You have 3 minutes to read this review of Bullet <3!!

Those son of guns over at Level 99 Games have done it again. They’ve created an kick butt new board game experience.

Surely they can’t keep getting away with this?

Designer: Joshua Van Laningham

Publisher: Level 99 Games

If you have never heard of this game think back to the 90’s where there was an outbreak of arcades across the world. Think back to games like Raiden or Ikaruga, where you’re a space ship shooting bad guys while all manner of ships, bullets and everything else flew your way. These mechanics combined with competitive tower defense games, made a decade later, give you Bullet ❤.

Bullet ❤ is played in 3 minute rounds. With everyone playing at the same time, on their own boards.

During these 3 minutes you will draw tokens from a bag placing them on a board in front of you. These bullets are numbered, colour coded, and are placed in the matching colour column from top to bottom. Jumping over any bullets already placed. For example, a blue two bullet is placed in the blue column two spaces from the top. If there is already a bullet in one of those spaces. The bullet is placed in the third space from the top.

You can see how this creates a waterfall effect. Where if you pull more than one of each colour, then the closer the bullet gets to the bottom of the board. If it reaches the bottom, that’s when it does damage to you. Take enough damage, and you’re eliminated from the game.

Thankfully, you have special powers to help you move bullets around the board. And patterns which, once fulfilled, will help you to clear out swathes of existing bullets at a time.

At the end of each round, every bullet you clear goes to the person on your left. Likewise, every bullet the person on your left removes, heads your way. If you do well enough, your friend’s face will share the same look as 300 Spartans did seeing the Persians arrive.

Three pattern cards from Bullet, it shows icons for empty squares, and which bullets are destroyed
The pattern you need to match is the circles, the explosions are the bullets to remove from your board

I immensely enjoyed Bullet ❤ because while it’s simple enough to play, you can get better at it, and learn to get better at it. In my plays I noticed I was consistently going through five layers of learning. Similar to seven layers of hell, except it’s fun, light hearted, and you don’t get damned for all eternity.

The five layers are:

  1. First, your only thought is surviving – how do I make it to the next round?
  2. Once you have a handle on surviving you then begin to feel out the powers of your heroine.
  3. Then you start thinking about Star Power. Clearing bullets with stars on them gives you mana back. Now that you’ve got a feel for your heroine, you now want to arrange your patterns so that they remove as many star bullets as possible.
  4. At this point your gelling with your heroine, and you’re comfortable with holding off a lot of bullets. Now it’s time to plan your attack. Instead of focusing purely on survival, you start thinking about which bullets you’re sending to the next person, and what combinations. For instance sending 6 green bullets to your friend who already has 3 green on his board. That creates a tough situation for them to think out of.
  5. The last layer is learning every heroine and their weaknesses, and then tailoring my attack pattern for each.

This is a lot easier to write about than to do in practice because you’ll be on a time limit that gets tighter and tighter each round you play. And with incoming bullets pulled randomly from the bag, you’re not always going to be in a good space for these layers of thought. Leading to a lot of risk taking, sweaty hands, and asking: can I pull one more bullet?

All of the characters in Bullet.
Note: These pictures show the deluxe edition – standard edition comes with cardboard tokens.

It’s the combination of push your luck, and tactical pattern matching that keeps Bullet ❤ never far from my playing table. Add on 8 unique characters, and 4 distinct modes of play, and you’ve got yourself a game that will stay on my shelf for years to come.

Bullet ❤ absolutely succeeds at doing what it set out to do – to emulate a bullet hell style game. It’s quick to learn and play, with games lasting around 20 minutes. But has enough layers and addictive game play to make me want to play it more and more. The only knock against the game is using music for a timer. After playing 10 rounds in a row I’ve acquired a Pavlovian response where my heart rate spikes whenever I hear certain songs out in the wild.

Thanks for reading my review, I’m currently ranking all my board games in a list I made in 3 minutes. You can see Bullet <3’s initial ranking below.

Initial Rank: 4

With this addition, Level 99 Games secures two spots in my top 10 – so far – and Bullet ❤ takes number 1 for real-time games I’ve played. Here’s two questions for you. Have you played any games from this publisher? If not I’d love to know who your favourite publisher is and why.

David Norris

Lover of dogs, books, comics, movies, anime, television, video games and most importantly board games. My site is all about the latter, and my journey through the glorious hobby.

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