Full disclosure: A review copy of Unmatched was provided by Restoration Games.
I’m not really sure why I found this review so difficult to write. I get weird mental blocks on reviews, sometimes. Games sort of fall into a blind spot or I just erase them from my consciousness; thankfully, that hasn’t quite happened, here, but part of the reason why is that I force some games onto my calendar so that I feel lightly compelled to finish the review. And the weird thing is, spoiler alert, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy Unmatched or something; I think it’s quite fun! I just … get weird about reviewing games, sometimes. Oh well; let’s get into Unmatched, a new title from Restoration Games. I covered Downforce a while back (quite happily), so let’s see where Unmatched ends up in my scoring.
In Unmatched, well, you’re basically down to the point where you have to settle some things with violence. You can’t do much else. So, grab a sword, a bigger sword, two smaller swords, or a bow and get to work. You’ve got at least one friend (usually; hard to say with Merlin) and you’re ready to get down to business because fighting is your business and business is … a fundamental part of life, I suppose. Or violence. This metaphor is getting away from me. Will you be able to defeat your rivals in this battle of legends?
Setup is fairly trivial, which is very nice. Really just pick a side of the board to use:
Have each player choose a character (Hero); they get the Hero figurine, one or more Sidekicks, their deck, and some health-tracking dials. There are all sorts of friends:
Either way, once you’ve done that, choose a player to start. They should place their Hero on the 1 space, and the second player should place their Hero on the 2. Then, place your Sidekick(s) such that they are in the same zone (color / design of space) as your Hero. Have everyone shuffle their deck and draw 5 cards and you’re ready to start!
A game of Unmatched is surprisingly straightforward. You’re gonna fight that other person. Until they’re out of health. Then you win! If they knock out all your health, they win. Simple as that.
Until then, you battle! On your turn, you may do any two of three actions; you may do the same action more than once.
Each time you Maneuver, you must first draw a card. Then, you may move a number of spaces up to your movement value. Your Hero and / or your Sidekick(s) may each move up to that many spaces (they can move different amounts!). If they have separate movement values, they move up to their movement value.
You can only move into empty spaces that are connected to your space by a line; if you need to move through an allied player, you may, but you may not move through an opponent.
If you’d like, you may discard an additional card to Boost your movement; this means that you take the card’s Boost Value (the number in the circle on the center-right) and add it to your movement value for that turn.
Play a card with a lightning bolt symbol on it from your hand; that character uses its effect. If that character has been defeated, it cannot use that effect.
Attacking depends on one thing; are you Ranged, or are you Melee?
- Ranged: May attack any player in the same zone as that character. May also make Melee attacks.
- Melee: May attack any player in a space adjacent to themselves.
To attack, you must have a card with an Attack icon (the boom / burst icon) or a Versatile icon (Attack / Shield [which is defend] icon). When you do, designated a target for that attack and play your Attack card face-down in front of you. Your opponent then decides if they want to play a Defend card. Regardless, reveal all face-down cards and subtract the Defend value of your opponent’s card (if played) from your Attack value. If your Attack is higher than their Defend after the cards resolve, you win the combat! If their Defend is higher than your Attack, they win the combat! If the Attacker wins, the Defender loses health equal to the difference between the Attack and Defend values. If the Defender wins, nothing happens.
Some cards have effects that resolve Immediately, During Combat, or After Combat; resolve them as needed.
Some Sidekicks don’t have a health dial; they’re eliminated if they take even 1 Damage. Keep those glass cannons safe!
End of Turn
At the end of your turn, if you have more than 7 cards, discard down to 7.
End of Game
If you successfully eliminate your opponent’s Hero (note, their Sidekick can still be alive), you win! And vice-versa.
Player Count Differences
There’s also a team mode! In it, you just alternate turns between players 1 / 2 / 3 / 4. 1 + 3 are on a team against 2 + 4. Normal rules apply. If one team’s Heroes are eliminated, the other team wins! Beyond that, not much changes between two and four. I’m not really a big fan of team games (or team combat games), so I’m mostly going to stick to this one at two. But if you’re having a double date or you have a pair of twins that are your hated rivals, you can probably make this one happen!
- Don’t get trapped. This is pretty much the worst thing that can happen. If you get surrounded and you can’t get past a Hero and their Sidekick, you’re going to get wailed on for a while. You need to figure out a way to kick them out of your way if you’re going to survive. Try to figure out what the weakest point in their wall is and break through.
- Also, try not to run out of cards. This will make it particularly hard to attack or defend, since you need cards to do both. If you’re not defending, you’re taking full damage from every attack and potentially giving your opponent massive bonuses. So that’s fun.
- Play to your strengths. You should know what your character is good at (like Medusa’s long-range attacks or Arthur’s attack boosts). Try to leverage those things as much as possible. It’s similar to every other game with player powers; if you’re not using them, you’re not playing to the fullest.
