When it comes to anime, I’m very selective with the series that I watch and most of them are ones from nostalgia – certainly not the modern day series
that are out. In terms of board games though, it works nicely as a theme, especially from an artwork perspective. I love the look of my Argent
Consortium and can give respect to the art of Millenium Blades as well. But as for whether the games are great or not. . . . well I’ve pretty much
listed the two I like. Most of that is because a lot of anime style board games are quite obscure – i.e. you won’t see them much on a UK retail shelf –
but sometimes they just simply miss the mark or over-complicate themselves (cough cough Tragedy Looper). Enter Unicornous Knights to try and break the
Unicornous Knights appears to utilise a more light-hearted approach while still remaining true to the anime world it’s created. It’s certainly a big
box and very colourful and made by one of Japan’s well known designers. There’s a promising start here, but can it follow through to the end?
Designer: Seiji Kanai, Kuro
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Time: 60-90 Minutes
The kingdom of Astoria was suddenly thrown into a war. The hostile empire began the campaign to take the fertile lands for their own. The military
strength of the empire was vast, the royal army was obliterated, and the capital of Astoria fell.
Only one member of the royal family, Cornelia is left. She was just sixteen, a small child with no knowledge of politics or military tactics. But she
did not hesitate a second to devote her life to her youthful ideal of vengeance.
“I will fight to the bitter end for my people. It is true that this fight is nigh hopeless. Nonetheless, I call upon all of you who refuse to cast away
your hope! Gather! Gather around our Unicorn Flag!”
Unicornus Knights is a cooperative game. The object of the players is to assist the princess as much as possible. They will gather soldiers and
resources, defeat the enemy generals in the lands, pave the way for the princess, and finally have her enter the capitol and confront the Emperor
THE PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE
Unicornous Knights is played on a modular board where players will move their characters around attempting to whittle down the enemy forces and generals while
also steering the Princess down as safe a path as possible towards the final Empire battle in the capital. The Princess is tougher than she looks, but
she can’t do it by herself and thus the players have to pick their battles and assist as much as they can.
Each player will control a character with a special ability and varied stats, whereas the Princess moves by way of an automated system in the rulebook.
There’s a fair amount in the book to cover so here’s a quick rules overview.
At the beginning of each turn the first thing you will do is flip an event card. These rarely help you but there are some positive ones if you ask the
After that, each players will conduct their actions including anything from:
– Recruit soldiers
– Gather supplies
– Move 1 space (moving into an enemy occupied space will trigger a combat)
– Draw 1 support card (once per turn)
– Send soldiers/supplies to another character or the princess.
After everyone is done with their actions, it’s the princess’ turn to act. She will have 3 actions. She can only do 2 things, Move and Gather supplies,
she’s somewhat focused on her ultimate goal! If she can’t move (because she doesn’t have enough supplies), she will gather. Otherwise, she’s charging
gun blazing………well sword flailing anyway…..into battle!
Once she’s done, (assuming she’s still alive) it’s the enemy’s turn to act. There are 3 types of enemy units : Defensive, Normal, Aggressive.
– Defensive enemies will never move, so you have to bring the fight to them!
– Normal enemies will move to attack someone that is adjacent to them only.
– Aggressive enemies will run after you if you’re within 1 area (tile) of them.
Rinse and repeat until the princess wins, or is defeated, or 10 turns have passed.
The components are mostly alright. Nothing feels cheap and everything does its job well and the artwork is certainly pleasing to the eye especially if you’re an anime fan! It kind of reminds me of how DEUS looks when it’s on the table, lots of interestingly shaped tiles put together in a colourful fashion. Though if you’ve got OCD, you might hate the small gaps in between the tiles!
Some people will hate that there are no miniatures, but honestly the standees are decent enough, and the art again is decent also. After all, I was after an anime style and I got it so I can’t complain. Not every game has to run around with miniatures; especially unpainted ones as I’ll never paint a miniature as long as I continue on board gaming!
