Last Week’s Gaming – September 14th 2020 – Boomerang Minute Hominid Letter Dungeon VII

Boomerang Score Cards

I don’t know how much gaming I will get in this week with PAX Online finally being here!

There is so much going on right now. GPU announcements, console announcements, even announcements for announcements – it’s crazy! But as always I managed to play something ūüôā

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you would have seen I turned a sleepless night into staying up for the opening with Mike Pondsmith. I have been constantly enjoying the content, and I am looking forward to catching up on what I missed during the working day today.

But most of that is stuff I will talk about later. Today, I want to tell you about what I did get to play last week!

My Kickstarter version of 5 Minute Mystery arrived this week, and I was keen to have a play. I was not disappointed.

5 Minute Mystery is probably best described as a cooperative version of Guess Who. One person has control of a Codex, and must ‘enter’ the symbols described by others from a scene card.

If the code matches, you can draw a clue. The clues and the ‘culprit’ have coloured signs, and if the patterns match, you know if the culprit does or doesn’t have that clue.

5 Minute Mystery Components Mid Game
Not a lot of components are involved, but there is surprsing depth here

The 5 minutes is a bit flexible in this version. Different cases have different time limits, and if you run out of time, you can have one guess at the culprit.

It’s hard to summarise, so I will do my best to have a proper review done for when 5 Minute Mystery hits retail channels.

Alpal introduced me to this little gem on the weekend. The premise is simple – go on a four week holiday of Australia, taking part in as many touristy things as possible.

Boomerang is one of those ‘so simple it’s fun’ style games. I probably would have scored a little higher if I hadn’t spent the first two rounds looking for the catch!

The scoring of Boomerang is similar to a lot of Roll and Writes. It boils down to the collection and placement of some variety. The difference is instead of rolling die or drawing cards you have a 7 Wonders style drafting mechanic for your holiday!

Game in progress - Weeks travel
You draft the week's activities passing around cards between the players

The gameplay is quick once you get into it, and the challenge is subtle enough you don’t worry about it until it’s too late. This creates a ‘one more go’ knawing at you as you are sure you can score better next time!

The designer is credited as Scott Almes, of Tiny Epic game. I am hoping to play again with Alpal this weekend, and I will be looking into it more for my own collection.

Love Letter – Steam

I have had this in my Steam library for ages. My love of Love Letter (no pun intended) is shown on the site. I grabbed the digital version because I had the chance to, and intended to do a review at some point.

Well, what I have found is a single-player experience much better than I thought it would be!

Playing against three AI opponents, I expected to either be destroyed or my opponents to be so stupid there wouldn’t be a challenge. What I found was a very balanced experience that made me work for my second place position.

Love Letter Game in Progress
I pulled the Princess as the last card - what a great position to be in this round!

Bottom line Love Letter is the base game experience I have talked about before, so you know what you are getting. I would still prefer to play in person, but there is a surprising amount of flexibility on offer in this release scoring-wise.

If you enjoy Love Letter, grab this version when it is on sale would be my advice. What I would love to see is DLC/different versions available for some of the other versions. Come on Asmodee. You have all the groundwork here!

Resident Evil VII – PC Game Pass

I wrestled a little bit with if I should consider putting Resident Evil VII into Last Week’s Gaming. I have no intention of finishing Resident Evil VII on PC. I only installed it because it was free with Game Pass, and I wanted to see how it looked on PC.

Well, it looks AMAZING. The one thing I truly wish is that the VR mode was made available on PC. Playing Resident Evil VII on PSVR is the best way to play the game hands down. But Resident Evil on PC is without a doubt the prettiest way to play this return to the series classic roots.

Beaing searched for in the Baker House of Resident Evil 7
It's dark and grimy, but everything felt so immersive on PC. Only PSVR gave it a run for it's money.

The screenshots don’t show this as well as they could. All you see at the start of the game is a very run-down house. But it ran so well, and the feeling of ‘ick’ was so prevalent, it pulled me back me. I might do a Resident Evil stream to get the best of both worlds on this one.

Alien Hominid Invasion – PAX Online Steam Demo

Alien Hominid is a series I have appreciated others playing, but never got into myself. A cutesy art style coupled with bullet hell mechanics (think Contra) sounds excellent, but have never been my go-to gaming choice.

