Unmatched is a series of fantasy based fighting games, from publishers Mondo Games and Restoration Games. Based upon the 2002 release Star Wars: Epic Duels, the game is designed by Rob Daviau and Justin D. Jacobson. Unmatched sees 2 – 4 players choosing fighters, utilizing their unique decks to duel to the death. Primarily the game is a 1 v 1 experience though a team 2 v 2 mode is included in the rules. For this review we have got hands on with two sets Battle of Legends, Volume One and Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot. However, should either be added to your collection? Let’s find out!
Unmatched is rather simply a fight or duel to the death. From the box, regardless of the set in question, the double sided game board is taken and placed either side up in the middle of the table. The players determine who will choose which character and take the associated deck, miniature and sidekick disk(s). The youngest player starts, placing their hero miniature onto the battlefield space marked 1, and then places their sidekick disk into another space of that region. The other player then places their hero onto the battlefield space marked 2 and places their sidekick in the same way.
The battlefield is split into a number of coloured regions, with each space linked to the spaces it is adjacent to. Some spaces may be part of multiple regions, denoted by the space being multiple colours – split down the middle or into thirds. This is important as ranged characters can attack fighters within their region or adjacent to them, whilst melee fighters can only attack adjacent to themselves.
The game is played back and forth, with each player taking a turn and performing exactly 2 actions. These actions can be different or the same, and will be either; maneuver, scheme or attack. Maneuvering sees the player first draw a card and then move any of their fighters, hero or sidekicks, up to their movement value. Drawing a card is mandatory and if the player cannot, due to their deck running out, they take 2 damage – which can be seen as running out of stamina. Players have a hand limit of 7 though this only applies at the end of your turn.
Schemes are few and far between, as they aren’t all that frequent in the hero decks. These are special cards that come with one time, often strong, abilities. This action simply lets the player play one of these cards from their hand. The final action is to attack. To declare a target, either an enemy hero or sidekick, they must be in range of the attacking fighter – with the attack card played denoting which it’ll be. The attack card is placed face down, allowing the opponent to potentially defend.
Some cards are for defence, again potentially denoting if it’s the hero, sidekick or any fighter who can utilize the card. There are even purple attack defence cards that can be used as either. Most cards, apart from very powerful attacks, come with abilities. These can trigger immediately, during combat or after combat, based on the outcome. These trigger when they suggest and can do anything from cancelling the power of the other player’s card to seeing cards drawn for dealing damage.
If a defender decides to play a defence card then the strength of the block is subtracted from the strength of the attack. The remainder is taken as damage. This sees the player reduce the hitpoints on their hero or sidekick’s health dial. Some heroes like Medusa and Robin Hood have sidekicks that have 1 health point. As soon as they take damage they are removed from play, otherwise a fighter stays in play until their health reaches zero. Once a player has taken their two actions, play moves on to their opponent. The game continues until one player defeats the other player’s hero, with doing so winning them the game.
The name of the game might be Unmatched but the matchups do seem balanced. A prime example of this is Medusa having multiple sidekicks, as many as the others in the Battle of Legends, Volume One set combined. Does this make fighting her feel like being ganged up on, well not really. Dying in one hit the harpies are individually weak and even the chance to respawn them doesn’t make them overpowered. King Arthur has the opportunity to boost his attacks and movement, but this sees him burn cards much faster – so you might just win by war of attrition.
Unlike the Funkoverse system, there are no side objectives, nor ways to score quick points. Unmatched is firmly about the battle, taking out your opponent or being taken out. Some won’t get on with this pure 1 vs 1 experience, though for those that do it thrives. Each turn feels packed full of choices. Chances to make the wrong decision are aplenty. Don’t move and perhaps be in range for your opponents next attack. Hold onto that attack/defence card too long and perhaps your sidekick has died, or conversely don’t hold onto it and regret not having anything to defend with. The choices aren’t complex with huge amounts to calculate though, helping the players quickly decide and keep the gameplay flowing.
It’s the decks that make each of the characters unique, such as King Arthur having his massive damage dealing Excalibur or Robin Hood constantly being on the move. Going for the 4 character pack rather than the 2 character only pack therefore comes with wider choice and variety straight out of the gate. When one game ends, not only can you flip the board over, you can bring two brand new characters out of the box for a rematch. This is before swapping who you play as or mix up the combinations.
Getting additional sets only increases this variety and there are definitely matchups where it forces you to play a character differently. Even going up against a melee or ranged hero changes things, and this is before the abilities and such come into effect. You only need two characters to play though, unless you want to play the team mode with 3 / 4 players. Therefore the 2 character packs enable gamers to pick the game up and get hands on at a cheaper price point. On top of this there is a big draw to play as Robin Hood, even with all the other legendary fighters available.
The production of the two Unmatched packs sets the bar high for the series. The health dials make keeping track of hitpoints a breeze, the sidekicks are plastic tokens not just cardboard chits and then the main characters are miniatures. Did they need to be more than standees, which could have reduced the cost of the game, no. Does the game feel like it’s had that premium touch as a result of them being included, yes – they round out the strong production quality perfectly.
Each fighter is on theme. Robin Hood needs to stay on his toes, relying on the merry men, while Bigfoot will crush you if upclose. This is something that wouldn’t come through as obviously if it weren’t for the differing health pools, sidekicks, abilities and importantly by not using dice. Rolling for hits would add tension but it would lose the tactical gameplay where you can try to plan ahead, though your opponent will try to spoil that plan.
Unmatched offers a skirmish game that is quick, card driven and choice filled. The simple choices can easily come back to bite you, with a great play always about to happen. If you enjoy purely 1 v 1 games then Unmatched is a series you should seriously check out! Whilst completely capable of being a standalone experience the Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot set does feel like an expansion. Still, back to back games can easily fill an hour with an epic duel, and you can switch who plays who for the return leg.
However, the opportunity to shake things up with different heroes or just differing matchups when the game hits the table makes Battle of Legends, Volume One stay fresher for longer. While this extra content is reflected in the price, it still makes it the easier of the two sets to recommend for those wanting to dive in rather than dip their toes into the 1 v 1 fights to the death.
(Editor’s Note: Unmatched Battle of Legends, Volume One and Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot was provided to us by Coiledspring Games for the review. It is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)