Unmatched: Battle of Legends Volume 2
When Restoration Games released Unmatched: Battle of Legends Volume 1 in 2019, the first thing I noticed was how quickly the game played, and how simple the gameplay was, with exciting, new characters. The second thing I noticed was the subtitle of the game – “Volume 1”.
Restoration released seven characters across three sets in 2019. They followed this up with thirteen more characters across the next two years. Now in 2022, we have the long-awaited sequel to the premier release – Unmatched: Battle of Legends Volume 2.
Volume 2 brings four new characters, some better known than others. Meet Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Princess Yennenga, Achilles (and Patroclus), and Bloody Mary.
Restoration has a knack for introducing new mechanics with nearly every set, and Volume 2 is no exception. We’ve already offered our effusive praise for the Unmatched system in our Unmatched: Cobble and Fog review. For Volume 2, we’ll focus on the new mechanics and characters, and offer our thoughts.
New Board Mechanics
The new game board in Volume 2 offers one disappointment out-of-the-box. Every previous four-character set had a two-sided map board with different maps on each side, but Volume 2 only offers the Hanging Gardens. The flip side offers alternate art with less intrusive zone shading instead.
The new Hanging Gardens map offers a new mechanic. If the path connecting two spaces has a “High Ground” arrow, the attacker in the space where the arrow starts has a +1 battle advantage on enemies in the space where the arrow ends. This is always a melee distance attack, so this +1 applies whether or not the character is ranged.
High Ground cannot be canceled by cards like Feint as the bonus is provided by the board itself. This new board feature offers very interesting advantages and disadvantages. Although High Ground spaces have an advantage over some immediately adjacent spaces, these spaces tend to be in more zones as they are more visible. The center spot on the board, for example, has High Ground, but is in three zones.
High Ground is the only new board mechanic, but all four characters in the Volume 2 set feature Bonus Attacks. Bonus Attacks allow an attacking fighter to make two attacks with a single attack action.
Bonus Attacks can be canceled by Defender cards like Feint that cancel any text on a card. However, if the Bonus Attack is not cancelled, it still fires as a new attack against the same defender, even if that defender is no longer a valid target. Boosts apply to both attacks, and defenders must defend both attacks separately.
Bonus attacks are a fantastic addition to the stack of effects in Unmatched, always soliciting a groan from the defender when they see the bonus attack on the card. I hope we see these in many sets to come.
Sun Wukong the Monkey King
According to legend, Sun Wukong is a bit of a trickster, and that trait is mirrored in his deck. Wukong has three clones as sidekicks. He can take damage to put clones out. Players can use all of Sun Wukong’s cards for the main character or any of the clones.
One of the most fun things about Sun Wukong is his attitude, excellently portrayed in his deck. Wukong’s cards allow him to discard cards from the opponent’s hand or take various forms, which have appropriately associated combat values.
I would have liked to see a few cards allowing Wukong to change places with a clone after a battle, although Sly Monkey sort of provides this.
Sun Wukong may be the most interesting character in this set. His mythological history is deep and worth study.
Another character with a rich history is the legendary Princess Yennenga. One with the jungle, many of Yennenga’s abilities are based on after-battle movement. Yennenga is accompanied by two archers willing to sacrifice their lives for their princess. She returns the favor with ample power to bring her companions back from the dead.
Yennenga is fun to play as a run-and-gun character, constantly keeping distance between her and her adversaries. Being the only ranged character set in Volume 2 offers clear advantages to this style. As an opponent, she is intensely frustrating, as it is difficult to keep up with her. Her ability to resurrect her archers can lead to long games that run the risk of running decks out.
Achilles (and Patroclus)
Perhaps the polar opposite of Yennenga’s tactical play style is that of Achilles and his partner Patroclus. There may not be two companions more tightly coupled in their decks than these two – the vast majority of the cards in the deck are “Any” cards (that either character can use). Achilles and Patroclus are both melee fighters whose attributes are incredibly similar. So similar, in fact, the very card I was looking for in Sun Wukong’s deck is present here: Under Achilles’ Helm allows the player to swap the two characters.
This set also borrows from mechanics first developed in Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Willow and Tara (see our review). When an opponent kills Patroclus, Achilles flies into a rage. His attacks gain an automatic +2 and he draws cards after successful attacks.
Play this set true to its nature. Rage-filled Achilles ought to be assaulting his enemies with every opportunity, throwing caution and safety to the wind. Being able to draw additional cards after successful, auto-boosted attacks reinforces this idea, and this barbarian-like intensity is exhilarating to play. Achilles and Patroclus are my favorite deck in this set.
Bloody Mary is the most terrifying character Restoration has built for Unmatched, beating out the otherwise unnerving Dracula and the Three Sisters. Her miniature looks like something out of a designer’s fever dream. Rounding out this four-character set, Bloody Mary’s powers revolve around the number three and reflection.
Bloody Mary has no companions and is a beast of a melee character with sixteen health and three movement. If the player controlling Bloody Mary has three cards in their hand at the beginning of the round, she gets an extra action. Other cards in the set will self-boost their value if played as a third action, or cards like Trick of the Light enable Bloody Mary to move to a spot adjacent to another fighter.
Not having a companion forces players of Bloody Mary to work hard on capitalizing on the three motif, and the reflection powers allow her to cancel or manipulate the actions of her opponents. I found her difficult to play, with the three card motif feeling more fiddly than Little Red’s basket discard pile.
2020’s Cobble and Fog set a new standard for excellence in the four-character Unmatched sets. Volume 2 doesn’t quite rise to that occasion, but the continued mix of new characters and abilities is always welcome. The characters are fresh and unique, an impressive feat for a game system that sports nearly thirty characters at this point.
A welcome return to form after the relatively underwhelming Buffy set, Volume 2 keeps us coming back to the table to explore the manipulative trickery of the Monkey King or the passionate vengeance of Greek heroes.
Restoration has hit another home run with Volume 2, and we look forward to returning to this set often.
You can find Unmatched: Battle of Legends Volume 2 at your local game store or online at Amazon.
Restoration provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy Unmatched: Battle of Legends Volume 2 for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Unmatched: Battle of Legends Volume 2
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 9+
Playtime: 20-40 minutes