Few shows have a following like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This “monster of the week” style TV show ran for 7 seasons and led to the spin-off show Angel along with multiple comic books over the years. I only watched a few episodes of the show during it’s initial run in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but I had plenty of friends who loved the show and consumed everything Buffy.
While I don’t have a deep knowledge of the source material, the Buffy themed Unmatched set is really intriguing to me. Because of this, I actually started watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series when the Unmatched game released in the Fall, and I’ve enjoyed enjoyed a couple of seasons already.
Welcome to the Arena
Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer brings Buffy, Willow, Angel and Spike into the Unmatched universe. Each of these characters have a unique feel and call backs to the show that fans will definitely enjoy. As I watch the series now with my youngest daughter, I’m seeing where some of the abilities and card titles came from. So let’s break down the heroes in the box.
Buffy is able to move through opponents, which is a huge help. Blocking Buffy in a corner often means nothing since she’ll maneuver right past you. Her sidekick is unique since you’ll choose either Giles or Xander at the start of the game with each having their own cards.
Willow changes form when she or her sidekick Tara are dealt damage. In her dark form, Willow is more powerful and can be vicious. Willow uses a token that keeps track of what form she is currently in.
Angel and his sidekick Faith have powerful attack cards with the ability of drawing an additional card if you attack and lost in combat.
Spike uses shadow tokens to power up his attacks and defense. Spike and his sidekick Drusilla use cards quicker than most fighters, but the attacks can be devastating.
Where the Teens Hangout
Like the Cobble & Fog and Volume 1 sets, Buffy comes with a large double-sided board that supports four fighters. On one side you have Sunnydale High, and on the other you’ll find The Bronze. Both maps are really well done and use levels to break up adjacency. I really like the way that The Bronze uses indoor and outdoor spaces along with a catwalk inside the club, which gives the advantage to ranged fighters.
The maps that are part of the Unmatched system are really well thought out. With these maps especially, you can imagine characters jumping from one level to another to pursue their opponent. Fans of Buffy are going to feel a connect to these characters because they can imagine these locations and the battle unfolding. Honestly, this is the strength and weakness of this particular set.
Fans of the Slayer
Being critical of an Unmatched set is tough because the bones of the game are so strong. Everything works here and anyone who has played Unmatched could easily jump in. This set struggles to stand out because none of the characters themselves stand out. I’ve played a couple times with each hero and they’re all fine.
If I had to rank them, I enjoy playing with Willow and Spike because they have interesting mechanics tied to their character. When Willow becomes Dark Willow, there’s not a ton of incentive to turn her back to her original form. Willow’s “Resurrect” card is incredibly powerful if playing a team game since it can essentially bring another hero back to life with 3 health. Spike is a card drawing machine which is good and bad. Managed well, he can move quick using the extra cards to boost. I’ve found that attacking early and using shadow tokens to your advantage can make Spike a worthy fighter.
The first time I played with Buffy I remembered asking Erin if I missed something with her character. I never felt like there was something special that a player had to master. She moves fast and walks right through opponents. I like that her sidekick token can be either Giles or Xander. This duel-sided sidekick means you’ll add your sidekick cards into the deck depending on which one you choose. Erin has enjoyed Angel the most in this set because of the powerful cards in his deck.
This Unmatched set was clearly made for Buffy fans and I totally see that. As I watch the show I’m feeling slightly more connected to the fighters, but I could never see anyone in this set becoming my “go-to” fighter. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer should definitely check out this set, and who knows, maybe this is a set that gets that Buffy fan in your life to the table!
For those of us that haven’t watched the TV series, I’m not sure there’s enough in this set to pull you in. This is such an odd review for me because even when an Unmatched set isn’t a “home run” for us, it’s still pretty great.
The artwork of Unmatched has been spectacular since the beginning. One of my favorite things about getting a new set is to look through each of the cards and see the beautiful artwork. This time around artist Heather Vaughan brought her illustration style to the game. You’ll notice from even the front of the box that the set goes with a more sketched, comic book aesthetic than the other Unmatched sets. Overall the art is solid, even though a few of the cards, Buffy in particular, struggle with consistency with facial expressions.
Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is more great Unmatched action but is not necessarily for every gamer. Fans of Buffy will find a lot to enjoy about this set, but for us it’s one of the weaker line ups so far.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Fans of Buffy will enjoy these characters
- Excellent double-sided map for up to 4 players
- Willow and Spike feel like stand outs from this set
- May not connect for players who haven’t seen the show
- Fighters feel less dynamic than many in the series