Lanterns the harvest festival is a 2-4 player tile laying game. In Lanterns you play as artisans decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns for the harvest festival.
In brief, each turn you will do the following 3 things in order:
- Return tokens you received on a previous turn to exchange one of your cards for a card of any color.
- Return sets of lantern cards to receive one of the victory point dedication tokens.
- Place one of the tiles from your hand onto the lake. There is no restriction on where you place a tile, but you get bonus cards for placing tiles so that the colors match surrounding tiles and you receive favor tokens if those matching tiles contain platforms. Each person then receives the color that is facing them of the tile that was just placed.
Each player repeats these steps until all tiles from the draw pile and players hands have been used. The person with the most points from dedication tokens at the end of the game is the winner.
The game play fits the theme, but just barely. It does feel like you are placing lanterns out onto a lake, but the way that you get those lanterns and the way that they score points is entirely abstract. I do appreciate that while the game play is mostly abstracted, they chose a theme that by its nature is colorful and beautiful. I’m much happier nonsensically placing an array of prismatic lanterns then laying out the plans for a generic European countryside. The artwork is simple, beautiful, colorful, and effective. The components of the game are generally pretty great. The cards are somewhat warped, but the tiles are thick enough, and the tokens are wooden with printed caligraphy.
After my first play of the game I left feeling the game was somewhat mediocre, elevated only by it’s great presentation and peaceful tone. We were racing to get the color of cards that we wanted and trading them in for whatever type of dedication token was currently worth the most points. Matching the colors of the tiles was interesting, but not really difficult or thought provoking. If the presentation was more drab this one would have collected dust on the shelf for a while. As is though, it was a good game to pull out on week nights to relax, unwind, and look at something pretty. It wasn’t until the next play of the game that we discovered what it was truly about: denial.
We quickly realized that there is a reason the number of lantern cards is so limited. In this game, it’s not enough to place tiles down to get the colors that you want. Everyone can do that, and they can do it at the same rate as you. You have to be paying attention to what dedication your opponents are currently working towards and make sure that you’re not giving them what they need by placing your tile nonchalantly. It’s often a better move to place a tile and take cards that you don’t particularly need if your opponent gets nothing in return. The first time this happens is reminiscent to the first time in Ticket to Ride when you realize someone is about to complete a ticket and you place a single train on the path that they were working on, and now they need to take the scenic route. An entire new game opens up. This game isn’t just about putting tiles down, matching colors, and getting points. It’s a game about denying your opponents cards, while maximizing the amount of cards you receive in colors that you need. It’s not just a race for dedication tokens anymore, it’s a race for dedication tokens while throwing caltrops in front of your opponent at every opportunity.
- The artwork is perfect.
- It’s a great game to play with people new to the hobby, while remaining interesting enough to keep gamers engaged
- Denial is a good way to introduce conflict into a game for those that don’t like to “attack” each other.
- Each game feels very much the same. The randomization of the tiles technically makes each game different, but you are always doing the same things and employing the same strategies.
- With 4 players the game feels a little less strategic to me. It is much harder and sometimes impossible to ensure that everyone doesn’t get something that they could use. It also results in some slow turns while people try to puzzle out the optimal move.
- I wish there was another avenue to score points. Ties in this game have not been uncommon, and another way to score points would also help each game from feeling so similar.
Final Thoughts and Rating
Lanterns is a good game that is a pleasure to look at and play. It’s not very exciting or deep, but it’s pretty, easy, and short enough to recommend to just about anyone.
Final Rating: [star rating=”7.5″ max=”10″ numeric=”yes”]