Love Letter Batman is a light, bluffing card game that can be picked up and learned very quickly.
Tabletop games and board games have come a long way in the past decade or so. Still, most people have pretty limited exposure to board games more than the old (in many cases, awful) classics like Monopoly.
Most of us that enjoy the hobby have to do a bit of looking to find others that enjoy similar games in terms of complexity level. It can be a real bummer, though, to not be able to share a hobby that you enjoy so very much with friends, family, and loved ones closest to us.
The topic of Gateway Games is an important one, in our opinion, as they try to bridge that gap between non-gamers with little to no exposure, and others who have a few games under their belt. We’ve highlighted a few of these before, and there are some excellent titles that have been released recently such as Splendor or Sheriff of Nottingham . We also love Ticket to Ride!
Still, there’s another group of non-gamers who probably wouldn’t even enjoy Monopoly or Clue. Now part of that could be that Monopoly sucks, and Clue is… just okay. The reality is that they just might not enjoy that long or committed a game. Most of us know friends or family like this, which makes even those Gateway Games even a bit too much.
Cracking these folks takes something more than cute gem chips or smuggled bags of goods in little bags. It takes an idea. Sometimes the truth that games like monopoly sucks isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded with an awesome, easy game that doesn’t suck.
Does Love Letter Batman deliver??
Gateway Game - Great for even Non-GamersLove Letter Batman is about as easy as Uno. I’ve had success teaching this game to even my Mom who is hardly a gamer. Players don’t have to manage much more than the card in their hand and the card they then pick up on their turn. Some of the concepts won’t make sense in the first game or two, but beyond that it’s very easy to understand and the rounds play in around five minutes.
Love Letter Batman comes in a really small box that can fit in most pockets. It really is a great travel-sized game, and is quite possible to shrink down even by another 80%-90% by just taking the set of cards included and the batman tokens, although you could use something else to count if you really wanted to make things compact.
The main components in the game are the cards. These cards each have a number in the top that determines the value of it, and text along the bottom that points out the function of the card when it is played.
The designers smartly included very handy reference cards as well that show the list of all possible cards and the respective count of each. This lets every player know exactly what is in the deck and what they will be looking for.
I really like the artwork on the cards for Love Letter Batman as well. Where it would have been very easy to do a cheap movie tie-in with the (excellent) Chris Nolan Batman movies, they instead chose to stick with a more classic comic look. Having not read many Batman comics I can’t say whether or not it fits a certain era or not, but the artwork for each character is great.
The cards also are very easy to understand and very explicit leaving just a few wonky interactions that the rules have to address. Everything is designed to keep the game tightly wound and easy to pick up.
The Love Letter Batman tokens are a nice touch too – just the little Batman symbols on a thick yellow wooden token. They bounce around a little bit, and bigger chips might have been nice, but they are all the game really needs.
The tiny-sized instruction manual for Love Letter Batman is a concise manual that covers the basics of how to play quite well. It also has a number of different specific rules covering how to play through some of the card interactions that aren’t immediately apparent.
It’s very likely that this game could be opened up fresh, instructions read-through fully, and being into your first game in less than ten minutes. It’s refreshingly light and has zero clutter to distract the player from the task of learning the already-simple game.
For only having 16 cards, I have a hard time thinking of another entry that packs more game-per-card than Love Letter Batman. (I’m sure this could be applied to the other Love Letter games as well!) It’s a game that revolves primarily around deductive reasoning to determine what cards each other player has, and which cards are left.
Love Letter Batman begins with shuffling the deck of 16 and removing 1 card from it. This leaves 15 cards and it also creates imperfect information for all players. This is an important point later on in the process.
Each player receives one card and on their turn they draw one more card and have to play one of them. Playing that card is what lets them use the action text on the bottom of the card. Some cards will force others to discard, other cards must be discarded if you have another card, and the Joker card is an automatic loss of the round for you if you ever discard it!
