Love Letter returned to WBC this summer, after a strong debut in 2017. Fifty-six would-be suitors of the Princess's attention gathered in the Grand Ballroom. Last year we were squished in the Fox Den, with nary a table to spare, but no issues in 2018. Attendance was down a bit as we moved the event to later in the week, allowing late-comers to compete, but also going up against other popular competitions. There were a lot of first-timers this go-round, with a good turnout at the Demo and pretty much everyone who attended that giving the game a go. It's an easy game!
Our Love Letter tournament is single-elimination format, and it is a quick-playing game, so even with a big turnout, the scene is quickly whittled down to a few tables pretty quickly. We were able to cut directly to four semifinal tables after the first round.
The last match was pretty cool, much tenser than last year's which was a bit of a steam-roll!. The Finalists were Cliff Ackerman, Jordyn Felici, Sam Wolfe and Greg Zavacky.
The match lasted eight games:
Jordyn "Barons" Greg out, she has a Prince. This is enough info for Cliff to "Prince" her, and indeed her hand card is the Princess so Jordyn is out. Cliff peeks at Sam's hand with the Priest and sees the second Baron. Sam is stuck, because he draws a Guard, and so he can't play out the Baron. He takes a shot with the Guard but whiffs, and Cliff has him when it gets back to his turn. Awesome start.
Slow start, with Cliff and Greg hunkering down behind Handmaids. Next loop, Greg "Barons" Cliff out, Cliff had the King. Greg is stuck (he can only be holding Countess/Princess), and Sam guesses him out--it was the latter. Now the game really drags out, Jordyn and Sam back and forth but neither can win it. The cards run out, so highest card wins. Sam flips over his Priest dejectedly...but Jordyn ends with a Guard. Two-beats-one. Crazy.
Greg can't catch a break. He has to discard the Countess early, and Sam plays the percentages, and guesses Greg's Prince out. Jordyn takes a shot at Sam, guessing Princess, and gets him. Love Letter rarely goes to points, but here we have another string misses between Cliff and Jordyn, and Jordyn loses on points for a second time (Cliff-King, Jordyn-Baron). Cliff is half-way home after just three games.
Now the target, Cliff begins the round in perfect shape, hiding behind a Handmaid. The players take turns peeking at cards with the Priest in the next loop, then Cliff "Barons" Jordyn out. Greg opts not to target Cliff, missing a guess on Sam. Then Sam opts not to target Cliff, because he knew Greg was holding the Princess from that previous peek. Sam discards Greg out with a Prince v Princess play. But it was costly, because for the third game in a row, we go to last-card points, and Cliff is holding the Countess, the reigning card still in the game.Cliff-3, Sam-1. Four wins takes the tournament, so this is a desperate situation for the rest of the table. Cliff is in control.
The table feels the urgency, and targets Cliff at every opportunity. Every peek, every attack goes against him. Ultimately he is pinned down holding the King and guessed out. The game AGAIN goes to "last card" and once again it is a stunner. Greg flips a lousy Baron (just a "3"), and yet...Jordyn and Sam end the game with Guards!
The table continues to slam Cliff (they have to), but after several misses, he plops down Handmaid protection. So good. Greg resorts to guessing Sam out. It comes back to Cliff and he makes an easy play, going after Jordyn with the Baron. And Cliff loses! With the Countess! Ouch. Bad news for both of them. Cliff is out, and Greg knows Jordyn must have the Princess. He guesses her out, and moves into second place. Cliff-3, Greg-2, Sam-1.
First turn, Sam is stuck with the dreaded 2-Baron hand. He decides to give Cliff a break (a mistake, yes?!) and targets Greg, but it's no good, he's out right away. Jordyn gets back on script and peeks at Cliff, but it won't help her. Cliff eliminates Greg, guessing "Princess." Wow. A crowd is gathering. This is close, Cliff is nearly there. Cliff and Jordyn go back and forth, but eventually Cliff has to make a Countess discard, and that's enough info for Jordyn to guess out his Prince. Jordyn is on the board, and saves the match for another round!
Jordyn starts things out by "Prince-ing" away Cliff's Baron. Cliff goes after his closest competitor (Greg) with a missed guess. Greg returns fire with the Priest, getting a peek at Cliff's hand. And then, in a strange play, Sam plays Guard on Greg, and guesses him out (Greg had Baron). It was a great tactical choice by Sam--the odds on Greg holding a Baron were high, given his prior Priest play. Still, the tournament is over if "the team (i.e., everyone at the table whose name doesn't start with a "C")" doesn't conspire against Cliff. Greg has seen Cliff's card!!! So when Sam eliminates him, "the team" lost that precious info. Jordyn hides behind a Handmaid, and play makes an entire loop without incident. It is tense. Cliff notices Sam's play has been static, and takes a chance, targeting him with the Prince. Another great call. Sam has the Princess, he's out. Once again, it is up to Jordyn to keep the tournament alive. But this time the cards are not her friends. It is late into the game, with nearly every card public. Jordyn peeks, to see Cliff's King ("6"). Last play before the deck runs out, and we go to points. The only way Jordyn can win is if Cliff misses his guess and she is holding the Countess ("7"). He sees it. Cliff guesses "Countess" and is crowned the 2018 Love Letter Champion. A brilliant match, well-played.