Is that Love in the air? Oh, wait…no, it's another board game. What a lovely surprise nonetheless! Welcome to the second part of this initial 5-part run of anime-themed board games! This week is a rather special one, as we get into reasonably deep anime game territory, with dating simulator games in board game form.
In short, yes! This game of the week will allow our romantic side to come out, as this game is about matchmaking and dating. Now, why discuss a genre like this?
Well, people's fascination with watching intimate relationships grow, develop, and blossom is nothing new. People love watching from the days of old, where gossipers and matchmakers would meet around wells, to reality tv shows showcasing people trying to romance/find a partner (90-day Fiancée or Love on the Spectrum anyone?) or trying to make relationships grow and the drama that comes along with it.
People also crave intimacy and attention on a personal level as well. Ranging general acknowledgment upwards to something a bit more…. intimate, people require attention. After all, we are social creatures, so it comes as no surprise that dating simulators and dating simulator-esque games have become increasingly popular in this digital age. It’s no surprise that video games help fulfill a fantasy (from flying, to fighting superheroes, etc), and simulators are no exception; from broad sims like The Sims, or Stardew Valley, to niche sims like dating sims all help with that. Just a quick clarification on what a dating sim is precisely: a dating simulator is a subgenre that focuses on creating intimate relationships with other characters within the game.
Having this understanding in mind, I began to wonder, is there a dating game or dating game-esque game in board game form? Surprisingly enough, there is! There is actually quite a selection of these games out there, however we will be talking about just one today. Before we talk about this game, however, let’s finish giving some quick history on the subgenre of dating simulators.
Dating simulators aren’t entirely new, with the first official simulator, Dōkyūsei, being released in 1992.
Now these simulators are everywhere, from indie developers to multibillion-dollar corporations making their own flavor. Want some examples? For starters, Game Grumps (a rather famous YouTube channel) has made their own called:
Dream Daddy: a Daddy Dating Simulator! For the multibillion-dollar company:
KFC! Yes, KFC of all companies have made a dating simulator: I Love You, Colonel Sanders! Both are extremely fun, by the way; I would seriously recommend playing both at some point. (Sidenote, if you would like to see gameplay of I Love You, Colonel Sanders! check out my YouTube! And often, most characteristics of games within this genre are relationship building, complex interactions, a little bit of drama, and possibly some minigames. What I mean by minigames is that dating sims utilize minigames to help the character progress through the game; for example, a 'dating' sequence could be played through a minigame similar to that of diamond match games (like shown in Huniepop).
With building relationships, minigames, and some romantic betrayal, how does all of this translate into a boardgame? Well, this week’s game below will explain!
The game's title is Love Formula, in which you, the player, devising a love formula for your characters. In short, the players have to organize a perfect date for the couple! Yes, you play matchmaker! Now, the catch of this game is that you have to play matchmaker while you defend your couple's date from being sabotaged (by the other players) and disable the other player's dates!
So, you win by earning the most victory points (because each date is best suited for the player's couple). The game is made for around 2 to 4 players, with a playtime of 15minutes to 30 minutes. The game is played over four phases: two drafting phases and two play phases. Each player initially receives 12 cards in their hand; they choose one card from that 12 they want to add to their writing. Then they pass the deck around until all players receive the proper amount. Once all the cards have been given around, the game shifts to the play phase.
During this play phase, the player will play the couple of cards they have acquired for the date. From there, the player will have to satisfy what the couple needs to fall in Love. Like what exactly? Well, one couple may need an amusement park and a stuffed animal to fall in Love. Others may not; it's all about variety! Now, players can be sabotaged as well, like mentioned earlier. Sabotaging requires obstacle cards while protecting the date requires reaction cards. Both obstacle and reaction cards are also collected during the drafting phase. Once the game gets going, it does go surprisingly quick! Usually, 15-30minutes is long enough, and after a couple rounds, players will tend to get a feel for the game.
What does the game come with? Good question! It comes with:
With most of the art being unique and with over 60 pieces within this game set, you'll be getting around 60 works of art as well. What makes this impressive is that this game started out as a Kickstarter, which got published and distributed by Japanime Games. So, the game is relatively well known within the anime game sphere and even has an expansion pack! (Love Formula: Lucky in Love, released in 2020).
Overall, the game is a rather interesting take on the whole matchmaker and dating type game genre. I enjoy seeing these kinds of games published because it fills that need for interaction, relationship building, and competition. Personally, I would recommend this game to anyone, not just for anime and board game enthusiasts, but for anyone who enjoys playing matchmaker. Because who doesn't want a little bit of romance and drama?