A to Z Gaming: Letters to Santa (aka Love Letter)

We tried to deliver our Christmas wishes directly to the jolly man himself in Letters to Santa, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Love Letter
Players: 2-4
Time: 20 Minutes
Designers: Seiji Kanai
Artists: Yating Sun
Publisher: AEG

In Letters to Santa, players are trying to deliver their wishlists directly to Santa, and failing that, to get their letter closer to him than any other player. Whoever can do this the most times wins Christmas…er…the game.

The game is played in rounds. Each round is set up by shuffling the cards and dealing one face-down, out of the game. The present tokens are placed nearby and each player draws a hand of one card. (In the 2-player version, 3 additional cards are taken out of the deck before dealing the player’s hands.)

On their turn, the player draws a card, and then plays one face-up in front of them, resolving the card’s ability. The card abilities include trading hands with a player, looking at another player’s hand, or secretly comparing hands and knocking the player with the lower card out.

All played cards are kept face-up, so everyone can see which cards have been played. The round ends either when all but one player is out or when the deck has run out. If only one player is left, they receive that round’s present. Otherwise, the remaining players compare the card left in their hand, whoever’s is higher (i.e. closer to Santa) wins the present.

The game ends as soon as one player has a certain number of presents, based on the player-count. That player wins.

We’ve had this game for a few years — my spouse picked it up because he was interested in trying Love Letter, and we thought the Christmas theme was fun. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made it to the table very often. At this point I have only played it with 2 players, but I suspect it really shines with higher player counts.

How is it as a 2-player game? Letters to Santa is okay at 2-players, but it is essentially nearly all luck at this count. Maybe that’s what it comes down to at other counts, but I haven’t gotten it to the table with more than 2 players. We haven’t played a single round that has gone to completion, and it seemed that we are usually just alternating wins for each round…at the same time that we were alternating the start player. So, we wonder if there’s an advantage to being the second player in a 2-player game.

How about the art and component quality? It’s simply cards and cubes — both are fine. The art is very cute…well, except the Krampus, who is creepy-cute.

Will this stay in my collection? For now, yes. Though if we don’t get it to the table with higher player counts, I’m not sure it will stay in the long run.

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