Love Letter (Saturday Review) – Tabletop Games Blog

Release Date: 2012Players: 2-4
Designer: Seiji KanaiLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: Kali Fitzgerald, Andrew Hepworth, Jeff Himmelman, John KovalicAge: 10+
Publisher: Z-Man GamesComplexity: 1.0 / 5

I had to get my message to the Princess. It was vitally important that she would hear this, but I had to be extremely careful. Many people were plotting against her, and against me, so nobody could be trusted. I had to try and get past the guards, the handmaiden and others to reach her. My heart was beating in my throat and my emotions were welling up. I tried to keep it together, because I was so close to delivering to her my Love Letter by Z-Man Games.

I know, Love Letter is almost a classic game, being eight years old. Yet, it still exudes a lot of charm and is a great game to introduce people to modern board games. It’s really easy to teach and learn and relatively quick to play. Everyone starts with a single card and on your turn, you draw a card and then play one of the two cards you have in your hand now. It couldn’t be easier really.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. The cards portray different characters from the royal court, such as guards, handmaidens, all the way up to the king – but the highest card of all is the princess. The aim of the game is to end a round with the highest card – and not be killed or otherwise die during the game. You keep playing until one player has won a certain number of rounds, depending on the number of players.

When you play a card, you get to carry out an action. One type of card allows you to swap hands with another player or make them, or yourself, discard their card and draw a new one. Another protects you from other cards, which is often very important, because a lot of the cards are about ousting other players.

You can try and guess what card someone has in their hand and if you’re correct, they are out. You can also secretly compare cards with another player and if you have the higher card, they’re out. In fact, most of the time you’re trying to knock the other players out of the game and if you’re the last player left, you win the round.

Each round in Love Letter is very quick, so even if you’re removed early on, you don’t have to wait long, because you’re back in the game in the next round. Player elimination really isn’t a problem in the game.

As you can probably tell, Love Letter is a bit of a memory game, because to play it well, you need to know what cards are still in play. Mind you, we always play it open, revealing which cards were played, making it a lot easier. Personally, I don’t like the memory element in games where it’s really just a matter of card counting, so we remove that element and it makes the game more accessible to a wider range of people as well.

Love Letter has a large luck element to it, levelling the playing field further, but it’s not all about luck. You do need to consider which card to play and a bad decision can have fatal consequences.

There is also a good amount of social deduction in the game, because when you play with the same people regularly, you can probably tell if they’ve drawn a certain card and you do need to try and keep a poker face on as much as possible, so that you don’t give away when you draw the princess for example.

The fun in Love Letter really comes from that social element for me. Drawing a card and deciding which of the two cards to play is great, but ultimately it’s watching other players’ reactions as they draw cards or when you announce that you want to compare hands with another player to decide who has the higher one. You keep an eye out for subtle tells to help you choose the player who has a low card and will therefore be removed from the round.

If you want a quick, fun game that is easy to teach and quick to play, then you can’t go wrong with Love Letter.

Useful Links

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I bought and paid for the game myself.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Music: Now We Ride by Alexander Nakarada (

Spreading the love (Topic Discussion)

When you really enjoy something, when you have something that you get a lot out of, that makes you happy or otherwise has a positive impact on you, you probably want to share that joy with others. For me, board games are one of those things that I really love and want to share with others. It’s something that has been shared with me, that one of my friends introduced me to and it’s wonderful when I can spread this love even wider. In this article, I want to talk about how I have been able to introduce others to the wonderful hobby of board games.

So let me rewind a little.

I used to play board games with my family as a child. My brother was probably the biggest influence here as he tried to get away from your classic roll-and-move games and get us to play other games, such as economic simulations or strategy games. He and I often did game mash-ups, where we would take mechanisms and components from different games to make our own. He even proceeded to make his own game, using cardboard and styrofoam as a game board, pushpins to track certain properties that changed during the game, handmade decks of cards for events and actions, etc.

As I grew up, I switched from board games to computer games and also spent more time playing with friends outdoors or shoot some pool. Yet, even then I didn’t completely step away from board games. We did have the odd games night every few months or so, which is where I first learned about Settlers of Catan, as it was still called then, but when I went to university, playing board games eventually completely stopped. I just didn’t have the time then.

Eventually, a few years later, a friend of mine introduced me to another person, who in turn introduced us both to modern board games. It started with games we could play in the pub, such as Citadels, but eventually, he invited us to his place and showed us Lords of Waterdeep. I think that was the big turning point for me and it is when I started to get hooked on modern board games.

Since then, I’ve played many more games and fell more and more in love with the hobby. It didn’t take long for me to try and get my own family to play games and it was very special when we all sat around the table together and spent some quality time drawing cards, managing resources, placing workers and generally having a lot of fun. I think it was something that brought us together and allowed us to compete with each other or work together or otherwise interact in the magic circle of the game, that had different rules to those we encountered in our lives. That’s, of course, the magic of all board games.

As the wider family, including that on my wife’s side, realized how much I enjoy board games, I got them given as birthday gifts, but that wasn’t all. The rest of the family also started to become interested in playing games themselves, so I did what I could to find games that we could play together with them when they came to visit. It came as a little bit of a surprise to me when they liked the games so much that they bought their own copies of them and it was even more surprising to me when they eventually turned to me for advice on what other games they might like, based on what they’ve enjoyed so far. I was over the moon that the love I had for board games had infected them and that they started to make it their own thing. In fact, they started lending us games that they had enjoyed and thereby introduced me to games I would have otherwise never known or tried.

It didn’t stop there though. It turned out that our next-door neighbour also liked modern board games, so I invited him to our weekly games nights. The games we played were quite different to those that he was familiar with, which was great. He introduced us to games we may have never tried ourselves and we showed him games that weren’t necessarily something he would have given a go. It was wonderful to see how he started buying new games, now that he knew they would get played, and how his love for the hobby was re-invigorated. All right, I can’t take full credit for this one, as there already had been an interest in the hobby before our neighbour joined the games group and it was everyone who fanned the flame of his love for board games, but I did play a small part in it at least.

That’s the great thing that board games can do. There are so many different types of games that there should be something there for everyone. I have learned that I want to play different games with different people. How I approach a game will be different depending on who I play with. Games are so very flexible in that respect. I’m not saying that every game will work for everyone, but the same game can still be suitable for a wide range of people if you approach it slightly differently.

It’s also great that board games inspire in us the taste for trying something new. Even when someone has been in the hobby for a very long time and knows pretty well what sort of games they like or don’t like, chances are they are usually willing to try out something new or something different – and there is always something new to discover in the hobby, that’s how vast the selection of available games is these days – and it’s growing.

I’m so pleased that I was re-introduced to board games by the friend of a friend, who is now my friend, and that I have so many people around me who happily play games with me. The games I play are special in different ways, because of the different people I play them with and it’s great to know that my love of the hobby has spread further. Long may it continue.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Economic simulations – why I love them so much (Topic Discussion)

There is one genre of games that really stands out for me: economic simulations. These types of games scratch a very specific itch, right in the middle of my back, that other games just can’t reach. I get an immense feeling of bliss when the tingling finally subsides as I invest money to make more money. In this article, I want to explain in a bit more in detail why this genre makes me feel so good.

Monopoly and Broker

I guess my love affair with economic simulation games all started with the good old classic Monopoly. I know that game was originally designed by Lizzie Magie under the name The Landlord’s Game as a way to illustrate how terrible exclusive ownership of land is and that the game was later stolen and published without giving Lizzie any credit.

Yet, as a child, I knew nothing of this. When I played Monopoly with my family, I saw how my brother was cleverly buying up valuable land and increasing its price by building properties on it. I saw wads of money flowing out of the bank to the people around the table, then from person to person and sometimes back to the bank. I saw that you could make money out of money and you didn’t have to do any physical work to become rich. Monopoly spoke to my laziness and awoke greed in me.

