Love Letter is a very small game. In the smaller (non premium, 2019) version, there are just twenty six cards and thirteen tokens: tokens of a Princess’s favour. It easily fits into the splendid little cloth bag it comes in.
Despite being tiny, it can make quite an impact, and it’s highly rated (7.6 at BoardGameGeek). It’s a very interactive little game, with some opportunity for glee, or disappointment, and even twinges of indignation.
In each round, which doesn’t last very long, only one person will be left at the table – or, more appropriately, at the Princess’s side. Everyone’s hope is to be the last character left standing: the one who delivers a letter of love into the Princess’s waiting hand. That person wins the round, and gets a token of favour from the Princess. There will be several rounds in each game: how many depends on how the winning and losing goes.
Of course, everyone is up to the same game, so during the fight to be the perfect postie there’s plenty of opportunity to take risks, cross fingers for good luck, or test powers of deduction.
At their turn, each player draws one card from the deck, after which they must play one card face up in front of themselves: only very temporarily does anyone hold two cards. Cards are left where they’ve been put, so everybody can see what characters have been played.
Cards represent the ten characters at court. For example, there are six guards and two priests: but only one King and Countess, and of course but one Princess.
Each character has different characteristics, leading to different behaviours immediately they are laid down. Thankfully, the cards have this information clearly described upon them, so there’s minimal strain on the memory 😊.
For example, playing a powerful King permits you to exchange hands with another player (did they smirk?) whilst the less potent priest-card lets you secretly look at the card that one other player has in their hand.
A guard is permitted to challenge another player – not so much with a guarded “who goes there” but with a more confident “I think you are the Prince”. If the guard was correct, the poor Prince is knocked out of this round of the round, head hung low ~ but still on, so he can count himself lucky 😑.
If the guard was wrong: oh well, better luck next time. But everyone now knows that the person who was challenged isn’t the Prince!
(Oooh! Might the person who played the guard be playing a crafty game – could they be the Prince?)
Another quirky character is the Countess. She can be played whenever you like, but if you also are holding the King or Prince, then she must be played.
Subterfuge may be permitted: one understands that it happens from time to time. But everybody has to act with honesty: there’s no saying that you’re not the Prince when you are.
If nobody has won the right to be the deliverer of the love letter when the pack runs out, the card with the highest value wins: so, better to be holding a handmaid than a baron, would you believe? See the picture of the cards above.
Who’ll hand over the billet-doux – will it be you?
Premium edition is for up to 8 players – with more characters and nice box.
- can be learned quickly
- no setting up
- fast and replayable
- deductive thinking helps a lot at times
- watching what happens between other characters can be crucial
- some luck involved
- players who are knocked out of a turn have to wait a bit before they can join in again