Love Letter (Tempest Edition), by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

I got a copy of this while in the US a couple of years ago based on the review at Playtest. You should read his review, it captures my feelings about the game perfectly.

My favourite part about this game is explaining it to new players. You explain the rules (which takes about two minutes), promise everyone “trust me, it works”, followed by awkwardly playing through the first round, then suddenly everyone clicks and before you know it you’ve played 5 more rounds. By that point other people have heard all the laughter and are begging to substitute in or play in pairs.

The rules are simple — you’re trying to deliver a love letter to the Princess. There’s a cute backstory explained in the rules. The card that you end the round with (if you don’t get evicted before then!) is the character that you actually delivered the letter to, the closer to the Princess, the better.

Each turn you pick up one card, and place one down (discard it) in front of you. The card you place has some effect (e.g. discarding the Priest lets you look at another players card). Other players’ effects may cause you to be evicted from the round. After the draw pile is discarded (a few minutes), the round winner gets a “token of affection” and the aim is to win a certain amount (depending on the number of players) of “tokens of affection”.

Actually delivering to the Princess is quite difficult, because having the Princess card is actually a bit of a double-edged sword (if you discard it, you’re evicted from the round). It’s one of those games where you’re rewarded for noticing little things and applying logic, but with just the right amount of randomness thrown in to keep it entertaining. The rules also explicitly make it possible for you to use all the information available to make a logical decision without being disadvantaged if you don’t have a perfect memory — all players’ discards are required to be visible. However there’s always one card removed from the deck when dealing, so the very last few turns are always amusing as people try to work out what the removed card must be.

Love Letter comes in a little felt bag that perfectly fits the 20 cards and “love cubes” (errr, “tokens of affection”). I leave it in my backpack most of the time, so always ready for a quick game. Airports, pubs, board game nights while waiting for other games to finish, etc.

You can also get several different editions, including a Lord of the Rings version and a Kanai Factory Limited Edtion with beautiful Japanese artwork. I actually keep an unopened copy of the Kanai Factory edition on my shelf as a ready-to-go gift — just replaced it recently.

I recently played a game called Cypher (also by AEG) which is probably best described as a cyber-hacker themed two-card version of Love Letter — i.e. you have two cards in front of you at any time, and there are more distinct cards. It’s really fun too and I’ll write a review of it later. It’s worth mentioning that I haven’t yet found an AEG game that I haven’t enjoyed.

I’ve often been in situations where we’ve had more than four players, but Love Letter is limited to four players. I’ve wondered how we could adapt it to support more players, but perhaps you should just play Coup instead…

One last thing — The Broken Token sell a replacement set of love cubes. I’m also keen to check out their range of box organizers (Netrunner, 7 Wonders, etc).