Originally released back in 2012, Love Letter became an immediate hit. The game was borderline genius in how Seiji Kanai created a full fledged game that only utilized 16 cards. The game was the textbook example of how to create a lot out of a little. The game was such a hit that it was not surprising that there have been many different versions of the game released over the years. I never really checked out any of these other games as I just assumed they were re-themes with very little difference to the actual gameplay. I was intrigued by Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game though as it genuinely looked like a unique take on the Love Letter formula. Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game succeeds at taking the Love Letter formula and transforming it into a unique new game that fans of the original or Marvel will likely love.
How to Play Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game
- Choose one player to play as Thanos. The rest of the players will play as the heroes.
- Each player takes a reference card.
- Shuffle the 16 hero cards and place them facedown by the hero players. Each hero player will draw one card for their starting hand.
- Shuffle the 13 Thanos cards and place them facedown near the Thanos player. The Thanos player will draw two cards for their starting hand.
- Place the power tokens in the middle of the table where everyone can reach them.
- Place the life-tracker card in the middle of the table with one slider on each side of the card. The hero track will start on the top space. The Thanos track will start on the space corresponding to the number of players (includes the Thanos player).
- The Thanos player will start the game.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they will draw one card from their corresponding deck. They will then choose one of the cards from their hand to play face up on the table. Each card has a special effect on the game which you will then follow.
The played card will stay face up on the table to show the other players what cards have already been played in the game.
The next player clockwise will take the next turn.
Each number of hero card provides a different benefit to the player that plays it. Each card has a number of symbols along the bottom edge which tells how many of that number are in the deck. The reference cards also say how many of each type of card there is in the game.
When you play a one card, you will chose a number. If the number you guess is in the Thanos player’s hand, the card is defeated. The Thanos players will lose one health and the card that was defeated will be discarded in front of the player. The Thanos player will draw a new card to replace the card that was defeated.
If both of Thanos’s cards match the number guessed, the Thanos player chooses one of the two cards to be defeated. They shouldn’t tell the other players what their other card is.
#2 Black Widow/Gamora/Ant-Man & Wasp
You will choose another hero player. The chosen player will choose one of the cards in Thanos’ hand to look at. They will look at the card and return it to the Thanos player’s hand. This player cannot tell their teammates what card they saw.
In a two player game, you will look at the card yourself as you have no teammates to pick.
#3 Captain America/Hulk/Thor
You may choose to fight Thanos. See the Fighting section below for details on how fights are conducted. You may also choose not to fight Thanos and skip the rest of your turn.
#4 Black Panther/Falcon/Doctor Strange
Choose yourself or another hero player. The chosen player will take one power token from the center of the table.
#5 Scarlet Witch/Vision
Look at the top three cards of the hero deck. You will put them back on the top of the hero deck in whatever order you prefer.
If there are less than three cards you will take the remaining cards and then shuffle all of the face up hero cards on the table. You will then draw additional cards until you have three.
#6 Captain Marvel/Iron Man
You can choose yourself or another player to fight Thanos. The chosen player can choose to fight Thanos or can skip the rest of the turn.
See the Fighting section to see how fights are handled.
#1 Outrider (2)
Choose a player and guess a number. If the chosen player has the guessed number, the card is defeated. The heroes lose one health. The defeated card is placed face up in front of the player and the player draws a new card to replace it.
#1 Mind Stone
Guess a number. If any of the hero players are holding a card with that number, all of the corresponding cards are discarded. The heroes will lose one health for each defeated card. All defeated cards are placed face up on the table and the corresponding players draw a new card.
If the Mind Stone is defeated it will be shuffled back into the deck after the player draws their new card.
#2 Corvus Glaive
Choose a hero player. If that player’s card is number three or lower, the card is defeated.
#2 Soul Stone
Choose a hero player. If that player’s card is numbered three or higher, defeat it.
If the Soul Stone is defeated, the player will draw their replacement card. They will then shuffle the Soul Stone card back into their deck.
#3 Black Dwarf
You may choose an opponent and fight them. See Fighting section below. You can also choose not to fight them and skip the rest of your turn.
