Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Darkness falls in Sunnydale…
When Buffy is pitted against her allies, who will win?
Vampires and demons rise from the shadows, but they’re not the only ones. When Buffy is pitted against her allies, who will win?
Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is another entry into the Unmatched series by Restoration Games and Mondo Games. This boxed set supports up to four players, ages 14+.
How to Play Unmatched
Setup is simple in Unmatched. Choose the board you’d like to use. Then each player selects a character and gathers the corresponding health dial(s), cards, and sidekick(s). Youngest to oldest, players place their characters on the map. Each player draws a hand of five cards from their character deck and the youngest player goes first!
On your turn, you perform two actions. For each action, you may choose between Attack (play an attack or combo card), Scheme (play a Scheme card with an instant effect), or Maneuver (draw a card and optionally move your characters). We’ve already covered this in our first Unmatched review, so we won’t go into more detail here. Let’s get into what makes Unmatched: Buffy The Vampire Slayer special.
This set has four main characters to choose from, each plucked directly from the ’90s TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy is a powerful melee fighter with good movement (3 per turn) and lots of mid- to high-power attack and attack/defense cards. When playing with Buffy, you choose a sidekick, adding only one set of sidekick cards to the deck: either Giles (scheme cards for card draws and spying on your opponent’s hand) or Xander (even more attack cards).
Spike “seeks the shadows”. He and his sidekick Drusilla may place shadow tokens near themselves on the board. These tokens give extra benefits to many cards – if they’re in the right place.
Willow is the only ranged fighter in this set, along with her sidekick Tara. She uses magic to attack, defend, and manipulate the deck. Willow also has a light/dark token that gets flipped back and forth (like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde or Big & Small Alice).
The token is flipped to “Dark Willow” when Willow or Tara are injured by an attack. The flipped token adds more power and abilities to most cards, but runs through the deck much faster, due to blind boosts and forced discards. There are a few cards that flip the Dark Willow token back to its light side, or you can do it yourself if Willow is next to Tara at the end of your turn.
Angel and his sidekick Faith have powerful attacks. Their deck focuses on drawing more cards and card-driven movement, so you won’t need to maneuver as often as your opponent(s) do. Crowd your opponents and make them move away from you, but be careful that you don’t get hit with opponents’ special effects instead!
As I’d expect from Unmatched, this whole set is nicely thematic. Each character has cards and powers that reference their backstory and strengths, and the battlefields of “Sunnydale High” and “The Bronze” hearken back to the TV show.
Willow is the most innovative hero in this set; until now there haven’t been any hero/sidekick options where both are ranged, nor has there been a token-flip character that was so strongly affected by an opponent’s actions. She even has a neat graphical effect on her health dial, where a candle slowly gutters out as her health approaches zero.
Buffy’s option to choose a sidekick and influence the deck is interesting, although I’m not sure why anyone would ever choose Giles instead of Xander.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is all about a cheerleader who becomes a horror/action heroine. Fittingly, the art in this set is dark while also showing a humorous side.
Is this Unmatched unbalanced?
We quickly found that Buffy seemed overpowered compared to the other three character options in this set. She’s got more movement, a limited healing ability, and (especially with Xander) she can hit hard and fast from the very beginning of the game. While it’s thematically consistent that Buffy can beat anything that comes her way, it doesn’t make for very satisfying gameplay.
Other powerful and fast Unmatched heroes can give Buffy a better challenge (ie. raptors from Jurassic Park, or Bruce Lee). The remaining three heroes in this set seem well-balanced to fight each other, or even challenge some of the characters from other Unmatched sets – even very powerful ones! (Willow’s magic can negate a lot of Bruce Lee’s normally unstoppable Jeet Kune Do attacks, for example).
Better for Nostalgic Parents than for Kids
With the revelation of all the abuse going on behind the scenes of the Buffy TV show, it’s been hard to enjoy this game fully. But I’m trying not to let that stop me from enjoying the characters and their interactions.
Speaking of the TV show, it was rated TV-14, just like the age recommendation on this game. Much like Cobble & Fog, Buffy the Vampire Slayer handles very dark subject matter, and the card art reflects this, but without using gory imagery. I did play with my 10-year-old, but since he knows nothing about the TV show, the darker references didn’t mean anything to him.
I’d recommend Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer to fans of the TV show or anyone looking to add a little more dark and sinister flavor to their gaming. I can’t really recommend it for kids; there’s nothing blatantly inappropriate here, but since I wouldn’t want my kids to watch the TV show, they won’t appreciate the background for the game, either.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Restoration Games for this review.
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Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 14+
Playtime: 20-40 minutes