Well, in PAX Online this year, the scavenger game has to do with Dr. Exoskeleton. Here in Australia we never got the chance to do these, but this year we can!

What has this got to do with trying a game? Well, one of the checklist items bought the game to my attention:

Dr Exoskeleton Scavenger List
QR Codes and Brain Teasers - I am having fun with this

So I went to steam and downloaded the Demo for Alien Hominid Invasion. So far, I have only played the first stage, and I don’t know if the demo has anything to do with the scavenger hunt at all!

What I can say is that if you enjoy the series or run-and-gun bullet hell type gameplay, you should grab the demo yourself. Even as a casual observer of the genre, this was fun enough that I plan to finish the demo this week. Even if I am wrong about the scavenger hunt clue, it was a fun (if frustrating) little romp!

Alien Hominid Invasion Gameplay
What's happening on this screen? WHO KNOWS! But it was a heap of fun

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon: Familia Myth – Infinite Combate – Switch

I am now (I believe) halfway through the game. I am doing Bell’s sixth chapter, meaning I have one more Ais chapter and four more Bell chapters to go.

I have been enjoying Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls (I am not finishing the title – it’s huge!) because it’s been a pretty mindless grind fest. Do some side quests, complete the story missions, continue.

The Minotaur Boss looks like a deformed puppy in this graphics style
Story wise, I am at a pivotal moment for Bell. Pity the graphics don't match the situation.

What I am hitting is a wall to continue. The text portions are so long! There have been a couple of missions where it took longer to read the background than to complete the dungeon!

I always knew this would be a niche title. I never expected to be saying to people ‘this will change your mind on casual RPGs’. But even as a fan of the anime, the game is wearing out its novelty value.

If you were waiting on my final thoughts, right here and now I would say Fairy Tail is a better casual RPG anime game. You would have to be a real fan of Is It Wrong to want to pick this up, and honestly you probably already have it if that’s the case.

Hestia musing on Bells strange status updates
Story wise, this is very important. But it took about 4-5 minutes to get through all this text!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game is more than a re-theme!

Infinity Gauntlet Banner

When is Love Letter a different game? Infinity Gauntlet pushes this argument to the limit.

I love me some Love Letter. A fun and light filler game, I have spoken about it a few times. Check out my thoughts on a lot of the Love Letter games here. Now Marvel has gotten into the theme, and Infinity Gauntlet has gone one step beyond a theme upgrade.

How? Love Letter has turned into a one-vs-many game! One player takes the role of Thanos the Mad Titan, and the others take turns playing different heroes trying to defeat him.

Infinity Gauntlet Box Front
Infinity Gauntlet Box Back

Wait, how is that Love Letter? I thought the point was not to play the Princess?

See what I mean about pushing the limits of what constitutes a Love Letter game? Making this a competitive/cooperative experience certainly changes the feeling of the game. That said, it has sparked my interest.

The goals in the game are intuitive to anyone that has watched the Marvel movies. The heroes are trying to knock Thanos’ health to 0 before he can do the same to them. Or before he can collect all of the Infinity Stones.

So how do you fight in Love Letter? I remember the Baron starting a score comparison, but combat?

Infinity Gauntlet Hero Deck
A sample of heroes and powers. You can also earn bonuses for fighting!

Well, you have the right comparison. When you initiate combat, you compare the card in your hands secretly, and the person with the lowest number is defeated.

Unlike Love Letter, in Infinity Gauntlet there is no player elimination though. The losing team (heroes or Thanos) loses a life point, and the defeated card is put down and replaced.

Thanos has six health, and heroes have an amount determined by the number of players.

How do you collect Infinity Stones?

Infinity Gauntlet Thanos Deck
Thanos players have their own deck to play through, and holds more cards than heroes

Here lies another big difference between Love Letter and Infinity Gauntlet. The heroes and Thanos have their decks, and the stones replace characters for individual value cards.

When a card is played (discarded in the original rules), the card is placed in front of the player. So Thanos can be finding and playing Infinity Stones from their deck, while heroes are doing everything they can to thwart his plans.

But Thanos doesn’t have to play all of the Infinity Stones to win. Thanos players get to hold two cards in their hand instead of one before drawing, so they can keep a couple back for hidden information.

