Bored? Game! – Love Letter


A card game for up to four players made up entirely of 16 cards sounds like an unusual proposition, but Love Letter proves categorically that it isn’t the size that counts. In fact Love Letter has been a big success in a recent wave of micro games, which manage to create interesting gameplay scenarios with minimal components and play time. Hidden role games are particularly suited to this format, and some recent standouts are the deduction game Resistance, and Bruno Faidutti’s Masquerade.

The objective of the game is to woo the princess, or at least bombard her with letters until she gives in.

Love Letter is set in the Tempest series, created by renowned card game publisher AEG, to contain a series of games within the same fictional renaissance city, with similar characters, art work and a narrative thread. Despite potentially being gimmicky this marketing trick has produced some strong games, such as the area influence game Courtier and the trading game Mercante, but Love Letter, in spite (or perhaps because) of its slightness has become the stand out game of the series (and there are already a million fan made rethemes from Cowboy Bebop to Game of Thrones). Created by Japanese designer Seiji Kanai (a new edition of the game complete with original Japanese art has recently hit the shelves) Love Letter sees you as potential suitors each trying to get your letter to the princess. The game is set after Courtier, which saw the arrest of the Queen for treason, and everyone thinks that a little wooing is just what the princesses needs to lighten her mood.

Two of the role cards
Two of the role cards

In the game are eight roles, some of which are duplicated and some of which are unique, ranging from the lowly guard to the princess herself. This represents the person that currently holds your love letter, and at the end of a round the highest ranked errand boy delivers the letter and wins a point of affection. A player’s hand consists of one card and on your turn you draw a fresh card and then play one of the two for its effect. There are numerous ways of being knocked out of the round, for instance you can use a guard to target a player and name a card, if the guess is correct they are out, or you can use the somewhat effete looking Baron  to compare your second card with another player and the highest value wins. So far so simple, but imagine you used the priest to look at another player’s card. Now that player should probably consider discarding it, or pass it to another player, which is a pain if it’s a strong one. Then there’s the potential scandal of picking up the countess whilst you have the king or the prince in hand, forcing you to discard them. If someone discards a prince does that mean they have the countess, or are they bluffing?

It’s the numerous ways the roles interact that makes the game more interesting than a sixteen card game has any right to be and demonstrates what a triumph of minimalist design it is. It isn’t going to keep you entertained for a whole evening, but few games can fill twenty minute’s downtime with so much cleverness.



At twenty minutes this is pretty much the perfect filler

A really interesting minimalist design

Cheap as chips

Won’t appeal to players who dislike deductive games

After several plays some of the patterns become obvious

Doesn’t work so well with two players

Designer: Seiji Kanai
Publisher: AEG
Mechanic: Hidden roles and deduction
Number of Players: 2-4 (Best with 4)
Length of Game: 20mins
Complexity: Very light






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