Across the Atlantic
Previewing the Gameplay of Unfathomable
Back in June, we announced Unfathomable, the latest board game of traitors and terror in the Arkham Horror Files universe. A few weeks ago, we introduced you all to the ten playable characters in this game and gave you a glimpse into their strengths and abilities. Today, we’re providing a brief look at what the actual gameplay of Unfathomable entails, including the various twists and turns that will unfold in any given play session. Read on to discover what depths of terror await in this thrilling game!
Starting the Voyage
At the very beginning of the game, after everyone has chosen their character and received their corresponding item and feat, each player is randomly dealt a loyalty card. This card, as you might expect, determines where your loyalties lie, and ultimately decides what needs to happen in order for you to win the game.
Your loyalties remain a secret from the other players—it’s against the rules to ask someone whether they are a human or hybrid, and you can’t show the others what your loyalty card is unless you become a revealed traitor (more on that later).
For human players to win, the SS Atlantica needs to make it all the way to Boston. For hybrid players to win, they simply need to stop the ship from reaching port. If any one of the Atlantica’s four resources is reduced to zero, the ship becomes too damaged, or the supply of Deep Ones runs out, then the ship is lost at sea and the traitors win!
Against the Odds
Once everyone has their loyalty cards, then the game can begin. At the start of each player’s turn, they receive five skill cards. The types of skill cards they draw correspond to the skill set on their character sheet, and these cards can be used in a number of different ways, some of which we’ll cover below.
William Bowleg draws 3 lore and 2 will cards at the start of his turn.
During their turn, each player can perform two actions. These can be used to do things like attack a Deep One, move around the ship, rescue passengers, use an ability, and more. Players may find themselves using skill cards to aid them in their tasks—for example, if Arjun Singh attacks a Deep One but does not roll high enough on the die to defeat it, he or another player could play Combat Training to take another shot. There’s a lot to do on the Atlantica, especially while it’s being overrun by eldritch monsters, so you’ll want to make the most out of what you have!
That said, make sure you conserve some of your skill cards, since you will need them to help with skill checks. While performing certain actions or resolving a crisis, the game may call for a skill check, listing two or more of the five skill types (influence, lore, observation, strength, and will) as the supporting skills for that test. Each player has the opportunity to contribute any number of skill cards to that test, playing them all face-down in a pile. The game also tosses two cards from a chaos deck into the mix, which could be of any skill type and may positively or negatively affect the result of the check.
Once everyone has contributed (or chosen not to), the cards are shuffled and then revealed; any skill card of the same type as one of the supporting skills adds its value to the total result, while any card not of the supporting skills subtracts its value! Once the final total has been determined, players compare it to the target number listed in the skill check—if they meet or exceed that value, then they pass the check! If not, the check fails and the players suffer the consequences.
Skill checks can occasionally provide opportunities for the players to gain some resources or advance the ship on its journey to Boston. However, they also provide opportunities for hidden traitors to sabotage the ship. For example, each player’s turn ends with the mythos step, which unveils a crisis that the players work together to resolve. More often than not, these will force the players to perform a skill check, typically with dire consequences if they fail. If a traitor contributes the wrong type of skills to the check, they could easily reduce the result below the target number, pushing the Atlantica ever closer toward its doom.
Adding to the intensity, once a crisis has been resolved, enemy activations occur. At the bottom of each crisis card, there is an icon representing which type of monster activates because of that card. For example, after resolving Hull Leak , the Deep Ones activate, while Food Stores Raid will activate Father Dagon. Activating Deep Ones will have them leap aboard the Atlantica, and any that are already on the ship will attack players and passengers in their space or advance inward to damage the ship. Activating Father Dagon spawns additional Deep Ones directly onto the ship, while activating Mother Hydra damages the ship directly. Remember, if the ship takes too much damage, then the human players lose the game!
Thankfully, each crisis also advances one of the game’s two tracks: the travel track or the ritual track. Each track has its own corresponding token to represent the Atlantica’s progress on either its voyage to Boston or its casting of a greater banishment spell.
