- Designers: Joshua Van Laningham
- Artist: Collateral Damage Studios, Sebastian Koziner, Usanekorin, and Davy Wagnarok
- Release Year: 2021
- Mechanics: Pattern Matching, Push Your Luck
- Players: 1-4
I’ve been playing hobby board games since about 2015. I started recording my game-plays around 2018, and in the 4 years since I started logging, I’ve played 399 different games, and recorded 1,747 total plays. I recall when I first started playing games, every new game was exciting and amazing and would leave me frothing at the mouth wanting more. I voraciously consumed new games, and dove into the deep end to discover the world of hobby board games. At some point, something changed inside me. I lost the childlike glee and excitement that came with every new game. I stopped being wowed by each gimmick, as I had seen them all before. Sure, new games would mix mechanics in cool and interesting ways, but it wasn’t something wholly new. I still absolutely love playing new games, but it’s different now; I’m slightly jaded and worn. This is probably why I’m so excited that Bullet❤️ is now in my life.
How to play
Bullet❤️ is a puzzle-y, push your luck, pattern matching game for 1 – 4 players, designed by Joshua Van Laningham and published by Level 99 Games.
In Bullet❤️ each player takes control of one of the 8 very asymmetric heroines and tries to outlast their opponents. The game revolves around pulling tokens (called bullets) from your bag, placing them into your player board, and manipulating them to match patterns on your cards, so you can clear them from your board, and send them along to your opponent. The push-your-luck aspect comes into play as you pull bullets from your bag. Each bullet has a colour and a number, the colour indicates which column the bullet goes into, and the number indicates the number of empty spaces down it will go, skipping over any full spots. Should the bullet hit the very bottom row, BANG! You’re hit. Lose all your life and you’re out. The last player standing wins.
This is the setup for the solo game, but the multiplayer is basically this for each player.
Each round starts with a 3-minute timer. While the timer is running, players can draw bullets from their bag and place them on their board, manipulate the bullets by using their character specific powers (which cost action points or AP), and can clear the bullets off their board by using their pattern cards. When the timer ends, if players still have bullets in their bag, they must draw the tokens and place them on their board, no longer able to use their pattern cards or special actions.
Each round 4 special ability tiles will be laid out, these tiles will give you a small power, such as swapping two bullet locations, or allowing you to draw a new pattern, or just giving you one action point. As players empty their bag and declare themselves done, they get to take one of those tiles. Once everyone has finished, players take bullets from the centre bag equal to the current round’s intensity, and any bullets they received from their opponents and put them all into their bag, and the whole thing starts over again until only one heroine rises above the rest.
A little over a year ago, I wrote about Bullet❤️ and my experience playing primarily solo and on Tabletop Simulator. In this post, I’m going to focus on the multiplayer game.
I really didn’t think it would take this long to get Bullet❤️ into my hands, and in the ensuing year there’s been another core set published, called Bullet⭐ that contains 8 new characters that you can combine with the first set. Other than the new characters, Bullet⭐ is identical to Bullet❤️. There is also an expansion, Bullet🍊 that adds 4 more characters from the Orange_Juice series of games. It makes me quite happy to see Level 99 games supporting this product by releasing more and more characters.
In Bullet❤️ each character is unique, forcing you to approach the puzzle of the game from a new perspective every time you swap characters. I really enjoy the variability and discovery that comes from pulling a new character. Young-Ja Kim focuses on pushing the bullets off the edges of her board, while Adelheid Beckenbauer can flip bullets over to make them act as any colour. Senka Kasun has two crosshair tokens that sit on her board, and each of her cards will trigger on both of the cross-hairs simultaneously, and Ling-Ling Xiao has you adding up the numbers of the bullets in her patterns and the sum will dictate how many bullets you can clear and from where. Exploring these characters and discovering their quirks is a large part of what excites me every time I open the box.
By the time I got some friends around the table to play Bullet❤️ with me, I had already clocked in 40 plays of the solo mode. I knew I loved the game, and I had spoken really highly of it before they all came over to play. My expectations were high, I was very excited to share this experience with my friends.
