A “stable” favorite among casual card games for me, Unstable Unicorns knows what it’s doing and does it well.
Funded by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign and now available via its website, Unstable Unicorns is a card game where your aim is to gather a full stable of six to seven unicorns – depending on the number of players. You can also go try to ruin the game in imaginative ways for others trying to do the same. Players take turns, during which they first draw a card, then play a card or draw an additional one, and finally discard down to seven cards if they have more than that in their hand.
There are many different card types: various types of unicorn cards, some having abilities when played and others only used to fill one’s stable; “upgrades” and “downgrades” with passive effects; and “magic” cards, causing immediate effects of different sorts. There are also the situational “instant” cards, which include “Neigh” cards that allow the player to deny other players’ actions and “Super Neighs” that allow players to deny neigh cards. Such mechanics allow for complex strategies but don’t compromise the game’s accessible and casual nature, keeping gameplay interesting for many sessions to come.
The first player taking a turn is determined based on how colorful the players’ clothes are – the one with the most colors is “the unicorniest” and gets to start. Unstable Unicorns is filled with many other cheeky rules like it, contributing to the light-hearted tone of the game.
The game is meant for two to eight players and is relatively easy to pick up. Apparently not as easy as intended, however, since the game is supposed to last 30-45 minutes, which quickly turned into well over an hour with our group of six – all of us first-timers except for one. Although the basics of the game are still fairly easy to learn, it doesn’t hurt that Unstable Unicorns also has cards containing condensed instructions on playing a turn, some useful terms, and information about different card types. A sort of a cheat sheet, if you will. These are handed out to every player, helping to smooth out the flow of the game if the newbies forget a rule or two.
The “cheat sheet”.
The game is great fun with its wide variety of cards, the descriptions and abilities of each wackier than the other, with the game’s multiple expansions delivering even more over-the-top cards and dozens of hours of fun. Unstable Unicorns is easy to get into, surprisingly deep, and, most importantly, simply fun and effortless to play. It’s no wonder the game gathered as many backers on Kickstarter as it did.
Developer: Ramy Badie
Publisher: Self-published/Breaking Games
Release Date: 2017
Age Rating: 14+
(Article edited 30 November 2020: Removed a section incorrectly claiming that the base game contained adult humor. The card in question was a Kickstarter backer exclusive card and not part of the base game.)