Since it was released in 2012, Love Letter has quietly become quite the gaming phenomenon; it has amassed a big following and anyone who plays it will absolutely adore it, but it still seems to be one of tabletop gaming’s best kept secrets.
In Love Letter, players are trying to get the attention of the Princess; though that’s the case and card types are generally labelled as various suitors or assistants to her royal highness, the theme isn’t necessarily important or particularly interwoven with the mechanics of the game.
Despite the pasted on theme, the game of Love Letter is beautifully minimal in terms of its mechanics, components and play time. Everything you need to play – rules included – is contained within a tiny velvet pouch.
The game in its current incarnation sees 2-6 players competing; each has a single card as their hand and on their turn, they’ll draw another then play one of their two hand cards.
Each card has a value and a specific power that’ll kick in when played: one will let you look at another player’s hand, another lets you swap hands with a player of your choice and there’s also one that’ll allow you to eliminate a player, amongst other card abilities.
Discard the Princess for any reason and you’re out of the round.
Each card not only has a value (sometimes these are important too!), but will also show players how many of that type of card are in the deck, which the handy reference cards will also be useful for.
Rounds are clever, fast moving games of bluff and deduction that are over lightning fast; though winning means collecting a set number of favor tokens (collected when winning a round), even this is generally achieved very quickly indeed.
The minimalist approach and speed which players can pick up on all of the different card interactions and abilities makes Love Letter a game that just about anyone can pick up and play immediately.
Almost all new players will be keen for another game the moment the first one ends; it’s incredibly newbie friendly and very welcoming, even to friends or family members who don’t usually enjoy tabletop games.
There’s been a lot of different, licensed editions of Love Letter over the years (Batman and Adventure Time being two examples), but these have steadily gone out of print and risen in value. However, they were generally just reskins of the base game anyway – so offered little beyond the potentially more appealing theme depending on your fandom of each licensed property.
More recently, games such as Infinity Gauntlet and Jabba’s Palace have significantly shaken up the basic formula (in Marvel and Star Wars clothing, respectively) while still remaining Love Letter games at their core. Though great for experienced Love Letter players who are looking to spice up their games a bit, they lose a lot of the immediacy and minimalism that provides much of the appeal of Love Letter.
So in summary, Love Letter remains a brilliant game for just about any player, regardless of their age or level of experience. The theme may feel a little irrelevant when it comes down to it, but the core gameplay mechanics are addictive, compelling and very moreish indeed.
Not only is Love Letter small in terms of its general footprint, but it’s also low in price too, so the barrier to entry is very small. What you get for your initial outlay is a game that’ll last you a very long time; the cost per play ratio of Love Letter (if such a thing is important to you) is phenomenal.
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