(Edit: 3/2/23: And now it’s out of Early Access and also available on iOS and Android! Along with the season pass or the first DLC, whichever you prefer.)
One of the biggest 2-player game systems right now seems to be the Unmatched series by Restoration Games.
I could be wrong, but I do hear a lot about it and expansions keep coming for it!
I had been wanting to try it out but wasn’t able to get my hands on it.
So when Acram Digital offered me a review copy of the brand new (at the time, and sorry for the lateness of this review) Early Access Steam digital adaptation of the game, I jumped at the chance!
This Early Access edition came to Steam on September 15 and I’ve been playing it off and on for a while now.
What is this game, how is it and how’s the app?
This is a review of both the game and the app, though it’s primarily the app version.
Let’s take a look.
Unmatched: Battle of Legends is a 2-player (mostly, though it can play up to 4) dueling game where each player is a character with its own deck of cards as well as its own “helpers”.
Both character and helpers are called “fighters” in the game.
In the game you are basically trying to bring your opponent down to zero health by attacking them using your cards.
The base game (and I think Acram has said that the expansions are coming at some point, though don’t quote me on that) comes with four characters: Alice (of Wonderland fame), Medusa, King Arthur and Sinbad.
Each character has its own unique abilities which really makes this an asymmetric game where you are trying to capitalize on your own character’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
They then draw 5 cards.
There are two different maps to play on, each with its own unique characteristics.
Sarpedon (shown here) has two areas that are linked in only two spaces. Marmoreal (shown below) is kind of a castle with a few entrances but otherwise you’re moving around either the outside or the inside.
On a player’s turn, they can do two actions. They can Maneuver, which will allow them to move each of their fighters up to their character’s movement allowance. You can spend cards to boost this movement if you want.
You also draw a card, which is pretty much the only way to draw cards unless you have a card ability that lets you do that.
You can also Scheme, which allows you to play a card with a lightning bolt from your hand.
These have a variety of different effects but will let you set things up for next turn! Or next action, anyway.
Finally, you can attack if one of your fighters is adjacent to another fighter (or if you are Medusa, if they are within range).
Attacking is interesting because you have to have a card that lets you attack. It has to have a burst symbol in the top left corner of the card.
King Arthur has a special ability that lets him discard cards to boost these attacks (similar to a Maneuver) but he’s the only one who can. So make sure your attack is a good one!
As the defender, you can play a card that has a shield icon (some cards have both attack and defend, and they are purple)) to mitigate some of the damage you might take.
If the attacker’s value is higher than the defender’s value, they win the combat and deal the point difference in damage to the defender.
If the defender’s value is higher, they have prevented any damage being taken (you can’t deal damage as the defender)
Cards will often have “During Combat” and “After Combat” effects. During Combat takes place…during combat! (Funny how that works).
So in the attack above, Sinbad’s attack value is +1 for each other Voyage card in his discard pile. Sinbad’s attacks start out kind of weak but they get stronger as the game moves on.
After Combat takes place…after combat. Sometimes it will deal additional damage, sometimes it will let you draw cards or move one of the fighters, or a whole host of possibilities.
The card play in Unmatched is also interesting because some cards can be used by any of your fighters but some cards can only be used by either your character or one of your sidekicks.
In Alice’s hand in the picture above, the card on the left is only useable by Alice’s sidekick, the Jabberwock. If the Jabberwock is already defeated, then it’s useless.
That’s essentially it.
If you eliminate the other player’s character, you win!
Is Unmatched a struggle of wills against two brilliant opponents? Or is it a slap fight between two people who don’t know anything about wrestling?
Talking about the game itself before the app, I have to say that I do see why Unmatched is well-regarded by so many people.
I enjoyed the back and forth between the two characters, trying to come out on top.
Trying to keep your fighters out of Medusa’s zone at the beginning of her turn because she can do one point of damage at the beginning of her turn to one fighter who’s in her zone (the different coloured spaced on the map).
She’s also the only fighter who can attack with a ranged ability so far, being able to attack anybody in her zone, not just adjacent to her.
