Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze

review by Brendan

    Hello! For the unaware, Unmatched is a franchise where various heroes and villains from across different myths, legends, comic books, and more are pitted against each other, sprawling out across different maps and battling each other with cards. Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze, however, is a new take on the formula, introducing a new cooperative mode that has you face off against two giant threats, the Mothman and the Martian Invader, as well as smaller threats to raise a ruckus, such as the Blob and the Jersey Devil. What's great about the franchise is that you can start with any of the sets, as each playable character and map is cross-compatible with other sets, and the same holds true here, letting you play with all of your old characters in this set's cooperative mode. Alternatively, if you're new to Unmatched, all the heroes and maps from this set can be used in the standard competitive mode and played with other box sets. Basically, while this set introduces a new twist on the formula, it's also a great way to start the franchise and has everything you'd need to play a full 4-player round of Unmatched right from the get-go!

    Because this box set offers so many different ways to play, supporting cooperative and competitive modes from 2-4 players, as well as a solo mode against one of the two main villains, it comes with three different instruction booklets. This may seem daunting at first, but Unmatched has a very streamlined gameplay system that makes it easy to learn and play. The first book goes over the basic gameplay of the original Unmatched competitive system, which details how you undergo actions, the second gives an overview of the characters within this box set, and the third goes over the setup rules for the cooperative mode. They're all pretty short reads, and Unmatched veterans can just skip ahead to the second or third manual. For this review, I will be giving a brief summary of each one though!

    First off, the characters! Every character has a player card that will detail their starting health, movement, and any abilities they may have. Some characters will also have a sidekick, who has their own separate token on the field to move around and attack, as well as sharing a deck with the main hero. These decks are complete from the start, requiring no customization or booster packs or anything else to complete, all ready to go. Cards are separated into four types, being Attack, Defense, Scheme, and Versatile cards. Attack cards can be used to attack other characters, Defense cards can be used to respond to Attack cards, and Versatile cards can be used as either an Attack or Defense card. When you attack someone, you play the card face down, and the opposing player may decide to respond by playing a Defense card face down. Cards are flipped over at the same time, revealing their Value and any possible Effects. If the Attack card is unchallenged, it deals its full Value in damage to the target, but if there is a response by a Defense card, damage is reduced by the Value of the Defense card. Sometimes cards will have Effects as well, such as checking health at the start of the combat to enable potential boosts to Value, or rewarding a player for winning that combat. Combat is won by the attacker if they manage to deal any combat damage to the other character, and combat is won by the defender if they manage to avoid taking any combat damage at all that turn. Lastly, Scheme cards are cards unrelated to combat that grant some sort of effect when used, such as granting card draw, extra actions, shuffling, etc. Cards in Unmatched have fairly simple text, usually consisting of one or two sentences, so there isn't anything too overwhelming.

    Well, how do turns work? First off, every character is placed on one of four starting spaces on the map, then each player draws five cards and take their turns in order. On a player's turn, they have 2 actions, which they must choose from amongst Maneuver, Scheme, and Attack. Maneuver lets you draw a card, then you may move up to your character's listed movement in spaces. Spaces have lines connecting them, and you can travel from adjacent connected spaces. Spaces have colors as well, with ranged attacks being possible on anyone whose space shares a color with the space the attacker stands on, and melee attacks being possible on any adjacent space even if they don't share a color. You may select zero if you wish to just draw a card instead of actually moving, or you can even discard a card to increase your movement by something called Boosting, which basically adds a secondary Value to another action. Scheme lets you play a Scheme card, and Attack lets you play an Attack or Versatile card to attack another character. You can even select the same action twice in a turn if you wish, so you can Maneuver twice if you're short on cards and trying to avoid another player, or you can choose to aggressively barrage a cornered opponent with multiple Attack actions! Everyone takes their turns trying to best manage their decks and exploit opportunities to whittle down their opponents, with the last person or team standing being victorious!

    What kind of playstyles can you expect from the characters within this box set? First off, Jill Trent and her sidekick, Daisy! This melee duo uses various gadgets to make the best use of their deck, with a swappable token that you can change at the start of your turn. One side, the Hypnoray Blaster, reveals the top card of your deck during combat to Boost weaker attacks, whereas the other side, the Ultrabiotic Tonic, lets you heal when your stronger attacks overwhelm your opponent. She has a handful of deck management cards and extra action Schemes that let you manipulate the odds to your favor and switch up gadgets to best suit your hand. Next up, Annie Christmas and her sidekick Charlie! This is a mixed duo, with Annie being a melee fighter and Charlie being a ranged fighter. Annie is an underdog who powers up when she has less health than her opponent, with cards that allow her to sacrifice her own health mid-combat to draw more cards and potentially enable her underdog ability, or a Defense card that allows her to survive lethal damage for a turn, allowing Annie to punish a cocky opponent who thought they had a sure-kill by walloping them at the start of their next turn. Then we have Nikola Tesla, a ranged fighter who has two coils that can be charged up at the end of turn. Some of his cards can charge up his coils too, or get better when coils are spent on them, allowing Nikola Tesla to get extra damage, actions, or cards depending on how you decide to use them. Lastly, we have Golden Bat! Golden Bat is a melee superhero that powers up attacks when you haven't used a Maneuver action on your turn. To get around this restriction, Golden Bat has a variety of useful effects on his cards that allow him to teleport or move around the map before or after combat, making his already powerful attacks into nearly uncontestably powerful blows. Altogether, there's a good mix of simple and more complex styles, as well as solo and duo heroes with a mix of ranged and melee characters for a diverse selection.

