Design Review: Love Letter

Welcome to the second post in our Design Review series, where we will be taking a deep dive into various aspects of game design for a specific board game that we enjoy. Today, we will be looking at Love Letter by AEG

Love Letter

Info

Title – Love Letter
Publisher – AEG
Designers – Seiji Kanai
Players – 2 to 4
Ages – 8+
Duration – 15 minutes

Board Game Geek (Link)

Rating – 7.3
Weight – 1.21
Type – Family
Category – Card Game
Mechanisms – Hand Management, Player Elimination

Description

Love Letter is a light, yet elegant, game where players try to eliminate each other or have the highest value card at the end of each round. Each card played has an ability that helps the player learn more information or hinder their opponents.

Theme

The premise of Love Letter is that various suitors are each vying to deliver a love letter to the princess. The game has a Victorian / Renaissance feel to it, with good artwork and graphic design. The backstory and theme of the game feel a bit pasted on, but do not detract from the gameplay or overall experience.

Mechanics

Download the rulebook here for your reference

Hand Management
Every player maintains one card in their hand and draws another to start their turn. Players must then decide which of their two cards to play and which to keep. There is an interesting balance here, provided by the two winning conditions. Players may want to use cards that have interesting powers, in an attempt to eliminate all other players and win the round. On the other hand, players may want to keep higher value cards that would provide a greater chance of winning at the end of the round (if two or more players are not eliminated.)

Love Letter Cards

Player Elimination
One winning condition for each round of the game is to eliminate all other players. This can be done in a number of ways by using powers of the various cards: guessing other players cards, comparing card values, forcing a player to discard the princess, etc. Though some players do not enjoy player elimination in general, the rounds in Love Letter are a quick enough that it is not a detraction and serves as a central element to player strategy.

Other Design Concepts

Skill vs Luck
There is a good balance of skill and luck in Love Letter, which provides for high accessibility to all types of gamers.

Skill
Players can use deduction, memory, and bluffing to help gain an advantage over their opponents. It is especially important to know how many of the different card types there are – player aids are even provided to help with this.

Luck
Luck of the draw is definitely present in Love Letter, and can help push you towards victory or defeat in each round. The speed of the rounds and the low weight of the game helps prevent this from feeling too powerful.

Hidden Information
A core concept in Love Letter is hidden information. Players hands are hidden from eachother and much of the game is devoted to trying to figure out what card each player is holding. Every round, one card is left out of play to add to the uncertainty.

Components

1x box
1x rulebook (24 pages)
16x cards
13x wooden cubes

Love Letter Contents