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Love Letter Vs. Love Letter

- A game of deduction, risk and love

Players: 2 - 4 Players: 2 - 6

Playing time: 20 minutes Playing time: 20 minutes

Designed by: Seiji kanai Designed by: Seiji kanai

Published by: Alderac Entertainment Group Published by: Z-Man Games


Princess Annette is in despair after the death of her late mother, Queen Marianna. Suitors throughout the city want nothing but to ease her sorrows with lavish gifts as an attempt to bring joy into her life again. You and the other players are one of these suitors, with desperate attempts to get your Love Letter to the Princess. Through many attempts you fall short. The Princess has locked herself away in the palace and you must rely on intermediaries to deliver your message.


There have been so many versions of Love Letter published by AEG over the years including Adventure Time Love Letter, Archer Love Letter and Batman Love Letter. Now, with it in the hands of new publisher Z-Man Games, I'm sure there will be many more, but for this review, I want to focus on the original Love Letter published in 2012 and the new 2019 edition.


What do you get?

2012 edition:

- 16 game cards -4 reference cards -tokens of affection (action cubes)


2019 edition:

- 21 character cards -6 reference cards - 13 favor tokens - 1 cloth bag


One of the main differences in components (from my editions) is that the older version comes in a box, while the newer one is presented in a cloth bag. I'm aware that the cloth bag is available for the 2012 edition, but there isn't a box alternative for the 2019 version as of yet.


Another obvious difference includes the artwork of the cards, the new edition has had a complete overhaul. This is more than likely down to Z-Man Games wanting to rebrand Love Letter in their own way so that it is distinguishable from the Alderac Entertainment Games version.

Finally, the last difference and my favourite is the favour tokens. In the 2012 edition they are supplied as plain, boring red action cubes. In the new version they are screen printed acrylic tokens with the new Love Letter logo on them. This is a small difference and not really important to the game but I was really excited when I saw these as it adds that extra bit of flavour to the game. They feel luxurious to have and to hold and that fits well with the royal theme.


Gameplay


Love Letter is a social deduction game played in a series of rounds where players are trying to enlist the friends and family of the Royal Princess. Each player starts with one card in their hand and this represents the person who currently has your letter. This person will constantly change during the round as you play and pick up cards.


On your turn, choose one card from the facedown deck and choose to resolve one of the two cards in your hands' effects. This is where the two different versions start to differ. In the AEG 2012 edition of Love Letter, there are a total of 16 cards including Guards (x5), Priest (x2), Baron (x2), Handmaid (x2), Prince (x2), King (x1), Countess (x1), Princess (x1). The new Z-Man Games edition contains all the previously mentioned characters plus two new ones: Spy (x2) and Chancellor (x2), giving a total of 21cards (there's also one extra Guard).


The quantity of each character is printed on a help sheet that each player has and this allows the player to keep track of which character cards have been played and how many are left of a certain character, allowing them to form a strategy.


All characters have different abilities, such as the Guard who allows you to choose another player and guess what card you think they have in their hand. If you guess correctly, they are automatically kicked out of the round. The Guards can be really brutal in the game, especially if it's the first turn and you get lucky with your guess and knock a player out who hasn't even taken a turn yet (my favourite way to knock out another player).

Other abilities include the Priest allowing you to look at another players hand, this works well with the Guard. The King lets you trade hands with a player of your choice and the Handmaid that protects you from other players' card effects until your next round.


The two new characters also have their unique abilities: the Spy allows you to gain a favour token if no one else that round has played or discarded a Spy and the Chancellor allows you to draw an additional two cards and then choose two cards to discard.

When a player is knocked out of the round they must discard their hand face up so that they're visible to all players, this is key for a social deduction game! The round ends when either the deck runs out or there is only one player left. If the deck runs out then all remaining players must compare their hands and the one with the highest number printed on the card is the winner. If there is only one player left in the round then the round ends and that player receives one favour token. The winner of the game is whoever reaches the required amount of favour tokens depending on how many players are playing. The key differences:


  • The 2019 edition allows up to 6 players instead of the original 2 - 4 players in the original version.

  • The 2019 edition introduces new characters: the Spy and the Chancellor.

  • The new edition also introduces a new win mechanic as you have the potential to earn a favour token with the Spy.

  • The older 2012 edition is available in either a box or a cloth bag while the 2019 version is only available in the cloth bag at the moment.

  • Completely different art styles between the editions.


Pros:


  • Very quick to play, rounds usually only last a few minutes meaning you could probably play a game in about 10-15 minutes.

  • Fun to play, it's usually requested to play as a filler/warm up game during game nights.

  • Portable, I like to keep Love Letter in my bag and bring it out at family events or when I'm waiting around for something.

  • Easy to learn, can be taught to new players in less than five minutes. This also means that it is suitable for all ages.

  • Quality cards and components (more so in the new version) and cheap to pick up.


Cons:


  • Both versions allow for two players but it doesn't really play as well. Knocking out a player quickly can be fun in a three or four player game but when this happens in a two player game you find you're just shuffling the cards over and over.

  • I'm not a fan of the Spy's in the newer version of the game, I feel like they don't really add anything to the game and they get played just for the sake of it.

  • There's a lot more luck involved than strategy so if you're one who likes to strategise, then this might not be for you.

  • Others may not like the theme too much, there are other versions of the 2012 edition but they are hard to come by now due to Z-Man Games recently buying the rights. Hopefully there will be alternative themes in the future.


Final Thoughts:


Theme - The theme of Love Letter works well with the mechanics of the game. You feel like you're desperately trying to get your letter to the Princess. That being said, if you're not a fan of the renaissance theme, it's a really easy game to re-theme. There are a lot of alternatives available such as Batman and Adventure Time. These are harder to come by though as they're not in print anymore.


Complexity - Love Letter is super easy to learn, the rules are simple and there are minimal components to set up. The game can be taught in under five minutes and each player receives a useful help sheet if they need to remember what each character does. Even then everything you need to know is printed on the card. This makes it easy for players of all levels and ages to play. Even though Love Letter is an easy game to learn, it has a surprising amount of depth and strategy to it.


Replayability - I never get bored of playing this game. I always like to introduce new players to it and have played in 2, 3, 4 and 6 player games. Even though the game never changes and you're always doing the same thing, every round plays out differently. Different players have certain tactics and ways to read people which always keeps the game fun.


I enjoy playing both versions of Love Letter but I think if you were looking to buy just one I would go for the new Z-Man Games 2019 edition. It allows up to 6 players so more people can join in and this was one of my biggest issues with original Love Letter. I think you can play with up to 8 players in Love Letter: Premium Edition but this is a lot bulkier and therefore less portable. I also prefer the art style in the 2019 edition as it's a lot more modern.


The 2019 version also supports playing the original game by simply taking out the extra cards so you get the best of both worlds with this version!

*Love Letter was not gifted in any way to me and this review is not in association with Z-Man Games or Alderac Entertainment Group.


Want to add Love Letter to your collection?

Love Letter 2012 - Buy it on Amazon here!

Love Letter 2019 - Buy it on Amazon here!

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