Alice’s ability is to be able to grow or shrink. Being big gives her an extra 2 points to her attacks while shrinking will give her +1 to her shield cards.
She can only change size when certain cards are played, so it’s not on a whim.
But it can still be effective!
I finally got the game itself out onto the table at SHUX, and my friend and I weren’t impressed, though. I do see the positives and playing the app has made me like it more than I did. My friend was kind of soured on it, though, so I’m not sure whether buying it for our lunches would be a good idea.
There are a ton of characters available for the game, though, if you want to buy expansions. All have different powers and abilities, different decks. It’s a literal smorgasbord!
For the app, you can see (I believe) what the next characters released for it will be.
In the “Heroes” section of the app rules, it also lists the following Heroes (which aren’t currently available in the game): Beowulf, Bigfoot, Dracula, Little Red, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes.
Here’s hope for the future!
The game is a skirmish game and if you don’t like that type of game, then this one won’t change your mind.
But it is very good (I’m not at “excellent” like many people are, but that could change!)
How’s the app?
The app is an amazing representation of the game.
The tutorial is very well-done, taking you through the basics of the game, maneuvering, combat, and various tactics.
You play King Arthur in the tutorial, so Merlin is basically helping you out.
It really does teach you the game very well. Of course, it’s not that complicated of a game, but still…
The interface is also very good.
Everything is crisp and clean and highlights what you can do and what you can’t.
If you can use your special ability, it will tell you.
The cards are able to play when attacking or defending are lit up as well.
The Maneuver button (the purple button with footprints next to your cards) tells you that you can still Maneuver.
There’s an obvious Undo button under your character name on the left side of the screen. It will also show you the actions that you have taken so you can remember if it’s your first or second action (say you got up in the middle of it to do the laundry or something?)
At the top of the screen it tells you what the game is waiting for you to do.
It’s very straightforward.
Attacking and defending is where the app really shines, though.
Everything step by step is highlighted. The picture above shows that you’re in the After Combat stage and what will happen.
The stages of the combat are highlighted at the top of the screen.
It tells you who won the combat, gives the attack and defense values (the values on the card will change if they need to be changed for any reason, like King Arthur’s attack boost ability).
There was not a moment when playing the game with the app where I didn’t know what I could do or what was going on at this particular time.
The maps look gorgeous digitally as well, doing a great job of rendering what are also really cool maps in the board game.
You can play a game against three levels of AI (the Easy one is still kicking my butt, though I think I might win one!) or the game has online play as well. You can play synchronously or asynchronously, which you know I love.
Real-time online play was actually only added a couple of months ago, which even though I don’t use it really, it’s nice that it is available.
One thing about asynchronous, though, and it’s nothing really to do with the app but instead Steam.
I don’t really like Steam notifications and the two games I tried playing with another opponent timed out due to inactivity. Unless you use Steam notifications efficiently, you really should have a way of letting the other person know that it’s their turn.
I’m going to try it again with email notifications, which I really don’t like but at least they’re reliable!
Anyway, the asynchronous play is really good except for me being lame with notifications. The game really lends itself to it with no interrupts other than “hey, you’re being attacked. Do you want to defend?”
All in all, I think Acram Digital has made a brilliant app for Unmatched and it’s still in Early Access!
I don’t know the game well enough to know whether there are any gameplay bugs or not but looking at the December 22 announcement, there have been a lot of fixes over the last three months.
The Steam page says that when Unmatched exits Early Access (sometime in Q1 2023), two more characters will be added as well as additional maps. Reading on Acram’s Discord channel, these two will be Little Red and Beowulf.
The game as it is right now works really well and I can’t wait for additional content to come out for it. I am slowly but surely getting onto the Unmatched bandwagon.
Will it come to iOS and Android?
I hope so, but no announcement as of yet.
Give this one a try today if you can.
It’s worth it.
And, until January 5, 2023, you can get it 20% off on Steam!
So take the opportunity to check it out now.
Let me know what you think of this game (either digitally or on the table) and whether or not you might want an easy opponent to take on!
Many thanks to Acram Digital for the Steam code for this! Sorry it took so long to get this review out
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