1. I agree on Love Letter. I really wanted to like it for its novelty, but there isn’t much game there to me.

    Your comments on Dragon Whisperer are interesting. Pinochle is a game my family has played for years, and while it carries the same restrictions in Dragon Whisperer (must follow suit/must trump), I’ve found it to be a very strategic game. The strategy for me is in protecting trumps to use them when you want to and not allowing others to dictate your hand (and also choosing which trump to play). In Pinochle there’s an added “meld” round, which gives players points to add to their score, and a bidding round where players name trump. (No kitty, as in Rook.) So the interesting decisions also start in the bid phase. You may have 6 trumps, but will they be forced out of your hand? Are your melds enough to put a dent in your bid? I’m not familiar with DW, so this is probably neither here nor there. But I think the twofold restriction can work (though now that some of the elder statesmen in the family are gone, we’ve converted to mostly Rook when we play trick-taking games).

  2. Chris Norwood

    It’s not so much about the restrictions on play, per say, that make Dragon Whisperer a weak game.  Lots of games (card games especially) have constraints like this that you have to work around.  Bohnanza, for example, has a very firm structure concerning hand order, and as you said, Pinochle (which I’ve never played) has the same prescription about following suit and trumping.

    The problem with Dragon Whisperer is that these restrictions remove choice in card play/hand management, but doesn’t empower the player in some other way to allow them to work around it.  I mean, if you couldn’t trade cards in Bohnanza to get cards out of your hand, it would be a terrible game.  If you didn’t have the meld round and bidding in Pinochle (from what you described), there wouldn’t be much left to the game.

    I think that the way Dragon Whisperer has stacks of victory point chips on different “locations” that the leading player can choose from was supposed to fill this role, but in my experience, it’s not nearly enough.  Because, for example, let’s say I have the lead in a trick (which is usually a good position in most trick-taking games), and I have the highest trump card in my hand (a 7).  So I choose to go after a really big point chip (a 5, let’s say) and lead with the boss trump.  The next player has a trump, so he has to follow suit.  The next player doesn’t have any, so he plays out a 2 of another color to score the automatic one “monster” point.  And the last player has a 3 of a different color, which, when they play it, randomly changes the trump color by flipping over the next card in the deck, which just happens to be the color of the person who played the 2, now giving them 5 more points for due to nothing but blind, stupid luck.  That’s the kind of thing that seems to happen almost every turn in DW, where real choices are hard to come by, and many of the most reasonable choices you make are undone by stupid luck. 

  3. Nick Shaw

    Love Letter is a game my children actually really enjoy playing (as do I, playing with them). If I played it with only adults, maybe it wouldn’t seem as fun I guess, but the kids really get a lot of enjoyment from the light-bluffing mechanic. And for the price, I think it’s perfectly enjoyable *enough*. Whether there are other games at that price that can deliver a better experience for adults in such a light-weight package, I don’t know… 🙂

  4. Chris Norwood

    I could see it working well with kids, so that’s cool.  But for adults, the first one that immediately jumps to mind for me is No Thanks!  It plays up to 5, gives you a tough choice almost every time your turn comes around, and is still light and quick to play.  

    That’s sort of what I don’t get about Love Letter.  I guess the novelty of it only having 16 cards is pretty neat, but is that really all that different from or notably more revolutionary than No Thanks’ 33 cards?  And while I know it’s obviously a matter of taste to some extent, I find the experience of No Thanks to be way more intense, exciting, and fulfilling.   

  5. Enjoyed your perspective.

    Rialto – I really like Rialto (though I’m an admitted Feld-o-phile) and I agree that there is much more there than appears at first blush. Card management is key and ensuring that you have more of key pieces is critical. Plus the buildings open up somewhat wider strategies.

    Il Vecchio – I mostly agree with your comments. Although I enjoyed it, my biggest problem was that the game sort of just happened and then it ends. No build up. No remarkable plays. It doesn’t lend itself to memorable paly.

    Love Letter – I really enjoy love letter. But I think it’s best for playing with a casual group – not hardcore gamers. It’s easy for casuals to pick up and enjoy. For more advanced gamers, I might play Coup.

    That said, I think there’s more bluffing than you realize. I will sometimes discard the Countess when I have a guard in my hand. My hope is to draw out the other guards and get a good card later. There are interesting plays and your choices aren’t always so limited.

  6. Chris Norwood

    Thanks!  My next podcast is going to have a “showdown” between Rialto and Bruges… but I guess I’ve sort of given away my opinion with my comments here.

    I think your feeling about Il Vecchio goes right along with mine, actually.  You just sort of make lots of little decisions all game long, and then the game ends and someone is a little bit ahead.  Like you said, there aren’t any real remarkable or memorable plays.

    I definitely want to try out Coup and Council of Verona, which both sound like they have a little more meat on their bones than Love Letter does.

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