#3 Space Stone
You may choose an opponent to fight. See Fighting section below. You can choose not to fight any other players.
You may then choose a second opponent to fight. This must be a different opponent. You will fully complete the first fight before you start the second.
In two player games, you can choose to fight the hero player twice. Before the second fight the player that lost will draw a new card.
#4 Proxima Midnight
Take one power token from the center of the table.
#4 Power Stone
Take three powers tokens from the center of the table.
If the card is defeated, draw a new card. Then shuffle the Power Stone back into your deck.
#5 Ebony Maw
Draw one card and then place one of the three cards from your hand on the bottom of your deck.
If you don’t have any cards left, skip this card’s effect.
If you draw the last Infinity Stone that you need, you must complete the entire effect of the card before you win the game.
#5 Reality Stone
Draw two cards and then choose two of the cards from your hand to place on the bottom of your deck. You can place the cards in any order.
If there are less than two cards left in your deck, draw the remaining cards. You will then place the same number of cards on the bottom of the deck.
If you draw the last Infinity Stone that you need, you must complete the entire effect of the card before you win the game.
If the card is defeated you will first draw a new card. The card will then be shuffled back into your deck.
#6 Time Stone
When you play this card you can copy the effect of any other Thanos card played in front of you.
If this card is defeated, you will draw a new card. You will then shuffle the Time Stone back into your deck.
The Thanos card can never be played as it will stay in your hand. If it should be defeated, you will draw a new card. Thanos will then be shuffled back into your deck.
A few of the cards in the game will initiate a fight.
If a hero player initiates a fight, they will fight Thanos. If the Thanos player initiates a fight, they will choose who they want to fight. The two players in the fight will compare the cards in their hand to see whose card has a higher number. They will compare the cards without letting the other players see them. As the Thanos player will have two cards in their hand, the card that will be used in the fight depends on who initiated the fight.
- If Thanos started the fight, they can choose which of their two cards they want to use in the fight.
- If a hero player starts the fight, they will randomly choose one of the two cards from Thanos’ hand to fight.
The card which has a lower number in the top-left corner is defeated.
The loser of the battle will lose one life which is shown by their life track being moved down one space on the track. The card that lost the battle will be discarded face up in front of the corresponding player. That player will draw a new card from their deck to replace the card that they lost.
The winner of the fight will keep the card in their hand without letting the other players see it.
If there is a tie, neither card is defeated. Both players keep their card in their hand without letting the other players see what the cards were.
If either of the players in the fight have a power token in front of them, they must use it in the fight. A power token adds two to the value of your card in a fight. If you have multiple power tokens, you can only add one to each fight.
When some of the Thanos cards are defeated, they will be returned to their deck. The Thanos player first draws their replacement card, and then shuffles the defeated card back into their deck.
If the hero deck ever runs out of cards, gather all of the hero cards placed face up in front of the hero players and shuffle them together to form the new draw deck.
If the Thanos deck ever runs out of cards, the Thanos player will skip drawing a card on their turn.
Throughout the game players will acquire information about the cards held in the other players’ hands. Players can never communicate to one another what cards they have in their own hand or the card(s) that another player currently has. A player can also not direct another player on what they should do on their turn.
Players are able to talk about any cards that are face up on the table though as this is already public information.
All cards placed face up on the table should be placed so all of the other players can see them.
End of Game
The game can end in one of three ways.
If the heroes deplete Thanos health to the bottom space on the track, the heroes immediately win the game.
If Thanos depletes the heroes health to the bottom space on the track, Thanos immediately wins the game.
If Thanos ever acquires all six Infinity Stones at the same time, they immediately win the game. This includes Infinity Stones played in front of them as well as the cards held in their hand
Two Player Game
The two player game plays similar to the main game. The one main difference is that after each time Thanos takes a turn, the heroes player will take two turns in a row. The hero player only plays with one hand of cards.
Some of the card effects change as well to work with only one hero player in the game. These changes are outlined in the Cards sections.
