Thursday, 6 March 2014

Love Letter

Plays: 3Px2, facilitated a game of 4P.

Microgames are popular nowadays - games which are very short and have very few components. I never quite understood the appeal. Gamers tend to start with gateway games and then gradually shift towards more and more complex games. Some eventually settle at heavy Eurogames. Some land at complex Ameritrash games. Some land at detailed wargames. Falling in love with microgames is counter-intuitive. Aren't they just mini fillers which are even simpler than regular fillers?

I have seen an Adventure Time themed fan-made version of Love Letter on BGG some time ago. It recently occurred to me that I have a situation that needs a microgame. So I downloaded the files and self-made a copy, knowing that the kids will at least be amused by the pictures. My kids are very busy people - school, tuition classes and various extra-curricular activities. Sometimes I feel Malaysian (or Asian) parents are over-educating their children. I think children need some time to just play and be children. A microgame would fit my purpose perfectly, something that can be played just before bedtime to unwind, to have a laugh, and to have bonding time.

I think this fan-made Adventure Time themed version is very well done. I wouldn't have decided to self-make a copy if not because of it.

There are so few rules that they don't even fill up a card.

The Game

Love Letter has 16 cards, numbered 1 to 8, two cards per number. Everyone starts with one card. On your turn, you draw one card, and then play one of the two cards in your hand. Every card has a special ability, lower numbers usually having stronger abilities. To win, you either have to be the last player not kicked out of the round, or you have to hold the highest number when the draw deck runs out.

Some cards can force a player out of the round. E.g. one card lets you guess an opponent's card, and if you get it right, he is kicked out of the round. Another card lets you compare cards with another player. The player with the smaller number is kicked out. There is one card which protects you from other cards until your next turn. Higher numbered cards usually have weaker powers. In fact the 8 card comes with a disadvantage. You are kicked out of the round if you play it. So if another player forces you to play it, or you happen to have two 8's in your hand, you will lose the round.

A round plays out very quickly. The winner claims a token. The first player to claim a certain number of tokens wins the game.

The Play

The game was a blast! It's quick to set up and play. You can relax and not think too hard. The Adventure Time theme is certainly cute. The children enjoyed it. Shee Yun (8) quickly grasped some of the tactics (there really isn't much though). Chen Rui (7) just played without thinking or planning much, and did just as well. We only played to 3 tokens to win, which is lower than what the rules say, so that the game is shorter. It takes 15-20 minutes to play.

There is some simple deduction. Some cards become more powerful later in a round, e.g. the one where you guess an opponent's card. Late in a round, when many cards have been played, it becomes easier to guess. When two players compare cards and one loses, you get to see his card so you will know the winner's card is one of the larger numbers. There is just a little bit of thinking required so the game doesn't feel like a brainless luck fest.

Chen Rui cheekily deciding who to attempt to sabotage.

At Shee Yun's birthday party I taught her friends this game, and they liked it.

Qian Yu (left) enjoyed it so much that she didn't want to leave when her mum came to fetch her. She begged to play a few more rounds so that she could finish the game. When her mum stayed and chatted with my wife, the children finished the game, and then quietly played a few more rounds while the adults were not paying attention.

The Thoughts

Love Letter is just a cute filler. It is clever and quick. It is nothing very fancy, but can be particularly handy in certain situations. It can be hilarious too. I enjoyed spending those quality 15 minutes with my children just being goofy.

Afterword: Mon 10 Mar 2014 - I realised that I got the card distribution wrong! The #1 card should have five copies, the #2 - #5 cards should have two copies each, and the #6 - #8 cards should only have one copy. Oops... It didn't feel wrong when I played with this wrong distribution. I guess I have to play this again with the right distribution to see how different it is.

1 comment:

Iain Fletcher said...

Afternoon,

I'm looking to contact Board Game Bloggers to help promote my new game on Kickstarter. I'd really like you to take a look at ww.facebook.com/plaguelandofthedead ... if you can help me with some blogging, I'd like to send you a digital copy of the game for your review. I'm going to start the kickstarter campaign in a week, so I'd really like to get a buzz going.

Thanks,

Iain Fletcher
plaguelandofthedead@gmail.com
@P_LandoftheDead