Tabletop Review: ‘Love Letter’
Style: Bluffing and deduction card game
Players: 2 – 4
Length of Play: 30 – 45 minutes
Review: I was intrigued as soon as I heard of it…the game that features only 16 cards. That claim turned out to be slightly inaccurate, as it has sixteen cards a small number of red cubes. The big question is, of course, how does one get so much game play out of such a minimalist deck?
The game works best with the story behind it. Following the arrest of the queen (which took place in another game entirely) Princess Annette has been confined to the castle. Each player is a potential suitor, unable to enter the castle but eager for their love letter to reach the Princess first. At the beginning of round, representing a day in the story, every player receives a card depicting a member of the royal court. This card represents the person who currently holds your letter. In turn the players take a new card from the deck, selects one to keep and plays the other for its effects. The player with the highest value card (the member of the court closest to the Princess) wins a token of affection from the Princess, and the first to 4 wins (in a four player game).
It sounds simple, but the eight different characters in the cards each have an ability that comes in to play. The lowest value card – Guard Odette – allows you to try and guess the card held by another player. If you guess successfully they are out of the round. Priest Tomas lets you look at another players card, the Baron has you compare cards with another player with the lowest value hand being eliminated, the Handmaid protects you for a round, the Prince forces another player to discard their hand and redraw, the King allows you to swap hands with another player, the Countess must be discarded if in a hand with the King or Prince (or just to mislead others) and the Princess, if forced to be discarded, knocks you out of the round.
Your luck can change with every new card drawn, and no one card holds a complete advantage over others. Even the highest ranked cards such as the Countess can be lost in a moment, or in the case of the Princess, boot you out of the round in a moment. The dynamic is brilliant and the balance between the cards is absolutely, completely perfect. If you’re thinking the small deck makes it easy to deduce what cards your opponents are holding you’re going to find it slightly tricky – one random card get removed from play every round.
Given the fact the entire game (housed in a rather nice red velvet bag) has occasionally slipped between other board games on the shelf and hidden itself this is a remarkably layered game with many twists and turns in every round to keep the game exciting. At such a low price is a must have for any gamer – if you can find a copy, it’s a must buy.