Once they can reveal all six stones, the player reveals and then snaps their fingers, winning the game. So we all get to recreate ‘The Snap’!

But I have Love Letter, why would I want this one?

Usually, that would be my stance. If you have Love Letter or a variant you like, that’s often all you need for your shelf. For a game with similar mechanics but a different experience, I would suggest Lost Legacy from Seiji Kanai, the creator of Love Letter.

But talking about the rule changes here, this feels like a very different game is on offer that the ‘a Love Letter game’ hides. I would have looked at a Marvel skinned Love Letter sure, but I wouldn’t be excited about it. Not like this.

One-vs-many games also usually put a lot of pressure on the ‘One’ player, as they have to act as game master and rules lawyer while trying to play as well. Infinity Gauntlet fixes this problem, as they are mostly playing the same game as everyone else with their own deck. This makes switching the Thanos player for multiple plays super easy.

Also, because Love Letter is such a simple and fun game, a long game is usually around 15 minutes. Plus you can play Infinity Gauntlet with up to six players, including more people, and no one can get knocked out first turn!

So at the moment, Z-Man has only announced the Infinity Gauntlet is coming. You can’t order a copy just yet unless your local store has it available on preorder. But when it is available, the low price point will make this an instant inclusion in my monthly games order. When I have it, I will tell you all about my thoughts on Infinity Gauntlet then! ūüėÄ

You can check out more about Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game from the Z-Man games site here. You can even grab the rules to decide if you would be as interested in Infinity Gauntlet as I am!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Love Letter has gone digital

Love Letter Digital

If it’s digital, does that make it Love Email?

Yeah, if you stop reading after that terrible pun, I understand.¬† But I don’t apologise for it :p

A while ago I did a review on a whole bunch of different Love Letter games.  To date, my favourite non-extended/premium version is still Batman Love Letter, but as I said in the review you can add the guard rule pretty easily to any version.

Going through a few bits and pieces of news info from when I was away, I found this little trailer quietly sitting in my notifications on YouTube:

It looks pretty, and the pricing doesn’t seem to bad at USD$7 for the Steam version which is the most expensive.

My initial thought on a digital version was “That’s cute.¬† I don’t think I really want it though”.¬† Then I thought about it a little more.

I play things like Onirim and The Game on my phone fairly regularly – so regularly I don’t even think of them as games anymore, just something I do.¬† And Love Letter is even quicker than both of these games.

There is a solo mode against AI opponents and online play which would also widen the potential player pool and help get more games played.

Technically there is also a pass and play mode, but except for trying the ‘cheap’ digital version to see if you like a game I can’t see why you would do this.¬† It’s just a personal choice – if there are people I want to play a game with, I would rather sit around a table than a phone.

The art of the video definitely captures the feel of the original art, but as shown in my review there are also a lot of popular variants as well.  Maybe these will come as expansions in the future?

Love Letter Digital Scores
I am guessing the numberical scores are a kind of ranking system? It does have me intrigued, but not yet hooked

If you are interested in having a look for yourself, links and prices are shown below:

Google Play – AUD$4.59
iTunes – AUD$5.99
Steam – USD$7

It’s cheap enough on the phone, but I might see if there is a sale on the Steam version before buying – unless I really want another game on my phone.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Love Letter Review

Love Letter Cover Art - AEG Edition
Love Letter Cover Art - AEG Edition
Released 2012
Designer Seiji Kanai
Publisher AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (Really want 3-4 though)
Playing Time 15-20 minutes
Category Hand Management
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Well, if I am doing something different, might as well go the whole way…

Hi everyone, and welcome to my review of Love Letter, including a few alternate versions.

A little bit of site news first.  Looking at how different people look at the site, I am trying new layout options to improve how people use the site.  So just like how I love to hear what you think about what I write, please let me know what you think of the new layout as well!

Now with that is out of the way, let me tell you about one of the best examples of a micro card game there is, Love Letter.

Love Letter is a game originally released in Japan by Seiji Kanai.  While the art style changed with the version I know from AEG, the gameplay remained the same.  Only the theme was changed slightly to fold Love Letter into the Tempest series from AEG, which turns each game into a different event or perspective in the city-state of Tempest.

Because it’s a retheming of an existing game, no prior knowledge of any of the other games is required or even necessary.¬† Take Love Letter as its own game and your enjoyment level will confirm this.

