Full disclosure: A review copy of Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game was provided by Z-Man Games.
Back with more Love Letter! Or, at least, more Love Letter-adjacent games. I just tried Jabba’s Palace a few weeks ago, so, this is the next logical step on the Disney-owned properties for a Love Letter game. These, as far as I can tell, aren’t just Love Letter reskins; they’re entirely new games within the Love Letter system. That’s kind of exciting! It’ll be interesting to see how they change everything up. So let’s find out!
In Infinity Gauntlet, Heroes collide with Thanos and his Black Order to try and stop the Mad Titan from claiming the six Infinity Stones! You’re not 100% sure what happens if he does collect them, but you’re 50% sure that it won’t end well for you. It probably won’t end well for you either way, but that’s more of a you problem than you’re currently aware of. One player will play Thanos and try to claim the Stones, and the other players will cooperatively play as Marvel heroes trying to stop him! Who will win?
So one player is going to be Thanos; the others will be the Heroes! Each player gets a reference card (they’re double-sided). Shuffle the Hero Deck, first:
Give each Hero one card. Next, shuffle the Thanos deck:
Thanos draws two cards. Place the Power tokens nearby:
Finally, place the life-tracker in the center of the play area, with the Heroes getting their tracker on the top space and Thanos placing his tracker on the space matching the player count (include the Thanos player in that count).
You should be ready to start! Thanos goes first.
In Infinity Gauntlet, players play on two teams: Team Heroes wants to defeat Thanos, and Team Thanos wants to collect or play all six Infinity Stones. Gameplay follows standard Love Letter protocol! On any player’s turn, they draw a card and then play a card, resolving its effect. For Thanos, Thanos has his choice of the three cards in his hand (after drawing).
Some cards can “defeat” other cards, causing them to be discarded face-up in front of the player whose card was defeated, and their team loses one health. A player whose card was defeated immediately redraws. Many of Thanos’s cards instead, when defeated, are shuffled back into the deck. When that happens, Thanos draws a replacement card before shuffling.
When fighting, players compare cards, and the lower value is defeated. If there’s a tie, neither player is defeated. If a hero fights Thanos, one of Thanos’s cards is randomly chosen; if Thanos fights a hero, Thanos chooses which card he’d like to play. If you have Power Tokens, you must play exactly one during any fight you participate in. They give you +2 to your “strength” (the effective value of your card).
Beyond that, players cannot talk about the cards in their hands with each other or tell each other how to play.
If the Heroes ever run out of health, Thanos wins! Thanos can also win by a “snap” victory: If Thanos ever has all six Infinity Stones in front of him (or four played and two in his hand), he can reveal his hand and snap to win! If Thanos ever runs out of health, the Heroes win!
Player Count Differences
I think that, despite being a very unique game within the Love Letter … sphere?, Infinity Gauntlet still falls victim to one of the pitfalls of Love Letter more generally. It’s just not as compelling at two players as other player counts. It’s, to be fair, slightly better than some of the other Love Letter titles, since the one-versus-all aspect lends itself well still to one-on-one play. It’s a bit disappointing, though, since the fix is largely just “the Hero player gets two turns”, trying to effectively still approximate a three-player game with two players. Beyond that, though, the game plays effectively the same with more players; Thanos just gets more starting health to compensate for the increase in player count. There are some interesting strategic differences that come into play once you’ve got at least three Heroes, mostly in that Scarlet Witch and Vision’s cards let you essentially seed the deck for all players, which is cool, but beyond that I wouldn’t say that I have a strong preference on player count.
- Set your team up for combos, if you’re the Heroes! There are a bunch of combos that you can do! For instance, you can try passing high-value cards to one player and then give the other player cards that let you fight Thanos. You can also give a player the ability to look at Thanos’s hand and another player the ability to guess what card is in Thanos’s hand. It lets you set your team up to start taking out Thanos! Especially if you can drop an Infinity Stone (and shuffle it back into the deck).
- Try to avoid holding on to cards for too long. Generally speaking, the longer you go without playing a card, the more likely that your adversary will be able to either look at your hand or guess what card that you have. If a player has seen what card you have, you absolutely should get rid of it (unless that player is on your team).
- Thanos should play the Infinity Stones pretty quickly, if he can. Getting the Infinity Stones out of hand prevents the Heroes from defeating them and shuffling them back into your deck. Thanos still wins if only four are played and he has the other two in hand, so getting rid of them fast is always the right idea.
- The Thanos card actually isn’t that good to hold on to forever. It’s the strongest card in the game, and nigh-unbeatable once you have a Power Token, but since it never gets dropped from Thanos’s hand, as soon as any other player is defeated by the Thanos card, they know it’s in his hand. That means they can guess it pretty easily, which makes its long-term utility a bit low.
