Return To Sender—A Review of Love Letter

By Firestone LoveLetterCoverLove Letter had all sorts of buzz coming out of Essen. The game sold out quickly upon reaching the states, and for a time this $10 game was going for $40... So is it worth $40? Is it even worth $10? Let's find out!


16 cards—these are eight different characters, numbered 1 through 8, and there are varying numbers of each of those...numbers. I just wrote "numbers" too many times.

1: Guard—There are five of these.

2: Priest—There are two of these.

3: Baron—There are two of these.

4: Handmaid—There are two of these.

5: Prince—There are two of these.

6: King—There's only one.

Bag7: Countess—There's only one.

8: Princess—There's only one.

Some red, wooden cubes

<---------And all of this comes in a small velvet carrying bag with "Love Letter" embroidered on it.


Shuffle the cards. Remove one facedown. Deal one card to each player and place the remaining cards in a draw pile. That's it.


The point of the game is to get your love letter to the princess. You do this by using the different members of the court to work for you. So on your turn you draw a card, and then play down in front of you one of the two cards you now have. When you play a card down, it stays down. And subsequently played cards are just played next to the old one. So you can always see what’s been played.

The actions on the card will often result in someone being eliminated—you or an opponent. The goal is to be the last person standing—or if the small deck runs out, you want to be left holding the highest-numbered card.

CardsThe Guard lets you pick another player and guess the card he or she has. If you're right, the person is out for the round. If you're wrong, nothing happens.

The Priest lets you look at the card of another player.

The Baron has you compare your remaining card (now that you've played the Baron down) with that of another player. Whoever has the lowest-value card is out of the round.

The Handmaid protects you for that turn—you can't be targeted by other players' cards in any way.

The Prince lets you pick a player—including yourself—and force that person to discard the card in his or her hand and draw a new one.

The King lets you trade hands with another player.

The Countess is a little odd: If you have the Countess and also have the Prince or King, you must discard the Countess. You can still discard the Countess at any time, and then people will think you've got the Prince or King.

The Princess makes you lose if you're forced to play or discard her.

CubesWhoever wins the round gets a red cube. The game ends when one player gets a certain number of cubes—which will vary depending on the number of players.


Youth Group Game? Maybe! It's light enough and fast enough that I do think this could work with a youth group (or a party setting)—though it does only play up to four players, so not too large a party... Usually the luck—which is high in this game—isn't a detriment in that sort of gathering.

Family Game! No! Okay, changed to Maybe! My kids aren't old enough to get the game yet, and I don't think my wife would like it. But your family dynamic might be different.

Gamer’s Game? Probably not! If your group is really, really okay with luck, this could work as a filler. But there are so many other, better fillers out there...

The Verdict

It's Brad Pitt in 10 years. Or Robert Redford...

I don't like this game. There. I've said it.

On the very first turn of my first game I was sitting in the 2nd seat. The 1st player played a Guard, guessed a card I had, and I was already out of the round before I had a chance to even play. I turned to my friend and said, "That's a problem." It might not have been a problem if it had happened once in the entire game, but it happened a number of times to a number of people.

There was some skill in the way you played your cards, but often it was obvious what to play. And since you're drawing cards, there's lots of luck. If you draw two Handmaids in a row, you're sitting pretty because you're safe for two rounds—which is a lot in this game. If you draw two Barons, you're pretty much hosed. If you have a Guard and get a lucky guess, go you! If you have the Princess you have a numbers advantage but you now have fewer strategic choices, as whatever other card you draw will have to get played. Yawn...

There were times you knocked people out thanks to clever deduction. And there were just as many times you knocked people out by blind, dumb luck. In fact, people are churning their hands so often that deduction is practically useless.

Thanks to the timing of their releases—and the fact that they're both small card games with lots of buzz—it's hard not to compare this to Coup.

But while Coup is mostly bluffing and some deduction—the deduction element comes in more with a higher number of players—Love Letter is almost no bluffing, some deduction, and tons of luck. Coup is a much better game, IMHO.

So what do you think? Am I way off base here? Did I miss something? Let us know what you think of the game or the review. And thanks for reading! Don't forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.