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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Unbroken – Golden Bell Games – Review

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Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 10
Joseph Summa
Joseph Summa has a degree in Engineering Physics from Rose-Hulman. He plays games for the competition and the community. His personal favorite type of games are deck-builders followed by worker placement games.

Each play of Unbroken is a series of puzzles to solve and risks to take.

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 1

Theme and What is it?

You are one of the people from the Iron Mines and you have ventured into the Dark.  Exploring the underground caverns was the utmost folly of your life.  But the lure of riches and glory seduced you.  You took a hardened band of adventurers with you and thought you were ready for everything.  You were wrong.  Nearly dead wrong.  

The short of it is your friends are dead and you were left for dead in a dark collapsed tunnel in the dark.  The monstrous denizens didn’t deem you worth the time to finish off.  The world you come from is a depressing disaster.  Your life is even more of a disappointment than the world around you.  Despite all of this, you do your best to pick yourself up and struggle to get revenge on the vile, dark things lurking in the caves.  

You should give up.  You should succumb to your wounds.  But, your spirit remains UNBROKEN!

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 2

Gameplay Mechanics

Unrboken is a solo adventure game where you attempt to survive long enough to get revenge on the things that murdered your fellow adventurers.  The way encounters are generated, monsters are confronted, and loot is obtained follow the style of a rogue-like game.  For those unfamiliar, that means the game has a large number of possible encounters, monsters, and skills and randomness determines which ones players will see in each run through.    

The player aid reference flowcharts are excellent.  There are a number of options the player can take to prepare for travel.  Then the player explores the caverns by flipping 2 encounter cards (or more if they have invested in ways to increase their chances for success).  The player then picks an encounter and either gains the shown resources or rests for the time shown to gather effort.  

Eventually all of these resource gathering and preparations are put to the test when the level boss is confronted.  The player has to have made good enough decisions during the travel and preparation phase to overcome everything the monster throws at them and continue Unbroken to the next level.

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 3

Initial Impressions

This is a cleverly built solo game.  A single session can be completed in 10-20 minutes.  But there is enough fun to make it worth chaining sessions for an hour or more at a stretch.  The setup is just shuffling some encounter and skill cards and putting a few tracking cubes onto the resource tracks.  Super easy to bust out with very little setup need.  This is sure to see a ton of play and even strikes me that it could be played as a single team of players making choices cooperatively.

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 4

Game Build Quality

Unbroken is an excellent production.  The resource trackers have recesses for the cubes to rest in without getting knocked around.  The quick start references serve as the perfect way to help a new player get into the flow of things.  The decks of cards all include a blank template so that players can even make their own additions to the game with their own personal flair if desired. Everything fits in a compact box and the felt bag is perfect for storage.

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 5

Artistic Direction

Each encounter has its own unique artwork.  The artwork matches the names of the encounter events.  The monsters all have a wonderful depiction of the denizen being grappled with.  The artwork really sells the experience of wandering in the dark caverns searching for useful resources and attempting to beat a series of monsters.

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 6

Fun Factor

Each play of Unbroken is a series of puzzles to solve and risks to take.  Do you use some extra time to get improved access to the resources you need?  Do you use trickery to bypass your enemies or smash your way past each monster?  There are so many ways to get through the 4 levels of the dungeon that it will take hundreds of plays to explore them all.  Each of the 4 unique character classes has special powers to make the experience customized to the choice you make for each run.

Unbroken - Golden Bell Games - Review 7

Age Range & Weight

13+ for thematic reasons is acceptable.  Players have to defeat savage monsters and even other humans who have lost their wits in the dark.  As far as the difficulty of the game goes, it is pretty light.  The length of the rulebook was a bit intimidating when I first sat down to read it over lunch.  It turns out that it is mostly examples and extra details to clarify any questions a player might have.  The game can basically be played using the quickstart charts and reference sheets right from the start.

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Conclusions

NOTE: There is nothing in the game box itself that provides this warning.  When you first open a brand new copy of Unbroken, do NOT shuffle the encounter deck.  The encounter deck comes in an order for a cohesive story and a slightly more forgiving experience than is normal.  After the first play, the encounter deck gets shuffled for a unique experience with every play.

In the end, there are very few games that provide a solid solo game experience that take less than a few hours to play.  Most of the other short options lose their luster after a few dozen runs.  So far, Unbroken looks like it will stay fun for quite a bit longer than that.  Golden Bell Games has plans for additional content in the Unbroken universe and I am hopeful it will deliver as great of a gaming experience as this did.

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