Games of the Year 2021: Liv on the re-inventive Unfathomable
This year - or half a year - has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. Having joined the Dicebreaker team in May, I did most of my board game discovering during the last six months or so. I can certainly say that my game of the year was a fairly easy pick as it captures everything I love about board games - Unfathomable.
As some of you may know, Unfathomable is basically a remaster of Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game released in 2008, only this time you’re facing The Deep Ones instead of the Cylons…and obviously it’s a big boat and not a giant spaceship. With Corey Konieczka having designed the original Battlestar Galactica game and having worked on other Arkham Horror Files games, such as Eldritch Horror, you can be sure that this is going to be faithful to both sources.
If you’ve played Eldritch Horror before, you might have played against Cthulhu and the Deep Ones there, making every sea space virtually uninhabitable due to the risk of bumping into the fish folk and getting into an altercation with them. I see Unfathomable as a zoom in on these instances, taking on the sea beasts whilst using your skills and just straight up magic to defeat them and allow you to get to shore alive.
The gameplay takes place on a huge and beautifully designed board which includes interactive dials to track your resources and places for all the game elements conveniently signposted and the areas of the board helpfully labelled.
The object of the game is to play as one of the various crew members and passengers on board - who are diverse and offer an array of fun roleplaying opportunities - each with their own special abilities that are essential to keeping the ship afloat. Along with that, two players are afforded the role of Captain and Keeper of the Tome respectively, depending on your characters’ position on a hierarchical list. These roles keeps things interesting in that they are given important tasks and decisions to make. Beware though, if your crewmates don’t think you’re doing a ship-shape job, they can throw you in the brig.
You might be thinking “isn’t that a bit extreme?” Well reader, it’s completely justified when there may be a traitor in your midst! With this hidden role mechanic, play is going to be unpredictable every game. You might think hidden roles in board games are overdone and to some extent I would agree with you but here are some things that make Unfathomable different in that regard.
There is always a traitor. In some hidden role games, it may appear as though there is a traitor when, in fact, everyone is innocent - such as Dead of Winter. In this game, if there isn’t a traitor at the start of the game, one will emerge halfway through the game in the ‘awakening phase’. Admittedly this can throw a spanner in the works for someone who was trying to be a team player up until that point.
Everyone is equal. Everyone is given a certain amount of time to look at your role at the beginning of the game and it is discouraged to outright accuse people and question them of their role. If you think someone is a traitor, in the brig they go, simple as that.
The traitor can reveal themselves as an action on their turn. They can just commit to being the traitor on their turn and run about causing havoc freely. This takes away the frustration of knowing you’ve been found out or having suspicion thrown at you no matter what you do. Just reveal as a traitor and give the other players one more thing to worry about.
Along with that, you get to take part in the classic Arkham Files skill checks we all know and love and run away scared from the Deep Ones and their parents Mother Hydra and Father Dagon (also pronounced Daddy Dragon).
It’s an ideal game for a group of friends who fancy pointing fingers at one another for an evening. Let’s crack open an ice cold can of betrayal.