If you’re still looking for a fun two player game to play with a partner on Valentine’s Day and/or a great gift for a partner who’s a Star Wars enthusiast, then Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace – A Love Letter Game is a great new choice. Here’s why.
With such a lengthy name, it’s a little ironic that Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace – A Love Letter Game is quite possibly the smallest game we’ve ever reviewed, physically speaking. Not much bigger than a deck of cards, it’s amazing that Z-Man Games managed to fit all that on the front while also including a large visual of the rather large titular gangster, Jabba the Hut. Disney’s recent television/streaming shows have added even more weight to the mythos of Jabba, so the timing of the game is excellent.
Jabba’s Palace was designed by Justin Kemppainen, but is based on the popular Love Letter game by Seiji Kanai – which we’ll admit is a bit more “Valentiney” than Star Wars. It’s a competitive card game with a low card count that’s a lot about deduction, although the luck of the draw certainly helps.
If you don’t count the six reference cards, which are mostly helpful during your first few games, then Jabba’s Palace only has 23 cards to play with – 19 of which are character cards, many of which feature familiar characters like Jabba and Boba Fett. Not everyone’s a part of Jabba’s criminal/palace enterprise though, as on the other side you have the Rebels – which include Luke and Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and Han Solo. Each card shows the character, as well as a number and an effect that’s triggered when you play the card – more on that later.
Completing the deck of 23 are four agenda cards, which dictate the rules by which you win a round. Also included are victory tokens that players receive for winning rounds and an attractive cloth bag that’s useful for keeping the game in after you break it out of its original packaging. This is a game for up to six players, but can also be comfortably played by just two.
The number of players determines how many rounds you need to win (and thus the number of victory tokens you need to have), but the game always starts the same – each player gets a single character card as well as a reference card to help them keep an overview of what’s possibly still out there. An agenda card then determines what you’re going for during the round. From there, players alternate in drawing a card from the deck and then playing one – which always triggers an effect, after which play continues with the next player, who will do the same.
Guessing and deduction are equally important here, as even near the end of a round you can’t be sure what the other players have in their hands. This is even true when playing with only two players, as one character card is turned over and set aside at the start of each round. Some cards are immediate round enders when you have a low player count, but early in the round those cards are 50-50 shots at best. For example, playing the Jabba cards lets you pick a player, and if that player is holding a Rebel card the player is eliminated from the game. This can very quickly end a two or three player round and for that reason Jabba’s Palace is more fun with more players, but as we mentioned it’s often the smarter move to hold on to that card until you deduce that your odds of success have improved.
Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace – A Love Letter Game is certainly a quick-paced game, and the possible brevity of two player rounds is offset by needing more victory tokens to win in that scenario. And while a victory token can be won by eliminating other players, very often you’ll go through all the cards in the deck – which is when the agenda card comes into play. Cards that you’re played are in your play area, while there’s also a card left in your hand. Either one can settle the outcome of the round, so it’s important to not just play your turn but also keep the long term goal in mind in case the round reaches that point. Get to the end with Han Solo in your hand, and you automatically gain an extra token as well.
This is an easy to learn game that’s welcoming to those who have never played it (or any Love Letter game) before. While there are plenty of options to strategize (do I try to knock someone out? do I try to play the long game by going for what’s on the agenda card?), twists often happen, and the unpredictable nature of each round keeps things fresh. The short playtime also helps, as even when you’re knocked out of a round it doesn’t take long before you can return for the next one – and if you’re trailing by a lot then a full game won’t run for more than 20 minutes either. So while this may not be a game that you’ll play all evening, it’s great when you only have a limited amount of time and/or players and want to get a few rounds in. Of course it helps if you’re fond of the Star Wars theme as well – the artwork looks great and the cards themselves feel nice and sturdy, which is good when you consider that you’ll be drawing all of them quite a lot. You don’t need to have extensive knowledge of the lore though, nor do you need Love Letter experience – this one’s for anyone eager to play a game in the Star Wars universe and those willing to play with them.