Who hasn’t spent time wondering who would win a fight between Superman and Hercules, or Andre the Giant and the Abominable Snowman? That’s the main premise behind Unmatched, by Restoration Games and Mondo Games. They take a dead simple combat system and then throw a ton of different characters into the arena to see who comes out on top. I got a quick look at Unmatched during Origins this year, but didn’t get to fully experience it until Gen Con earlier this month. After getting a tiny taste before hand, I can say that it was definitely one of my most anticipated of the show.
Unmatched is sold as a duel between two fighters, but you can play up to four with team matches. Each players chooses a Hero to represent them and places them on the starting position in the arena. The launch box, Battle of Legends Volume 1, features such disparate characters as King Arthur, Medusa, Sinbad, and Alice in Wonderland. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want to see a fight between Sinbad and Medusa? Other announced boxes include Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot and the Bruce Lee solo box. With just those characters, it should start to become obvious that the possibilities are really limitless for different Heroes to be released in this game. The Heroes are represented by some pretty cool miniatures that come with a was already applied. For someone unlikely to paint them (like me), it gives them a finished look. They may also have one or more Sidekicks (represented by tokens) to help them during the fight.
The Heroes have a deck of Action cards that can be used in Attacks or Defence, or to plot Schemes. Some of the cards are specific to the Hero or Sidekicks, and some can be used for either. Cards have a lot of information on them, but the iconography is very simple to read, and the art and graphic design make everything easily digestible.
The arenas themselves are made up of different Spaces and Zones. Spaces are circular spots on the board where you move your Heroes and Sidekicks. Each of the Spaces has one or more colours and these colours make up the Zones. This system works brilliantly to simplify line-of-site. If you are in the same Zone as an opponent, you have line-of-sight towards them. You don’t have to waste time thinking about it. A simple glance at the board makes it obvious.
On your turn you take two actions. You can Maneuver, Scheme, and Attack. When you Maneuver, you draw a card from your Action deck, then you MAY move all of your fighters (Hero and Sidekicks) up to their movement value. You can even boost your movement by discarding Action cards for their boost value.
When you Scheme, you choose a fighter and play a valid card with the lightning ‘Scheme’ symbol. Scheming allow special abilities like extra movements or dealing direct damage to an opponent. Scheming at the right time can be super helpful during a battle.
The Attack system is really streamlined. You select a fighter in an adjacent Space, or if you have ranged attack, you can pick any opponent in the same Zone. You select a valid Attack card and the defender may select a defence card. They are revealed simultaneously and card effects are resolved. Then the defence value is subtracted from the attack value and the defender suffers the difference in hit points. Many of the Sidekicks only have a health of one, and once they’re defeated, they’re removed from the board.
Play continues until one of the Heroes is killed, ending the game immediately.
My impression of Unmatched is that the design team wanted to provide a very simple tactical combat game, and they’ve succeeded. The complexity lies not with the rules, but on how you maximize the strengths of your Hero. The Action cards are unique to each Hero, and knowing what might be coming up in your deck goes a long way towards building your strategy. So far, I think the characters have been balanced really well, but each one requires a different approach. One may rely more heavily on their devastating attacks, while another may be sneaky with their Schemes. Bigfoot has the Jackalope as a Sidekick, four Outlaws have Robin Hood’s back, Medusa has a team of Harpies working for her, and Bruce Lee is own his own cause he don’t need no help to kick ass.
Currently Mondo Games and Restorations are taking pre-orders for the Battle of Legends Volume 1 which has a street date of September 18. You can also pre-order Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot, which will hit your FLGS on October 16, and Bruce Lee, which is an online exclusive.
Thematically and mechanically, Unmatched is VERY tight. I like it a whole lot and I can’t wait to see what they have coming next. Luckily I don’t have to. Later this year, they will be introducing the first of a series of Jurassic Park themed will be released and in 2020 we can look forward to the Cobble and Fog box, which will feature Sherlock Holmes, Jekyll and Hyde, the Invisible Man, and Dracula. There will also be a Vampire pack featuring Spike, Willow, Angel, and of course, Buffy.
If you’re looking for events to try out Unmatched, the three sets will available to try at MondoCon in Austin next month and there will also be a play event at Fantastic Fest at the Alamo Drafthouse. For more upcoming opportunities to play, stay tuned to Mondo and Restoration Games on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks to Mondo Games for providing a media copy of Unmatched for this article.