Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, Love Letter, Love Letter!
Wait a second….
Something isn’t right about that.
Quite right Batman, I have nicked your theme to build excitement about a new game that I am reviewing, the fantastic new version of Love Letter; Batman Love Letter!
Great Gaming Remake Batman! It’s a New Version of Love Letter!
This is Batman Love Letter, a new version of Love Letter.
I have always felt that Love Letter is a modern day classic; it’s a perfect filler game for basically every situation. I have played a game of it between bigger games, put the lovely little cloth bag into my pocket and took it to the pub for something to do while we drank before an evening event, I’ve even seen it pulled out for between round games at competitive card game tournaments. It is both easy to explain, but quite deep, with a lot of game theory behind it. Meaning if you master the game and your own powers of deduction, you can become quite a skilled player. For such a little game it does so much work, even morphing how the game feels depending on who you play it with, with less experienced players it can be a fun game of guessing who has what, but with more experienced players it is cut throat, looking for any tell, whether it’s in what card you play to how your eyebrows move. It has many different levels of play for such a simple and small little game.
Now Batman Love Letter is mostly identical to its predecessor in terms of gameplay, but it has some slight differences and the theme has been reworked in a surprisingly natural and pleasing way. On the whole I think Batman Love Letter is definitely an improvement on its predecessor. Before I get into all that though I’ll give you some background on the original Love Letter and how that game works.
So for those of you who haven’t seen it before, Love Letter is a fantastic little card game about getting your Love Letter to the person closest to the castle Princess to win her affection (which is measured in red cubes of Love, nothing more romantic than a cube I say). This involves a bit of bluffing and a heavy amount of deduction, while each player plays one card each turn for various different powers. They include guessing what is in someone’s hand to eliminate them, forcing someone to discard their hand, protecting you from other cards for a single turn and various other powers.
Each of the cards in the game represents a member of the castle staff or residents and each card is also numbered with higher numbers representing a closer relationship to the princess. So it begins at 1 with a lowly guard and goes up to 8 with the Princess herself. Everyone begins the game with 1 card in hand then each turn draws one card and plays one of the two cards in their hand, with the played card granting them a power, included those mentioned earlier. At the end of the round whoever has not been eliminated compares hands and whoever has the highest number has the person of closest relationship to the Princess, so is successful at getting their Love Letter to the Princess and wins a point (token of affection – romantic red cube).
However this is not Love Letter this is Batman Love Letter! So what’s the Difference?
Well in this game, we are not trying to win anyone’s love, we are instead trying to capture the most dangerous criminals the city of Gotham has ever seen!
Whereas in Love Letter the higher the card value the closer the person on that card was to the Princess in Batman Love Letter the higher the value of the card the more powerful it is and, generally, the more dangerous a villain and more valuable it is to have that card in custody (your hand).
Each round is played in precisely the same way as the standard game of Love Letter, with one card drawn and played each turn and at the end of the round, the player with the highest value card wins. In this game instead of receiving a love cube, the winner of the round receives a Batman token for having been the best vigilante and caught the worst villain, which is clearly superior in every way. I mean, just look at them below in all their glory compared to the mere cube of normal Love Letter. Unlike the original Love Letter which required you to win a certain number of rounds, dependent on the number of players (for example 4 in a full 4 player game). Batman Love Letter needs you to win 7 Batman tokens, the extra number is to compensate for the one new rule which I shall get into later.
So in the original Love Letter the cards were numbered 1 to 8 and in order went; Guard, Priest, Baron, Handmaid, Prince, King, Countess, and finally Princess. In Batman Love Letter the cards are still numbered 1 to 8, but the cards are now iconic Batman characters going in the order; Batman, Catwoman, Bane, Robin, Posion Ivy, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, and finally the Clown Prince of crime himself The Joker.
But wouldn’t slapping a Batman theme on another game mean it doesn’t make sense? Not so!
To remain basically the same game the cards in Batman Love Letter have to have the exact same powers as the cards from the original Love Letter. You may think, as I did, that this would cause a thematic disaster, with the card powers being starkly different to the actions and the theme of the Batman character they represent.
Thankfully I found this not to be the case at all, with the card powers making a lot of sense to the character they represent. I won’t go into all of them in detail but you can see them for yourself in the picture below and make your own judgement. My favourite power is Robin giving you protection, which makes total sense for the sidekick, Two-face trading hands, which is very him, and Harley Quinn being discarded if caught with Poison Ivy, being discarded if caught with Two-Face doesn’t make a lot of sense, but some concessions had to be made to keep the rules the same.
Batman of course makes perfect sense having the Guard power from the original Love Letter, allowing you to guess a players hand, and if correct, eliminate that player from the round. Since most of the other cards are villains, this leaves Batman going after all the villains, especially the Joker, because people always want to eliminate the highest value card. This is thematically perfect, Batman Love Letter has done a really good job in terms of theme, especially with the constrictions of having to match a previous game mechanically.
