Review – Love Letter

Love Letter is the fourth of the games released as part of the initial launch of AEG’s new Tempest line. In Love Letter, each player is a suitor who is attempting to get his love letters delivered to the Princess. Love Letter is a short, simple, small, and sweet little card game.  Draw a card, play a card, one round takes maybe a couple of minutes.

Tlogo_LoveLetter500

What’s in the Box?

What box? We don’t need no stinking box! Love Letter is 16 cards. The other important thing is that it comes with a nice felt pouch to hold the cards in – vibrant red with a yellow drawstring and yellow stitched lettering. There’s a little bit more – rules, 4 reminder cards, some red wooden cubes if you can’t keep track of how many rounds you’ve won. It all fits in the pouch, and at the store it will all be in a small plastic clamshell designed to be hung (whenever they get back in stock at game stores, anyway).

Love_Letter_Card_PrincessThe cards look really nice, including the card backs, but this is one you probably want sleeves for (even if it’s just penny sleeves), since you’ll be shuffling those 16 cards a lot (only once per round, but trust me, you’ll be playing this more than one round).

Rules

Pretty simple – shuffle the deck, set aside 1 one card (so you don’t know exactly what the last card is), deal one card to each player. On a player’s turn, he or she draws a card, then discards/plays one card. Round ends when the deck runs out, at which point everyone left reveals their hands, and the highest card wins (higher number = will get your love letter to the Princess first). Or the round ends if every player but one has been knocked out. Game is played to 4-7 round wins, depending on whether you have 2, 3, or 4 players.

Cards

Of course, those rules don’t tell you a lot if you don’t know what the cards do. There are eight different cards, and either 1, 2, or 5 of each card. There are 5 Guards (value of 1) that let you name a player and guess a card – if the player has that card in hand, he’s out. There are two copies each of the Priest (2, look at a hand), Baron (3, compare hands, lowest number is out), Handmaid (4, protection), and Prince (5, makes a player discard hand and draw a new card). There are 1 copy each of the King (6, trade hands), Countess (7, must be discarded/player if the other card in your hand is the Prince or King), and Princess (8, you lose if you have to discard her).

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How It Plays

Well. It plays well.

Oh, more detail than that? Seriously, this review is already longer than the rulebook. The game is fun and lighthearted, but does actually require thought (for example, what card should you guess when playing your Guard). The cards interact really well together.

Love_Letter_Card_GuardThe one thing that I did not have a lot of luck with this one was playing with the non-gamers. Seems odd, maybe, since it’s so light, how could they not just get it? But I think it’s one of those games that requires being taken lightly to get the most fun out of it, and maybe if you’re a non-gamer even something like Love Letter requires too much focus to get into the spirit. It reminds of the Austin Powers CCG (don’t judge me, I never paid any money for it), which was plenty amusing when I got to play it at DecipherCon with a bunch of CCG geeks, but fell massively flat when I tried to play it with non-gamers because they had to expend too much effort actually playing the game to be able to stop and enjoy the jokes. That’s a more severe example, but I think that sort of thing might have been why it didn’t go over as well with the family.

Also, in case I forget, let me note that I am greatly amused by the official ways of determining who goes first in the Tempest games, which are tied to the theme of the game. In Love Letter, for example, whoever went on a date most recently goes first, with the tiebreaker being whoever is youngest. Not that we actually use them after the first time with each game, but they’re fun.

It’s a rare game that you get lose in 30 seconds and be perfectly fine with that. In Love Letter you can. It’s just so unique (at least for this market; it was originally designed for the Japanese market where I guess they have a lot of these mini-game type products), I can’t even think of what to compare to say it’s better or worse than X, or that you’ll like it if you like Y. You can play it at the dinner table while you’re waiting for your food. Maybe twice. I don’t think it’s ever going to be someone’s favorite game, because there’s a cap on how much awesome you can actually get out of something that takes 60 seconds, but what’s not to love? Geek & Sundry needs to play this one so they can get it in Target.

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.