Tech

Ridiculous in the right way: Unmatched: Battle of Legends

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The full name of this game is Unmatched: Battle of Legends, Volume One. That last bit is important because there is more Unmatched coming. This first set allows us to answer important questions like: who would win in a fight between King Arthur and Sinbad? What if Alice ventured out of Wonderland to carve up Medusa? The matchups in this absurdist fight club are bonkers, and were only getting started.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

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Restoration Games is the noteworthy publisher that has brought us new editions of classic games like Fireball Island and Stop Thief! Those designs were given a few nips and tucks, a couple of injections of Botox, and a new wardrobe. Theyre fresh, but theyre also grounded in the past, and they know how to put nostalgia to good use.

Unmatched is something a little different. Its a re-working of 2002s Star Wars: Epic Duels, sans license. Without the power of such a massive intellectual property behind the game, Restoration had to be bold, and it partnered with Mondo Games to create a zany melting pot of fictional matchups. The result should put a smile on the faces of even the dourest of curmudgeons. Just try to frown while playing an epic battle between the first expansion characters of Robin Hood and Big Foot in Sherwood Forest. Its too ridiculous and too enjoyable.

But Unmatched isnt Epic Duels. It uses the same concept of a primary fighter accompanied by a sidekick (as we see with wonderful duos like Alice paired with the Jabberwock, or Arthur with Merlin), but Unmatched has a completely different feel with its own unique tempo and mechanisms. The asymmetric decks powering each hero are more tightly designed, creating a breakneck pace for each 20-minute showdown.

Game details

Designer: Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, Justin D. Jacobson
Publisher: Restoration Games/Mondo Games
Players: 2-4
Age: 9+
Playing time: 20-40 minutes
Price: $40 (buy at Amazon)

While the game supports three and four player bouts, it clearly is optimized as a two-player affair thats lean and vibrant— in stark contrast to the six-player slug-fests that dominated my Epic Duel outings.

This streamlining editorial hand can be felt in all facets of play. The new battlefield, while small, feels dynamic due to a constant push for movement. The clever restriction of drawing cards only by performing a move action—as well as linking several character abilities to maneuvering—really pushes the design into creative places. For a two-player game where you throw down attack and defense cards against a single opponent, Unmatched never feels like a mere grind to whittle away at their health.

Finding your main

I had many concerns before playing Unmatched. I already love several strong entries in this genre, and I wondered if Unmatched could find a place alongside contemporary titles such as Warhammer Underworlds or Mythic Battles: Pantheon.

Answer: I think it can. Unmatched is a unique offering that manages to pair a straightforward ruleset with legitimate depth. Its simple enough that you can play with your 10-year old but engrossing enough to capture your gaming groups extended interest.

Theres no deck construction here, and since each characters abilities and cards are preset, the typical card game path of creation to competition is short-circuited. For instance, much of Warhammer Underworlds play occurs before the match even begins. Experimenting with new cards and combos is at the heart of the design. But Unmatched allows you to explore your small deck in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Rick and Morty. By your second play with Sinbad, you should fully understand how to harness his unique Voyage mechanism and pull off electric combos.

The asymmetry here is also gripping. Each fighter has personality and some character-specific mechanisms. Alice changes size, Medusa can turn foes to stone, Sinbad grows in strength as more voyage cards hit the discard pile, and King Arthur utilizes the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur to great effect. Each character offers much to explore with an economical rules weight.

  • Some of the ability cards.
  • Medusa and some sidekicks.
  • Alice's kit.
  • The game's battle arena.

Unlike its peers, this feels more like a fighting game. While other designs try to create a stripped-down version of a larger miniatures battle, Unmatched wants to give you the feel of Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom. You pick a “main” and perfect your timing. All of those twists and tricks you hope to find in your deck actually materialize because youre not tearing down your creation and rebuilding a new one after nearly every game.

This fighting-game format, however, is also responsible for Unmatcheds weakest spots. Theres a strong focus on timing and counter-play here. Instead of deck creation, controlling the tempo and drawing out your opponents strongest moves at their least advantageous time is at the very heart of this design. This is captured succinctly with the “feint” card, whicRead More – Source

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