Love Letter is described by publishers AEG as 'a game of risk, deduction, and luck, for 2–4 players.' where you're trying to get your love letter to the Princess first whilst stopping everyone else delivering theirs.
The first version I owned was this one, based in AEG's Tempest setting:
The game consists of just 16 cards, a teeny rule book, reference cards and a little heap of tokens to mark the winners of each round. The little deck consists of eight types of character card, with each character numbered from one to eight.
Setting up the game is simple - after shuffling the deck to form a draw pile, one card is removed from the game to make sure you can't ever be quite sure of what cards are left in play. If you're playing with two players, three more cards are drawn and laid face up, taking no further part in the round. Each player then draws one card to form their starting hand. On their turn, each player draws a card and then discards one of the two they now have onto the table in front of them. They apply the effect described on the card, and play moves on to the left.
The round ends if the deck is empty at the end of a turn. All the players not yet eliminated compare hands and the person with the highest value card wins. The round can also end when all but one of the players are out - either way, the winner gets to give their letter to the Princess and is rewarded with a little red cube which eventually pile up to show who's won overall.
There are a few different ways to knock other people out of the running on the cards, but they mainly involve deduction and sometimes a bit of luck! Here are the cards in the deck and their effects.
- Guard (x5) - Guess a player's hand - if you guess right, that player is knocked out!
- Priest (x2) - Look at another player's hand. Very handy if the next card you get is a Guard...
- Baron (x2) - Compare hands; lower hand is out. Best played if you know what they have, but you can always try your luck!
- Handmaid (x2) - Protection until your next turn - you can't be targeted.
- Prince (x2) One player discards their hand. Really good if you know someone has the Princess.
- King (x1) Trade hands
- Countess (x1) Discard if caught with King or Prince. Discard this and everyone pretty much knows what you've got!
- Princess (x1) Lose if discarded
The reference cards also tell you how many of each card there are in the deck to help you figure out what's left in play.
This is a really clever, beautifully designed little game that manages to pack a lot of decisions into a tiny set of components and it's a lot of fun to play. There is some player elimination, but the rounds are so short that no-one is sitting out for very long so it doesn't cause any problems.
Since Love Letter was released there have been a number of different versions produced. They all have the same basic gameplay but the theme and some of the card text is different in each version. Love Letter Kanai Factory Edition is a limited release and comes with beautiful artwork from the original Japanese publishing of the game:
As you can see some of the cards have different names, but the powers are either identical or very similar. You can also choose in this version whether to deliver your love letter to one of the two Princesses included in the box or whether you'd prefer to send it to the Prince instead!
Other re-themes of the game include Adventure Time, The Hobbit, Munchkin and (yay!) Batman, the prompt for this post:
As you can see, the basic components are just the same as the first version I pictured, but the characters have all been swapped for familiar Batman-themed faces. This time, instead of trying to pass on your love letter, you're trying to end the round having 'captured' the highest value villain possible, with The Joker taking the top spot. Your rewards are little wooden bat symbol tokens, (which are just adorable) and I think it might be these that push this version slightly over the top of the others to make it my favourite! It has all the same condensed, fun game-play but now has a theme that fills any gaps in appeal left by fancy princesses. I'm really glad I have this little game (thanks, Secret Santa!)
If you'd like to win your own copy of Love Letter: Batman (clamshell edition) as pictured at the top of the post, please enter the Gleam giveaway below (UK only, I'm afraid):
Love Letter: Batman card game giveaway
Terms and conditions
- The giveaway is open to UK residents only - sorry, everyone else!
- One prize available, to be chosen using Gleam and announced on this page.
- The giveaway will close at midnight on 14th March 2016
- The winner will be contacted by e-mail within 3 days of the end of the giveaway. If they do not respond within 14 days another winner may be chosen.
- Entries using any software or automated process to make bulk entries will be disqualified.