- Be careful about ranged fighters. These folks can just snipe you from long distance. If you don’t want to get mobbed by them, try hanging out along the edge of zones so that you can zip away if they move into your zone, or hanging out in small zones on the edge of the board. Make them come to you and fight you on your turf, not theirs.
- If you are a ranged fighter, try to get into spaces where you have a lot of zones at your disposal. There are several 3-zone spaces, which are great places to plant yourself and operate like a turret; if a player moves into one of those zones, rain some pain on them.
- Just watch out for late-game Sinbad. The more Voyage Cards he discards, the more damage later ones do and the farther he can move in one Maneuver. If he keeps Voyage Home until the end, he gets them all back and can use them again. Keep a Feint at the ready unless you want to be crushed by Sinbad’s might. It’s not pleasant.
- Similarly, try to avoid having zero cards in hand vs. Medusa. Medusa’s real victory move is an attack that does 8 damage instead of 2 if you win combat. That’s enough to make a statue of your Sidekicks, so make sure that you can block those, if needed.
- Feint can really bail you out of certain situations. Feint cancels the text on an opponent’s Attack or Defense card, like those examples I mentioned earlier. It’s good to have around.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art is absolutely incredible. It’s very intense! I like the reimaginings of most of the characters (I’m so-so on Arthur, but again, not the biggest medieval fantasy fan) so much. Add in the just great use of color and edges and you get a game with a truly spectacular art direction. Honestly, a lot of what originally appealed to me about the game is the art.
- The miniatures are similarly excellent. They’re detailed and action-oriented. They just look great on the table.
- Surprisingly low rules overhead for a strategic combat game. There are only three actions you can do on your turn, and one of those is “play a card”. It’s nice that they managed to have a pretty clean action set without too much to keep track of.
- Plays pretty quickly, as well. Yeah, you can definitely end a game in less than 20 minutes, but for the most part a good rally takes about 30 or so. It’s a solid length; never overstays its welcome.
- Very expandable. There are already a bunch as of writing, with even more on the way! That’s always exciting.
- I’m always a fan of Greek mythology in games, so, I’m hyped for Medusa, even if I’m not great at playing her. Greek myth and tarot are two of my favorite thematic conceits for games. Not really sure why, honestly; I think it’s just that I’ve liked games that leverage them a lot.
- I appreciate the overall balance of the game. I like that characters are pulled from different myths, stories, and legends, and I really appreciate that they led with a gender balance in their first set.
- It’s unfortunate that Unmatched and Funkoverse came out around the same time. This is more of just a collision problem than an overlap problem; I wouldn’t recommend Funkoverse and Unmatched to the same crowds, to be honest. One is a very light introductory skirmish game, and the other is a tactical, strategic battler. They’re different weights and different types of gameplay (rolling dice vs. playing cards to attack / defend changes a fair bit of the strategy) and I think they’ll appeal to different players. My worry is that groups who would prefer one to the other will get the wrong one and dismiss both.
- Some of the character strengths are a bit non-obvious, which may make for some one-sided games. Not much you can do with this beyond agreeing that the first game is just going to be a learning game. And that’s okay! It’s just something you should be aware of before the game starts. Give both players some space to figure out their character abilities and strengths, you know? It’ll make future games more fun.
- A number of characters don’t necessarily give you great card drawing power, which may often make you feel like you’re struggling to get cards and have agency. This is mostly a problem for everyone but Sinbad; players are a bit wont to burn through cards in a hurry, which makes facing off against Medusa, boosting your attacks as Arthur, or even changing size as Alice kind of challenging. Not much to do beyond Maneuver if you burn through your hand, but I’d recommend rationing your cards a bit.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I quite enjoyed Unmatched! I’m already kind of a sucker for modular games, honestly, so I like that you can mix-and-match your heroes for the fight you want to have and settle it once and for all. Could Robin Hood beat King Arthur? What about Bruce Lee vs. Medusa? Questions worth answering. I do kind of wish they had access to Funko’s vast library of IP so we could potentially see Dragon Ball Z Unmatched, or, you know, something else maybe probably, but seeing some of the characters they’ve already announced does get me kind of excited. I wonder what they’ll do next? If you are coming here from Funkoverse (or my Funkoverse review), I’ll freely admit that this is the heavier, more strategic version, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s more complex; I think that it’s a bit more streamlined, to be honest, and that plays to its strengths. It has what you want out of this kind of game: great art, a clean and easy-to-understand rulebook, cool characters, and fantastic art. That keeps the whole thing moving, and makes for a tabletop fighting game that’s exciting to break out all the time. Like I said, I’m stoked for the expansions (though they negatively appeal to my Completionist Instinct), so, I expect you’ll see more Unmatched from me in the future. If this one sounds up your alley, though, I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you’re into skirmishy / battle games! I think it’s pretty neat.