Doug's Dungeon - Love Letter
You glance down once more at the crumpled letter in your hands. Though the text upon it does not change, you hope in vain that what it reads will make more sense if you just… look it over one more time. “Hey [princess name] of [local area], do you like me? Y/N” it reads in word processed print. Beneath is stamped a return address that you have finally arrived at. Oh hey its Doug’s dungeon. Of course. Better go see what he’s up to.
You head towards Doug’s personal study, passing by what could only be described as an impromptu post office. A small army of gremlins work tirelessly on printing, folding and sealing an uncountable number of messages. Their packaging shares a striking resemblance to that of the letter you received. You find yourself facing Doug, sitting behind his desk. Slamming the letter down, you give him the ‘answers please’ look.
Oh hey… you ended up with one of those? Well gee that’s embarrassing. I mean for starters, let me just say I like you as a friend and I don’t wish to address you as ‘princess’. Secondly… aww hell it looks like the mail merge didn’t go through. Gimme a sec.
Doug moves over to a large window that stretches along the side wall, and you can see it gives a view of the entire operation. Doug leans his head through an opening yells something in a guttural language down to his workers. You may not understand what he said, but the creatures certainly do. They begin bickering amongst themselves and clamoring at the nearby computers. Then the thought pops into your head: wait… does Doug have my address?
Ooooookay hopefully we get back on schedule. See, I’m trying to court any and all royalty for, y’know, generic ‘power-grabby’ reasons. And you know me, if there’s an idiotic scheme worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. The idea came to me while I was playing one of my friends’ all-time favourite card games, Love Letter. It’s a really simple game about being a suitor trying to win the hand of a princess through the use of love letters.
What I absolutely adore and respect about this game is the depth found within its simplicity. The entire game is played with a deck of only fourteen cards. As small games go, this one borders on the likes of yahtzee. Primarily, Love Letter is a game of deduction and information warfare. You play over a series of rounds, where the winner of each earns a token of the princess’ favour. Win enough, and you get to marry her and win the game.
Players each start the game with a card in their hand, and the remaining cards in a stack between you. Each turn, you draw a card, and play a card. That’s it! Each card is a character from the ‘lore’ of the game, ranging from the castle guard to the princess herself. As a flavour note, the card in your hand represents the person who is currently in possession of your love letter destined for the princess. During the round, playing these cards will cause players to be eliminated, and their love letters lost. For example, if someone plays a ‘guard’ card, they choose a player and guess a non-guard card. If the player they chose had the named card, that player gets eliminated. But how could you possibly know?
This is where the depth of the game comes from. At the very start of a round, no player has played cards, and indeed could be holding ANY character in their hand. Playing a guard here really is a stab in the dark. But whenever a card is played, it remains face-up in front of the player who played it. Wise players will use this information to their advantage, and determine what cards are being held. As the round progresses, guesses become more accurate as fewer and fewer cards remain to be used. With the handy cheat-sheet cards the game comes with, you know how many of each card exist. Now this is not to say that the round will end with all information known, as a random card is always pulled out of the deck each round, keeping players guessing.
Other cards let you look at other players’ cards, discard their cards for new ones and even trading hands with them. Small note on that last one, you really need balls of steel to perform the trade, because USUALLY the player you gave your card to will punish you. Once all but one player are eliminated, the round ends and that player is given a token. Take all the cards back, shuffle them, burn a card and do it all again with all players back in the mix. Repeat until someone hits the required tokens to win. And honestly, that’s all there is to it. Love Letter is fast, fun and very approachable to players of all skill levels. With Christmas coming up it makes for a low-cost, high-value stocking stuffer that anyone who likes games would appreciate. I myself own the ‘Adventure Time’ edition, that swaps out the game’s cast of characters for those of the show. It even comes with a cool little felt Jake bag to store it in!
There’s also a Batman version but like… who the hell made the call to make Batman… BATMAN, the guard card. I mean I get it, the Joker is the primary target that Batman is trying to get but they could have just had 5 ‘Cop’ cards for guards. And Batman and Robin could have replaced the Prince cards, or even better the protection-granting handmaiden cards. I dunno, friend, it just… it just rubs me the wrong way.
Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be seeing you again until after Christmas. So… Merry Christmas! Oh and pass said seasonal cheer along to anyone and anything you see on your way out. It keeps the various monsters down here relatively happy... and prevents them figuring out where they sit on the food chain.
You head out taking a longer route of the dungeon, making an effort to give well-wishings to those you meet along the way. As a Christmas gift to yourself, you decide to move house so Doug can’t mail you things again.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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