My Thoughts on Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game
I have always been leery to check out the Love Letter spinoffs as I thought they wouldn’t really do anything unique with the formula. I thought they would just paste on a new theme, slightly tweak the rules, and then make money off fans of the theme picking up the game.
In some ways Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game shares a lot in common with Love Letter. Many of the main gameplay mechanics are the same. Several of the numbers have basically the same ability. For example ones have you guess a card in another player’s hand, twos let you look at another player’s hand, and threes allow you to battle the other player by comparing the numbers on the card in your hand. The whole feel of the game is similar as you are trying to deduce what cards the other players have in their hand and use that information to either guess what cards they have in their hand or engage in battles that you are likely to win.
While the basic goal of the game is similar to the original game, the whole experience changes due to one small tweak. In the original game each player plays for themselves and tries to eliminate the other players. In Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game its all of the players against one as you basically replay the events of Avengers: Infinity War. One player plays as Thanos who tries to defeat the heroes or gather all of the Infinity Stones. Meanwhile the heroes must work together to try and stop Thanos’ plan.
This small change actually has a big impact on the traditional Love Letter gameplay. Instead of trying to eliminate the other players, you are trying to deplete the other side’s health as quickly as possible. This is done through winning fights or guessing what cards the other players have in their hand.
Like the original Love Letter, if I were to describe the gameplay of Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game I would say that it feels like a mixture of deduction and risk management. Many of the cards in the game give you the ability to look at the card held by another player or manipulating the cards in your own hand. You need to use this information to either guess the card in the other player’s hand, or to know whether you can beat the other player in a fight. To do well in the game you need to know when you should take risks as if you play too passively you likely will lose.
This becomes even more important in Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game as there is a built-in timer. In addition to depleting the heroes health, Thanos can also win by acquiring all of the Infinity Stones. The longer the game goes on the more likely that the Thanos player will draw the last Infinity Stone they need and win the game.
The addition of the Infinity Stones is borderline genius. It is a perfect way to blend theme right into the gameplay. It makes perfect sense thematically as it actually does a good job recreating the Avengers: Infinity War race to acquire the Infinity Stones. For the gameplay it really forces the heroes to play more aggressive as they can’t just sit back and wait. If the game drags on for too long, Thanos will win by default.
I was genuinely a little surprised by Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game. I initially thought it was just going to be a re-theme of the original game, and yet it is more than that. I don’t know which I would say is better, but despite the similarities the two games actually feel quite a bit different. I think your feelings towards the original game will translate to the spinoff, but it is different enough that it might warrant owning both games. The one vs many twist is enough to breathe new life into a game that a lot of people have probably already played quite a bit of.
Many tie-in games slap a popular theme on a game in order to make a quick buck. This doesn’t feel like it was the case for Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game as it feels like the gameplay was melded to fit the theme. I personally thought it was more enjoyable playing as Thanos, but playing as the heroes was enjoyable as well. I really don’t think the game could have done a better job implementing the Marvel theme into a Love Letter game.
As for whether the game is balanced, I think it might depend. Most people seem to feel the two sides are pretty even, while my personal experience tells a different story. The games we played were usually pretty close, but Thanos ended up winning every single time. This could have been solely due to luck as the Thanos player regularly drew better which definitely helped. I think it also helped Thanos that we played with between two and four players. With more players I think Thanos’ advantage diminishes quickly where the heroes probably have the advantage once you get up to five or six players.
I think one of the main reasons that Love Letter was so successful is that it found the perfect balance between accessibility and strategy. While I would say Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game is more difficult than the original game, it still does a good job remaining rather straightforward to play.
The gameplay itself is really simple as all you do on your turn is draw a card, play a card, and then take an action based on what is written on the card. The game requires a decent amount of reading until you are familiar with what each card does. Otherwise there is nothing particularly difficult about the game. The game will take around five minutes to explain with players maybe needing a game to truly figure out what they are doing. This is no big deal as most games will probably take 15 minutes. The game has a recommended age of 10+ which seems about right even if children a little younger probably could play it without too much trouble.
