I’m struggling to find my standing when it comes to this game – which is pretty much like the pursuit of love I guess. So maybe this conflict is designed and in-built in the game after all.
But allow me to start from the beginning.
16 cards, and a handful of red cubes for 2-4 players. That’s all that makes up Love Letter’s game design. The premise of the game is that you, as a player, are seeking to woo the princess of Tempest. Unfortunately, she has locked herself in the palace, and you can only rely on others (characters as indicated in the cards mentioned above) to take your romantic letters to her.
The romantic premise and title alone could be a turn-off for some people – which was the case for me in the beginning. But to give the game credit, it is one of the rare tabletop games that is easy to pick up, yet requires some level of strategizing that keeps it interesting. No one game of Love Letter is the same, because of the game design that makes it socially oriented, combining elements of luck and deduction. Before a round begins, one card is removed from play, and each player starts with just one card in hand. A player round consists of drawing a card from the remaining deck, and playing one of the two cards you have, using the special ability of each character card to take out other players from the round.
A card with a higher number indicates a higher ranking, which would lead to winning a round if you survive the attacks on your character that happens during said round. Since gameplay surrounds using character traits and abilities to take down other players, the game makes it convenient to have this information readily available on the card themselves, and also on the information cards that each player could have with them during the game. The rest depends on your knowledge of the people playing with you, and how you work around that.
As elegant as I think the game design is, there is one major flaw of the game that I cannot get past. In Love Letter, the Countess card should be discarded when a player has either King or Prince in their hands. While discarding the Countess without the two cards in hand may be a strategic move, it seems to me that in order to be true to the nature of how the game is played (deduction and strategy with some luck), it would also add more to the game if there’s a situational win when a player is called out with those two cards in hand (Prince + Countess OR King + Countess ) but did not perform the actions as indicated by the card (discarding Countess).
But that’s just a thought. All that said, I appreciate how much Love letter packs so much in a compact design, and how convenient it is to carry and be played with newbies. It’d definitely work well as a party game, and to have a good time with friends. But…not everyone wants to be with a princess I guess.
Designer: Seiji Kanai
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
Type: Card Game, Party, Family
Players: 2 – 4 players
Play Time: ~25mins
Release Date: 2012