Some mention has been made of the one major change in the cards of the Tempest version of Love Letter and the early Japon Brand version: The 7-point card changed from an automatic loss when paired with a card valued 5 or higher, to an automatic discard when paired with a 5 or higher.
Why did we do this? To make the game more interactive.
One basic tenet of Love Letter is that it’s okay to get knocked out of a round, because the rounds are so fast. However, this really only applies when a player has taken an action to knock you out.
For example, it’s okay to get knocked out in the first turn by a lucky guess with a Guard, or a chance play of a Prince to make you discard the Princess, or a true gamble with the Baron. Someone at the table interacted with you, and you got knocked out. Even losing in the later part of the game because you decided to risk holding onto the Countess (under the Japon Brand rules) is a calculated gamble that you made.
However, the old rules for the 7-point card are definitively not fun in the first round of the game, because it can knock you out of the round before you even really have a chance to play.
Assuming a 4-player game, and assuming that no one gets knocked out until after they draw their first card, there is a better than 50% chance that someone will have the Countess in their opening hand of two cards. If the Countess is present, there is a 28.5% chance that the player also has a card rated 5 or higher. Thus in 1 out of 7 games, someone gets knocked out in the first round before they have a chance to make a single game decision.
This can be a negative play experience—one guy in my playtest group got KO’d three times in four games on the opening draw—and can certainly be disastrous for a covnention demo.
Instead, we changed the card (with the approval of designer Seiji Kanai) to allow the player to survive. In addition, the card change now allows bluffing, since discarding the card doesn’t give the opponents definitive information about the contents of your hand.
Thus we feel this change improves interactivity and thought. We hope you agree. But go ahead and try it with the Japon Brand rules if you want a change of pace.