With such simple gameplay, it is nice that there is still a decent amount of strategy to the game. Clever use of your cards does improve your odds in the game. Most of the cards are meant to be used to either give you information about the other team’s cards or to prepare you to battle against the other side. You then need to use your deduction skills to determine what number you should guess or when you should fight. The more you play the game, the better you should get at it.
The game does have a decent amount of luck to it as well though. The cards played in every game will basically be the same, so the order that the cards come out can be really important to your success in the game. This is especially true for Thanos since if the player draws all of the Infinity Stones early in the game it will be almost impossible for the heroes to win the game. While you can use your deduction skills to improve your odds, you will still ultimately have to make some educated guesses which could really change the outcome of the entire game. While the game has a decent amount of strategy, luck is bound to make a difference at times. For this reason you can’t take the game too seriously or the reliance on luck may sour your opinion of the game.
As for the components for such a simple game I thought they were pretty good. The game doesn’t come with a lot as it only has 36 cards, and some tokens. I thought the components it did come with were quite good though. The artwork is quite nice where Marvel fans should really enjoy them. The plastic tokens are quite nice as well. On top of this the game comes in a tiny little pouch so it doesn’t take up a lot of space. This makes it really easy to bring along with you while traveling or when you want a little game to play when you don’t have a lot of free time.
Should You Buy Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game?
I was hesitant heading into Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game as I thought it could be another simple tie-in game trying to capitalize on the popularity of Love Letter and Marvel. While the game does share a decent amount in common with the original game, I was pleasantly surprised by how much the game was tweaked in order to fit the theme. In many ways the game feels like you are playing through the events of Avengers: Infinity Wars. Changing from a game where everyone is on their own to a game of all versus one changes up the gameplay quite a bit. It still maintains the easy gameplay from the original game even if it might be a little more complicated. The game also plays rather quickly. There is strategy to the game though as smart use of your cards does improve your chances of winning the game. The game still relies on quite a bit of luck though as the order that the cards are drawn will have a pretty big impact on who ultimately wins the game.
My recommendations for Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game depend on your feelings towards Marvel and Love Letter. If you don’t really care for Marvel or the original Love Letter, I don’t think the game will be for you. If a Marvel themed Love Letter that actually utilizes the theme intrigues you though, I think you will enjoy Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game and should consider picking it up.
Marvel Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Designer: Seiji Kanai, Alexandar Ortloff
Artist: Monica Helland
Genres: Card, Deduction, Family
Number of Players: 2-6
Length of Game: 15 minutes
Components: 16 hero cards, 13 Thanos cards, 1 life-tracker card, 6 reference cards, 9 power tokens, 2 sliders, instructions
Where to Purchase: Amazon, eBay Any purchases made through these links (including other products) help keep Geeky Hobbies running. Thank you for your support.
- Does a fantastic job merging the Love Letter gameplay with the Marvel theme.
- Easy to play, plays quickly, and yet has enough strategy to keep you interested.
- Relies on quite a bit of luck as the card order will play a pretty big role.
- Probably won’t appeal to people that didn’t care for the original Love Letter.
Recommendation: For Marvel fans that are looking for an interesting twist on the Love Letter formula.
Saturday 26th of March 2022
Nice review, Eric. Regarding balance, you mention that Thanos might have too much advantage when playing against a small number of opponents, and perhaps you implied that Thanos could potentially be disadvantaged against a large number of opponents.
If you're open to experimentation, you could adjust difficulty by trying a few house rules related to the Infinity Stones.
For instance, when Thanos has a small number of opponents (or has relatively inexperienced opponents), you could require that the first time that Thanos acquires an Infinity Stone, they need to give it to another player in exchange for any card of that other player's choice.
Conversely, when Thanos has a large number of opponents (or the Thanos player has little experience), you could stipulate the Thanos only needs to acquire 5 stones to win.
When Thanos has a moderate number of opponents, you might use the official rules with no modifications.
I'm not sure of the ideal balance, having never played this thematic variant of Love Letters, but your review intrigued me enough that I'll keep my eye out for the game.