My family later acquired Broker, a very simple stock market simulation game that I also fell in love with. We played it a lot and saw how we could buy shares in up to four big companies and get rich when their values soared. I learned that I could influence stock prices to my own benefit or to the detriment of others. I also learned that others could do the same to me. It became clear that investments were associated with a certain amount of risk. However, once again I didn’t have to lift a finger to get rich.

Rediscovering Economic Simulations

After maybe 15 years of not playing board games at all or at least not a lot, I eventually got back into it. However, it took maybe another 10 years before I eventually rediscovered economic simulation games. It was very much by chance. I was looking for heavier games to play with my games group. We had gotten to a point where we had played many lighter and medium games. I felt we were ready for something beefier.

The first time we played Brass: Birmingham online, it was all a bit overwhelming. The rules took a while to absorb and the length of the game wasn’t short either. However, something in me felt impelled to give it another go. Luckily, my games group relented. The second game was much better and we started to get a better grip on everything. We even started to formulate some tentative strategies.

When I finally got hold of a physical copy of Brass: Birmingham, we played even more. What’s interesting in the game is that money isn’t actually key. It’s much more about making wise investment decisions. You’re likely to have to borrow money to really succeed. There is also a sense of players helping each other, at least indirectly. The industry and infrastructure one person builds are going to allow others to achieve their goals. It is about give-and-take.

I started to realize that there was something here that I had fallen in love with as a child. I still couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but my appetite was certainly whetted and my love for economic simulations rekindled.

the game board and box from Brass (Photo courtesy of Roxley Games)
(Photo courtesy of Roxley Games)

Make Money out of Money

Then I bought Pingyao: First Chinese Banks and the first time we played it, it all fell into place. Here is a game that really is all about making money out of money. Your aim is to develop a banking system from nothing. Starting with a small investment, you take people’s deposits and use the cash to loan to other people in return for interest payments. You also use some of the money to build new bank branches to grow your network. It’s all about timing and as pure of an economic simulation game as I have come across.

Pingyao reawakened the feeling of greed and laziness that Monopoly and Broker had stirred in me when I was a child. Of course, as a grown-up, I know that capitalism has done very little good and mostly just created a society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. At the same time, I can’t deny that it feels good when you can use other people’s money to make more money.

It is odd though, because in real life I am quite modest and live within my means. I don’t think I’m greedy, at least not on the whole. Maybe I’m just saying that to try and excuse how I feel when playing games like Pingyao or Brass. Maybe my privilege as a middle-class, white, cishet male shows its ugly face here. It’s something I have to always remind myself of. Clearly, economic simulation games do hold me up to a mirror and shine the stark light of day on my face.

Investments in other Games

There is something else I want to talk about though. Modern board games, that aren’t economic simulations, do not reward investing all of your money or other resources, let alone encourage you to take out loans. These games don’t have any concept of cash flow. Instead, you often have to save up to make a big purchase or investment. You have to amass a lot of resources and then take one huge turn.

My instinct in pretty much every game is to have as few resources on hand as possible. I don’t like having to save up for a few rounds so that I can finally afford to buy something really expensive to get lots of points. If I have more than a certain amount of tokens in front of me, I feel like I’m playing the game wrong.

That’s why economic simulations are such a perfect fit for me. They are engine builders where you slowly add small pieces over time. Engines in economic simulation games don’t just slowly rev up either. Instead, small investments lead to exponential growth. It feels so much better when you invest one coin to make two coins, then invest two coins to make four, four to make eight and so on.

metal coins in Clans of Caledonia
metal coins in Clans of Caledonia

What About You?

So, how do you feel about economic simulation games? Have you played any? Do you enjoy feeling greedy in the magic circle of a board game? Are there any economic simulation games that you really love? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I’d be keen to hear how you feel about economic simulation games.

Useful Links

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Epic Intro 2017 by Sascha Ende
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):
Artist website: