In the 15 years I’ve spent in the board gaming hobby, no game has had me more excited for its release than Unmatched: Battle of Legends. The game that inspired this title, Star Wars: Epic Duels, had been in my collection longer than I can remember. Although I was excited for Unmatched, my expectations were kept manageable, as many reimagined classics can easily lose the charm that made them so appealing to begin with. However, it only took two plays for me to realize that Epic Duels had been completely replaced. Not long after, the classic Star Wars dueling game had left my collection in a trade, and I was fully committed to the new Restoration Games combat system.
Not long after its release, homebrew decks for Unmatched began to appear online, alongside a brilliant (albeit unofficial) deck creation website. Geektopia is host to several fan-made decks that aim to capture the original Star Wars flavour, including Anakin Skywalker and General Kenobi, which would make a wonderful two-pack, if the licencing could be worked out!
However, it was the wide release of Bruce Lee as an official hero that smashed the walls for what might be possible, which was further demolished by the announcement of a set devoted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Recently, Restoration Games announced an Unmatched design competition, supported by a Design Seminar offered during Gen Con Online. If you are a fan of the game series, this is a fascinating video to absorb! The main restriction for the competition is that characters must be from the public domain – properties for which no intellectual property claims exist, which is typically the life of its creator plus 70 more years.
The official Discord server for Restoration is overflowing with deck design ideas based on public domain characters, from Humpty Dumpty to Sweeney Todd, and everything in between. As the winning decks may be featured in an upcoming Unmatched set, name recognition will be important. Looking beyond mainstream awareness, we’ve compiled a list of five unlikely characters that would make interesting additions to the Unmatched universe:
Undoubtedly, the design contest is going to be flooded with pirate decks, as legendary characters such as Blackbeard and Captain Hook have widespread familiarity and popular films to support them. However, the pirate that I’d love to see more than any is Jacquotte Delahaye. She first came to my attention in a collection of short stories that I regularly read to my daughters – Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. The tales of Jacquotte tell of the pirate crew she commanded, with numbers in the hundreds. “Back from the Dead Red” was a moniker she picked up by faking her own death, along with her striking red hair – which would certainly make for a dramatic Unmatched card as well!
As a trained opera singer, I’m likely more biased towards the plays of Beaumarchais, several of which have been transformed into some of the most famous operatic works of all time – one of which being The Barber of Seville. The story follows Count Almaviva’s attempts to win the love of Rosina, who is being “protected” by her lascivious ward Dr. Bartolo. Assisted by the quick-witted barber Figaro, the couple does wind up together, despite Bartolo’s attempts to thwart the union. With a barber’s blade in his hand and two lovers to whisk around the board, Figaro would make a very entertaining addition to the Unmatched universe!
Strong women going into battle in the guise of men’s armour is not a new tale, and while others may receive a brighter spotlight for it, no one did a better job of it than Jingũ. In addition to her leadership in battle, the Japanese Empress also carries many legendary tales, including the ability to keep a child safe in her womb for three years! However, the most exciting is likely that she can control the oceanic tides. Imagine an Unmatched deck featuring a sabre-wielding Empress with invisible tidal sidekicks that could be unleashed at any time!
Although it was the subject of a 1960 Disney film, the original Swiss Family Robinson novel was published in 1812. The story of a shipwrecked family learning to survive on a seemingly deserted island sounds like the perfect backdrop for the entirety of Unmatched! Much like the Raptors in the Jurrassic Park set, perhaps a designer might offer the four Robinson children as four distinct hero figures, with their parents as sidekicks, all sharing a common health dial representing their collective morale.
Dipping back into my musical experience, all of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas are in the public domain, which includes the Pirates of Penzance. In the midst of this ridiculous musical comedy lies a brief battle between the Major General’s police force, and the Pirate King’s band of orphan brigands. It would be incredibly delightful to see the two main characters of this battle chase each other around the board as Hero and Sidekick, unknowingly fighting on the same side in the context of Unmatched. And the cards would name themselves!
You know, after writing all these ideas for creative Unmatched decks, I think I need to get to work and create some of my own for the contest! If you’re making one as well, or just have super cool ideas to share, let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or heck, just send us a postcard. We’d love to hear from you!