Critical Play: Is this game balanced? – Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns

Formal elements

Unstable Unicorns by Ramy Badie in 2018 for 2-8 14+ players is a wondrous card game where players build a unicorn army and hoard unicorn babies. In it, players draw unicorn and special effect cards from a deck each turn or add a unicorn to their stable. The winning player must get 7 or more unicorns in their stable first. The game plays by using both baby unicorn and general deck cards: instant, upgrade, downgrade, magic, magical unicorn, and basic unicorn cards. This game is a unicorn-centric card game.

Players start with a baby unicorn in the stable — unicorns with no special powers except to look cute and act as sacrificial lambs if need be.

Players draw to hand from a deck of cards unicorns with special powers that could potentially be added to their stables. Special unicorns include those that allow for extra cards to be drawn each turn, those who destroy other unicorns, and those who apply special effects to stables.

Types of fun

Unstable Unicorns includes aesthetics of challengefellowship, and fantasy. Play as a unicorn stable master as you challenge your friends in this fun game, and betray your friends or make tenuous truces with them as you hoard a unicorn army. This game is particularly fun because players can gang up on the leading current player.

Four types of Game Balance: Three Ways to Balance Game Objects (Transitive, Intransitive, and Fruity)

Despite being a fun game to play, and relying on chance to draw unicorn cards, there are certain over-powered cards that make this game slightly unbalanced and giving the first player a slight advantage — thus, cards have differing cost/benefit ratios because it takes the same turn to draw differently powered cards. At the same time, the creator attempted to balance certain overpowered cards: for example, “Sadistic Ritual” forces a player to sacrifice a unicorn card in their stable, but in return, the player gains a new card from the deck. At the same time, “Tiny Stable”, a card that limits players stables to less than 5 cards, has no other balancing factor and is an overpowered card. Outside of basic and baby unicorns however, each unicorn card is unique and has different effects and powers. Thus, Unstable Unicorns has a fruity relationship between cards, and drawing and playing them.

Moments of success or fails and things I would change to make the game better

Successes: Quite a fun game when you play with friends, as you gang up against friends or betray them to build your unicorn army and tear down the person with the most unicorns in their stable with crazy cards such as “Sadistic Ritual” (forcing players to sacrifice their own unicorns) or “Tiny Stable” (sacrifice unicorns if you have too many). Each card is unique and memorable to play.

Fails: Overall a difficult and complex game to understand initially, with so many different types of cards to consider. Moreover, it was initially unclear what actions specifically a player can do in a single turn, and the order of actions (because there are so many unique cards). If I was making the game, I would reconsider having so many different types of cards or at least make a tutorial video that makes the game rules more clear. At the same time, having so many unique cards is what makes the game fun in its replayability and memorability. I suggest further playtesting to better balance the game as certain cards are overpowered.

About the author

I like animation and game dev yeet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.