Lanterns--A Double-Take Review

The moon is a sliver in the sky, and the lake is calm and dark. Suddenly, light appears on the surface--first green and then red. Soon the lake is awash in color, and the emperor is pleased. Another harvest celebration has begun.

Lanterns is a new tile-laying game by Foxtrot Games. Is it a bright light in the gaming world, or a dull glow? Let's find out!


Title - Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

Designer - Christopher Chung

Publisher - Foxtrot Games

Number of players - 2-4

Ages - 8 and up

Play time - 30 Minutes

Category/Genre - tile placement, set collection, and hand management

Availability - Currently on Kickstarter

Contents:

  • 36 Lake tiles
  • 56 Lantern cards (8 each of 7 colors)
  • 30 Dedication tiles
  • Favor tokens

Good for...

  • Family? Yes!
  • Youth Group? Sure! Maybe a small group.
  • Gamers? Yes! This is a nice filler.
  • Nongamers? Absolutely! This would be a great game to play with nongamers.

Preview copies provided to Theology of Games.

Lanterns is a game where you're playing tiles down to the table, which will give you and your opponents different colors of Lantern cards, which people can then turn in for Dedication tiles--the VPs. 

 Lake tiles. Prototype components. 

Lake tiles. Prototype components. 

Each Lake tile has four sides, and those sides have some combination of lanterns with one of the seven colors on them. Check out the picture to see what I'm talking about. So you'll play one of them down to the table, connecting at least one side to an already placed tile. 

If any of the sides on the tile you're placing directly match the color of a tile you're placing them next to, you get a Lantern card of that color.

Firestone--There are seven different colors, so I was afraid I would have trouble with them since I'm color blind. But for me, at least, the colors pose no problems at all. 

Jeremiah--I totally forgot about your color blindness; fortunately each color has a unique shape, which is a nice touch as well. 

Then you look at each side of the tile, and every player gets a Lantern card that matches the color on the side of the tile facing him or her. So the player sitting in the North position gets the color of Lantern card on the North side of the newly placed tile. (If there's no player there, nothing happens with that color.)

 Lantern cards. Prototype components. 

Lantern cards. Prototype components. 

This is the game's biggest "twist" in gameplay, and it's a good one! Every turn you're having to weigh the benefit you receive against what you're giving your opponents. It creates an interesting tension. Thankfully you only have three Lake tiles in hand, so while there might be a little Analysis Paralysis as people work through their options, it's not overwhelming. 

And to add one more thing to think about, some of the tiles also have a platform on them. If the tile you place matches, and either the matching one you're placing or the matching one already on the table has a platform, you get a Favor token.

But why do you want those Lantern cards and Favor tokens?

Well, the first thing you can do on a turn is to spend two Favor tokens to exchange on Lantern card you have for another color. 

Then you have the chance to make one dedication per turn (and this happens before you play a Lake tile). You turn in Lantern cards, and get the topmost Dedication tile, which have varying VPs on them. There are three options for this:

  • Four of a kind
  • Three pairs of two matching cards
  • One of each of the seven colors

If you turn one of those sets in, you grab the Dedication tile from that stack. The VPs go from larger numbers to smaller ones as the game progresses. 

photo 3 (12).JPG

Lantern tiles are kept face-up, so you can always see what your opponents have, what your opponents can do, and what your opponents need. This adds to the number of things to analyze each turn, as the only hidden info is Lake tiles. 

Firestone--Mechanically the game scales well between 2 and 4 players. But to me it's just more interesting to play with more players, because you have more things to consider as you're playing tiles. It plays fine with 2 and 3, though. My 6-year-old was too young to really pick up on the strategy of watching what he was giving his opponents--he wanted what he needed RIGHT NOW! But it won't be long before he can grasp that, so the "8 and up" on the box seems accurate. 

Jeremiah--We had the same experience with my 6-year-old. While it plays fine with fewer players, I've noticed that with 4 players it definitely puts a heavier weight on your placement, especially because you can't turn in lanterns for points after you've placed a lake tile that turn, you have to wait until everyone else has played a turn. It gets tense!

Firestone--There's nothing I dislike about the game, but my least-favorite aspect is the Favor tokens. Only some Lake tiles have them, so you're not guaranteed to ever get one or be able to play one one. And there's no downside to playing them. It's not like you have to choose between getting a Favor token and getting your Lantern card that turn--you get it all. And you don't have to spend a turn to use the tokens to swap out cards, so there's no downside there, either. Which means that sometimes your opponents will get more platforms than you, and will have more chances to manipulate their hands than you, and it's all thanks to card draws. This is a light enough game that it's not a big deal, but still worth mentioning. 

Jeremiah--Yeah, I found the rules for the platforms a little tweaky, but the "creating a match using a tile that has a platform on it" rule helps mitigate the luck of the draw aspect. I agree it's not my favorite mechanism of the game, but it's not something I dislike. I like everything about this game!

Final Thoughts

Firestone--I really like Lanterns. It's a beautiful, serene, thoughtful game that works as a fun filler on game night, a main event for family game night, and a perfect game to bring out with nongamers. It's a complete package. 

Jeremiah-- I had the chance to play this with Randy Hoyt of Foxtrot games while I was at GenCon earlier this year, and I agree that there's a LOT to like about the game. Randy winced a little when I said the word "filler" because Lanterns definitely has a "Main Event" feel to it for some situations, as Scott said. But because it consistently plays in under 30 minutes it definitely can fit that filler role without suffering in game play or depth of strategy. I'm a big fan of this game, so I'm excited to see this one hit shelves soon!

Lanterns still has three weeks to go on Kickstarter, and it's already funded! We feel that the price point is fair on this one, and it's a solid game.