Name: Love Letter
Type: Card Game
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Size: 19cm x 11.7cm x 3cm
Playtime: 15-20 mins
(4.0 / 5)
Love Letter is a card game of intrigue, bluffing and memory with a touch of luck thrown in for good measure. It’s the 4th in a series of games based in the court of the Citystate of Tempest. Tempest is unique in the world of board and game games as it is a persistent world with an story that unfolds over the course of the various games and has a cast of recurring characters. The plot for this game is that the Queen has been unveiled as a traitor and now the unwed Princess Annette is due to inherit the throne. Suitors seek to be the one that claims her hand in marriage and so compete to ensure that their Love Letter is the one that reaches, and is read by, the Princess.
The game comes in a plastic blister pack and can be retained after opening as it easily opens and clips closed. Inside the blister you get a faux velvet pouch, 20 cards (being the 16 for the game and 4 reference cards), a zip lock baggie with 13 plastic cubes in it and the rulebook, which is A8 sized.
The rule book is 28 pages long with the 1st 6 pages being devoted to a little fluff for the game. The rules themselves are pretty simple and can be summed up with a sentence or two (they take up 6 pages in then rules) and I’ll give a bit more detail in a minute. The rest of the rulebook is given over the some extra information regarding the varies characters and interested parties in the game.
The faux velvet pouch is a nice touch and it nice houses the rest of the game. It has a simple drawstring at the top to keep it closed and I think it adds to the overall feel of the game making it feel delicate and slightly aloof. The plastic cubes are very small and are used to denote how many rounds each player has won. The cubes could easily be replaced by any other token, I think glass beads in particular would work well with the tone of the game.
The cards are all made of cheap, thin card and I doubt that they’d stand up to spillage. They are full colour and each have a character on the front along with an action to take when the card is played or certain criteria are met. Each card has a character ranking on it, from 1-9, as well as a number of stars indicating how many of the cars, in total, are in the deck.
The game is pretty simple but does vary slightly depending on how many people are playing but the overall goal is to win a specific number of rounds. The object of each round is to have the highest ranking card in your hand when the draw deck runs out or to be the last player left in the round. In a 3-4 player game the deck of 16 cards is shuffled, the top card is put aside (face down) and each player is dealt a single card. First turn is denoted in a suitably abstract way (what game doesn’t decide in an abstract way now?) by giving it to whomever last went on a date.
On their turn players draw a card and then discard a card, taking into account the effects on the discarded card, which allows you to take actions such as looking at another players hand or protects you from card effects until your next turn. The object here is to try and keep the highest ranking card you can in your hand while trying to knock the other players out (using card effects).
The fact that there are only 16 cards in the deck with only 8 different characters (in varying amounts) means that the game involves a large amount of bluffing and tactical play. This only increases as rounds progress because you can see exactly what has been played and so know roughly what cards are left in the deck. Combining this with knowledge that certain cards cause others to be discarded or force certain effects when you hold them and players can use their wit to try and figure out what cards others are holding and therefore use that to their advantage.
For a game with so few cards Love Letter has a surprising amount of depth to it and is great fun to play. I picked it up because I was fascinated by how a game of just 16 cards could be playable by 4 people and provide any level of tactical challenge and I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it is.
It does have a couple of disadvantages though. First is obviously the quality of the cards, the game is cheap enough to buy but anytime you are playing there is the risk that such flimsy cards will be damaged and given that the game relies on bluff and tactic having any mark on a card would render it useless. Second is the number of players it supports, it states 2-4 but I found that it lacks depth as a 2 player game and devolved down to just guessing what the other player is holding. There isn’t anything wrong with a game that supports 3-4 players but it’s a shame that it only supports a narrow group size. With that said, I suspect it might just support 5 players, assuming that you substituted some tokens but certainly no more than that.
Overall I really like it. My group got quite into the spirit of the game and spent much of the time calling one another bounders, cads and knaves and challenging one another to duels. It plays quickly and so easily slots into any game evening or can be whipped out when you are just waiting for another player to arrive. It also does a surprisingly solid job of giving the feel of court intrigue.
As you can tell I’m pretty high on this one. I am still surprised at how good I found it, despite its size and simplicity and by how much fun it is. It’s certainly a game I’d recommend to others and it’s convinced me that I should try some other games in the Tempest series.
At the time of writing Love Letter has no expansions.