Review – Love Letter from AEG

Review – Love Letter from AEG

Design – Seiji Kanai

Art – Andrew Hepworth, Jeff Himmelman, Noboru Sugiura

Its always interesting to see if there are any surprise hits that come out of the Essen Spiele fair. One of the interesting surprises for a lot of folks that seems to have come out of this year’s fair wasn’t a huge big box game with loads of miniatures, nor was it the usual Euro game about trading in the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages.

On the Thursday evening of the fair, a friend took a little packet out of his pocket and showed us a game called Love Letter. It had 16 cards. Yeah that’s it. It it was really fun.

The next day, I did some checking and the word was that both the original version from Japan’s Kanai Factory and AEG‘s version set in their Tempest world were hot tickets. I guess I wasn’t surprised as Love Letter was really enjoyable but I certainly would never have predicted that a 16-card game would become so popular at the fair.

Having played the AEG version (this was originally a game from Japon Brand), I wanted to pick up a copy as a fun game to introduce to non-gamers.

Unboxing, er… “unpacketing”

A very basic and simple game, you get 16 cards depicting different roles with 4 reference cards and tokens of affection. The cards are of a good standard with very nice artwork set in AEG’s Tempest world where they have themed a number of games.

Each card has a value. The higher the number, the closer that person is to the princess and the more likely to win the round. A text box on each card describes the effect when the card is discarded.

Gameplay overview

A remarkably simple game, the whole thing is about making sure the Princess receives your Love Letter.

From the rules –

In the wake of the arrest of Queen Marianna for high treason, none was more heartbroken than her daughter, Princess Annette.
Suitors throughout the City- State of Tempest sought to ease Annette’s sorrow by courting her to bring some joy into her life.

You are one of these suitors, trying to get your love letter to the princess. Unfortunately, she has locked herself in the palace, so you must rely on intermediaries to carry your message. During the game, you hold one secret card in your hand. This is who currently carries your message of love for the princess. Make sure that the person closest to the princess holds your love letter at the end of the day, so it reaches her first!

The mechanics?

On your turn, you will draw the top card from the deck and add it to your hand. Then choose one of the two cards in your hand and discard it face up in front of you. You must then apply any effect on the card you discarded. That’s it.

Discarded cards are placed in front of each player. You lay the cards in the order they were discarded so players can deduce which cards other players might be holding.

The trick is to hope to get the higher number cards in your hand, knocking the other players out of the round so you can be the last player standing, so to speak. You are subject to the luck of the draw of course, it is a card game afterall, but you do have choices to make which impact other players or yourself which has an impact. These choices tend to make it clear which cards are being discarded and which may be left surviving. So there is a certain amount of deduction and a bit of bluffing involved.

The turns for each player go quickly and the rounds move along so very little down time. There is also player elimination but it moves to the new round at a good pace so this isn’t a problem.

A round ends if the deck is empty at the end of a turn. The player with the highest ranked person wins the round. In case of a tie, the player who discarded the highest total value of cards wins.

A round also ends if all players but one are out of the round, in which case the surviving player wins.

Depending on how many players there are, the winner is the player who wins the following number of rounds –

2 Players – 7 rounds

3 Players – 5 rounds

4 players – 4 rounds

I wont reveal the different effects of the cards when discarded. Suffice it to say that there is a good variety and they can be beneficial or not. it feels pretty balanced to me. Luck does have a real impact as in most card games.

Did I like it?

Well, I thought that I had lost my copy the other day and I wasn’t happy so that supports what I mentioned in the beginning of this review. That I like Love Letter very much. As a friend said to me, either it is a genius game or totally mad. I think its a bit of both actually. In the games I’ve played, there have been loads of laughs.

AEG have done a great job of re-theming Love Letter into their Tempest series of games and from what I saw at Essen, it was very popular indeed and deservedly so.

Its not a serious game, but different to a lot of card games I’ve played. Its, fast and furious, surprising and down right mean. It looks great. The theme is thin but it works well enough. If you are looking for deep mechanics, and a strategic game, forget it. The mechanics are simple, you have some control over you destiny but not a lot so its pretty chaotic but I didn’t mind at all. Most of all its tremendously fun and a good laugh!

I would recommend this game without hesitation and would think that this is a great social game and great to use with non-gamers for a good time.

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