Unmatched: Little Red Riding Hood vs. Beowulf is part of the fantasy fighting board game series from publishers Mondo Games and Restoration Games. Designed by the team of Noah Cohen, Rob Daviau, Justin D. Jacobson and Brian Neff, this is a 2 player only set. This can be played as a standalone game or combined with other Unmatched sets, enabling a team 2 vs. 2 gamemode. As per the title, the set pits Little Red against the deadly Beowulf, but who will come out on top? Let’s find out if it’s gamers!
Unmatched is a series of games where players take up the role of an iconic character, often from legends or stories. This set is no different, pitting the unlike foes of Little Red and Beowulf against each other. Using a deck of cards players will tactically maneuver around the map, utilize attack and defense cards in combat and scheme their way to victory. This review focuses on the new set, though if you’d like to learn how to play here’s a quick overview video.
Beowulf, and his sidekick Wiglaf, have some extremely devastating card effects, though they only trigger if he’s raged up. Every time Beowulf takes damage he gains one rage, up to a maximum of three – which is tracked by tokens. A standout card in his deck is The Equal of Grendel. It is an incredible defense card that deals damage immediately to the opposing fighter if Beowulf spends 2 rage. Another card No Contest Expecteth’s ability might cost 3 rage but it can instantly defeat a sidekick. Combine this with ways to regain health, draw cards or charge across the map and rage is a valuable currency to Beowulf. So much so that damage becomes something you’re happy to take, at least in small amounts.
Little Red isn’t exactly helpless either. Completely unique to Little Red’s deck is the concept of her basket and symbol based abilities. Starting with an empty basket, which shows all three possible symbols, when playing a card some abilities only trigger if her basket is showing the correct symbol. Once a card is played it is then discarded to the top of her basket, with each card of her deck changing the basket to one of the three symbols.
This means players will often want to play cards in specific orders, lining up the symbols even from one turn to the next, for bigger effects. A prime example of this is the card What Big Eyes You Have. Like a standard Feint that immediately cancels the text on an opponent’s card. However, if a Wolfsbane symbol is on the most recent discarded card it also cancels the value! Like Beowulf, one of her defense cards can also deal damage to the opposing fighter, though only if the Pelt symbol is at the top of her basket. Alongside Little Red is her sidekick, The Huntsman, whom is the only ranged fighter in the set. He has an interesting Long Have I Sought You card, which means despite being ranged it does more damage when in melee range.
Each of the recent Unmatched sets has introduced a small new twist for its map. Unmatched Little Red vs Beowulf is no different. This goes above the different artwork, which brings a new location to life and offers a slightly different space layout and configuration. This time around doors have been introduced, cutting paths and disrupting zones for ranged fighters. During a maneuver (and only a maneuver) a player can freely close any door that they are adjacent to – slamming a door next to them, they’ve walked through or even just stood next to. Three of the four entrance ways into the building of the map can be closed in this way. To denote the door being closed a door token is simply placed onto the board.
When closed the spaces either side are no longer considered adjacent for movement, and importantly not for attacking either. These also slice zones in half for ranged attacks. To open a door a player must use the maneuver action and spend one of their movement value, which then removes the door token from the board. This creates some brilliant moments where a fleeing foe can slam the door behind them, or a player barges down a door to attack an opposing fighter – creating brilliant story moments.
Instead of coming with a typical double sided game board, the Heorot map is on both sides of the board. The difference being one side features the standard spaces style, where the spaces are a full circle of colour. On the reverse, the circles are fully transparent – with only a thin border signifying the colour(s) of the space. The designs have split players. Some prefer the new look that allows more of the stunning board artwork to shine through. The original full circles of colour are much more readable. For new players it’s certainly easier to use the full colour circle side, as it makes visualizing the zones easier during play and for the teach.
There is slightly more going on in this set compared to others, with the doors impacting adjacency, Little Red’s basket to keep track of and Beowulf’s rage. These fit alongside other characters in Unmatched, Dr Jekyll for example has his token to track when he’s actually Hyde or Jekyll . However, it does mean that there is no “easy” character for a player to be introduced into the series with. Out of the two Beowulf is the easier for a brand new player to pick up and play. For new gamers though perhaps the Robin Hood vs Bigfoot set would be a better starting point.
Both characters add something for opponents to take care of, not always wanting to use the biggest attacks possible. This is amazing for fans of the Unmatched series, while adding that slight extra layer for new players to get their head around. The Heorot map adds plenty of story-like moments to the combat, becoming as much a part of the tale as the attacks and maneuvers the players perform. Overall, with two unique and interesting to play characters, and a top tier new map, the Unmatched: Little Red Riding Hood vs. Beowulf box is a great addition to the series.
(Editor’s Note: Unmatched Little Red Riding Hood vs. Beowulf was provided to us by Coiledspring Games for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)