Love Letter Classic Components
'Classic' Love Letter with my first attempt at custom components

The first thing many people will notice is there isn’t much to Love Letter.¬† It’s a bag, 16 playing cards, some cubes, and instructions.¬† That’s it.¬† Because it comes in a little bag and was pretty cheap to buy, I would always hear people passing it over because they wanted “A real game”.¬† To give you an idea of how much I love playing Love Letter, the roses above don’t come with the game – these were the first game components I created with my 3D printer.

So you know I love the game, and you know a bit about its history now.  So what about the game itself?

Well, I have left it because the game is so simple.¬† Kind of like Kingdomino last review, it’s easier to teach you how to play it here than try and summarise it.

Firstly, take all 16 cards in the deck and shuffle them well.  Then without looking at it, take the top card and put it off to the side.  This card, whatever it was, will not be used this round.

Love Letter 2 player game
Typical hand during a two player game

Each player then takes a card into their hand.  This becomes their starting hand.

There are two ways to win a round of Love Letter – be the last player in the game, or have the highest value card in your hand when there are no more cards to draw.

On each players turn, players then take a card from the draw pile and choose which of the two cards they want to play.¬† On each card is a different set of actions that can be taken, and it’s from these actions that players choose from.

The most powerful and the most dangerous card in the game is the Princess.  If you have the Princess in your hand at the end of the round, you are guaranteed to win.  However, if you have to play the Princess for any reason, you instantly lose, so learning to mask your hand is a must!

Love Letter Princess 8
The Princess - Instant Win, or Instant Lose

The lowly Guard is also a double-edged sword.  If you are holding a Guard at the end of the round, you are almost guaranteed to lose.  But if you can name a card that another player is holding, then that player is instantly eliminated.

One up from the Guard is the Priest.  If you play a Priest, you can secretly look at another players hand.

Love Letter Guard Priest 1 2
The Guard and The Priest

One up from the Priest is the Baron.  The Baron is an interesting card.  You play the Baron, so you have one card left in your hand.  As you play the Baron, you pick another player, and you reveal your hands to each other.  The Player with the lowest value in the top left corner is eliminated.

Following the Baron is the Handmaiden.¬† Her power is simplest – you can’t be picked for another player’s powers until after your next turn.¬† This guarantees you stay in the game for a little while at least.

Love Letter Baron Handmaid 3 4
The Baron and The Handmaid

Now we start hitting the royal characters.  The Prince is also a simple effect Рmake another player discard their hand, and draw a new card.  This can be how the player with the Princes can be eliminated without a Guard naming them.

After the Prince, there is the King.  The King has the power to exchange hands with another player, meaning that the two players now know what each is holding.  Done at the right time, this can win or lose the game for a player.

And finally, we have the Countess.¬† The Countess seems like the weakest power but is great for messing with other players.¬† The rules on the Countess are simple – if you have the King or Prince in your hand, you must play the Countess.¬† If you don’t have the King or Prince, you can discard it anyway and let people think you have it.¬† It’s great watching people waste turns trying to eliminate you from the wrong information.

Love Letter Prince King Countess 5 6 7
And finally - The Prince, The King, and The Countess

So, if you are the last player in the game after a round or have the highest value in the top left corner of your card, you win the round!  Your victory prize is a red cube, denoting a Love Letter.  In a four-player game, four tokens will make you the overall winner!  The number of tokens increases to five and then seven with fewer players.

So as you can see, a very simple game, but one that can be very tense and rarely have I played Love Letter and had people not enjoy it.  It may not be a game you would play all night, but it is very versatile in when it can be played.  Love Letter was a popular choice during games of Werewolf for players that had been eliminated for example.

End Game
In this round, the Handmaid wins

And that’s it!¬† With the right equipment, you could start playing Love Letter right now.¬† There are commonly two sticking points with new players however.

The wording on the cards almost universally say to discard cards, but this is usually done when people are playing them.¬† It’s a subtle distinction and not one that has been refined in future versions, but it can cause a stumbling block.¬† To get around this, I usually teach that cards go down in front of you when played, and when you have to put any card in this area the actions take effect.¬† This works for most people that are confused by the wording.

