Love Letter Review

Love Letter card game in play

So, after Essen last year, it seemed like everyone was talking about the little game Love Letter. And, since I often succumb to peer pressure when it comes to trying the new, "hot" game, I decided to give it a whirl.

In Love Letter, you start with a card in your hand.  On each turn, you draw a card, discard a card, and you obey the text of the discarded card.  Once the deck (of 16 cards minus a random one that you toss out each round) is exhausted, then the person with the highest card wins.  You can also win a round by eliminating all of the other players.  You play until a person wins a certain number of rounds, or you decide that you've played it enough.  That's it.  No more rules; the rest of the game is simply what the different cards do.  

So, with all of that, Love Letter's greatest strength is this - it knows what it is, and it does that very well.  Love Letter is a "micro game."  It has barely any components, can be played in very little time, takes about a minute to teach, and basically has no setup.  Yet, even with all of the factors that I just named, it is still an enjoyable experience (and many would argue that this is an "experience" more than a game).  The game has a lot of luck, people might be eliminated before they even take a turn in any given round, and has a fairly low amount of strategy.  Yet, we get back to this - it is fun to play.

Love Letter by AEG
It comes in fancy packaging, too
The second pro that I have for Love Letter expands on the "fun to play" element that I just mentioned.  There are various things that will occur during the game that are incredibly amusing - or at least were amusing in the games that we played.  One of the cards (the Guard) allows you to name a role and pick a player - if they have that role in their hand, then they are eliminated.  If you play a Guard as the first action of the game, you're blindly guessing at what another player has (though some roles are slightly less statistically likely than others).  When this blind guess pays off, most people at the table generally get a chuckle out of it - even the player eliminated (since he knows that each round only takes a minute or two).  Another thing that can occur is when one player plays a "Baron."  The Baron allows two players to compare cards, and the player with the lower card is eliminated.  What will inevitably happen at some point is that someone will play the Baron, and the highest two cards will be compared.  This allows all of the other players to see who has the top card (the Princess).  The Princess' special text is that she is eliminated if her card is discarded.  So, suddenly this Baron has eliminated the second highest card in the game, and has also made it glaringly obvious how to eliminate another player.  These were some of the situations that my group found amusing in the games that I played - I'm sure that your group will find others.  The important thing is to worry more about enjoying the game than winning the game, since there are a lot of ways outside of your control to lose the game - but you can still have fun in the midst of those situations.

I could continue rehashing very similar sentiments about what is good about the game, but I think that you are beginning to understand the crux of the pros.  The first con is this - some people will hate this game.  I mentioned earlier that some will view this more as an experience than a game.  Those people (or any other people that really only enjoy strategic games) may hate this.  There are too many ways to lose the game and so you don't have a feeling of controlling your own destiny.  In theory, when you play a strategic game, the player with the best strategy will win more consistently than players with lesser strategies.  I doubt that is the case with Love Letter.

cards from Love Letter game
You'll probably want sleeves - and check out that rule book!
My other con for Love Letter is incredibly nitpicky.  Here it is: the rules are 24 pages long!  24!!  Granted, the pages are small (the height of a card), and the font is large (about 14 point), but still - 24 pages!  Did you read the paragraph at the top where I taught you all of the rules?  Yeah; that's all of them.  The rules include a backstory, a full FAQ of the different cards, and the rules for different numbers of players... but I still find it ridiculous that there are more pages of rules than there are cards in the deck (there are 16).

Overall, I give Love Letter an 8.5/10.  I enjoy the game and will probably continue playing it as a filler in between other games - after all, when I can play a couple of rounds of Love Letter in the time that it takes my friends to clean up after their game, then I think we have found a great "filler" game.

If you're looking for light, quick games, then you might also check out For Sale, Monopoly Deal, and Tsuro.

I would like to thank AEG for providing me with a review copy of Love Letter.

1 comment:

  1. I played love letter for the first time this week myself. I happen to be one of the people that hated it. I found it entirely too luck based and repetitive. Not a deduction game, as I was led to believe.