16 July 2021
Let the games begin
I should probably confess immediately, that I’ve been hyped for this game for months. It didn’t help that before getting a copy, news came out of additional versions like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, as well as Marvel versions, would be added to the collection, which in itself added to my curiosity, without even the fact it’s an asymmetrical skirmish miniatures game based on an old Star Wars game. In short, this was the kind of game I’d wait for the postman for.
Unmatched lets you take characters out of their usual habitat, mix and match a bit, and bring them to life in order to battle. Starting at the beginning: Unmatched: Battle of Legends, gives you the option to play as any one of Sinbad, Medusa, King Arthur, and Alice (not presently in Wonderland). The disjointed nature of these, in the sense you wouldn’t usually put the four together in a sentence, sets you up perfectly to understand the nature of the game – anyone can fight.
Fighting really is the name of the game, or at least, Battle. Whilst usually I hear miniatures skirmish games and assume a heavy weight to them, Unmatched marvellously de-crunches that, and is surprisingly quick and easy to set up, pick up, and being duelling. It has that remarkable ability to draw you in enough to make you want to play again, and seeing as some games are over in a mere 30 minutes (the box says 20 minutes, but ours were mostly longer), you’ve got the time to reset, pick a new character, or opt for a new tactic, and be off once again.
You get two actions per turn- manoeuvre (move about), scheme (play a card that has an action and move), or attack (…attack). As the players are, ahem, unmatched, each character plays differently. Some are melee, some are ranged. Some cards let you move further, some give you a later advantage – and those cards are specific to the character, with clever nods. Alice’s assistance comes into the game as the Jabberwocky, who might use the card Jaws That Bite (the claws that catch, beware the jubjub bird, etc). And it’s worth nothing that the artwork on these are stunning – they’re dark and gritty and I’d happily find a space for them on my wall. The whole game is of a really pleasing quality, from the tokens, to the health dials, to the artwork, which sets you up well from the very beginning, and withstands frequent play.
The cards are where the game gets interesting, as these are how you’ll fight, and as you become more accustomed to them, you start awaiting specific cards to dig into your tactics further. The more variations you play, the more you use them to their full effect. Getting stuck over which cards to use is common to begin with, which does slow it down considerably, but once you’re comfortable with each character, you should be able to play through to its full potential. The only niggle then, is what happens when you’re confident with all characters, and replayability becomes a little limited.
Once you’re familiar with what each of them do, there’s no real surprises, and if you know you favour playing one particular character (mine being Alice), the actions of the other three characters are a little predictable, and its easy to form habits to defeat them. On the one hand, this familiarity is great, because the game is fun, but on the other hand, you almost want to leave a fair amount of time between each play you complete so not get too used to it that it becomes a bit stale.
The real exciting aspect of this game that saves it from veering into a lower rating, is that you can pick up more characters, giving the game longevity. This, which I’m using as a base set, is fun on its own (for a time) without any additions – but I could absolutely be talked into adding in Buffy, or Little Red Riding Hood, or Dracula, for variety, and I have no doubt it would reinvigorate the game and prevent it going stale. Suddenly there are even more combinations to play with, to learn and favour, and to hopefully lead to victory.
A game that’s fun to play, and promises more.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Wildlands
If you’re looking for a smaller scale tactical experience, then Unmatched might be the match for you
Designer: Rob Daviau, Justin D. Jacobson
Publisher: Restoration Games
Time: 20-40 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 4 Hero Miniatures
- 120 Action cards
- 7 Health Dials
- 4 Character cards
- 6 Sidekick tokens
- 1 double-sided board with two battlefields
This feature originally appeared in Issue 57 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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