Number of Players: 2-4
Honest Playtime: ~30 minutes
Number of playthroughs: Too many to count!
Overview: An Adventure Time skin of Love Letter? Mathematical!
Love Letter is a quick and simple game of reasoning, guessing, and luck. Players will take turns playing a single card from a hand of two with the goal of being the last player standing, or, if multiple players make it to the end of the round, having the highest value card in hand. Games of Love Letter go quickly and are simple enough for non-gamers to pick up after a few rounds, making it a great addition for parties, holidays, or family gatherings.
Gameplay-There are 8 different card types in Love Letter and each has a different effect: the guard–a servant of the Candy Kingdom–allows you to eliminate a player by correctly guessing what card they hold; the companion cards–BMO and Gunther–act as protective shields for a single round of play; the heroes–Finn and Jake–cause other players to discard their hand; the princess–Princess Bubblegum of course–has the highest value, but the player holding her loses if they are forced to discard her.
One or more cards–depending on the number of players–is removed from the deck at the start of each round. I liked this nuance. I felt it added a bit of excitement as the game is never one of totally complete information.
Over the course of a game players will have their hands revealed, swapped, or discarded. While luck does play a part of Love Letter, an attentive player will a large advantage. By paying attention to a player’s past turns it’s possible to deduce what card they most likely currently hold, making eliminating them that much easier. Correctly guessing another player’s card, or calling their bluff, or faking them out with a misdirecting play, is very satisfying.
The sting of defeat is short-lasting in Love Letter. Rounds go by in just a few minutes, so eliminated players rarely have a chance to become bored or disinterested.
The final round of the game often finds players in close contention for victory. As the game progresses, players are naturally encouraged to gang-up on the player in the lead. I liked this touch as it adds a bit of tension and teamwork–and a victory as the points leader often feels like a real me vs. the world triumph.
There are a couple minor rule differences between the Adventure Time version of the game and the original. For one, in the Adventure Time version, if a player uses the hero to discard the other hero, they automatically win the round. Secondly, players earn an extra point by winning with the companion in their hand.
Art and Pieces-There isn’t a ton of art to review as there are only a total of 12 different card faces. The art on the cards are faithful reproductions of the show’s characters. Jake, Finn, Lady Rainicorn, and the rest are as colorful, whimsical, and as charming as on the show.
Points are scored in form of small plastic gems. My gaming group and I loved this touch. There is something very satisfying about building up a little color-themed treasure trove with each victory.
The only other component is the velvet carrying bag. It takes the form of Jake’s face, and is simply awesome.
Conclusion- Love Letter is an absolutely excellent bite-sized card game that I eagerly recommend for anyone looking for something fun, light, and social–and it will especially appeal to fans of the television show. It rewards skill, attentiveness, and strategy while remaining light enough to be played on the fly with people unfamiliar with more complicated games. I’ve played it with my gaming friends before a round of Twilight Imperium and my non-gaming family before Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone enjoyed it.
For months my weekly gaming group used the game as a quick warm-up to the main gaming event, often rewarding the winner of Love Letter with the first player token in whatever game followed. I can’t think of a much better endorsement than that fact.
My only real complaint is that sometimes it’s easy to feel unlucky in this game. It’s possible, for example, to be eliminated from a round before even getting a chance to play a card. It’s fine when this happens once a play session, but when it happens 3 hands in a row, it can be a bit maddening.
With an MSRP of under 11$, this game is a great value-buy. It might not scratch the itch of someone looking for a complex, multi-hour game, but for a quick fix it is, in Finn’s words, mathematical!
Overall Score: 9/10