You could make a comparison between the art of Batman Love Letter and the original Love Letter, but I think it would be unfair to do so, as they are both trying to accomplish different goals. The art of original Love Letter is trying to put your mind in a classical medieval castle with its inhabitants, and I think it does that very well. Batman Love Letter is full of comic book characters, and dutifully, its art is taken from the various different Batman comics and shows different comic art, which is awesome, and the vibrant colours of that art brings each card to life. I have to commend the art of Batman Love Letter, both the character art. Even the frames of the cards, as they really fit together to make a great looking game, that really has the right comic book feel.
So the game plays exactly like the original Love Letter? Pow! New Stuff!
So that extra rule I mentioned earlier, the one new rule, which means you need to get up to 7 Batman tokens to win, is a new way to earn these tokens. If you ever successfully knock out another player using Batman, and that player holds a villain card (any card that is not Batman or Robin) you also get a Batman token, allowing you to earn multiple tokens each round, even if you don’t win the round.
This is a brilliant rule and one that improves the gameplay experience immensely. Love Letter suffered from the problem as all card games with random drawing suffer from, its possible to do everything right, deduce exactly what cards your opponents have, and still lose by getting unlucky. Now if you can correctly deduce what your opponent has in their hand and eliminate them using Batman, then you are rewarded immediately. Instead of what could happen in normal Love Letter, where you eliminate two out of three opponents in a round and then still lose to the last one.
Not getting a token for eliminating Batman or Robin is a nice thematic touch that I appreciate and means Robin protects you even if you don’t play him. Since people with Batman are encouraged to go after other players , even if they think you have Robin. It really makes the game feel about chasing down the villains with Batman, instead of normal Love Letter, which often felt about just playing the numbers and having the highest card at the end. The game now also rewards your skills of deduction even more than in the original, which is really what the game is all about, so definitely a positive change.
Another small new addition to Batman Love Letter, but one I would like to mention, is that underneath the number on each card, there is a small circle containing a number of pips, which represents how many copies of that card are in the game. This is very relevant information in a game like Batman Love Letter, so its nice to see an effort to make this information easily accessible on the cards. Considerable effort has been made with the rulebook as well, giving you a bit of background on Gotham and the Batman characters and really making an effort to make you feel part of the fight on crime, despite this being basically a reskinning of another game. Although there was a misprint which referred to the Harley Quinn card as the Penguin card (there is now no Penguin card in the game), an oversight from an earlier stage of the game development I assume, but it really is a small niggle.
What really matters; is it worth playing or buying?
The greatest thing about Batman Love Letter has to be, that it has all of the depth and charm of normal Love Letter and more. The extra rule of gaining a Batman token whenever you eliminate an opponent holding a villain card, rewards you for being good at the game. Even if you don’t win the round and let’s face it, pretending to be Batman searching for the Joker is way way cooler than trying to get your Love Letter to the Princess. Although with the intensity Batman searches for the Joker, both in the game and in the comics you could be forgiven for confusing the two. They definitely have a special relationship.
One of the strongest things about both original Love Letter and Batman Love Letter is also one of its biggest flaws. Personally I love how built around Game Theory these games are, with the information available to you in any game of Love Letter or Batman Love Letter, you can figure out with great probability, and often times with 100% certainty, what the correct move is. It is a game about using the information available to you (what cards you can see) to deduce the hidden information (what cards your opponents hold), and then exploit that. As a very analytical gamer, I relish opportunities like this in every game I play, I enjoy making the correct move and being able to say why and how I figured it out, it’s pretty rewarding. To some people however, this can be frustrating, for example if they struggle to see the right move, boring, if they find it too easy or samey.
To me Batman Love Letter is definitely a game worth owning and playing, but I am very much a fan of the type of game it is, and very much a fan of Batman. Love Letter and Batman Love Letter are a game that does one thing, giving you an opportunity to use Game Theory, you deductive skills, and a bit of bluffing, to deduce what cards your opponents have and outwit them, albeit sometimes with a lucky guess. It does this type of gameplay very very well, but that’s all it does. If you don’t like that style of games, stay clear, if you do I cannot recommend it highly enough.
All in all I would recommend Batman Love Letter to anyone who likes Love Letter, anyone who likes Batman, and anyone who likes deduction & bluffing games and is searching for a small game they can carry around and use to fill time, whether that’s between bigger games or whatever, it’s one of the best little games that I’ve ever played.
The following two tabs change content below.
I’m Dan and I spend my life gaming. When I’m not writing about games or recording the Order of the Dan Podcast I’m either working with games, demonstrating games to people, competing in Magic the Gathering Tournaments or just playing board / card / video and role play games with friends. Originally hailing from Teesside I now live in Leeds but often find myself about the country attending tournaments and conventions and gaming at them so if you see me around please do come and say hi.