The other initial confusion is almost always the Baron.  Every time I see new players start from the rules, they compare the Baron card with another player, rather than the one in their hand.  Using the above clarification also usually works in clarifying this as well.

For a game so simple, the interactions and pieces to follow make for a truly satisfying experience.¬† It’s like playing poker, where you think you know all the cards in play and what is remaining, but your never quite sure.

But you don’t need to go the logic deduction route to enjoy Love Letter.¬† This is a great game where you can just draw the cards and see where it leads, and still have a great time playing.

Love Letter is a great game and one I really enjoy playing, as do a host of others.  This has been proven by a large number of alternate versions with a retheming similar to what AEG did with the original Love Letter.  As such, for versions that are small iterations on the original, I present to you the different versions of Love Letter in my collection!

Munchkin Loot Letter

I have mentioned in the past my love-hate relationship with the original Munchkin card game.  While I can only play Munchkin with certain people, I do enjoy the humour of the game, and this transferred to Love Letter beautifully.

If you know how to play Love Letter (which you do now!), then you know exactly how to play Munchkin Loot Letter.¬† The cards are smaller to match those used in the Munchkin game, and the names are different, but that’s it.

There is something I find amusing using a Net Troll to make a player lose their hand, or gaining protection from the Duck of Doom and other creatures with the Wishing Ring.

If you don’t like the renaissance/royalty theming of Love Letter but enjoy Munchkin, grab this version of the game as they are identical.

Munchkin Loot Letter
Munchkin Loot Letter - same game, new art

Yes, the Caped Crusader decided he wasn’t going to be left out of the action!

Similar to Munchkin Loot Letter, gameplay is the same as the original Love Letter with one exception.  The Guard action, now played by Batman, gives players a victory point if they can eliminate another player with their correct guess!

There is a catch to this point – it doesn’t work if you guessed Robin.¬† While the player will be eliminated, you don’t score a bonus for knocking out your protege.

This rule variation alone makes Batman Love Letter my favourite version.  This version allows players that can deduce other players hands to be rewarded, and possibly even win even if they may not be lucky enough to win the whole round.

This rule is also so straightforward, you can play Love Letter and Munchkin Loot Letter with the same rules as well.

Love Letter Batman
Love Letter Batman - My Favourite Version

The version I thought about not including because it changes quite a few of the rules from the original.¬† These changes make Archer: Once You Go Blackmail the more ‘gamer’ version of Love Letter, but for the rules to really flow it does help to be a fan of the show.

The rules have changed so much I am not going to describe them here, but some cards have alternate powers and allows the ‘burn’ card back into play at times.

Essentially this is still the basic Love Letter though, it just takes most people a couple of games to see all the rules in play.¬† If you have been playing games a while and you’re an Archer fan, this is a great game for your collection.¬† It just may not be for everybody.

Archer Once You Go Blackmail
Archer adds a few tweaks making the game the most complex of the classic series

So looking around, there are other versions you haven’t mentioned?

There are a lot of Love Letter variants, and the ones I haven’t mentioned until now are either because:

  1. They are similar to the ‘classic’ Love Letter, but I don’t own them
  2. They are expanded rules very different to the original.  These are easy to spot as they can have more than four players.

If you see any of these, feel free to grab them – they are very close to the original, but not owning or playing them I can’t really comment beyond that.

Some of the ones I don’t own include:

Letters To Santa
Letters to Santa - the Christmas Themed Love Letter
Love Letter Adventure Time
Adventure Time adds Heroes and Friendship
Love Letter Hobbit Bag
The Hobbit adds The One Ring to the mix as an extra card

Two other notable exclusions from this review are Love Letter Premium and Lovecraft Letter, which fall into the different game category.  While this review gives you an idea of the gameplay, I am saving these two games for a separate review.  Both share cards from 1 to 8 just like the classic, but a large difference is two different types of card for each value, increasing the options available as well as the number of players.

Suffice to say, if you like the original and need to play more than four players, these are great choices for you.

One thing that all version will have in common is playing with two players.¬† As this is a game of deduction and card counting, two player games tend to be short affairs and not as fun.¬† It works and I would play two players, but I would always offer someone a seat at the table to make it three players every time.¬† Luckily, Love Letter is one of those games that getting¬†curious onlookers isn’t difficult.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD