Casting Deep Meteo

Managing Minds and Blue Fascists at PAX Unplugged 2022

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #160. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Wide but shallow.


With masks on faces and water bottles in hand, we heaved our weary frames through another PAX Unplugged, quickly falling into old rhythms. But first, scorpion bowls.

That was the plan at least. Not for me, I do not partake, but as is so often the case we found that even the old haunts couldn’t completely bulwark themselves against the tempests of the last few years, and scorpion bowls were the latest sacrifice. More superstitious souls might have taken this as a sign to step back, but we ate some damn good Chinese food and went home with every intention of an early night and an early morning.

But when was the last time you got four friends in a room with a full set of mostly working Rock Band instruments? One song became a three-set evening heavy on the ‘90s and sanded throats. A twinge of that old feeling fluttered about, and things felt alright.

The next morning was a little later than planned, but we played some games nonetheless.


I am once again immediately confronted with the immense capacity for cutthroat chicanery from my friends. Rebellion Unplugged, a European games studio still early in their roster, brought their Sniper Elite board game along with their soon-to-be crowd-funded crash-em-up Joyride. The author is easily swayed by neon and expressive lines and they had an open seat so we sat down for a few rounds. Joyride’s pushing a little harder into replicating momentum and g-forces, asking players to keep track of gears and switching between them while planning tricky turns. It doesn’t help when on turn two you’re bumped nose-first into a wall but that’s what friends are for. I left a little muddy on the rules but that’s probably the encore’s fault, in the end I walked away hoping to have a few more rounds on the hexes for this one. Because the only thing more satisfying than railroading a friend around the board is blasting them with a rocket down the lane. 

Box art for the board game Fire Tower, featuring a burning watch tower rendered in vibrant pastels.

Fire Tower

Another booth making smart use of blinking lights and deceptive simplicity, we walked by this one a few times, lingering a little more on each pass until we finally decided to wait for an open table. The metaphor is a little shaky; each player commands a fire tower in the corner of a forested grid where a fire has broken out in the center. You’re attempting to put the fire out in your area while spreading it towards your opponent, by changing playing cards to change the wind or build out fire-stops or just spread the flames anywhere but your little corner of the map. So, you are sort of fighting the fire, but mostly trying to make the fire worse for everyone else.

That’s acceptable though, because the game is quite quick to jump into while maintaining a strategic gnarliness. The fire is always spreading so it’s a war of attrition, getting cold-decked, putting together temporary alliances against whoever won last as you slam the captivating little fire gems down one after the other until you or your opponent just can’t wiggle out of another mess. Reminded me of Othello a bit, or maybe Go if I knew what that one was all about. The board fills up square by square and you just hope to keep the chaos a little contained on your end. A big hit for our group that we scooped up and dropped even more time into later in the evening.

The box art fro Mind MGMT: The Psychic Espionage "Game." A schoolgirl from the 60s smiles wanly while an image of burning buildings and various weapons and spy accoutrement hovers over one side of her face.


I got caught up in the hype on this one, slamming that Kickstarter a while ago and then like all such projects just trying to forget about it until the shipping notification came in. Then the Vintage RPG Discord started popping off about it and my heavy breathing intensified. Hauled it all the way to Philly and demanded we give it a go, and despite the intimidating number of components and intimidating (but ultimately useful) instruction booklet began to really crack open the astral plane.

You probably know about this one but just in case, Mind MGMT is based on a comic book series about a shadowy cabal that is using psychic agents to control the world. One player is out here recruiting for the cause, while the others are former members looking for revenge. The recruiter plays behind a screen with a little dry-erase version of the map, marking their position as they sneak around based on turn order, and the rest is playing hide-and-go-seek.

That’s just the beginning though. From there it’s about immortals, intelligent dolphins, a long-term game-altering SHIFT system of cards. Layers upon layers much like the various dimensions and astral planes that are all just out there waiting for the third eye to access and unlock. But first, writing numbers on little bubbles and sussing out a son of a gun. There’s even an app if you want to try solo, I gotta give that a whirl.

Overlords of Infamy

You’re the villains, chewing up scenery and map-space to build out your little empire. Pushing around meeples, revealing hex tiles, fulfilling dastardly quests by scooping out resources. Once you start encroaching on another player you can really mess with their stuff. A more overworld-focused Catan-like take on the Boss Monster paradigm, and a little more satisfying to me.

Sniper Elite

I think I’m just a sucker for sneaking around.

Space Cats Fight Fascism

A fun little card game with a premise I can get behind. Good for the pub. Very funny to me that the fascists are blue.


Levi Rubeck is a critic and poet currently living in the Boston area. Check his links at


Ad Free, Casting Deep Meteo, Games, Unwinnable Monthly