Pocket Review: “Archer: Once You Go Blackmail…”

Archer: Once You Go Blackmail…

Publishers: AEG and Cryptozoic Games
Number of players: 2-4
Average game time: 15-20 minutes
Recommended ages: 10 and up
Suggested retail price: $9.99 (varies by shop)


Another year, another variation of Lover Letter on the store shelves.  Full disclosure- I currently own 6 copies of Love Letter. They are: Classic, Batman, Adventure Time, two copies of the Munchkin version “Loot Letter” and Archer. This was the first time I actually bought a copy.  The others were either gifts or from past Big Game Nights at GenCon.  Each plays nearly identical to the last, so how many copies does one truly need? And does this particular one deserve to be in the collections? Let’s find out…



Archer, like every edition of Love Letter, places out simply enough. Each player is dealt 1 card and then 1 card is removed from play.  Each turn, a player draws a card and then plays one of the two cards in hand.  Each card has an effect, one that can either aid you in putting another player or aid in protecting you from another player.  The goal is to simply knock out your other opponents and be the last player standing, or at least the last player standing with the highest numbered card (in case of a tie). Win the round, recieve a point token.  Rinse and repeat until a certain number of points has been reached.

Since being released in 2012, the core game mechanics has been identical in every rendition of the game.  Save for a small change here or there, such as the Premium Edition being up to 8 players, nothing has changed.  Some have equated this to being the boardgame industry’s equivalent to shovelware (annually released software in the videogame industry), arguing it offers to real merit.  I’d disagree.

The Love Letter mechanics make it an ideal pocket game.  At some point or another, a boardgamer will have played Love Letter.  With that in mind, a player could throw this game into their backpack or deckbag, get in out, and just play.  Even when playing this game with random strangers while in line for something at a convention, I think I’ve had to explain the rules twice.


There are three components that make up a Love Letter game: cards, tokens, and bag.

First, the cards.  This edition opted to use screen grabs from the series, topping them off with a quote from the character featured.  All of the main cast of characters are present:

Outside of the character screen grabs, each card sports a unique color and set of bullet holes under their number.  The colors have a 1970’s feel to them, while the bullet holes serve a purpose.  Each set corresponds to how many of that card there are in the deck. Sterling Archer has 5 copies in the deck while there is only 1 Lana Kane.

As far as the quotes go, I’m a little conflicted.  They have no other purpose than flavor text/fluff, with no impact on the game whatsoever.  Therefore, they are good. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of the Archer series and can think of a dozen quotes more iconic than what they did use.

Next, the tokens.  Every game of Love Letter uses some sort of token to keep track of points. For the classic edition, it used simple red blocks, while the Batman edition used little Batman symbols as tokens. For Once You Go Blackmail, an iconic prop from the show was used: Pam’s dolphin hand puppet.

Seriously, these things are too damned adorable and classic. I almost want to but a few more copies just to replace the tokens from the other games with these.

Finally, we have the draw string bag.

For the Archer edition, they went with a simple blue with the show’s title logo. That’s really all that you can say on that.


Final Verdict:

Even though this is my 6th copy of Love Letter, I rather enjoy this edition most of all.  Stylish presentation (though not a fan of all the quotes, albeit) and great source material make it a game that I’ll happily throw into my bag and take with me to game night or conventions.  Granted, some people may be perfectly fine with a singular copy of Love Letter in their collection.  However, at a cost of $10, there is nothing wrong with having a couple different themed versions for different occasions.


“Pocket Reviews” are reviews of quick, simple games with little to no foot print.  These are the kind of games you’d throw in your backpack and take on a trip, to school, or to play while waiting in long lines at a convention.  

GenCon 2016- GKR Heavy Hitters

As things settle in from our trip to GenCon, we have had time to reflect on many things we saw.  Like the previous years past, there are always one game or two that sticks out.  I consider them my showstoppers.  These are games that, after playing them, they stick to the front of our minds and every game for the rest of the show is compared to them.  Sometimes it can be a simple card game, like Bushiroad’s Weiss Schwartz, or it can be a dungeon crawling mininatures game, such as CoolMiniorNot’s Arcaida Quest. This year, the honor goes to a massive scale game, both in terms of scale of the component’s and the scope of the game’s ambition – GKR Heavy Hitters.

A bit of back story into the game from the developer’s site:

The year is 2150. A devastating world war has left Earth’s major cities in ruins, where mega corporations scrap it out for the salvage rights.

Well, you know what they say. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Gather your army of Giant Killer Robots and face your rival in the ultimate robot rumble. Because, in the world of GKR, war is business… and business is booming.”

Developed by Weta Workshop, creative visionaries behind some of the most mind blowing special effects and costumes of the last century, Evolver and Cryptozoic Entertainment, GKR Heavy Hitters is a game that mixes science fiction, miniatures and a series of fantastic mechanics into one massive package.

As described to us during our demo, major corporations are demolishing cities around the world with the use of specialized robots.  Common people, longing for some sort of entertainment in their war torn reality, find escapism and solace in watching these machines destroy buildings and each other in the process.  The heads of these corporations see a money making opportunity unfolding before them.  By weaponizing their machines and forming teams of pilots and robots under their company banners, they form a new sporting league.  The robots enter the cities, vying for control and the most destruction, all while entertaining the masses.

Players form a team of machines, all varying in their size, functionality and durability, and face their opponent’s in various city scapes.  Like any sport, only so many players can be on the field at a time.  Heavy Hitters only allows for any combination of 4 machines per player to be on the board at any given time.  This is a fantastic mechanic as it allows you to have a “bench” of other robots sitting out, ready to come in to relieve other components.

