I guess I should admit from the beginning of this review that I am a massive Bruce Lee fan. Enter the Dragon was a staple of my youth and is watched on an almost monthly basis. Couple that with his almost mythical status, his mysterious death, and his legacy living strong in Hollywood to this day - then, in my mind, you have an unbeatable combination. You can keep your Jackie Chan and Jet Li, it's Bruce Lee all the way for me. This is why I've been trying to get hold of the Unmatched: Bruce Lee Hero Pack since its release.
I have been trying to lay my hands on the Lee pack for some time and much like the man himself, it has proved very difficult to pin down. This expansion pack from Restoration Games/Mondo is one of the few single character packs available in the Unmatched series, the other being the equally elusive Deadpool expansion.
Enter The Dragon
Well, it's finally here and the wait was truly worth it - it's glorious. The joy of the Unmatched series is severalfold. As ever, the Bruce Lee miniature included is incredibly detailed and has a bonus sparkly base that cannot be sniffed at. The artwork of the cards follows the Dragon theme from Lee's Hollywood legacy and the health dial equally follows suit.
Aside from the aesthetic pleasures of the pack, one of the consistently strong elements of Unmatched is the theming of each deck. This one, in particular, plays beautifully into Lee's form of fighting. I must admit, it does take some time to master, Or at least, it took me some time to master. It centres firmly around combinations. Once you have worked this out, Unmatched: Bruce Lee becomes a very powerful character indeed.
Fist Of Fury
Unlike other characters in the series, you cannot rely on any cards to deliver a huge, devastating and ultimately game-ending blow. Lee is more of a 'death by a thousand cuts' kind of guy and in order to inflict damage, you are going to need to utilise the 6 Jeet Kune Do cards within the deck. Again, leaning into the theme - Jeet Kune Do being the martial art established by Lee back in the '60s, each one of the cards takes its inspiration from a certain move set, whether it be a 'corkscrew finger jab', 'high straight lead ' or my personal favourite - 'the intercepting fist' (which sounds like a band from one of John Peel's Maida Vale sessions).
The crucial element of each Jeet Kune Do card is not necessarily the damage it inflicts but the fact that it enables the player to gain an action after playing it. Therefore if you can manage your hand successfully, you could potentially have several attacks in one turn which in my experience, eventually leaves the opponent completely defenceless. Ending up with rather a lot of damage sustained, and them cowering helplessly in a heap. If you couple this with the fact that certain cards enable you to reclaim discarded Jeet Kune Do cards to reuse them, you have a very subtle yet powerful mechanism.
It is also worth noting that once you have thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at your opponent, you get to move Bruce 1 space at the end of your turn, neatly stepping away from the action and avoiding any nasty close-range fighters you may encounter on your travels around the board.
The Way Of The Dragon
Other cards continue thematically, using a variety of much-quoted philosophies i.e. 'Be Like Water…' through to nods to films - 'Bring it On' along with the much more prosaic but highly pleasurable 'Hoo! Whaaaaa!' (I challenge anyone to play that card without also making the noise), all accompanied by the beautiful depictions of Bruce in full flow.
How you fair against other Unmatched characters really depends on you avoiding injury. You have no possibility of regaining health in the manner of Little Red or Sherlock Holmes and to compound matters, there is no handy sidekick to disperse some of the damage to. I must admit that the first couple of games involved me taking an absolute beating from Little Red first followed swiftly by Beowulf. That was until I mastered Jeet Kune Do!
So at first glance, you may think that the Unmatched: Bruce Lee Hero Pack is fairly underwhelming. No board, one figure, a health dial and some cards. No sidekick, no funky extra tokens a la Invisible Man - just plain old Bruce Lee. But much like the master himself, appearances can be deceiving. The card detailing Lee's characteristics itself sums it up perfectly - 'The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus'.
With the first part nailed, I'm working on the laser-like focus.