Winning the round can happen in one of two ways: either you are the last player who isn’t eliminated, or you are the player who has the card with the highest number value when all the cards are drawn. This creates a great tension between the high-value, hard-to-hold cards like Two-face, Harley Quinn and the Joker and other more useful lower point cards.
The lowest point cards, with Batman on them, are some of the most interesting and useful. They allow you to call out another player and accuse them of having a card. If you get it right, they are eliminated from the round. If you eliminate someone who has a villain card, you not only knock them out but you also get a point – noted by the Batman token.
These points are ultimately what wins in Love Letter Batman. You get one for being the last player standing, or the player with the most points. You can also accumulate them by using Batman to eliminate other players AND THEN score additional points for winning. This creates a really dynamic game where a 4-point swing is possible at any time in a 4 player game!
The one missing card that is taken out every round also adds a random element to it that really increases the tension when the game is drawing down. Every time you play a card you play it in front of you and leave it there. At the end, almost every player can almost deduce what is left by what they have in their hand compared to what is on the table. Also, some prior actions you have taken, or hidden information that you find out can supply further information.
That process is repeated in Love Letter Batman until one player reaches 7 points. You could add or subtract point values to create a more interesting game. We think 7 points is a great fit for 4 player games and maybe 6 points for a 3 player game – just to provide the chance that someone with only 3 points could win at any time with a great/lucky Batman guessing round.
I was, and continue to be, extremely surprised by how many times we’ve played Love Letter Batman. The count of plays has grown very high just due to how very accessible it is for almost anyone. This game comes out at holiday parties, bars, practically anywhere. It’s also very easy to carry around, so that accessibility is matched with its compact nature and ease of transport.
For many groups it will fit in the “filler game” category quite nicely. It offers light gameplay that manages to remain engaging as well. If you already have another version of Love Letter, then the question of whether or not it’s worth a purchase becomes harder. Unfortunately, we haven’t played the other ones and cannot comment with surety on the difference.
Even past the basic level of deduction in the game, there are also some great opportunities for bluffing. This adds another layer to the gameplay that adds just a little bit more value to an already incredibly low-priced game.
Love Letter Batman fits right in that sweet spot of accessibility and fun mechanics to make it interesting for almost anyone who isn’t completely opposed to the idea of having fun. Each one of you will be sitting around the table, looking from one to the other with mild distrust, and will be constantly trying to gleam information from the other players.
The Batman cards being laid down are especially exciting – as you get a chance to knock someone out of the round at any time. We have had numerous hilarious experiences where that card will be played on the very first move, and knock someone out with a lucky random guess. Cards get thrown up in the air, everyone laughs, and the game moves on. Player elimination is hardly a problem as the game moves so briskly.
The Joker card is another one that creates a really fun level of tension. Having this card in your hand feels like you’re holding a time-bomb just waiting to go off. You also know that if you can somehow squeak by to the end of the round with the Joker you’ll win.
Then there are other times when a Catwoman card lets someone else look at what you have in your hand. If they see you have a Joker in your hand? Time could be really short for you! Or maybe, just maybe, someone else will knock out the player who knew your dark secret!!
The point swings that can happen in Love Letter Batman are exhilarating as well! As long as you can just stay in the game, you can swing it with a few great/lucky guesses when playing the Batman card.
Events like these aren’t rarities in Love Letter Batman either – and that’s another reason why it seems to have gotten so much love from those we’ve played it with. Where some other boardgames require a good bit of commitment to get to that sweet spot, or memorable moment, Love Letter Batman doles them out quite liberally.
Love Letter Batman does exactly what it set out to do, in creating a quick and light tabletop game experience that engages all experience levels with surprisingly fun gameplay.
What we Loved about Love Letter Batman.
What we didn’t Love as much about Love Letter Batman.
– Not much.
– (We could have wanted more substance to the game, or advanced cards for boardgame or tabletop enthusiasts, but that would have likely muddled the base game that is wound just right)