- For all characters, reordering the deck is pretty much always a good idea. For Thanos, you can put less-useful (or lower-value or previously seen) cards on the bottom of the deck and try to push your Infinity Stones to the top. For the Heroes, you can distribute other cards to put them in the right people’s hands so that you can take down Thanos.
- Remember that Thanos’s cards are chosen randomly when Heroes fight Thanos, and Thanos chooses which card to fight with when he fights Heroes. This can really mess you up! If you saw Thanos had a low card (and didn’t see the high card), then choosing to fight Thanos can still end up with your Hero getting defeated! You can never be totally sure that you’ve seen both of Thanos’s cards, unless you’ve seen cards that are unique (Thanos and the Infinity Stones, for instance, are unique cards).
- Take a look at which cards are face-up, and use that to keep track of what you know and can predict about other cards. There are only so many cards, so seeing the face-up cards can tell you what cards still remain in the deck and which cards are likely in other players’ hands. This can be complicated for Thanos, since when the Heroes’ deck runs out, they shuffle the played cards into a new deck.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The bag is nice! I mean, if you’re not buying Love Letter for the little faux-velvet bags, why are you buying Love Letter? This is probably a thing people think, I bet. Definitely not just a weird thing to fixate on. Regardless, the bags are always very pleasant, and I think they did a nice job with the gauntlet on the bag. It’s fun.
- The Power Tokens are also very nice. They’re very comic-booky and also a nice texture. Very readable, too.
- I like how the cards are very comic-booky too, in terms of their numbers and graphic design. It looks like a comic book, and I appreciate that! It’s a lot of fun and it gives the game an aesthetic that feels very Marvel.
- This is a really interesting iteration on the Love Letter system. I mean, it’s very different, since it doesn’t focus on player elimination basically at all, and organizes players into teams. It’s still got the core Love Letter gameplay, but it’s essentially been pivoted in a big way, which is really cool! I like that they’re iterating on Love Letter beyond just reskinning it.
- In general, I don’t see a lot of one-versus-all games, and I think they’re a lot of fun! It’s not something I see a lot of. It’s definitely more challenging to review, since I want to spend some time on various aspects of the game from multiple different perspectives and player counts. But I think it’s a neat system! I like how it changes as you add more players and how you have to rally against the inordinate strength of the singular player. It’s fun.
- I appreciate that the Hero cards are all different, art-wise. It makes sense that everyone would join up, and I like the range of Heroes showing up. It’s got a few people’s favorites, so, it’s nice for folks.
- I also like that no players are eliminated during the game. If anyone gets eliminated, the game basically ends! It’s nice to have a Love Letter-style game with no player elimination whatsoever. You just get defeated and draw a new card.
- Pretty easy to teach, and the player reference cards being double-sided are helpful. There’s a fair bit of information on the reference cards, granted, but it’s pretty straightforward once you explain what Fight means. Even easier if the other players have played Love Letter before.
- Also very portable! The nice thing about Love Letter games is that they really are just in a tiny bag, so you can throw a bunch of them in a bigger bag and take them on the go.
- The slider system for the game kind of mildly violates some part of my brain in terms of the simplicity of Love Letter, which is a little goofy, but not that big of a deal. It’s just an unrelated couple pieces! There’s detail tracking on a card? It feels like a violation, but, honestly, it’s not that big of a deal.
- The two-player game is just “the Hero gets two turns between Thanos’s turns”, which is a bit disappointing. I kind of wish there were more to it than that, but I’ll likely continue to play this with three or more players.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I was impressed by Infinity Gauntlet! I think that I was, same with Jabba’s Palace, a bit skeptical of the Love Letter-esque games getting released, but that was largely because in the past, a lot of the Love Letter games were just full reskins of Love Letter. These titles are focused more on reimagining Love Letter within the universe of the IP, and changing the gameplay to match. Infinitely Gauntlet provides two decks: one for Heroes to fight Thanos, and the other for Thanos and his minions to collect the stones. It’s pretty cool! I don’t see a lot of one-versus-all games, these days, so getting one of those and having it packaged within Love Letter is awesome. I will say this is not the easiest game, by any stretch: Thanos is a tough guy to beat, and the Heroes have to go at him when he has the stones in hand and force him to reshuffle them into his deck if they want to have a hope of winning. As a product, Love Letter is always nice: I appreciate the bag that the game comes in; it’s a fun color and has solid art. The cards themselves are very comic-booky, as well, and the aesthetic of the game is cohesive and pleasant, even for folks who only know the Infinity Gauntlet from the movies. I think the one-versus-all is fairly novel, as mentioned, so I’ll probably keep this in my collection in the near future, especially for a travel game. If you’re looking for a good travel game, you want a spin on Love Letter, or you just really like Marvel, you’ll probably enjoy Infinity Gauntlet! It’s a neat one.
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