, I really loved the way this game played. The tension of pulling bricks and trying to not knock the tower over makes the story that much more intense. Being a cooperative story telling game, it felt great sharing the workload telling our rather interesting story.


Day 1 of PAX Unplugged was FANTASTIC. I mentioned this to several people and on Twitter, but my PAXU experience last year was last than great. I wasn’t planning on coming this year because of it. I’m very happy that better judgement prevailed and that I came. Had I not, I wouldn’t have been able to bond with the Pod of Love crew, play Star Crossed, or see how much PAX changed things to make PAX Unplugged a stellar convention.

I took Day 2 off from PAX Unplugged to spend time with my family (which turned into dealing with my car all day), so Mike DeAngelo will be presenting some Day 2 (and maybe even Day 3) coverage tomorrow! I’ll be back Wednesday to cover Day 3 of PAX Unplugged!

Kevin M. Gallagher, Jr
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