Love Letter didn't create the genre and I don't know if it's the best one out there. But it has breathed new life and new interest into micro games and has become the new yard stick to measure them by.
Love Letter consists of sixteen cards, plus some little red cubes that are just a handy way of keeping score. You could replace them with a pencil and paper or a good memory of you want the game to be just pure cards.
The idea behind the game is that everyone is trying to get their own love letter to the princess, passing through various people who are close to the princess. It's a pretty thin theme but I think it manages to work pretty well for just 16 cards.
The game is very simple. After everyone is dealt out one card, you draw a card on your return so you have a hand of two. After you play one of those two cards, it's the next players turn. After the deck runs out, whoever has the highest card in their hand wins that hand. Or the game, if you're playing by the original rules which just has a single hand be the game.
But you knew there had to be a twist. Every card has some kind of special power. They range from the guard who lets you guess another player's card and knock them out of the hand if you get it right to the princess who can win you the hand if you have her at the end but if you ever reveal her before then you automatically lose.
The game is all about bluffing and the interaction of the different cards. Honestly, there is only so much bluffing that you can do in the game because you are limited to two cards. However, Love Letter play so quick that I don't see how that's a problem. And only having the choice of two cards isn't that restrictive, again when the game is so short. It practically becomes a feature.
For us, Love Letter hasn't been that great as a two player game. However, I have had a lot more fun with it as a four player game. Which has made me come to this conclusion about it. One of its great strengths is that it plays well as a three to four player game. In fact, I think that is key why the game has gained so much popularity.
You see, there are plenty of two player micro games out there. I think that is one of the natural spaces for the genre. Pico 2, R, Tides of Time, Coin Age, all well regarded micro games that are designed for two. After that, we start looking at social deduction games for large groups, like Werewolf.
Love Letter plays like a Euro with a Euro theme and is for a Euro-sized group. I do think it's a pretty good game but I think it did an amazing job finding an audience.