    Now that we've gone over the basic Unmatched formula and talked a little about the new heroes, lets move on to the biggest feature of Tales to Amaze: the cooperative mode! This mode can be played from 1-4 players, with the villain's health and minions scaling based on how many players there are. For each player, the villain will get 10 health and one minion, which helps keep things winnable at solo play, while also leading to some crazy shenanigans when you have a full group of four! Players win the game by defeating the villain in time, but the players will lose the game if either they are all defeated or if the villain accomplishes their own unique goal four times! This goal is tied to a countdown mechanic called the Threat Level, which will steadily progress as the game continues, and will accelerate if the villain and minions are left to their own devices, which punishes overly passive and defensive playstyles. If you wanna win, you're gonna need to risk your own neck! After the Threat Level's countdown hits the max, the villain completes one step of their goal and resets the countdown, albeit with some sort of catastrophe affecting the board and/or power-up to the villain being applied. Turns work differently than normal competitive Unmatched, with every Hero, Minion, and Villain having an Initiative card that is shuffled into a special deck. Cards are drawn and placed in order from this deck, revealing the turn order. Once all turns have been completed, the round is over and the Initiative deck is shuffled up again, randomizing the turn order every time! Some effects will grant extra Initiative cards to your foes though, so beware! Taking out the Minions before the Villain can help keep things in your favor by preventing them from stacking the Initiative deck with more and more enemy actions. When an enemy does take their turn, they'll move towards the nearest hero or sidekick, then draw a card from their own unique deck to determine their attack. If an enemy is attacked, they'll also respond by drawing a card from their deck. Since all enemy cards are Versatile cards, they'll work for either situation, but unlike Hero cards, these enemy Versatile cards will have separate Values for Attack and Defense, and sometimes even have different effects depending on the way it's used.

    But who will you be facing off against? The two different villains are the Mothman and the Martian Invader! There are six different Minions in the lineup as well, which are comprised of the Ant Queen, the Skunk Ape, the Blob, the Tarantula, the Jersey Devil, and the Loveland Frog. The Minions have very different mechanics and gameplay styles to help vary the gameplay even on repeated play against the Villains. For instance, the Tarantula can spread webs on the map that stop characters in their tracks, while the Loveland Frog's gimmick is all about getting more and more turns to harass players if left unchecked. The Mothman and Martian Invader are very different in playstyle as well! The Mothman's goal is to destroy four bridges on the map. Players can use these bridges to travel across the map easier, or to get special effects like card draw or boosted movement. As the Mothman proceeds though, doom counters are placed on the various bridges, which accelerate the Mothman's countdown until it blows up a bridge! Destroying this bridge not only makes traversal more difficult and removes the ability it had, but it also enables some negative effects of the Mothman itself, such as forced card discarding and teleporting to a hero to attack them! You must defeat the Mothman before all of the bridges are destroyed! Next up, the harder boss of the two, the Martian Invader! The Martian Invader is leading an invasion of Earth by sending aliens into fields at a farm. The more aliens left in a field, the faster the countdown advances, which powers up the Martian Invader with new permanent bonuses every time it completes a cycle. To slow this down, you must use Maneuver actions to cross the map and remove an alien from an adjacent field. These harrowing plots must be contended with while also taking care of attacks from the villains themselves and any remaining minions!

    All in all, Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze is both an awesome starting point to the franchise and an awesome addition to any Unmatched fan's collection. The new heroes are all very fun and distinct, with their abilities working very well for either the cooperative or competitive modes offered within the set. Having a solo mode is great too for anyone who just wants to test out a hero really quick to see if they enjoy a character's playstyle. The cooperative mode is also a nice way to win and lose together instead of being at each other's throats, and it breathes some life into heroes from older sets and lets them play in some fun new ways, such as the first Unmatched's Sinbad being able to zoom across the map to help defend fields from the Martian Invader, or letting Medusa slowly whittle down and block off Minions with her Harpies. There is a variety of ways to play with this set and keep things new by trying different combinations of Heroes, Villains, and Minions, so you can expect tons of hours of fun!

Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze is available now from our webstore.

Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze