Hey everyone! As some of you may have picked up over the years, I am something of a nerd, a geek, whatever you want to label it. I love games of all kinds, from board to card to video games. So I’m starting up a new series offering my thoughts on the games I’ve played, mostly from my own collection. We’re going to kick things off here with my latest acquisition, a fast and easy card game called Love Letter.

As the name implies, you’re trying to win the heart of the princess by making sure your love letters reach her, while trying to prevent your rivals from doing the same.

The components

The game comes with 20 cards, 16 character cards, and 4 cheat sheets that list all the card powers. Each card has a numerical value on it, plus the power at the bottom. The game also has a bunch of little wooden cubes that get handed out to the winner of each round. I managed to snag a version that comes with a little cloth baggy to put everything in!

Playing the game is pretty simple, and is played over a number of rounds. You shuffle up the 16 cards, secretly discard one to preserve an element of randomness in the game, and deal one out to each player. The goal is to have the highest-value card when the deck runs out, or to be the last person still in the round. On their turn, a player draws a card, then plays a card out of the two now in hand. The cards have a variety of powers, which can vary from taking a peek at an opponent’s hand to possibly kicking them out for the rest of the round. When the cards run out, the person with the highest value card gets a little cube to mark their victory. The same happens if only one person is still in after getting the others kicked out. After each round, you shuffle the deck again and keep going until one player wins a specific number of rounds, as listed in the rule booklet. It’s that simple. The game supports two to four players, and takes up to a half-hour to play a full game.

Sample hand: Cavey has a 6, beating Baby Teddy’s 4, meaning she wins this round, and is one step closer to winning the Princess’ heart!

The beauty of the game is its simplicity. There are no grand strategies to contemplate, no long-term plans to forge. You only have one decision each and every turn: which of your two cards will you play? In general, it’s going to be the lower-value one, cuz you want to keep the higher one in-hand to win the round. Actually, there may be a second decision: which of your opponents you want to target with your card’s power. That’s actually the fun part of the game, screwing with your opponents! There is an element of strategy in that, as played cards are left face-up in front of each player, so you have a basic idea of what value card they may be holding on to. The game is quick and fun, and is a great filler to kill time at your gaming session until getting to longer, meatier games later on.

From what I can tell, Love Letter is available in three editions here in Taiwan: the one I have, a Chinese version with the same card art but no cloth baggie, and a black-boxed version with different artwork. That one, called the Kanai version, has English instructions along with Chinese/Japanese names for the cards, plus a different power for the 7-value card. I’ve seen the Chinese and Kanai versions all over in Taipei game stores, so it should be easy to find if you want to add it to your collection!

English version on the left, Chinese version on the right. Kanai version not pictured!