Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 20 minutes
Play Time (Goof): 15-30 minutes
Designer/s: Seji Kanai
I never fully understood why we had to learn Shakespeare in high school. I enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as much as the next guy (okay…probably more than most guys), but it sure didn’t seem to help me much in my after school job at Blockbuster, or in my University studies. I breached this topic with my father a few years back and he regaled me with a time it had impacted on his life.
He was a single father with two children (myself included, so you know – lots of work) and he had recently met the woman who would become the love of his life. On Valentine’s Day, he decided to profess the way he felt for her (in a totally cowardice “secret admirer” kind of way) by writing out Shakespeare’s sonnet XVII in a card for her:
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘this poet life;
Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces.’
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.
But what was meant as a romantic gesture met its first hurdle when my dear step-mother didn’t understand the language it was written in and had to have a friend translate. Not the biggest issue. Took me reading ‘Hamlet’ a couple times to fully grasp what was happening. But I think my favourite moment came afterwards when she said “wait… is this guy insulting me?”
Love Letter is a game about attempting to work out who is writing love letters to the princess. So how does it hold up when I compare thee to a summer’s day? Lets do the review and find out.
At its core, this is a simple deduction elimination game. You’re trying to count cards and work out who has what card so you can be the last player standing. You repeat until someone has the required points (from being the last player left) to win.
Elimination games can be a double edged sword. On one end, it can increase the excitement of play; knowing there is a real risk of being out of the game. I tend to enjoy this, especially over games where you’re essentially out but you have to stay at the table doing bugger all until someone else wins. The other edge of this peculiar blade is it can result in players being kicked from the table early and having to wait before they can play the next round. King of Tokyo had a similar concern. The way this game deals with that issue is having lots of very quick paced rounds. And you’re never waiting out for more than a minute or two.
The fact you take one card out and put it in the bag helps negate pure card counting. It adds enough of an educated guess to the game to spice it up a little.
The problem with the game I have is the luck element is really overwhelming. If you get certain cards early on, such as the Princess, you really only have the option to play whatever you draw. And it’s difficult to win when you’re not able to take a calculated action.
I’ll be honest with you, I was not a fan when I first played Love Letter. There were very few choices to be made and the game felt like it had a very high luck element. I didn’t understand what the hype was about, and neither did the two friends I was playing it with. We shrugged and moved on to the next game. But it bugged me it was so hyped, and knowing I’m not infallible, I took another shot at it with the family.
I get it now.
It’s a family game. If you’re a hardcore gamer you might find your lack of options a little on the dull side, but if you only have half an hour or you’re playing with some new people or some younger gamers, then you cannot go past Love Letter. The simple rules and the fast play mean that my family were all animated and excited. It was the best.
I’d label this an introduction game for sure.
Pros: ++Calculated guesses, +Fast paced, +Simple rules, +Entry game
Cons: –Few options, -Heavily luck based
The theme of Love Letter is a romanticised medieval setting. There’s a story that comes in the rulebook, and this always scores points with me. It helps get me into the right mindset to play the game.
Honestly, the game is so simple it’s difficult to write much in terms of the theme. The characters from the story are present in the game, but you could take it or leave it (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). The theme seems to be natural, it just doesn’t add a whole lot (other than the satisfaction of telling my father that he’s a princess who’s been writing himself love letters).
OMG…games which include little blocks know right where to get me. I have such a damn addiction to playing with these blocks. Pandemic got me in exactly the same way.
However, given this is a family game you really have to be vigilant to make sure the little kids don’t lose them. It’s hard to tell them not to play with them… because they’re seeing me do it. But if they lose components then you’re going to have to replace them with other things, and lego doesn’t fit in the bag quite as well.
I really don’t understand why people don’t spend more time on the artwork they put on the backs of cards. It’s the single most looked at piece of artwork in most games. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make it look nice. Here they’ve put the picture of the princess on the back, and it really does feel like they ran out of time and slapped it on.
I cannot stress this next point enough: give each player a reference card. This game does exactly that. I cannot tell you how much better games like Firefly would be if I didn’t have to spend time going through what options a player has. It’s not a whole lot of extra to add to a game, a good example being how this game manages to do it and it all fits in a tiny bag.
The bag is interesting. It’s a game component as well as an easy way to store the game. If every game came in a bag, or even a bigger game came in a bag, you’d probably hear me complaining about it. But I like that this game does it, I like that it fits the theme and has a purpose. And since it is a family game, taking it on holidays and storing it in your backpack is viable.
The quality of the components is good, not a whole lot more to add on here. But you don’t feel like you’ve been ripped off. Love Letter is actually quite reasonably priced. I picked up my copy for about $15 (AU). It’s a great stocking stuffer at Christmas for the family, or a cheap present.
Pros: +CUBES!, +Quality components, +Reference cards, +Functional storage
Cons: –Back of card art (come on people!)
Although it didn’t hit me the first time, I definitely got hit with the love bug on the second look. And if you’ve got a group of new players, or you’ve got children and are looking for something fresh to try, I’d absolutely give this a go.
I give Love Letter:
You should give this one a try – or maybe two. It wont cost you much to give it a go.