19 December 2023
Unmatched is the miniatures fighting game that pits characters from hugely different franchises against each other. Unmatched: Teen Spirit adds more Marvel characters to the mix, in a way our reviewer describes as too many squirrels, but the right amount of fun
If I'm honest, I thought that Unmatched would have outstayed its welcome by now. And yet, with releases like Teen Spirit, they continue to push the envelope, both of what is capable within the system and of superheroes who I've never heard of.
What is Unmatched?
For the uninitiated, Unmatched is a deathmatch-style combat game with a relatively simple structure. Each player gets two actions per turn, with three types of action available: move and draw a card, attack, or use special “scheme” card.
The central gimmick is that the characters are Unmatched; each have unique abilities, decks, attacks and special powers which are completely different and potentially unbalanced. It’s a wonderful demonstration of the power of lowering expectations - no-one can complain “That's ridiculous, you shouldn't be allowed to do that!” because the disclaimer is right there in the title.
What's new with Unmatched: Teen Spirit?
In reality, the game manages to be surprisingly well balanced. Part of the reason for this is the skilled way that Restoration Games break the rules in new and interesting ways. In this latest set of Marvel characters, you have the choice of Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel and the duo Cloak & Dagger. Squirrel Girl adds the first ever Small sized fighters, in the shape of swarms of squirrel tokens; Ms Marvel can move a single space each turn without it costing an action and attack with her stretchy limbs from distant spaces; Cloak & Dagger can teleport switch with one another and can generate actions or discard opponent cards when attacking. These unique abilities alone generate unpredictable effects when used on different characters and abilities, making it a little difficult to definitively declare one “stronger” than any other.
One aspect I enjoy with Unmatched is Restoration’s continuing use of less commonly seen characters from fiction. Amongst others, there are released characters for King Arthur, Medusa, Alice (from Wonderland), and Beowulf. Although they’ve recently added the Marvel franchise, it's more the likes of Ghost Rider and Bullseye than big hitters from the comics.
The result is amusing conversations and interesting choices even before you start playing. Is Squirrel Girl stronger than Ms Marvel? If I get my Bruce Lee character off the shelf, could he defeat Cloak & Dagger? Would Bigfoot? The joy of owning and playing Unmatched is in the variability of these combinations, in overcoming inevitable weaknesses and imbalances. I personally think Cloak & Dagger vs The Invisible Man would be a particularly interesting fight.
Unmatched Game Boards
Are there any negatives? Well, in the last year or so, Restoration Games have switched from providing every set with a double-sided alternate board to including just one board layout with two different colour schemes. For a game that prizes replayability and variety, this is the wrong decision. Give us the double-boards back! In the three and four player sets, including a two-player map on one side would be ideal, or otherwise just providing an alternate map. Needing inspiration? My vote goes for a military squirrel training base, deep in the forest.
All Marvel boards also come with battlefield Items, one-use tokens that provide a temporary advantage. They aren't particularly exciting, but are at least not terribly broken (unlike the InGen Vs Raptors board with its one-way zones.)
Unmatched: Teen Spirit would make a great introduction to the Unmatched series, or a welcome addition to any other set out there. I’m off to see who wins in a fight between Squirrel Girl and a massive T-Rex…
Is Unmatched: Teen Spirit Good? Should You Play?
Arcade style action with top-notch card design and some of the clearest rules in the industry. Well worth it.
Try Unmatched if...
You liked reading about Squirrel Girl on Wikipedia.
…Did you know that due to her proportional squirrel abilities, she can bite with one million and eighty-five thousand pounds of pressure, giving her the ability to bite through solid steel!
Designer: Rob Daviau & Justin D. Jacobson
Publisher: Restoration Games
Time 20-40 mins
Players: 2-4 Players
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
- Hero cards in 3 decks
- 4 Miniatures for Cloak, Dagger, Ms. Marvel, and Squirrel Girl
- 8 Plastic squirrel sidekick tokens
- 4 Custom life trackers
Written by Chris Lowry