Review: Love Letter

Love Letter Review

“In the wake of the arrest of Queen Marianna, for high treason, none was more heart broken that her daughter, Princess Annette.

Suitors throughout the City-State of Tempest sought to ease Annette’s sorrow by courting her to bring some joy into her life.”

Love letter was first produced in 2012 by designer Senji Kanai. Since then it’s won or been nominated for numerous awards and has be reskinned more times that I can care to count. Although I own a copy of Love letter I think I might end up picking up the Batman version just because it’s Batman. It’s the same game, but the game is cheap enough and it’s a lot of fun to play.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 2-4 players (you can push it to 5 but the game loses something, and not everyone will play the same number of cards, but it can be done)
  • Ages 10+ (my son was 9 when he first played and I’ve played with kids as young as 8)
  • 20 min

While most copies have a box mine was the bagged version. All the boxes were sold out when I went looking. Considering the number of times we have played this game I expected the bag to be rather worn by now, aside from 1 draw string pulling out, it’s still in great shape.

In the bag we have the deck of cards, a stack pile of cubes which are used to keep score and a really small rule book.

Sleeves

The cards are all standard, magic sized cards. So you can find sleeves at most game retailers.

Love Letter Review
Small package, handful of components. Really good game.

Theme

The Queen has been found guilty of treason. The Princess is naturally rather distraught about this whole affair and has locked herself in the tower. The players are various members of…

…. The theme is not important. It’s also a bit odd, because the king is trying to court his daughter and she is trying to court herself too… don’t ask I don’t know. The rule book actually does a pretty good job of telling the back story and gives character profiles for each of the different cards.

After the first game you won’t even try to remember it. So let’s just skip on this part.

Gameplay

Take the cards, give each player 1 of the player aids and then shuffle the rest of the cards. Set 1 card aside out of the game without looking at it and then deal each player a single card. You’re ready to go.

In turn each player will draw a card and the play/discard one of the cards in their hand. So they will always only have 1 card left in hand. Playing a card will allow you to perform an action stated on the card e.g. Switch hands with anyone or look at another player’s hand.

1 Card allows you to guess which card another player is holding, if you guess correctly that player must discard their card. When you have no more cards in your hand you’re out of the round. This might sound like it might be a shot in the dark but here is where the player aids come in.

The player aids list all of the available cards in the game, their rank and how many of each card there is in the game. As cards are played you need to keep track of what has been played to try to figure out who has which cards.

Love Letter Review
The player aid helps you to figure out what cards are left and what all the cards do. If you’re paying attention you can figure out who has which cards, maybe.

Some cards allow you to compare your card with another player’s card. The player with the higher ranked card will win and the other player will have to discard his or her card.

When there are no cards left to draw the person with the highest ranked card in the game will be declared the winner. The winner will get a point (red cube otherwise known as a token of affection) and then a new round will start until someone hits the score that’s needed to win.

Conclusion

It’s a fantastic little game. We actually don’t play the full game we treat each round as a game in and of itself. So a game can take 5 minutes. That makes it a great time filler if we have a few minutes to spare.

It’s easy to teach, easy to learn and has great replay value. It also fits in your pocket and does not require a lot of table space so it’s a favourite of ours when we go out for dinner. If I were to make a list of must have games, Love Letter would be on that list.

It sounds almost too simple. It’s actually not. It’s damn clever. Each of the really high ranked cards are 1-offs in the deck and they interact with each other in a very interesting way. It adds a layer of strategy and a chance to bluff and pretend that you have a card in your hand that you don’t.

Love Letter Review
The Princess is the highest ranked card 8. Ending the round with her in hand is a win. Discarding, forced or otherwise, her at anytime is a loss.

If anyone is worrying about player elimination, don’t. The rounds are very quick so you will be back in, in no time. It’s also fun to try and figure out who has what cards while just watching.

Can I play this at a braai?

You can play this at a braai, we have. We’ve played it in restaurants, and the kids have even played a few rounds in the back seat of the car during long road trips. It’s quick and while it does require some thinking it’s not a brain killer.

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