Corona restrictions have led to a significant lack of game nights recently. Several of my reviews were affected by this. While I can‘t guarantee that I won‘t change my mind about these games as I get to play them more, I want to at least write down my preliminary assessment of the games I played since October.
To start off with the obvious, Unicorn Fever is a colourful game with a quirky sense of humour. Its combination of colours is just as skewed as the proportions of the unicorns, goblins and dwarves depicted on the game‘s cards. These aesthetical decisions aren‘t just there to grab your attention, but to communicate just how serious you should take the game as a whole. Within its gaudy presentation you‘ll find the kind of rock-solid and effective betting game, that leads to the occasional screams of excitement around the table.
You generally don‘t need a complex set of rules for that. Accordingly, Unicorn Fever is quickly explained. Before each race you get three actions to split into bets, gaining advantages and influencing the racers. This provides enough structure and decisions to keep your interest for more than just a single game. As with its predecessor Horse Fever the winning odds for the unicorns are adjusted after each race. If they placed better than expected, they‘re given less profitable odds and vice versa. This encourages you to bet on underdogs, and to push them past the finishing line with a little luck and a generous helping of card effects.
The game‘s level of excitement is in part due to how volatile the winnings are. In a single race you could win incredible sums or lose it all, depending on how much you want to risk. It‘s this instability that creates tension without feeling arbitrary. After the first race you might find yourself far behind. A hail mary bet might often be the only shot you have at staying competitive. This can be appealing, but it can also be quite demotivating. This isn‘t a game for people who can‘t handle a little frustration.
If you‘re the kind of person to play Unicorn Fever like a dry eurogame with carefully chosen strategies and well-calculated moves, the unpredictability of it all will strike you as an unforgiveable weakness of the game. But the design decisions behind it aren‘t simply justified by way of its theme. Instead the fickleness of successful strategies opens up the game for more passion and theatrics at the table, as you cheer on your favorite. This, at least, makes Unicorn Fever quite memorable.