When the token on the travel track reaches the “Arrive” space, the players have made it one step closer to reaching Boston. The captain looks at the top two cards of the waypoint deck and chooses one to resolve. The resolved waypoint cards stay in play, and the numbers on them represent the distance that the Atlantica has traveled so far. Each waypoint card has a distance value ranging from 2 to 4, and when the combined total distance of all resolved waypoints equals 12 or more, the humans just need to get the travel token to the Arrive space one more time. If they do that, the Atlantica makes it to Boston, and the humans win!
The ritual track
Meanwhile, when the ritual token reaches the “Cast” space at the end of the ritual track, the greater banishment spell commences. This is a massive arcane pulse that instantly clears the Atlantica’s decks and the surrounding ocean of any Deep Ones that may be there, as well as (temporarily) sending both Mother Hydra and Father Dagon back to the Deep. However, the spell is dangerous; any humans, including the passengers you are trying to protect, that are caught outside when the spell is cast are also instantly defeated. Player characters are sent to Sick Bay while passengers are removed from the game, taking some of the ship’s precious resources with them. Only by being in one of the ship’s internal spaces will someone be safe from the spell, which means that casting the spell at the wrong time could end up doing more harm than good!
There is one more twist to consider while struggling to survive on this ship: while you may begin the game as a human, it is entirely possible that you may awaken to your true identity as a Deep One hybrid halfway through. This is fittingly called the awakening phase, and it takes place as soon as the Atlantica has traveled a total distance of 6 or more.
In the awakening phase, everyone is dealt one more loyalty card. Anyone who gains a hybrid loyalty card during this stage must now play as a traitor for the rest of the game, even if they were human up to that point. This phase drives home the point that you can never really trust anyone, because you never know when they may turn against you!
The Traitor Revealed
During their turn, a hybrid player may decide that keeping their identity a secret is no longer beneficial. When that happens, they can use an action to reveal as a traitor. Doing so will shake up the game in a number of ways, with the first (and most obvious) being the character’s reveal ability.
This is the reveal ability for Arjun Singh.
These are single-use abilities that fire off as soon as a traitor reveals themselves, and they can have devastating effects for the humans if used at the right time. For example, Arjun Singh can reset the travel track when he reveals, which can be a huge setback to the humans’ progress if triggered right before the token reaches the Arrive space.
After triggering their reveal ability, the revealed traitor passes their extra loyalty card to another player. If they managed to get more than one hybrid loyalty card between setup and the awakening phase, then they can give their extra card (without revealing it to the other players) to someone to transform them into a hybrid as well. As if a traitor revealing wasn’t bad enough, this passing of the loyalty cards adds more tension to the game as human players wonder if a trusted ally was just turned against them.
After revealing as a traitor, the hybrid is then able to use treachery cards in place of normal skill cards, if they wish. These cards can activate monsters, reduce the ship’s resources, or cause other issues for the humans, and they can be contributed to skill checks to sabotage the results.
These are just two examples of the dastardly tricks in the treachery deck.
However, revealing as a traitor does have a cost. Once your identity as a hybrid is known, you no longer draw mythos cards at the end of your turn, which limits the number of crises that can hinder the humans. In addition, revealed traitors can only contribute a single skill card to skill checks, and since the other players know that you will try to sabotage it, they will plan accordingly when contributing their own cards. Finally—and perhaps most importantly—you lose access to your character abilities when you are a revealed traitor, which means you will have to change how you play your turn for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, the human players may take the opportunity to remove a revealed traitor from the equation, if only temporarily. Humans can attack hybrids just as they would a Deep One, and if the hybrid is defeated then they are sent to the Brig, which limits their options. Knowing the identity of a traitor also means the human players can rally together and push even harder for victory.
However, the humans should be careful. A traitor does not need to reveal themselves to win the game, which means even if one hybrid is revealed, another could still be working to sabotage the humans from the shadows, their plots unnoticed until it’s too late.
A Tide of Terror
This has been a relatively brief look at the deep (no pun intended) gameplay of Unfathomable. If you find yourself hungry for more, keep an eye on FFG's social media accounts for further upcoming news. And when you’re ready to tackle Deep Ones—or join them—yourself, be sure to pick up your own copy of Unfathomable when it arrives this fall!
You can pre-order your own copy of Unfathomable (UNF01) at your local retailer or online through our webstore today!