Mondo Games and Restoration Games have just released two Marvel themed Unmatched sets, Hell’s Kitchen and Redemption Row. Bringing iconic Marvel characters into the Unmatched universe, the likes of Moon Knight, Bullseye and Daredevil will now be able to fight it out in the card based combat. With each set including 3 figures the games can be played 1 v 1 or as a free for all with 3 players. The sets are compatible with each other and the other Unmatched games to then allow 2 vs 2 gameplay. However, do assassins, blind crime fighting lawyers and Egyptian God avatars fit into Unmatched? Let’s find out!
Unmatched is a game system with a huge variety of sets, ranging from IP themed Jurassic Park or Buffy sets through to mythological fighters such as Medusa or Bigfoot. All sets are compatible but offer their own unique match ups and characters, with these two Marvel sets being no different. The game works typically as a 2 player experience, with both players choosing a character (potentially coming with a sidekick). Each character has a unique deck, health dial and miniature.
Characters have unique abilities, from their character card but also from the abilities on the cards in their deck. Played in turns, going back and forth, players shuffle their deck and start by drawing a hand of 5 cards. Starting with either player they get to perform two actions before play moves to their opponent and so on. Those actions can be to maneuver around the battlefield, attack their opponent if within range or play special scheme cards from their hand.
When attacking the opponent can play defense cards if they have one in their hand. The damage taken is then the difference between the attack value and defense value – which the defender reduces their health dial by. With abilities triggering even in the combat there are ways to do bonus damage, draw cards or perhaps move away from the opponent. The game continues until one player defeats the main fighter of their opponent. The characters are what make the playstyles and games different, so let’s jump into the fighters included in the two sets.
The greatest compliment to Daredevil is that he can be annoying to play against, which naturally makes him fun to play as. While it has been seen before on card effects, Daredevil can blindly boost his defenses and attacks when he has fewer than 2 cards in hand. Players often want a huge hand of cards to give them options, so this presents a rather different hand management experience. On top of this some of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’s cards have incredible effects if the player can craft the right hand or deck situation. It makes fighting with Daredevil feel calculated much like other portrayals of the character.
Bullseye breaks the mold of what it means to be a ranged character in Unmatched. Typically, ranged characters must be in the same coloured zone as the opponent they are targeting. Bullseye flips this logic in its head, as he can do this as standard but can always attack up to a distance of 5 spaces. This makes fighting with or against him rather different. For example, often taking a small sidestep into a different zone is simply enough but this is now not the case. His deck is also an interesting one, commonly wanting Bullseye to snowball. Many of his cards trigger additional effects, even ignoring an opponent’s defense card, if he has already won that turn. Chances are players will be attacking for both of Bullseye’s actions – instead of attacking and then running.
Killing a character is normally a winning condition in Unmatched. For Elektra this is only half way to winning. With her ability to resurrect her opponent must kill her twice! To make this harder the majority of Elektra’s deck features a bloody hand symbol. These are additional and stronger effects which do not trigger until she has been resurrected, so she literally comes back stronger. It’s a cool and relatively straightforward ability, making Elektra a great character for first time players. It doesn’t hurt that she has a neat double sided health dial for her resurrection.
Built like a tank Luke Cage effectively always plays a defense card, permanently having a +2 defense bonus. His super strong skin makes him tough to beat down, with many attacks barely scratching him. Combine this with the ability to prematurely end another player’s turn, via his Trash Talk defense card and you almost don’t want to attack Luke Cage, as it seems futile. Much like Elektra this isn’t a hard character to play or teach to a new player. As long as you remind them in the first couple of combats about their bonus defense then they can just pick up this hero, play and enjoy!
Moon Knight is going to be the character whom a lot of people are drawn towards currently due to the Disney+ series recently airing. Much like the struggles of changing personalities were depicted in the series, gamers have the struggle to decide when is best to try to pull off specific card plays. Moon Knight gains movement at the start of his turn. This means he can hang back out of range of an opponent on one turn and, if the player times the personality shift correctly, move in for free at the start of the next turn. Then Khonshu hits harder, while Mr Knight defends for more. Players constantly need to work with the cycling of his identity cards to minimize damage coming in whilst maximizing his attacks.
Nicholas Cage has entered the Unmatched arena, at least in part. Ghost Rider is, as thematically it makes sense with his flaming motorbike, all about movement. Ghost Rider has a pool of 5 hellfire tokens. A few cards interact with these tokens – such as Blaze of Glory which sees the player spending hellfire to inflict additional damage. Yet, the main usage of these tokens is not only to move further when maneuvering but to drive through opponents – dealing 1 unstoppable damage. Particularly against a foe such as Luke Cage who is so good at defending this can be extremely useful to slowly chip someone down.
With each subsequent Unmatched release the designers have been playing around with map features and these two Marvel sets are no different. For the first time the maps are somewhat interactable. Both the Hell’s Kitchen map and the Redemption Row’s Raft map feature special spaces, which have items attached to them. Some are activated by using a scheme action when stood on the linked space. Others add to your attack or defense while on the space.
Unmatched has always been about the fight between the characters and not objectives on the board and that isn’t what these do. As a result they feel just like an extension of the hanging gardens’ high ground bonuses, but give these maps a unique twist. They also get removed once used so by the end of the game the map is likely to once again be just a standard map. Both sets come with 6 of these tokens, which are randomized during setup. A brilliant touch is that if players own the two sets you can combine the tokens for one big pool to pull from. The items are certainly thematically tied to the sets they come from but they are interchangeable otherwise.
Like with the other map features from other sets, activatable items are another thing to learn. They are a touch more complicated than secret passages or one directional routes of travel. Just bear this in mind when teaching new players, though they could be left off the battlefield for the first play if really needed – the characters will still shine without them. A great touch is that while the boxes include 3 characters they have the standard 4 spots on the game board for those who want to do 2v2. It’s not quite as good as the sets including 4 characters, though at least it doesn’t limit the usage of the two maps.
Of the two sets more people will be pulled towards the Redemption Row box, simply due to the included characters. Aside from Daredevil the characters might be lesser known in the Hell’s Kitchen set, though abilities wise they are just as awesome. Be it Moon Knight’s rotating identity or Elektra’s resurrection into a stronger fighter, the fighters capture the comic book characters well. Each is their own character, not feeling like a reskin of another Unmatched fighter. Combine this with the interactable maps and these are two great sets. Of course, it would have been nice to see both include 4 characters not three, though this is surely the cost of the Marvel license. Despite this, both sets are a great starting point into the series for Marvel fans and a great set of interesting characters for fans of Unmatched to play with!
(Editor’s Note: Unmatched Hell’s Kitchen was provided to us by Coiledspring Games. Check out the official webpage here.)