If there is anything I admire most in game design, it is elegant simplicity. The exacting and realistic detail or infinite customizability possible in many games can prove extremely engaging and entertaining, but a game that manages to create a challenging and fun experience with a simple set of rules is truly noteworthy. Of course then, I was very interested in trying Love Letter from AEG, for what could be simpler than a card game for two to four players with only sixteen cards?
The aforementioned cards all represent members of a princess’s household. Each card has a point value and the quantity of that card in the deck printed above a description of its special ability. Each round represents a day in which the princess’s suitors attempt to smuggle a letter into her hands to win her favor. At the beginning of a round, each player is dealt a card. On his or her turn, a player draws a second card and decides which of the two in their hand to discard, which triggers its special ability. At the end of each round, the princess retires to her room to read the successful suitor’s letter and thus improving their chance at courtship, as represented by a small token. Players achieve this by either knocking out all competitors or holding the card with the highest point value when the supply of cards has been depleted. The game ends when a player collects enough tokens, otherwise known as winning the princess’s love and permission to court her.
Each card in the deck offers an interesting way to interact with other players, anything from letting you guess their card for a chance to knock them out, to making them show your their card or even trade cards sight unseen. Of course you could be holding the princess, a card you may only discard at the cost of losing the round but guarantees success if you can make it to the end of the pile of available cards. Megan and I played the game twice with each other and once with my sister. Rounds are typically quite fast as the straightforward set of options presented by play make for a delightfully swift experience. Rounds typically take less than a minute and it is very conceivable to blow through many games in a short sitting. While certainly not brimming with tactical depth, Love Letter manages to stay fresh and exciting through multiple play-throughs, particularly with people you know (and like to screw over at the earliest opportunity.)
This game is highly recommended. It is quite inexpensive with many flavors to choose from, including the recently released Batman version. A blind accessibility kit for the original can be purchased from 64 Ounces Games.*
Available on Amazon
* The accessibility kit from 64 Ounces Games used in this review was won by Megan as a prize in a contest run by 64 Ounces Games paired with a copy of the game donated by AEG.