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Tabletop Game Review – Unmatched Marvel: Brains and Brawn

Unmatched Marvel: Brains and Brawn

Unmatched Marvel: Brains and Brawn
Price: ~$50.00
2 to 3 (can be combined with other Unmatched sets to play up to 4)
20-40 minutes
Perfect for:
Players who enjoy asymmetrical balanced dueling, and games with incredible art featuring iconic Marvel Comics characters.

This open section of this coverage focuses on the standalone game/expansion Brains and Brawn for the Unmatched game system that includes the characters of She-Hulk, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange and a Sanctum Santorum battle map. For an overview of the base mechanics of Unmatched, please see the content below.

Spider-Man: Melee character with higher-than-average movement (3 spaces). Spider-Man’s character ability is Spider-Sense which demands that an opponent reveals the value of their attack card before the player selects their defense card. Perfect for players who enjoy bouncing around the board with a very balanced deck.

She-Hulk: Melee character that is all about strength and power. Players running She-Hulk can discard a card during combat to deal damage equal to its boost value. She-Hulk is more offensive than defensive, but her high hit-point count (20), makes her a very formidable foe. Perfect for players who like to serve justice quickly.

Doctor Strange: Ranged character who brings along Wong (also ranged) as an ally into the fray. Doctor Strange is perfect for players who love using unpredictability as a weapon. Strange’s deck has an assortment of abilities including teleporting across the map, healing, and even causing other players to shuffle and redraw their hands. Often the power of these effects are based on chance, such as the boost value of a randomly drawn card.

On a personal note, I can attest that as a very, very avid Marvel Comics reader and consumer of Marvel media in general, Brains & Brawn is a triumph in adapting these characters into the Unmatched game system. The powers, abilities, and even the flavor text have been constructed with love and thoughtfulness that reflect the evolution and depth of these heroes with nuance. Restoration has done an exceptional job taking their mechanics and translating them in incredibly clever ways to fit the well-known associated traits. With literally every turn and action, players will feel like they are embodying each of these specific Marvel icons.

Related: Tabletop Game Review – Unmatched: Deadpool

Unmatched is a game of strategic combat. Players assume control of one of a legendary character (across numerous franchises and intellectual property libraries) and must tactfully play against their opponent using wit and skill to defeat them. The last person standing on the battlefield is the winner.  

To begin any game of Unmatched, two to four players choose who they will be playing as and receive that person’s deck (drawing a starting hand of five cards), health tracker, miniature, and ally (if applicable). Allies are helpers that move around the board just like the heroes but have special abilities to provide an advantage. On a turn, players can perform two actions from the following options: draw a card and move a number of spaces equal to their speed, attack, or play a special effect card. Combat consists of the attacker playing a card and defender doing the same, if they so choose. Players reveal cards simultaneously. After resolving all of the effects, characters record damage if any has been taken. Once a primary hero’s health is reduced to zero, they are eliminated from the game.

What works in Unmatched is the incredibly engaging interactions and the outstanding visuals. The battles are ripe with tension, but also balance—each character has strengths and weaknesses. While learning them may require a few playthroughs, once mastered Unmatched becomes a chess match of colorful characters. They each have well-designed asymmetrical abilities that align perfectly with their fictional counterparts. For example, King Arthur can play a Holy Grail defense card that only provides one immediate defense. If used during a battle where his health falls below 4, he automatically rejuvenates back up to 8. Alice’s cards allow her to oscillate between being big which gives an attack boost, or small which provides the Wonderland wanderer an advantage on defense. The combinations of characters and strategies mean that the replay value is incredibly high right out of the box.

The components of Unmatched are also worth highlighting—ever box has consistently stunning artwork as the artists adapt various properties. The application of their talents to a tabletop game makes for an absolutely gorgeous result. The miniatures are intricately detailed, the cards contain fantastical imagery, and even the double-sided boards mixes color and style. They evoke an almost ethereal feel.

Players who prefer cooperation over competition, or games that are a bit lighter on strategy, may not enjoy Unmatched as much as others. Unmatched at its core leverages the mechanic of head-to-head combat. It requires players to be cunning and devious against their opponents. And while it could be said there is a dash of luck in the game considering the random card drafting mechanic, the more one plays the more it becomes apparent that it’s less about the cards drawn and more about knowing how to use the hand you’re dealt.

Unmatched is not overly complex, and the creativity mixed with strategy make the game an absolute blast to play repeatedly. This is a title that you can pull off the shelf, play quickly, and then immediately look forward to the next game knowing you can change up the characters to have an entirely new, and still fun, experience. Very highly recommended for all gaming groups.

Recommended if you like: Heroscape, Star Wars: Epic Duels

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