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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Love Letter: A Lovely Little Game

Dear Readers,

You've probably heard us talk about this inexpensive little gem over on the WWPD Podcast. The name can be a little off-putting, and I've done it no favors by protecting the cards with pink card sleeves and replacing the generic wooden score tokens with pink acrylic hearts... but I'm telling you, this game should be in every game collection!

Alright, so what's so great about this game? First, the entire game consists of 16 cards, and 13 score tokens (as well as a short rulebook and 4 reference cards). The rules for the game are deceptively simple: Either be the last player standing or have the highest value card in your hand when the game ends

At the beginning of the game, one of the 16 cards is set aside out of play (we call this the burner- it makes card counting leave a bit to chance!). Each player is dealt a single card, kept secret from other players. On a players' turn, they draw one card (making a hand of two) and must play (or discard- which is functionally the same as playing) one of those two cards. When cards are played, they are set in front of the player face up so everyone can see what cards have been played so far. If you'd like to read the full rules, Alderac Entertainment Group (the publisher of the game) has a PDF available.

At the end of each round, if you're the last player standing OR you have the highest value card when there are no cards left to draw, you win a token of affection. Depending on how many players there are, the first player to X tokens of affection wins the game!

image borrowed from

There are 8 cards, with some being duplicated several times adding up to 16 cards. There are 5 Guards, 2 Priests, 2 Barons, 2 Handmaids, 2 Princes, 1 King, 1 Countess, and 1 Princess.

Each card interacts with other cards in a variety of ways, which I will briefly describe below.

The Guard, when played, allows you to name another non-Guard card and choose another player. If that player has the card you named, he is out of the round. Early in the game, you can make wild guesses (knowing that 4 of the cards appear twice in the deck will help you make a guess based on your odds). Later in the game, clever deduction can often help you identify what cards players have.

The Priest allows you to look at another player's hand (remember in this game a "hand" is just one card). It's often helpful to know what someone else has if you suspect them of having a high value card- or to force them to get rid of the card you saw. If they don't, they run the risk of you using a guard to knock them out since you know what they have!

The Baron enables you to secretly compare hands with another player (after playing the Baron, you each will have one card). Whoever has the lowest value card is out for the round! Remember, however, that cards when discarded (or when someone is knocked out) are placed face up in front of them, so using a Baron and knocking out someone else who has a high-value card alerts the other players to the fact that you have one higher! If you knock out another player, and that player had a Prince, the remaining players know you either have the King, the Countess, or the Princess.

The Handmaid protects you from all card effects until your next turn. Great to play early and let you watch what other players are doing.

The Prince forces another player to discard their hand and draw a new card. Particularly helpful if you happen to know they have the Princess!

The King allows you to swap hands with another player. A dangerous play, but one that can be very rewarding particularly near the end of the game!

The Countess is unique, in that she doesn't actually have an ability. Instead you MUST discard her if you have either the King or the Prince. However, you MAY discard her at any time to play mind games with your opponent.

The Princess is the highest value card, but has a significant drawback! If you ever have to discard her, you're out.

I bought this game on a whim because the price tag is sub $10. I've played it SO MUCH now that it's probably one of the best returns on my investment of any game I own. It's great to play with hardcore gamers- particularly between tournament games, at a conventions etc... OR with not-so-hardcore-gamers due to its simplicity.

Not only do I think this is a great game, I truly believe every single gamer in the world should own it.

Suggestions: Get some card sleeves/protectors. You will likely wear these cards out from excessive play. Consider replacing the wooden "tokens of affection" with something more... thematic.

Thanks for reading!


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