The way you play the game in solo vs multiplayer is very similar, you pull bullets from your current, place them into your sight, and use your powers to manipulate the bullets in your sight and use the cards to clear them from your board. Instead of sending bullets to a boss, you’ll just pass them to your left, placing them in your opponents ‘incoming’. This gameplay is exciting and emotional, you need to quickly calculate risks when pulling bullets from the bag hoping against hope that there isn’t a level 4 pink bullet with your name on it.
The big difference between the Boss mode and multiplayer mode is the presence of a 3-minute round timer. Each round, the timer is sent, and play goes as per normal. Once that 3-minute timer goes off, all players are to stop using their actions and patterns. If a player still has bullets in their current, they’re to just continue pulling their bullets from their bag until the bag is empty.
I’ve tried playing both with and without the timer, and I have to say, the timer is necessary. Without it, one player can grind to a halt as they assess and reassess their board, struggling to commit to the risk of taking another bullet tile, or coming to grips of a slightly inefficient move. The timer adds tension, and on some level, forces players to make mistakes.
The risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math
Gameplay encouraging mistakes isn’t a bad thing. It creates interesting situations. Kind of like when playing Tetris, getting the perfect block every time is boring, but when a mistake happens, you now have a short term goal of fixing that mistake while still trying to survive the larger game. Mistakes also give players something to work towards, knowing where you went wrong and striving to do better next time is a great way to build replayability.
One thing I didn’t expect was just how little player interaction is in Bullet❤️. Other than sending your cleared bullets to your neighbour, and grabbing one of the available extra benefits at the end of the round, you almost don’t even notice the other players at the table. During the 3-minute round you are so focused on pulling your bullets and arrange things in your current and trying to clear everything so quickly, that when the round ends, it feels like you’re coming up for air. Only at that moment do finally look around at your opponents to see what they are doing, and remark on how many bullets one player managed to clear, then just set up for the next round. During the actual gameplay, it feels isolating. Each player is just doing their own thing and trying to be the last one standing when the dust settles
This is fairly disappointing, it begs the question, why play together if we’re not ‘playing together’? It also makes it difficult for new players to ask questions, or for other players to catch rule mistakes. Just to drive a final nail into the coffin, when players are eliminated, they have to wait for everyone else to finish.
Thankfully, Bullet❤️ is a fast game. Games are on average somewhere between 5 and 7 rounds total, with most players starting to get eliminated around round 4. Another benefit to the 3-minute timer, when a player is eliminated, they aren’t sitting on the sidelines for very long. For some, player elimination is a cardinal sin, but considering the game only lasts for 20 minutes, it’s palatable.
As I said before, I absolutely love the puzzle of Bullet❤️. I enjoy the push-your-luck aspect of pulling bullets from your bag and slotting them into your current. I like the cerebral challenge of moving the bullets in the most efficient way to take full advantage of your pattern. And I really enjoy, at the end of a round, seeing the huge pile of tokens I’m sending to my friend. That said, the solo mode turns the puzzle up a notch by giving you a boss pattern you need to complete lest bad things happen in-between rounds. The puzzle aspect is the part that I enjoy the most, making the solo mode the definitive way for me to play
I’ve remarked earlier about how new games haven’t been exciting me lately. How all new games feel like iterative changes on previous games, and how none have been leaving a lasting impression. Bullet❤️ has left an impression, it has a spark that lit a fire in my soul. It’s the first game I’ve rated a 10 on BGG since 2016. I have so much fun with Bullet❤️ and I continue to come back to it. With it’s incredibly fast playing and satisfying gameplay, it’s already the board game that I have the most plays logged (although 10 of those plays were me as Muriel losing to 3 – That Which Points over and over again. What an incredibly difficult boss!). I will never turn down a game of Bullet❤️, and I’ll continue to sing its praises, even if the lack of player interaction left me slightly disappointed after my multiplayer plays.