As long as someone can read well and remember a few core rules, they’ll be able to play Unmatched: Battle of Legends without any trouble. The real tricky part will be getting your 9-year-old to stop whining after you bash their hero into a meaty pulp.
Jeremiah & Kara
Theme and What is it?
Sword drawn, shoulders taut, armor glinting in the harsh afternoon light, you pick your way carefully through the foreboding forest. One metal-clad boot in front of the other, you stalk – ears straining to hear even the smallest disparity among the cacophony of bird and woodland noises. Your eyes dart this way and that. Your eyes – you chuckle at the irony; they’ll either be your savior or your demise.
Your brief moment of cynical humor has cost you. Too late, you realize the forest has gone deathly still. No birds sing, no animals chitter in the trees – even the nearby brook seems to have ceased babbling, as though it had been turned to stone…
A sudden hiss behind you rips you from your silent observation. You squeeze your eyes shut, and duck out of the way, but not fast enough. Pain explodes in your upper arm, hot and sharp, as the fangs of a massive viper sink into your flesh. “ARGH!” You shout, and you can feel more long, scaly bodies wrapping themselves around your legs, holding you – binding you. The hissing grows louder and louder, but somewhere in it you can hear the wicked, low laugh of a woman. Medusa.
With a surge of rage, new energy flows into your veins. You tighten your grip on your sword and twist it down toward the ground and then up toward the sky. The laugh turns to a scream as you feel the reptilian cords around you snap – sliced through. With a final heroic lunge, you thrust your sword – Excalibur – into the space before you. The scream cuts short, and a soft, slithering crumple tells you your enemy has fallen. The hunt is over. The battle is won.
In Unmatched: Battle of Legends (volume 1), players take on the roles of legendary characters – King Arthur, Medusa, Alice, and Sinbad – and pit them against each other in a fast-paced, epic fight to the death! Through clever card playing, strategic planning, and a little bit of luck, one player will manage to beat all their opponents to death and walk off the blood-strewn battlefield a better hero for it.
At the beginning of Unmatched, each player picks which hero they want to be. You could choose King Arthur, legendary king of Camelot, or Medusa, the freaky, dangerous, turn-you-to-stone lady with a thing for snakes. You could opt to play as Sinbad, rugged sailor of the Arabian seas, or Alice from Wonderland – all grown up now and quite capable of handling herself in a fight.
Each character has unique abilities – King Arthur can ‘boost’ his attacks, which makes them extra powerful. Medusa can automatically deal a damage to any character within range at the beginning of her turn. Sinbad’s base movement increases throughout the game, and Alice can switch between being bigger and stronger, or smaller and harder to hit.
On their turn, a player gets 2 actions to play cards and move around the board. There are cards for attacking, defending, and performing special, extra powerful actions. Each character has a deck of custom cards that strengthen their unique abilities and enhance the theme of the game overall.
The streamlined mechanics and simple rules make the game flow smoothly from turn to turn. And the game just goes on until everyone is dead except for one player, who is still probably gravely wounded at best.
There’s also a team game variant for 4 players where 2 characters team up against 2 others. We’ve only played this version once – it was our first time playing and it went super long, and one person (cough) got eliminated in the first 20 minutes and had to sit and watch everyone else play without her for an hour. Because of this experience, I would recommend the team variant only to players who are fairly familiar with the game and its characters. Otherwise the game might go on for a really long time.
When Unmatched first came out, Jeremiah was super excited. He said to me, “look! You can pit Alice in Wonderland against King Arthur – or Medusa against Sinbad – or all four against each other! Isn’t that so cool?!” I nodded and agreed that it was “so cool”, but really I thought it sounded ridiculous. In what world would Arthur, Legendary and honorable King, fight little air-headed Alice? Why would the Arabian mariner Sinbad fight the Greek legend Medusa? It sounded weird, and I was strongly set against it.
