At Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, fans lined up for hours each morning for a chance to grab the hottest new tabletop games before they sold out. No single title was more sought-after than Unmatched, a wild new take on the tactical miniatures genre that pits heroes of myth and legend against your favorite pop culture icons.
Just how wacky are these pairings? Well, it’s the only game I’ve ever seen that allows you to pit Bruce Lee against Bigfoot. Soon you’ll even be able to play characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jurassic Park.
What makes the Unmatched system so interesting is the high-caliber partnership behind it, which brings together Restoration Games, known for breathing life into classic board games, and Mondo Tees, known for its incredibly popular line of movie posters, t-shirts, and other collectibles. Together they’ve managed to create something both unique and flexible.
The system itself is fast and easy to learn, and features rules for two to four players. Rather than using a complex system with dice and rulers, players manage a deck of cards to either move or attack on their turn. Line-of-sight and adjacency rules are handled with a clever color-coded game board, one that also happens to be specifically designed with the color blind in mind.
In reality, the system is a re-implementation of two well-regarded board games from years past. It includes features from Milton Bradley’s Star Wars: Epic Duels as well as Fantasy Flight’s Tannhauser, both now out of print. The core of the design was done by JR Honeycutt, with additional work by industry veteran Rob Daviau (known for inventing the Legacy system used in Pandemic Legacy among others) and Justin D. Jacobson.
But, what makes the game truly stand apart is the quality and cohesiveness of its art and design. The first three sets include card and box art by Oliver Barrett, whose work for Mondo includes limited-edition poster prints for Full Metal Jacket, The Martian, and Captain America: Civil War among others.
Jay Shaw, Mondo’s senior creative director, said the board game project presented unique challenges for his team.
“It is an utterly different world,” said Shaw during an interview at this year’s Gen Con, referring to the tabletop industry. “Posters are a celebration of art, and it goes on your wall and lives in your house. Tabletop games, they’re meant to be played [...] with friends. They’re meant to be played in communal spaces. But otherwise for Mondo, this is all art.”
“This Unmatched game that we’ve made, I mean, that might as well be a few hundred Mondo posters inside of a box,” Shaw said.
Unmatched was available at both the Restoration Games and the Mondo booth at this year’s Gen Con, but has already sold out of its entire early production run. Shaw tells Polygon that units will be entering retail locations by September, although the final slate of stores has yet to be unveiled. Copies will also be available online.
Three sets will be available at launch, including Unmatched: Battle of Legends, Volume One with Alice in Wonderland, Medusa, King Arthur, and Sinbad for $40. Unmatched: Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot will run $25, while limited quantities of the special-edition Unmatched: Bruce Lee will be $15.
Shaw says that Unmatched: Battle of Legends, Volume Two is currently in development, but heroes have yet to be announced. Upcoming Jurassic Park-themed games will include the hunter Robert Muldoon and three velociraptors, as well as Doctor Ellie Sattler and a Tyrannosaurus rex. Meanwhile, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer-themed game is expected to launch with Buffy, Spike, Angel, and Willow as its four playable characters. Discussions are ongoing with other, unnamed properties for future releases.
While the game art is phenomenal, you can’t really put a playing card on your wall. So what about collectibles based off the game art itself?
“It’s funny, the poster company hasn’t made any posters for this just yet,” Shaw said with a sheepish grin. “We should probably get started on that.”