Full disclosure: I did a Kickstarter Preview of Unbroken back when the campaign was live. I backed it with my own money.
What is this game about?
Unbroken is a game about what happens after a dungeon crawl gone wrong. You wake up in the dungeon, alone, and all of your friends are dead. Your stuff has been looted. You have nothing, and you must escape—and hopefully take revenge on the boss monster who wrecked your party.
You will face four monsters in a game of Unbroken, and you will have a limited amount of time to spend before each encounter. During that time, you'll explore, gather resources, build weapons, and potentially scout ahead to see what monster you will face (something I highly recommend). How will you budget your time? Many of your actions are paid for with effort—so how much effort are you willing to expend? Should you grab another resource, or should you choose to rest? There is also a bit of push-your-luck involved in the lead up to a monster fight. If you choose to confront the monster before you run out of time, then you are the one who has a slight tempo advantage in the ensuing battle. If you dawdle for too long, the monster will ambush you instead, which may make it a bit more challenging to beat it. Except for the fourth and final monster, the bosses can also be avoided—but if you choose to sneak on by without defeating them, you also give up rewards that could be tremendously useful down the line.
Not only are your in-game choices interesting as you scavenge for resources, but there are several monsters you could encounter at each stage, as well as several different characters to choose from. Every character has unique special abilities, you can pick up different skills, and you will roll for different combinations of boss monsters every time you play, which means the game will have quite a bit of variety.
How does it play solo?
Unbroken is specifically designed for solo play. A true solitaire!
Let's get the tough part of this conversation out of the way first: Unbroken is a very good game. It is also a highly problematic game, specifically because of the way the publisher handled (and is continuing to handle) fulfillment of the Kickstarter campaign. I'm not going to detail the situation here, but it is very bad—bad enough that I will probably not back another Golden Bell game, and I don't feel comfortable encouraging anyone else to do so. Artem Safarov, the designer, is a great guy, but I don't know if he has control over what happens to his game anymore.
That said, I did receive my copy of Unbroken, and I really like it. The most natural game to compare it to is One Deck Dungeon, and I like Unbroken better. I like the agency of the choices I have. I enjoy scouting and preparing for encounters with boss monsters. It's satisfying to choose between encounter cards, to decide what resources to trade, to decide what time to spend. I feel like the choices I make have a big impact on the outcome of my game, and there is enough variety among the choices that I can make different ones every time. I also love choosing and trying out different skills for my characters, and the strategies that those skills subtly push me towards.
Unbroken is also the perfect length for a small box game. It's quick enough to play more than once in a single sitting, or to take out if I want to get a quick game in but don't have much time. Setup is speedy, takedown is easy, and the game between is brisk and never seems to wear out its welcome. Unbroken is definitely going to enter my regular rotation of work night games.
My one real complaint about Unbroken is that the game can be very swingy. Monsters attack differently depending on the dice you roll for them, but it runs a bit deeper than that. Because each monster is chosen randomly when it's time to encounter them, you can spend a lot of time arming yourself to confront one monster... only to find that the next one has a different fighting style and very different weaknesses. It's definitely possible to overcommit in the wrong direction and get smashed later in the game, depending on which monsters you encounter. That said, it is still possible to scout and to mitigate bad circumstances to an extent.
Do I recommend it?
Yes—if this game had a different publisher.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.