Jeremiah put it on his Christmas list so it ended up coming into our home despite my anti-enthusiasm. He read the rules (which are really straightforward) set up the game (which is lightning fast) and found 2 more people to play with us. Annoyed, but determined to be a supportive wife, I resigned to play. We chose our characters and dove in.
Game Build Quality
The component quality for Unmatched is amazing. It comes with 4 top-notch miniatures – not painted like they are in the pictures (did those myself!) but they still have a nice wash on them which really accentuates all the tiny details.
It also comes with 4 custom character decks, plastic sidekick tokens, and a double-sided board which is especially nice for adding variety to the game. Everything fits into the awesome custom-made insert in the box. There’s spaces for everything – the health tracker dials, the sidekick tokens, the miniatures, decks, and board – and all the spaces are labeled so you know exactly where everything goes.
The cards are standard finish, but the cardboard used throughout is nice and thick. Besides the possibility of having linen-finished cards, I really can’t think of anything about the component quality that I would improve. Everything is just great.
I’ll admit, at first I thought the artwork was weird, but now I actually appreciate the abstract feel of the art. I mean, abstract is exactly what you’d expect a cross-universal battle to look like, right?
Each character’s custom deck is filled with unique illustrations (front and back), and the board spaces are really easy to see. It’s easy to tell which spaces belong to which zones, and which spaces are adjacent to each other.
Part of the reason this game is so easy to play is because everything you need to know about playing a card is printed directly on it! There’s a number in the top corner that tells you how much damage/protection it can do, a smaller number in the middle that tells you it’s ‘boost’ value, and any special ability the card might have is written in full along the bottom. It tells you when you can play it, what it does, and there’s even a tiny number in the bottom right that tells you how many copies of the card are in your deck!
I love when designers do things like this, because it makes it super easy for new players to jump in and start playing, because they’ll rarely have to ask for clarifications about what they can do on their turns. Everything they need to know is literally in their hands.
Despite my initial inhibitions, Unmatched has become one of my favorite games of all time. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it is so much fun. Each game is filled with palpable table-tension, which is totally expected because literally everyone else is trying to kill your hero dead. Not only that, but there’s a constant balancing act between pushing your character to their maximum limits without pushing them so far that they become extremely vulnerable to your opponents. Turns are quick, but important! You can be on top of the game, but one false move can send you plummeting to the bottom. It’s a thrilling, risky puzzle and the feeling of satisfaction you get when a play works out perfectly will make your insides purr like a warm, chubby kitten.
If, in the end, your hero ends up being turned to stone, beheaded, eaten by some beast, or sabre-stabbed, it’s totally okay. Each game only lasts around 30 minutes, so it’s not like you invested a ton of time and energy into a game you just lost. In fact, we’ve found that we usually have so much fun that at the end of one game we’re immediately ready to switch up characters and play another round!
Age Range & Weight
The manufacturer recommended age is 9+, and I think that 9-year-olds actually could play this one, especially since the rules are so simple, and all the card abilities are written out on the actual cards. As long as someone can read well and remember a few core rules, they’ll be able to play this without any trouble. The real tricky part will be getting your 9-year-old to stop whining after you bash their hero into a meaty pulp.
The simple rules and explicitly explained cards make Unmatched a pretty light game! But that doesn’t mean it’s flat, or boring. There’s still a ton of room for a lot of strategic thinking and planning. Not so much that it’ll kill your brain, but enough to keep you interested and satisfied throughout gameplay. There have been a few instances of Analysis Paralysis in our experiences, but they’re relatively rare.
Unmatched: Battle of Legends (Volume 1) is an awesome asymmetrical combat experience for 2 – 4 players. It’s fast, fun, and strategic, but there’s enough luck involved to make you feel really good when a risky move you make pulls off big time. People who really like direct combat and asymmetrical player powers would especially enjoy Unmatched, but I think this quick, thrilling combat game would appeal to anyone looking for an epic tabletop fight. If any of this tickles your inner barbarian, definitely check out Unmatched: Battle of Legends!
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