I’m a huge fan of asymmetrical board games. Whether they are two-player affairs such as Netrunner or Raptor, or fully embrace multiplayer like Root and Vast, I love the uniqueness that they bring. Today, we are going to be looking at a newcomer to this genre, Unrest from Pandasaurus Games.
In this quick playing game, one player takes on the side of the Rebellion, looking to break free from the regime of the Empire. The Empire player must stamp out the seeds of rebellion before they grow into a full-blown revolution.
In Unrest, the gameplay is different depending on which faction you control. The Rebellion’s goal is to liberate 3 of the 5 districts before the end of the game. If the Empire player can prevent that until the rebellion deck runs out, they win.
At the start of each round, the Rebellion player will choose two adjacent districts to be the focus for the round. They will then play 3 cards to that area, two face down and one face up. Afterward, the Empire player gets to take two actions. They have 4 options in total and the two they used in one round will be unavailable until the other two are used (after which all are available again).
The four different actions let them reveal a rebel card, destroy a rebel card, move a card to any other district, or blockade one of the two chosen districts. After they have taken their two actions, the rebel player decides where to send their 3 cards. Either all in one district or split up among the two focused on this round.
The rebel’s goal is to complete the three mission cards. These are pretty straightforward forward such as having 3 of a kind, one of each suit, or 21 total power. If they complete a mission, it’s announced and the district is liberated, putting them one step closer to winning. They end the round by drawing 3 cards. Once either 3 districts have been liberated or the draw deck runs out, the game ends.
Unrest is a hard game to pin down. While it’s definitely a unique play experience, it also struggles a bit to really figure out what kind of game it wants to be. That’s because, while it’s billed as a 2 player game, it really feels more like a 1.5 player game.
The most interesting decisions in the game all belong to the rebel player. They have the missions, they get to choose which districts to target, which cards to play, when to bluff (they have misdirection cards) and really, make almost all the fun choices.
The Empire player gets to mostly react to the rebel player. They are there to screw up their plans by dumping a card every other round or occasionally moving one somewhere else. To be honest, the empire player feels almost like a glorified automata. Their turns require almost no planning, you just pick a card and do something with it. The rebel player might spend a few minutes strategizing which cards to play and where, but the Empire player will just pick a card and say discard that one—end of turn.
That’s not to say Unrest is a bad game. In fact, the rebel player has a really interesting role. You have limited cards each round and you not only need to figure out which to play and where, but also which to put face up, giving information to your opponent. There is some fun strategizing and bluffing here that I found pretty enjoyable.
While the Empire player does have some thinking to do about how to try and disrupt the rebel player’s plans, it mostly boils down to moving one of their cards each round. It’s just not a satisfying role to play. If this was a solo game it’d be getting high marks, but as a two player experience, one of the roles definitely feels lacking.
Unrest feels like a game that was almost there. I suppose if you really like deduction you can have some fun as the Empire. But for us, the turns were somewhat mindless, and amounted to picking a random card to move. If the Empire role could become more fleshed out, this could be a great game. But as it stands now, it’s not one I’d be rushing to revisit.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – A fun game for 50% of the players.
• Empire player’s role is really lack luster