The two main faction units on display for demo: King Wolf Incorporated (left) and Thunder Happy Pharmaceuticals (right)
Examples of the three main support units: Gunner (left), Repair (middle), and Drone (right)

Damage, attacks and unit deployment is all handled by a simple deck mechanic.  Every time you would take damage from an attack, you remove a card from the stack.  Of course, there are repair units that can help return the removed cards.  Attacks and movement are all based on enery and cards.  With your main robot starting with only so much energy per turn, you are given the option to “overheat” your reactor core to continue on at the cost of 1 card of damage per energy needed.

After all players have moved, attacks are done simualtaionously in a turn based system.  Each attack has an energy level, with higher energy levels going first.  Both players take turns going back and forth until either the attacks are finished or a player’s main unit is destroyed.

Destroying a player’s main unit is one of the two victory conditions of the game.  The other is done via corporate sponsor ship.  Like any good sporting events, sponsors are key and that is no different in Heavy Hitters.  At the end of every turn, if an unit is adjacent to a side of a building without a corporate flag on that side, the player claims that side.  Placing a corporate flag puts a player one step closer to their corporation controlling that building.  For the purpose of our demo, 3 flags would gain a player control of the building, with 3 building controlled gaining the player victory.

And element of the game that they discussed, but left out for demo purposes, were pilots.  Pilots are unique characters that will bring about a new layer of customization, adding special abilities and attributes. Combine them with the different factions (two were demoed with two others in display), as each main unit plays differently, and you have the possibility for dozens of load outs.  Interesting mention was that they kept referring to pilot “seasons”.  This makes me believe that we could possibly see expansions of just pilot cards.

Examples of the pilot cards on display.
The board seems like a perfect play space, but it seems that they are planning on changing some things.  First, the hexagon design was done for, not only movement purposes, but for the ability to link multiple boards together for massive free-for-all battles.  Then the buildings are randomly placed, but the final product may include mechanics to allow the destruction of the buildings.  This would be amazing as, if a player is about to score a building, you could destroy it to prevent that from happening.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, this game spoke to me on many, many levels.  For a game only being in its Alpha/Beta stages, I was ready to buy the game and play it all night.  Sadly, the game isn’t ready for release just yet.  They are taking their time showcasing it and getting it in the hands of players and retailers alike.  They want to know what it will take to get them to sell it and what it will take to get us to buy it. I am already sold, but here were my three main thoughts to change/add:

  • Upgrade the board to something other than cardboard.  Overtime, that’ll break down and be a pain.
  • Each of the main units have their own unique playstyle and personality, make sure the support units are the same way.  Even if it’s just a slight variation in pose for the sculpt, it’ll make it more unique.
  • Organized play.  This is a must!  Support the game beyond just the initial purchase.  Give us a reason to want to keep getting the game out week after week. And given the sporting feel to it, that shouldn’t be a problem.

When the game is finally ready, they will most likely drop it on KickStarter first.  This means late 2017 or early 2018 will be the earliest we could see this in store. Personally, I think that to is too long, but I’ll suffer through the wait.  

This game will be on my shelf!

For more information regarding the game, go to http://www.gkrgame.com.

Imagine Victory

So several months ago, as many of you will recall, I was actively following the release of Luck & Logic with much obsession.  It was to be, I thought, my new game of choice.  So much so, that I would watch unboxing videos until all hours of the morning while playing The Division.  One night, however, I found myself watching another video…

After binge watching the first season of the show, I had my brother watch it.  Somewhere along the way, however, something happened.  I was having this weird desire to actually play the game.

I decided to buy a couple boosters here or there from my local shop, finally buckling down and ordering a couple starters.  I had fallen hard for the Kagero clan, as my love for dragons in most card games is absolute.  Luckily Bushiroad had just announced the “Legendary Deck Vol. 2: The Overlord Blaze” deck.  Sadly, my local shop decided to not order any of the starters.  I had to go online after waiting weeks.  But I digress.

Rob also got in on the action, picking up the latest trial deck for the Golden Paladins, Knight of the Sun.  Since then, we’ve played the game religiously as we’ve gotten caught up on the anime (or cartoon) over the last several weeks.  It has been a blast and has made Cardfight!! Vanguard one of the top TCG/CCGs I’ve played in my life.

Fast-forward to this past weekend: GenCon 2016.

In the week leading up to GenCon, I was feeling the deck I was playing becoming a bit stale.  After all, it was the only deck I’d been playing for months now.  I learned the game with it, tried to teach others with, and so forth.  However, I felt the need to branch out and look for a second deck.  With several clans to choose from in the game, it was hard to narrow it down, but I finally did: Link Joker.

Link Joker is a clan that is known for literally locking your opponent’s formation to the point that they have nothing they can do.  The less they have to work with, the less attacks they can get off per turn.  I found a Link Joker trial deck while up at GenCon for a good price, as well as one of the more Link Joker heavy booster boxes.  I came extremely close to pulling the trigger even on a couple singles for the deck: Genesis Dragon, Amnesty Messiah.

This card is the focal point to a build I have in mind.  However, at $125 on the show floor, I had trouble pulling that trigger.  I’ve never spent that much on a single card or miniature (having played HeroClix competitively for years), but that just goes to show how much I’ve grown to love this game in such a short amount of time.

Now that GenCon is, sadly, behind us, I look forward to the future.  October is a North American Regional for Cardfight!! Vanguard in Chicago.  I am contemplating attending as I’ll be within driving distance of the tournament that weekend.  The question I have to ask myself is to either continue with Kagero and the mighty dragons, or locking down a perfect build with the Link Jokers before then.