Love Letter is a small game with only 27 cards in the deck for two to four people. We wondered how such a small game could be entertaining for long but we would soon find out that it is quite challenging.
I had heard many good things about this quick little game but wasn’t sure that it was right for us. Luckily, Asmodee has a print and play trail version. I quickly, printed it to try out.
Our first impressions was that it wasn’t quite the game for us. It has a “going to get you” vibe that we didn’t like. And, at first, the game seemed too obvious-ended for us. But after playing a few hands, we quickly changed our minds.
First, the print and play copy is missing two card types but gives you enough to see how the game is played and enough for the game to be challenging and entertaining,
The object of the game is to win the affections of the Princess. You do this by winning tokens of affection. To win a token, you must win a round.
Love Letter is unique as you are only dealt one card as your hand. That’s it. Unique for sure.
To start, one card is placed faced down on the side. This adds an element of randomness to the game, much needed as there’s always the element of surprise.
After you are dealt your one card, the last player who wrote a letter goes first for the first round. All other rounds, the person who won the pervious round plays first. Then on your turn you draw a card off the deck then you must choose which card to play. At first, this seemed obvious but as we played and learned the strategy, we found that it is not obvious and much thought can be put into the decision.
Each type of card has a point value and a skill. In the end, the higher point cards are better. But the skills make the decision of which card to hang onto harder.
1 - Guards - they let you guess any players hand. If you guess correctly, they are out of the round.
2 - Priest - this card lets you look at any players hand.
3 - Baron - with this card, you choose a player to compare hands with, the player with the lowest value card is out of the round
4 - Handmaid - this card gives you immunity for a round
5 - Prince - the Prince lets you choose someone, including yourself, to discard and redraw
7 - King - the king trades hands with someone
8 - Countess - this card is a high card and is usually wanted, playing her does nothing but she must be discarded with you have the Prince or the King in your hand
9 - Princess - if you discard the Princess you are out of the round
Now, when we started playing it seemed simple. Why would you ever discard the Princess? And the guard? Is there really any value to him? But as we played we found that sometimes other players force you to discard the Princess and the Guard can be quite useful late in the game–if someone has discarded the Countess it is likely that they have the Prince, King or Princess. The Guard is also useful if you’ve peeked or traded hands with someone.
If there are no more cards in the draw pile, then everyone who is still in the round compares hands and the player with the highest numbered card wins the round.
Some rounds are over in a few moves and others play to the end.
The winner is the person who wins the right amount of tokens of affection for the amount of players. For two players a player has to win 6 tokens. In a three player game, 5 tokens are needed. And in a four player game, 4 tokens are needed to win.
In the two player version, the first card is placed facedown on the side as in the other versions. However, the next three cards are dealt face up on the side so everyone can see. An interesting twist to the game.
There is a premium edition of the game. It adds additional characters and increases the number of players so that 5 to 8 players can play. The cards appears to be larger and thicker as well.
The game also comes with “cheat sheets”. These list all of the cards, their values, their powers and how many of them there are. These cheat sheets are handy until you get comfortable with the game.
This game surprised us. At first, I was glad that we got to try it before we bought it–glad that we could save our money for another game that we might enjoy more. But as we gave it more of a try, and added more layers, we found that we enjoyed it. And surprisingly, it is Julia’s new favorite. Usually, she does not like “out to get you” / risk games. I guess this one differs from others as, although there is some strategy, it is very short term. The amount of luck is very high.
We are now glad that e got to try it before we buy it–as we now know that this is a great game that our family can play over and over again. We highly recommend trying the print and play to see if this game is right for your family. It does require reading and I would not suggest it for younger kids. Our overall conclusion is that this is a fast, fun game of skill, risk and luck and worth a spot on our Family Game Shelf.
Pros: quick, easy to learn,
Cons: can be repetitive, can be hard to break a loosing streak
Mom: critical thinking, deduction, risk-taking, reading
If you’ve tired Love Letter, we’d love to know what you thought of it in the comments. Also, if you tried any other print and play games, we’d love to hear which ones!