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Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

August 5th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Lanterns: The Harvest Festival”, a tile-laying game that takes place in Imperial China, puts players in the role of artisans tasked with earning the most honor before the festival arrives. How does one earn honor? Why, by decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns, of course!  Before we delve into how the game plays, I’d like to quickly thank the folks at Renegade Game Studios for providing me with a free press copy for review purposes.

 

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival – 2-4 Players, Ages 8+, Average Play Time = 30 Minutes

 

Components

The game includes 56 Lantern Cards, 30 Dedication Tokens, 36 Lake Tiles, 20 Favor Tokens, and 1 Start Player Marker.

Setup & Gameplay

The starting tile is placed in the center of the table, oriented so that the red-side is facing the starting player.  Each player receives three lake tiles to form their hand.  A draw stack of lake tiles is created, based on the number of people playing.  The lantern cards are separated by color into seven stacks, the number of cards in each stack is determined by how many players are in the game.  Three generic dedication tokens are set aside, while the rest are arranged into three stacks (by color) of descending value.  Some of these tokens are removed, again depending on how many people are playing.  Each player receives a lantern card corresponding to the color facing them on the starting tile.

During the active player’s turn, they may perform the following actions once, in this order:

1. Exchange a lantern card (optional) – The active player may spend two favor tokens to exchange one lantern card for a different lantern card from the available supply.

2. Make a dedication (optional) – The active player may return a specific set of lantern cards to the supply.  The cards returned must match the requirements listed on the dedication the player is taking.  The number on the token represents the honor earned for making that dedication. Red tokens require four of a kind, blue tokens require three pair, and green tokens require one lantern card of each color.  When the stack runs out, players can take a generic dedication token by playing that color’s requirement.

3. Place a lake tile (mandatory) – The active player will play one lake tile from their hand and place it adjacent to an existing tile.  Lantern cards are then distributed to players in clockwise order (starting with the active player) based on the color facing them.  If there are no more lantern cards of the needed color in the supply, then the player loses out.  If the active player matches the colors on the touching faces, then they’ll get a bonus lantern card of that color.  If any of the matching lake tiles (including the newly placed tile) have platforms on them, then the active player receives one favor token for each platform.  Finally, the active player draws a new lake tile.

 

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

Everything is just so colorful!

 

Players continue taking turns in clockwise order until all lake tiles have been drawn and placed.  After the last lake tile has been placed, players each take one final turn in order to take optional actions (exchanging lantern cards and/or making a dedication).  Whoever has the most honor after that, wins the game!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

The Review

Like “Carcassonne“, “Lanterns: The Harvest Festival” is incredibly simple to play but offers a lot in terms of strategy and replay value.  After all, all you’re really doing is placing tiles, collecting cards, and trading said cards in for honor/points.  The game sets itself apart in the sense that all players receive something no matter whose turn it is.  Since you can see everyone else’s lantern cards, you’ll be encouraged to pay attention to the orientation of the tile you’re placing.  Two faces might contain the color you’re looking for, but one orientation might award your opponent with the color they’ll need to make a dedication next turn.  To top it off, this game is incredibly colorful…though I can see where folks with color blindness may hesitate to pick it up.  The thirty minute average play time is another thing this game has going for it, as well as the $20-$25 price tag on Amazon (as of 7/20/15).

Gamers who enjoy either tile-laying or set-collecting games would do well to pick this up, as “Lanterns: The Harvest Festival” offers a good mix of both genres and even borrows some great ideas from other games.  Like “Jaipur“, for example, sets become less valuable the more dedication tokens you take from that pile.  This, I find, helped to keep gameplay a bit more focused…that is, it prevents players from monopolizing a particular set.  Well, I suppose they could, but they probably won’t earn as much honor.  Taking five green dedication tokens in a row (throughout the game) may not be worth as much as taking two red, two blue, and a green.  It all comes down to which color stack has the highest point value at the time, though you’re free to mess with your opponent and go for sets that might be easier for you to complete (for fewer points).

I personally liked this one, mainly because the gameplay isn’t too heavy (though heavy enough to make you think a bit).  There’s also some undeniable charm here…what other games do you know of that focus the theme around Imperial China and decorating palace lakes with lanterns?  Whether you’re part of a gamer family or simply looking for something both light and strategic, then my recommendation is to give “Lanterns: The Harvest Festival” a go.

Final Verdict: 9/10

 

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