HOPE THAT HORSE CAN JUMP!
The biggest worry I had with Unicornous Knights was the rulebook, being a game imported over from Japan. Unfortunately despite the fact that my copy
contained the “re-write” version, I did find a lot of the game a bit tougher than expected to learn and absorb. The main issue is that some of the
rules remain ambiguous in how they operate, particularly with regards to the Fate cards. I dread to think what the original version was like… I hear it
was a facepalm worthy failure comparable only to the likes of Conan.
It’s not impossible to learn Unicornous Knights, but it does present a hurdle that really shouldn’t need to exist in the first place.
Because when you reflect on the game itself, the rules themselves aren’t that complex; there’s just a lot of moving parts particularly with how the
enemy and the Princess move. Once you’ve got it down, you should be fine, but just expect a bit of a learning curve to start with. It does infuriate me
a little though, to see that so much effort was put into the back story and theme of the characters (even though it wasn’t overly necessary) and yet
key rules clarifications were missed out. Do it the other way round, and if necessary we’ll fill in the theme blanks!
IT IS FATE THAT WE SHOULD MEET AGAIN
The theme in Unicornous Knights is represented well in the artwork, but what really sells it is the Fate card system. This
is a neat concept I would like to see implemented in other thematic games. Each time you near an enemy general, you wil draw a fate card that dictates
the relationship between the two of you. This can be anything from being jilted lovers so they relentlessly come after you to having them actually
defect and join your cause! It’s a great narrative addition to the game and helps to keep the game fresh each time.
Now the way these apply can sometimes lead to more of those ambiguous rulings that I mentioned earlier, but this is a cool concept that I’ve not seen
in any other game, except for maybe relationship cards from the Arkham Horror series. I give props for this design and hope I’ll see it again in
another game, albeit with some fine tuning.
As for the rest of Unicornous Knights, it plays out very much like a war logistics game. You’ll quickly realise that charging head first into the enemy will result in a swift and painful death for you so you have to pick your battles. On top of that everyone including the princess needs resources and you need to pick these up and carry them around, not to mention pass them to other players regularly. So rather than being like a miniature war game, it’s like looking at one of those maps you see in war movies where advisors in uniform push around these models with those prodding things, I don’t know the name, but you get what I mean. You’re planning out which battles you’re going to get stuck in to, as well as how best to manipulate the Princess movement given that you know she’s fixed on how she operates. It’s a pretty entertaining affair, even though it’s not typically my style of game.
VERDICT ON UNICORNOUS KNIGHTS
When you get past the hurdles, there’s a decent game present. The problem is that there’s plenty of hurdles. The main one being the ambiguous rules and
mediocre rulebook. This may require some research to fully comprehend, but once you do you’re left with a fun co-op experience with a colourful, anime
theme that can be enjoyed by yourself as well as with multiplayer.
The theme, however cool isn’t as strong as I would have liked, but find a group who likes to roleplay characters and you could get stuck in just fine. A
lot of anime lovers like roleplay games as well so maybe that’s pretty common. It can get a little fiddly at times with all the moving parts, but
there’s plenty of variety in the box with character powers and the Fate card system. If you’re a fan of war planning as opposed to war fighting, this
is worth a look.
PERSONAL RATING – 6/10
YOU WILL LIKE UNICORNOUS KNIGHTS IF:
You like the anime styling and theme present.
You are more interested in a logistics puzzle experience than a full blown combat game.
You like a Co-Op where teamwork is essential.
YOU WILL NOT LIKE UNICORNOUS KNIGHTS IF:
You’re worried about alpha player syndrome – don’t let someone become a general.
You wanted a more Amerithrash style game – it’s very Euro in how it operates despite the look.
You want the clearest rulebook!
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I'm known as The Broken Meeple, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel devoted to board and card games. I live in Portsmouth, UK, working as a Chartered Tax Advisor and I enjoy playing games of many genres and varieties with as many people as possible.