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Subject: Love Letter: Better to have Loved than Lost rss

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Have you heard?

There's a scandal afoot in the city-state of Tempest: Queen Marianna is behind bars, and get this: for high treason. I hear Princess Annette took her mother's incarceration especially poorly, locking herself away in the castle and absolutely refusing to see anyone.

Now some may consider taking advantage of this dear sweet girl during her time of need, that by wooing her with sweet words or playful affection one would be profiting from her misery, but maybe they just don't understand true love like we do. The despairing mademoiselle is crestfallen, and it should be considered our honour-- no, our duty to win her heart and with it, a claim to the throne of Tempest. A truly selfless act, really.


Love Letter is a two-to-four player card game of romantic opportunism designed by Seiji Kanai. In Love Letter, you are among a cast of suitors, all intent on securing the courtship of the bereft princess. But love is never simple; the castle is well guarded and the princess has come down with a case of agoraphobia. To this end, you will seek out various go-betweens found throughout the royal premises to carry love letters you hope will eventually reach the downhearted daughter of the king.

These intermediaries will vary from lowly guards to devout priests, to helpful handmaids, to busy barons, to even the royal family themselves. But the princess in her sorry state has become susceptible to all manner of flirtation: x's and o's, scented paper, cute drawings of cats, erotic pictures of knights and flowery words aimed dangerously at her bosom. What this means is basically this: it's not about who composes the best love letter, but who gets there first. The would-be Casanova whose message of sincere, undying love arrives at the princess's feet first by days end is gifted a token of her affection and becomes a step closer to the eventuality of romancing her in person, if you catch my drift.



Love Letter is bluffing, deduction, strategy, experience and luck divided fairly into only sixteen cards. At the start of each round, a card will be dealt to each player with the remainder of the deck left face down in the center of the table, along with one additional card kept face down and removed from play for the remainder of the round. On each turn, you will draw and play a card in front of you. On your turn, you will try to suss out the roles of your opponents and attempt to eliminate them. Barring that, you will endeavor to have the highest ranking card remaining in play by the time the final card is drawn from the diminutive deck. The winner of the round earns a victory token and the first player to collect the required amount of tokens wins the game.



There are eight ranks of cards in love letter, and all have various stipulations or abilities. Ranking from highest to lowest, they are:

8. The Princess - The highest card in the game; if you discard it, you are eliminated. The card you want at the end of the round, but not at the beginning.

7. The Countess - If you also have the Prince or the King, you must discard this card. This is a fun one because you can discard it even if you don't have the King or the Prince, allowing you to mislead your opponents as to the identity of your other card.

6. The King - Trade hands with your opponent. A card worthy of the ruler of Tempest.

5. The Prince (x2) - Either you or any opponent must discard their card and draw a new one. Comes in handy if you suspect someone has the Princess.

4. The Handmaid (x2) - Makes you immune to the cards of other players until your next turn. This card can buy you some time if you suspect someone knows your other card.

3. The Baron (x2) - Allows you to challenge another opponent. You compare your remaining card with theirs and whoever has the lower value is eliminated. A good card, but risky in that it can give away a high ranking card, say if you beat your opponent's Countess with your Princess.

2. The Priest (x2) - Look at your opponent's hand. This card can be useful to make someone drop a card after you've seen it, or to reveal that they have the Princess.

1. The Guard (x5) - Guess another player's identity (other than a Guard). If you are correct, they are eliminated from the round.

Love Letter isn't simply about choosing the right card, the right target and the right moment. After playing a few rounds you'll soon find your deductions have developed a social component. While yes, through process of elimination you could take an educated stab at the likelihood of the person sitting across from you having the Baron nestled secretly in their palm, you will be filled with otherworldly delight intuiting their role through an auditory clue.

Picking up on someone holding the Princess through a suspicious comment or a furtive glance, and in turn capitalizing on this will transform you from Lothario to Sherlock Holmes. In this way, Love Letter excels because as the components become automatic, solving the identities around you becomes a masterclass in analysis.



But all that glitters isn't gold. Love can be cruel sometimes, and it's better to be lucky than good. You might study the game to the point of intimacy, but this won't stop someone from guessing who you are with a Guard and eliminating you before you've even had a turn. As well, the components leave a little to be desired. With the nature of the game and with only sixteen easily maimable cards, there is no excuse not to sleeve them immediately, as the marking of even a single card can make the game unplayable.

While the art is downright adorable and fits the theme well, the little red cubes that come with the game are about as romantic and fitting as miniature submarines. If you have the opportunity, I suggest heading to a craft store (or local dollar store) and replacing them with something more fitting to the theme.



How do I love this game: Let me count the ways. Love Letter floats gently between being a casual filler and just long enough to give it some heft. Setting up isn't a chore and playing again and again is something to look forward to. It's easy to teach and a perpetual source of good cheer. There will be rounds that end disastrously for you, and sometimes you'll outwit the table and feel you've truly earned your victory. For only sixteen cards, there's a lot to love here. The game hearkens you back to a less technologically advanced time, and reminds you that before the mix tape, the Facebook poke or the text, there was another way to let your crush know how you feel. Love Letter is a game you'll play now, tomorrow, and years to come. It isn't just a summer fling, it's a lifelong romance.

Review reposted from BoardandSavior.com
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Clint Smith
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Who the @#&% was that?
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The hearts are a great idea. Is there two glued back to back each or did they come like that?
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Edward Bolme
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I wanted to use plastic hearts—it was my first choice—but the price point between them and red cubes was... um... alarming. wow
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Captain Yellowbeard
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Each token is comprised of two plastic heart gems you can get at big box hobby stores. You can find them in 10mm & 15mm sizes. The can be found with self adhesive backs or you can just glue them together yourself.

It is a great time of the year to find all kinds of suitable replacement tokens for Love Letter. Below are several varieties of mini erasers which I found as assortments at the different big box hobby stores. The one in the center is about the size of a US Quarter. I use the heart gems like the OP but also have a set of letters with wings because they are more fanciful.

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Oreot wrote:
The hearts are a great idea. Is there two glued back to back each or did they come like that?


Thanks! They are actually stickers that I picked up at Michaels craft store for a few bucks and stuck back to back to make a 3D token.

edbolme wrote:
I wanted to use plastic hearts—it was my first choice—but the price point between them and red cubes was... um... alarming.


My friends and I joke about how those damn cubes are in every game. I'm actually working on another customization for Love Letter because I enjoy it so much!
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Jens Alfke
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This is a really nicely written and heartfelt review. Thanks!

(However, it only makes me more frustrated that I won't be able to get a copy of the game before Valentine's Day, according to AEG's latest reprint update.)
 
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Don D.
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Great pictures and a very entertaining read. I think calling it a "masterclass of analysis" is probably not the most accurate though.

While I don't really agree with your opinions, I must admire the way you wrote them! I particularly enjoyed how you mimicked a love letter writing style in your review.
 
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