Welcome back to Talk of Tales, where Christy and I, JP, review board games. Sometimes they’re random, other times they’ll be games offered at Tavern of Tales. Today’s entry is another game we might be offering in the bar/ lounge area, un-enhanced by sound and narrative, Z-Man Games’ Love Letter. And, as always, before I get to the review, I first want to talk about the theme of love letters since Valentine’s Day just recently passed.
Confessions of passion, an embracing of vulnerability, the stripping of the soul to say, “I love you,” have been a part of culture since nearly five thousand years ago. Originating as epics, sophisticated sonnets, and boisterous ballads turned into mixtapes, sky-written proposals, calculated flash mobs, and simplistic Valentine’s cards children send to each other, we, for whatever reason, wish to share our love through any medium. Even I, back when I was eleven, had grown privy to writing them--usually lacking depth or referencing video games. And Z-Man Games’ Love Letter is no different. The first few pages of the game’s pamphlet present a story of Bartolemew, a young composer wishing to win the affection of Princess Annette. He hands her guard and handmaid a tube of compositions, though concealed in the sheets of music is a confession of his affections and a quill in the hopes that Annette will respond in favor. The objective of Love Letter is that you, the player, are just like Bartolemew, a suitor with a burning passion for the woman who’ll soon be queen, but in order to win her love, you’ll have to sneak love letters to her. Now let’s get to our review.
JP: So let’s talk about the aesthetics of this game. How does it make you feel?
Christy: It’s okay. It’s all right.
JP: You sound like you’re starting a song.
Christy: It’s not really my style. It’s kind of like, slightly medieval-y I don’t know really know what period this is.
JP: It looks more like Victorian era.
Nick: Am I allowed to comment?
JP: You’re the CEO of Tavern of Tales. Of course you’re allowed to comment.
Nick: I remember Christy and I were talking once when we were playing that the tokens seemed kind of lazy. They could have made even a cardboard cut out of like a handkerchief, right?
Christy: Or something. Or a letter. Or a stamp, a heart? I mean they went into so much detail with characters. They all have names.
Nick: And backstories.
Christy: Then they really phoned it in with the tokens. I mean if someone gave me this as a token of affection, I wouldn’t feel like they liked me very much.
JP: While looking at these cards, the art style isn’t really my thing.
Nick: I think the art style’s fine.
JP: Yeah the art’s fine, but it’s just not my aesthetic.
Nick: I’d say that some of the cards aren’t as memorable. All the high tier cards, I can remember what their portraits look like, but the baron and the priest, I can’t really recall.
Christy: I also think that they should have a different image for each of the guard cards, cause it’s all the same woman. They should have five different guards. But yeah it seems like they put a lot of details into one thing, like the stars telling you how many of each type of card there are--it’s really nice. The font is really nice. It’s very compact, very travelable.
Christy: Yeah portable. But it’s also too Three Musketeers-y for me. I wish they had a different theme.
JP: What kind of theme would you like for this game?
Christy: Beauty and the Beast would be kind of cool. Or little woodland creatures.
Christy: I really like the gameplay a lot, but it’d like it even more if I liked the theme.
JP: So let’s talk gameplay then.
Christy: Gameplay’s great. It’s fun. It’s quick.
Nick: It’s very complex for such a small game.
Nick: There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it.
Christy: Nick, this is not your--can you do your work?
Nick: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Christy: I like that there’s deduction, but there’s still an element of chance. And no one has to think that hard while playing. By no one I mean me.
JP: I love the amount of thought you can put into this game.
Christy: It’s almost like a beginner’s guide to counting cards, which is like beginner’s level cheating.
JP: Yeah. I like anytime I use the guard and I can just snipe someone out of the game with deduction.
Christy: Yeah that’s fun. It’s very satisfying. Or if you get in the right order, like you get a priest and then the guard, but I always mess it up because I forget what the other player had. I like that they have powerful women cards. It’s pretty pro-women...while also not, because it’s about her being wooed.
JP: Yeah the most powerful cards in that deck are women. The guard can snipe people, the handmaiden protects you, and if you have the princess at the end of the game you win. But also the princess is a double edged sword. If you have her, you can likely win, but the moment you’re forced to discard her it’s all over. There’s a rush to it all.
Christy: I like how they have these little cheat cards. And you don’t even have to play till match point. You can just play a quick round.
JP: Yeah, you could do a whole round robin tournament amongst your friends for a quick fun time.
JP: I already know the answer is yes, but would you say that this is Tavern of Tales approved?
Christy: Yeah. Big fan. Tavern of Tales approved.
JP: And our future guests should try it out.