I bought Love Letter as a valentine’s present for my then fiancé now husband last year. The game consists of only 16 cards and 13 red cubes, but the clever combination of roles depicted on the cards leads to a fun game which is easy to learn and quick to play.
The aim is to have your love letter delivered to the Princess by putting it into the hand of the person closest to her; how close a person is to the Princess is given by the number on the card. If the round ends with the deck of cards being exhausted the person with the highest value card in their hand wins. However there are various ways that you can be thwarted in your attempts to deliver the letter and so eliminated from the round.
The 8 different roles encourage bluffing and decisions about when to hold onto a card or when to discard it as it is too risky to hold onto. If you have the Princess you can only ever play the other card in your hand as you automatically lose if you discard it, however you don’t want to make it obvious that you are restricted to playing one card or the next player to hold a guard will easily guess what you are holding. The Countess gives you a conundrum, do you hold onto it hoping you don’t pick up a princess, king or prince, or do you discard it hoping your bluff will throw your competitors off the scent. The King is a tricky card as if you swap with someone they will know what card they have given you which leaves you open to being eliminated if they pick up a guard (it is, for hopefully very obvious reasons, generally a bad idea to play the King if your other card is a guard).
The lower numbered 5 cards also give decisions to make. When to risk playing a Baron, potentially eliminating yourself or indicating to other remaining players that you have a high value card in your hand for them to guess. What to guess when playing a Guard, could you give away the other card you are holding by what you do or don’t guess. Who do you force to discard their hand with the Prince.
On BoardGameGeek the game is recommend by the community for 3-4 players, with more than half of voters stating that the game is not recommend with 2 players. However I feel the 2 player game is an excellent way to play (most, but not all, of my plays have been with 2 players).
In contrast to the 3 or 4 player game, you start with 3 cards displayed face up, this gives you extra information at the start of the game to base your play on. It is also less likely that the card deck will be exhausted as only one person needs eliminating for the round to end, usually in a best of 13 match the deck is only exhausted once or twice. This means that holding onto high value cards is generally more risky, as as the deck runs down they are more likely to be guessed by your opponent. Conversely if they have a Baron you want to have a high card otherwise they are likely to win. If you tend to play against the same opponent you also learn their strategies and this may enable you to make better educated guess with guards or predict what they may guess and so choose which card to play accordingly.
Overall I would recommend this quick filler game as a perfect fit for when you only have a short amount of time to play or you want something portable to bring along with you. I think that it works well for 2-4 players, with the 2 player game offering a different, but still good, experience to a game with more people involved.