Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 26 August 2021

The Game with your name on it:- Bullet

Game: Bullet♥︎

Publisher: Level 99 Gams

Designer: Joshua Van Laningham

Year: 2021

Bullet is a 1-4 player puzzle game in which players take the role of anime heroines defending the earth against a never ending rain of destruction. Until they are the last heroine left, at which point the rain of destruction mysteriously ends in completely normal and not at all suspicious way. If you are playing solo then you can play the boss battle mode against mega-strength versions of the other heroines, or simply play normally attempting to get a high score.

A game of Bullet takes place over several rounds. In each round players will add a number of bullet tokens into their personal bag, reset their energy to full and draw three pattern cards. Then the three minute timer begins. During the three minutes you'll be drawing tokens from the bag, a token will go into the column equal to its colour and then drop down a number of spaces equal to it's number, skipping any spaces that already contain a bullet token. Should a token ever fall to the bottom of your track then it will damage you, take enough damage and you are out of the game.

Of course you do have the ability to fight back. Each player has a deck of pattern cards from which you'll have three face up each round. Should you be able to get bullets into an appropriate pattern then you can discard the pattern card to remove a number of bullets from your board as indicated by the patter. Though it's worth noting that this is the basic function of pattern cards, not only does each character have a different deck of patterns, but some characters use them in unusual ways. Any bullets removed this way get handed to one of your neighbours, a kind gift for their next round. Playing patterns is free, but you do need bullets in the right places, that's where you'll be investing energy. Energy can be used on a number of abilities which vary by character. Typically they let you draw more pattern cards and move bullets around, which can both help you line up patterns, and make it slightly safer if one column keeps getting hit. Should your timer run out all is not lost, but you can no longer use energy or pattern cards, you simply have to draw the rest of the bullets from your bag and hope you survive.

Bullet brings in a lot of unique elements to create a game like no other. The puzzle elements are evocative of games like Puyo-Puyo or Tetris without being yet another tetromino puzzle game. The strongest part of this is that all your defeated bullets in a round get passed onto the next player round the table. Just like those classic video games, one player having a good round results in their opponents being dumped with a load of bad tiles. Where things change is that every character is so unique, some are more powerful, but can only take two hits, some have the ability to heal so it encourages you to take slightly more risks. Some have patterns that are more flexible, but less powerful. One doesn't even remove bullets the normal way, but instead pushes them around, letting you push them off the board to clear them. All this variability does wonders for the longevity of the game but introduces a potential issue.

In competitive videogames  characters are created by designers to all be equal. But in reality this is far from the truth, at high level gameplay some characters are a frame quicker here or there, or perhaps they have a couple of pixels more range, letting them win when the player input is otherwise equal. Fighting games end up putting their characters on Tier lists with better characters being "high tier", while the less fortunate ones end up being "low tier". This isn't necessarily a problem, all the characters are playable, but a player using a high tier character, all else being equal, will beat one using a low tier character. While I can't claim we played the game enough to know the intricacies of every last character, it certainly struck me that not all Bullet characters were created equal. Some simply couldn't clear the same number of bullets as others in ideal situations. To be fair their ideal situations might have been more lenient, but as the later rounds devolve further into the too many bullets to handle range, some characters didn't seem to be able to keep up. I wouldn't be shocked to find a tier list of Bullet characters somewhere on the web!

Ultimately Bullet hasn't earned a place on our shelves. This isn't because I don't think its a great game. The concept is fantastic, the art is good, the musical soundtrack that gives the 3 minute timers is a great idea (though could use a touch of tweaking to let you know time is nearly up). While it can have some characters that feel a touch weaker than others I'm sure an experienced player would know how to use them better than me. Mostly the issue is with all the different characters having significantly differing playstyles Bullet demands a lot of repeat plays and investment to get the most enjoyment from it. I have a *lot* of games, so only a handful can \afford to be the kind of games that demand this level of investment into the gameplay. I fully appreciate that for a large number of people this isn't a con, but instead a huge boon..


Bullet was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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