Love Letter Review – An Anniversary Special
Tomorrow marks the six-year anniversary with the love of my life, Beth. She does a fair amount of work behind the scenes of this blog from proofreading articles to playtesting games to even keeping me writing, so I thought today, like the love-struck schmuck I am, I would dedicate a review to her. Yes, today, in the absence of Fog of Love (hopefully coming soon), we will be taking a closer look at Love Letter and the joys it entails. I know, I am a true romantic. Hold your applause.
“If Love Letter be the food of gaming play on. Give me excess of it.”
The Premise of Love Letter
Love Letter is a player elimination based short card game designed by Seji Kanai for two to four players.
In the game, you all play the part of suitors trying to woo the heart of a Princess. To do so you must eliminate your opponents by removing their hand from the game.
Love Letter is an incredibly simple game, with an incredibly simple premise, set with a stunning Georgian/Renaissance style of art that helps encapsulate the time period to near perfection. What is more, the game comes in a little velvet bag, the likes of which gives the game an enchanted and luxury feel. This helps emphasise the romance, whilst also helping the game stand out on the game shelf.
There are different iterations of Love Letter, including Batman Love Letter (you can read the review here), Lovecraft Letter, and more franchised properties such as Archer: Once You Go Blackmail… A Love Letter Game or Adventure Time Love Letter.
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through playing Love Letter with our friends can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
(Orson Wells…if he was talking about Love Letter)
How To Play Love Letter
How to play Love Letter is really easy and simple. There are 16 cards in the deck. The cards are shuffled together before being sorted. Immediately one, two, or three are laid to one side (depending on the number of players – face up or face down also depends on the number of players). These are not included in the game. The rest of the cards get shuffled, two dealt out to each player, and the rest put in a pile in the middle of the play area.
Each turn, in order, the players will play one card and pick up one card. When they do they resolve the effects on the cards in an attempt to eliminate the other players.
The effects on the cards affect the other players in different ways. The cards are:
- 1x Princess (Value 8) – Lose if discarded.
- 1x Countess (Value 7) – Discard if caught with King or Prince.
- 1x King (Value 6) – Trade hands.
- 2x Prince (Value 5) – One player discards his or her hand.
- 2x Handmaid (Value 4) – Protection until your next turn.
- 2x Baron (Value 3) – Compare hands; the lower hand is out.
- 2x Priest (Value 2) – Look at an opponent’s hand.
- 4x Guard (Value 1) – Guess a player’s hand.
The descriptions above are what it says of the reference card, and not the cards themselves (which use a more flowery language). You get the idea though.
A game typically takes around 5 minutes, and the winner gets a small red cube. The idea is that you keep playing the game until someone has won four cubes. This can take a maximum of 13 games with four people.
That’s about it so far as rules are concerned. It is a very simple and easy game.
“The greatest pleasure of life if Love Letter”
(I’m pretty sure Euripides said something like this)
So What Is It Like Playing Love Letter?
Without a second though – Love Letter is a fun little game. It is a great little travel game in particular, playing well in an airport, as we found out earlier this year. Likewise, it is a great little sorbet game (a game which is light and fruity) in between heavier game or even, since it is so light, in between other sorbet games.
Over the past few years, Love Letter has gained something of a following in the world of tabletop games. It is one of the most popular games of the modern era in regards to pure sales, sitting comfortably within the top 10 most owned games on BGG. At present it is #6, which is pretty high, and, to be blunt it is easy to see why.
“All you need is Love Letter. But a little Munchkin now and then doesn’t hurt.”
(Charles Schulz – if you mis-quote him)
Love Letter is light and fluffy, and to be honest one of the quickest games you can play. The speed of play is really one of the biggest strengths, and seeing the complexity rating it is easy to fall in…ahem…love with the game. There are very few decent five-minute games out there, so finding one that is fun to play is amazing. It is because of this that Love Letter makes a great family or entry level game.
This begs to question one debate that I am curious about because I am yet to find a gamer with a decent argument as to why. Love Letter is a great five-minute game, so why insist that it is a 20-30 minute game and say it needs to be played several times? The odds are players, because it is so quick, will play several times anyway; however, dictating that number as “until one player has won four times” seems non-sensical.
As I said before, the longest a game could be then is 13 rounds (with four players scoring three, three, three, four). That’s 65 minutes of Love Letter. I know a lot of gamers who agree that it is a great 5 minute game, but I don’t know a single one who would play for 65 minutes or 13 games straight.
“Love Letter is a game that two can play and one can win.”
(definitely not Eva Gabor)
That being said, Love Letter has some serious strengths besides the size of the game. It is fast paced, quick-witted, and surprisingly strategic. This means it can satisfy, what could be considered, hardcore gamers as well as those who prefer lighter games. Love Letter is travel sized as well, meaning it is the perfect game for taking away with you if you want something small to do to waste 30 minutes or so.
Or if you want to waste 65 minutes apparently.
Mechanics wise, Love Letter is not complex, but a lot of great games aren’t. Games like 7 Wonders and Sushi Go also only have a couple of mechanics each, and those are amazing games. What might make Love Letter less popular however is that it puts player elimination at its core. This isn’t so bad because it is such a quick game, so no player is out of the action for too long, however, it is possible to see how it could grate after a while. Speaking with people in the comments sections of blogs, player elimination seems to be one of the least popular mechanics of the modern age, after roll-and-move.
“Never play Love Letter with anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”
(could have been Oscar Wilde…but I don’t know, history is kind of hazy)
Conclusion: Love Letter Review [and TL;DR]
To conclude very quickly, Love Letter is probably not a game for everyone; however, it is a decent game that everyone should try at least once. As a game, it isn’t very expensive (I got my version for around £7, although there is also a boxed version of the game for slight more) and probably holds just enough strategy to keep everyone engaged for a good few games.
That being said, if I were to offer one piece of advice it would be this – ignore how long the game suggests you should play. Just play as long as you want to.
Once again, this review was done because it is my anniversary tomorrow and Beth does so much for this blog. She deserves a bit of real recognition. She is awesome and the world should know that.
Let me know what you think of Love Letter below. More importantly, have a great day folks!
“All you need is Love Letter…do do do do do…”
(The Beatles lesser known hit)