Well, what can be said about Love Letter that hasn’t already been plastered across websites and uttered over tables around the world? The title that started the microgame revolution, Love Letter offers players an incredible amount of game in a very tiny package. Sixteen cards and a few cubes came together in a tiny little red bag and gave AEG something of a surprise hit. You can read my full review of the original version of the game here, but now we have a new build on our hands based upon the original Japanese release by Seiji Kanai. The game was first picked up by Japon Brand and produced in limited numbers, and now AEG has created an amalgam of the two in the Love Letter Kanai Factory Edition. Original Japanese art combined with English language cards and instructions – what more could you want?
The game remains essentially the same, the main difference of course being cosmetic. The bag that contained the Tempest-based version of the game is gone, replaced with a stylish and small box that holds the whole thing. Opening it up reveals the cards and cubes within, the ‘tokens of affection’ that you and your fellow players will be fighting over as you attempt to woo the Princess. Or Prince! Yes, this version of the game is equal opportunity as can be, containing not one but three royals for you to court; two princesses and a prince.
All three are exactly the same when it comes down to the rules, and while only one will be used during any game, it’s nice to see the options opened up a little. Plus, of course, they look beautiful – the art style throughout is really striking, Noboru Sugiura’s work really making the game stand out.
This is the full range of cards in the Kanai Factory version. Many are named differently but the actions they trigger are the same – the only big difference is the card at the seventh rank, the Minister. This replaces the Countess from the AEG edition and I’ve found it to be a fantastic switch, truly cruel! Have a closer look:
Rather than simply being forced to discard the Countess when you’re holding the King or Prince cards, the Minister is far nastier. Should the total ranks of your two cards equal twelve or more, you’re immediately kicked out of the round – sure, there’s the added issue of being kicked out because you’ve randomly picked up something that bumps you over the level, but in a game as quick playing as this there’s little to complain about.
So, is the Kanai version of the game worth picking up? In all honesty, I’d say yes – the addition of the Minister adds a whole new character to consider and makes the game play in a slightly different way. People seem to get more nervous when the round is drawing to a close and he hasn’t made an appearance, and if you happen to be holding him you have major decisions to make on whether to get rid of him or not. Tracking the cards that are in play, working out what’s left over in the deck… it’s a devious little swine. Even now, nearly a year on since the English language release, Love Letter remains my go-to filler game, and this new edition will certainly get plenty of play around my table. Add in the glorious art and the inexpensive price point, and there’s no reason why your collection couldn’t house both.
The Kanai Factory Edition of Love Letter will be officially available worldwide in a few weeks, and copies can be ordered for under £7 at Gameslore. Between two and four players can court royalty in around fifteen minutes.