Games will often go out of print, Battlestar Galactica being one of these games. Since losing the IP, FFG has not been able to reprint the game and this has made the game highly desirable. The base game alone fetches high prices on the second-hand market and I can see why. The game is incredibly popular, with a fantastic hidden traitor mechanic that makes every game tense, exciting and has you accusing anyone and everyone of being a traitor.
Back in May however, FFG teased a new game, revealing pieces of an image each day. This culminated in the announcement of Unfathomable, a complete reskin of the ever-popular Battlestar Galactica game but this time, set in the Arkham Horror universe. Players take on the roles of passengers aboard the SS Atlantica, destined for Boston.
Unfortunately, as one would expect, everything is not as it seems and otherworldly forces, as well as some of the players themselves, are attempting to sabotage the journey and sink the Atlantica before it reaches its destination. The aim of Unfathomable is to fight off the Deep Ones and weasel out the traitors to ensure your ship arrives safely into Boston and you live to tell the tale. The players that are hybrids, however, will have very different ideas!
How To play
Unfathomable is certainly on the weightier side of the scale, with various different aspects that need to be closely monitored throughout. The game itself is quite easy to play once you get the hang of it though and the turns flow quite nicely if you have a good group.
In order to play, you first have to set up the various decks of cards (I highly recommend sleeving this game due to the card-heavy nature) which align to the 5 different skills a player can have; Strength, Lore, Influence, Will and Observation. You also have the treachery skill deck, which we will touch on later.
Once these decks have been shuffled, you then need to shuffle the Mythos deck, which will be used during each turn to offer up scenarios for the players and skill checks for them to perform. Also, once this has been done, you will need to set down the various miniatures, which depict the Deep Ones, Mother Hydra and Father Dagon.
Once this is complete, players can select their characters from a large roster of possible selections. Each character will have a unique skill set, as well as an ability and starting item. The final thing each player will need is a loyalty card and this is where the game gets fun! Dependent on player count, you will shuffle together various human cards, together with hybrid cards and a cultist card (if desired) and one card is then dealt to each player.
Once dealt, every player will then secretly look at their cards together and see whether they are an innocent human, attempting to save the voyage and make it to blustery Boston unscathed, or a devoted hybrid or cultist, intent on letting the other players meet a miserable end at the hands of Mother Hydra and Father Dagon.
In terms of core gameplay, on a turn, a player will firstly receive their skill cards, as dictated on their player reference sheet. These cards are used in skill checks to either benefit the check or edge the group ever closer to their demise.
A player will then take two actions, these actions being a combination of movement, attacking, rescuing passengers, using abilities, trading or revealing yourself as a traitor. Once both actions have been taken, the mythos phase begins and a mythos card will reveal a choice that must be made by a player(s), a skill check that needs achieving or both.
These crises form the groundwork of the game and how you interact with them throughout the game will influence the outcome of the game very heavily. The mythos event will also spawn new Deep Ones, Mother Hydra or Father Dagon, as well as advancing either the ship's journey or the ritual track.
You will also have two different roles that are held by players throughout the game: the Captain and the Keeper of the Tome. These two roles allow for additional actions to be taken, as well as allowing that player to make decisions that occasionally arise from the mythos deck.
As the Captain, you can decide which voyage cards are used to advance the ship. While this may be helpful, as a traitor, you can still become the captain so this could be incredibly valuable to you throughout the game, as long as no one suspects your intentions and decides to throw you in the brig!
The Keeper of the Tome is in possession of various spells that can assist the crew and passengers and attempt to edge the ship ever closer to Boston, but again, this can be very disruptive when placed in the wrong hands!
Of course, the game becomes even more interesting when an individual decides to out themselves as the traitor, affording themselves additional abilities and actions that they would not ordinarily be able to employ. Once a player(s) has revealed themselves, they can start to obtain treachery cards from the traitor skill deck.
These cards will always count against skill checks and can also offer up actions that will have a negative impact on the progress of the ship. They can also directly attack human players, block space actions and escape the brig more easily if they are ever confined to that space.
Of course, revealing yourself makes it more difficult to carry out your sabotage since all players know your intentions, however, it does come with its benefits and this balance of pros and cons makes for an interesting decision for the traitor(s) throughout the game.
In terms of the rest of the game, all players' turns will continue until an endgame condition is met and the joy comes from the conversations, arguments and accusations you have and make throughout the game!
For those familiar with the original Battlestar Galactica game, you will come to see a lot of similarities between BSG and Unfathomable, with a few minor tweaks here and there. Regardless, what we have here with unfathomable, is an excellent reskinning of an already excellent game.
Personally, I relate more to Unfathomable, since I am a big fan of Lovecraftian fiction so of course, I will find more of an affiliation with this game for that matter.
There is something very unique about traitor-style games for me. Whenever you play such a game, you will always find yourself very much on edge. While it is just a game, not knowing who is who and having that impending doom hanging over you (if you are a human that is) is a horrible, yet strangely satisfying feeling.
What Unfathomable does in this case, is take that traitor mechanic and crank it right up to 11! I have not had one single game where arguments have not broken out, or where people have sworn blind, they know who it is, only to find they are miserably ill-informed and are swallowed up into the depths by Lovecraftian horrors.
While undoubtedly frustrating, I still managed to find great enjoyment after losing a game of Unfathomable. We always find ourselves debriefing at the end, talking our way through our thought processes and decisions and seeing if the outcome would have been any different, especially if we hadn’t locked that innocent player in the brig!
Plans And Strategies
Plans and strategies will also vary from game to game, as the mythos events do a fantastic job of keeping the game varied and the different spawn actions for the Deep Ones as well as a good variety of skill checks all add to this variation. Being the traitor means balancing your currently available actions and progress of the game and measuring this against what you stand to gain by revealing.
There have been occasions where a traitor has been revealed very early on in a bid to panic the other players but also to impact the skill checks in a big way, something that proved very effective in the end. On the other hand, a traitor has remained hidden till the bitter end and just about scraped a win by reducing one of the resources to 0.
The characters also add to this replayability value, with a good mix of different skill sets and abilities which offer players a wealth of choice in terms of play styles. The point here is that the game offers up a fantastic replayability value and while the initial cost may be on the higher end for board games, the experience afforded by the game more than makes up for this.
We once again have a high level of quality from FFG, with great card stock, excellent sculpt quality and anyone will be generally happy with their purchase. Perhaps my one gripe would be the Deep One sculpts specifically. While they look menacing to begin with, they unfortunately appear to be serving up some vigorous jazz hands and once you see it, it's impossible to unsee!
My other small negative is the separation with the rulebooks, in typical FFG fashion. While both rulebooks have everything you need in them, I did find myself having to flick regularly between the two to get a full understanding of our first game. I would prefer one single rulebook, but this is down to personal preference. As rulebooks go though, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the content at all!
Unfathomable, for me, is right on the money when it comes to an enjoyable board gaming experience for 5 plus players. It executes the traitor mechanic remarkably well, balancing the game as a whole, ensuring neither side has more of an advantage than another.
Some games I have played that utilise the traitor mechanic, can at times be very frustrating as it can become very one-sided, but Unfathomable does an excellent job in keeping it well balanced throughout. Of course, the IP and theme is a big hit for me as well.
Our favourite game is Mansions of Madness and having another game set in the Lovecraft universe may seem like overkill but Unfathomable extinguishes those feelings by serving up brilliant gameplay.
All In All
Those that are familiar with BSG should still find some enjoyment from Unfathomable. Of course, core gameplay may be similar, but the theme and small additions will go some way to offering a somewhat altered game experience. All in all, I have loved what Unfathomable has offered to gamers.
A solid entry into the traitor-style game genre that hits the mark time after time, no matter how many times you play it. The thrill of trying to root out the saboteur is a fantastic feeling and being able to utilise so many different options as the traitor ensures you don’t feel constrained or trapped by the role and instead enjoy your time trying to sabotage the other players.
The game certainly feels heavy when you first embark but once the core rules are nailed down, players should easily understand the game and be able to navigate well across the turns. I did find that at 3 and 4 player counts, you can find it a little less enjoyable as your options are, at times, a little more constrained but it certainly isn’t unplayable.
The game, however, just shines at 5 players and this is the sweet spot in my opinion (as well as the many users of Board Game Geek!).
For those players desperate to understand why BSG rates so highly, this is a great opportunity to feel that board game magic, especially since the BSG game commands such a high price tag nowadays and copies are scarce.
If you are the lucky owner of BSG, would I recommend you race out and snap up a copy of Unfathomable? In all honesty, it depends. If you love the IP of Unfathomable, then yes, I would definitely look at getting a copy. If on the other hand you have no major feelings or simply prefer the BSG universe, then I would perhaps hang fire.
Regardless, Unfathomable sets out to allow players to relive the magic of the original BSG game and it certainly hits the mark in that regard and is now a firm mainstay in my collection!