Game Length: 20 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 4 players who want a quick and easy to learn game of deduction and bluffing
Love Letter is a microgame originally from Japan but has since seen worldwide release and popularity. Each player is a lord trying to send a letter of support to the Princess, who has sealed herself in her tower. Her guards, servants, friends and family still have her ear, however, and players will use these characters to carry their message. The player at the end of the round with the highest-valued card will win – provided they haven’t been eliminated along the way!
The game itself only features 16 cards, and at the start of the round all players will draw a card – this card is their hand. On their turn, they will draw an additional card, and must then play one of their two cards, each of which has a different effect. Once all the cards are played (or all but one player is eliminated), the remaining players reveal their cards and the player with the highest card is the winner of the round. The first to win a set number of rounds is the winner!
The cards themselves allow for a lot of opportunity for interaction. One card, the Guard, allows players to try to guess the card in another player’s hand – if successful, the targeted player is eliminated. Other cards will likewise help (or perhaps hinder) a player’s chance of success.
Love Letter contains elements of bluffing and memorisation, but is largely luck-based. The rules of the game are very simple and best taught by going through each of the cards, then playing a round. Individual rounds are usually less than a few minutes each and while it features player elimination, the round is over so quickly that waiting to get back into the game is rarely a chore.
Love Letter is not a particularly deep game; there are not many opportunities for tactical play, but the bluffing element and the direct interaction can be quite enjoyable. It plays best with 4, but also plays well with 3 – it is less enjoyable with 2, becoming almost entirely luck-based.
Love Letter is impressive for how it fits so much gameplay into a relatively tiny package, and is cheap and accessible enough that it deserves a place in any boardgamer’s collection.