Board Game Review: Llamas Unleashed

Llamas Unleashed. It’s already an intriguing game before even finding out what it is, but once you see the cards you’ll be playing during an average game it’s almost definite you’ll want to learn more. But what we need to find out is whether the great artwork and brilliant slices of humour is enough to keep you hooked in the world of unicorns. Read on to find out!

Some time ago a game was released called Unstable Unicorns. It was a card game where you played and collected a series of unicorn-based cards to build up a set of unicorns before anyone else could do that same, while simultaneously trying to ruin other people’s games by playing various cards to either bolster your own cards or mess theirs up. It was fun, especially in short bursts with a few friends. But, apparently, people wanted more llamas, and as such Llamas Unleashed was… well… unleashed. If you’ve played Unstable Unicorns then you’ve pretty much played this (in terms of gameplay and mechanics at least) but there’s so much great stuff in here that it’s definitely worth a revisit.

The basics here are that you draw cards and play them turn by turn until you end up with a full set of llamas in front of you. Along the way you’ll be able to play cards that power up your llamas, cripple those of others and allow you to carry out certain actions like drawing from the discard pile or swapping cards with others. The game moves along at a pretty rapid pace, especially as some cards needs to be played quickly while other players either aren’t paying attention, or before they get chance to react to what you’re doing. There are huge numbers of different cards in the deck, far too many to explain here, but definitely enough that you’ll be able to play a good few games before the same cards start cropping up regularly.

There are, as you can see, baby cards (which everyone starts with one of), basic llamas which don’t do a fat lot other than count towards your target llama count, and magic cards like this Fearsome Alligoater which have an effect in certain circumstances. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but what’s clear here is two things: firstly the artwork on the cards is fantastic, with bright vibrant colours and so many varieties of llamas, goats and other similar creatures that you’ll wonder how they came up with all the ideas.  But also, and you’ll see this in the photo below, is that the puns are strong with this one. When you’re holding cards with names such as Spit Happens and Alpacalypse it’s impossible not to raise a smile when you first see them, and it’s a humour that carries through into the experience of playing – the chances of playing this without a lot of laughter and fun is pretty slim.

With everything so clearly laid out and the always-useful reference cards available to each player, it’s a piece of cake to learn how to play Llamas Unleashed. On each turn you can either take cards or take and play cards, and with a single objective of building up a set of standard animal cards there’s no confusion over what each player it trying to achieve – you’re all in the same boat, it’s just that some people are likely to get theirs rocked by the other players a lot more. In fact an early lead in the game is probably a big disadvantage, at which point other players will pile on the misery by playing cards that seriously hamper your progress. There’s a chance that some people won’t like that idea, but there’s also a chance that those people should consider a more tactical start to their game and not whine so much, so side with whoever you fancy on that one.

There’s further strategy when you start to see how collecting three of the same kind of animal gives a “herd bonus” giving additional power to your cards and letting you nudge closer to victory – that is, unless someone else has got something lined up to bring it all crashing down around you. Still, you won’t know until those rams start doing their stuff…

So for you and a couple of friends Llamas Unleashed could very easily provide you with some great fun for a few games. It’s unlikely you’ll fill a whole evening with this one game alone, but I’m not sure that’s really the point. You also won’t really get the most out of the game if you’re playing it as a 2 player game; that might be enough to put some people off, but while it does work like that it’s just not as fun and frantic as, say, 4 of you playing against each other. But, again, that’s not what this game is for. This is for a group who want a laugh and a chance to engross themselves in something so utterly ridiculous that you forget all of the other rubbish that’s going on in the world.

In a time of world anguish and moronic politicians ruining everything they touch, Llamas Unleashed could be just the escapism and fun you need. Easy to recommend.


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