The whole village is slowly making their way to the river, you can see the small fires dotted on the banks, glistening of the water. There is a light breeze and chill tonight, but nothing will take away from the village’s excitement. This yearly event is something very special to your village and something you have loved since you were a child. As you see a village elder take a beautiful bright pink object and light the base of it from one of the fires. He holds it for what seems like an eternity, an just as you thought he would never release it. The object slowly rises into the sky, then another and soon hundreds of vibrant coloured objects float slowly up to the heavens. You marvel at the sight, hundreds of brightly coloured object filling the night sky. Still after all these years, nothing takes your breath away like the beauty of these Lanterns.
Setting up Lantern is very easy:
1. Place the starting Lake Tile in the centre of the play area face down. Flip the tile face up and orient it so that one player is facing the red side and each other player is facing a different side.
2. Deal three Lake Tiles to each player face down.
3. Create a draw stack of Lake Tiles. The number of tiles in the stack depends on player count:
* Four Players: 20 tiles
* Three Players: 18 tiles
* Two Players: 16 tiles
4. Separate the Lantern Cards by colour into seven stacks. These stacks are collectively called the “supply”. The number of cards in each stack depends on player count:
* Four Players: eight cards
* Three Players: seven cards
* Two Players: five cards
5. Set aside the three generic Dedication Tokens.
6. Separate Dedication Tokens by type into three stacks. Arrange each stack in descending order of value.
* Four Players: use all tokens.
* Three Players: remove tokens with four dots.
* Two Players: remove tokens with three or four dots.
7. Give each player one Lantern Card corresponding to the colour on the side of the starting Lake Tile he is facing. Each player’s Lantern Cards are always kept in front of them, visible for everyone to see.
8. Give the player with the red Lantern Card, the colour of good fortune, the start player marker.
Once set up is complete, gameplay for this game is very similar, as you may performer up to three actions:
* Exchange a Lantern Card (optional) – during the game you can earn honour tokens, two of these allows you to exchange any one of your Lantern Cards for another colour.
* Make a Dedication (optional) – return the corresponding Lantern Cards from your hand which match a dedication card.
* Place a Lake Tile (mandatory) – the active player must place one Lake Tile from his hand face up.
When a Lake Tile is placed, distribute Lantern Cards and other bonuses in the following order:
* Matching Bonuses (Active Player) – First, if the colour on any side of the newly placed Lake Tile matches the colour on an adjacent side of another Lake Tile, the active player receives a bonus Lantern Card of that colour. Next, if any of the matching Lake Tiles (including the newly placed tile) have Platforms on them, the active player receives one Favour Token for each Platform.
* Orientation (All Players) – Finally, every player, starting with the active player and continuing clockwise, receives one Lantern Card corresponding to the colour on the side of the newly placed Lake Tile he is facing. After placing a Lake Tile, if any Lake Tiles remain in the draw stack, the active player draws a Lake Tile to replenish his hand to three.
Players take their turns, placing a Lake Tile until all the Lake Tiles are drawn and placed. After the last Lake Tile has been placed, players then each take one final turn in which they may perform the optional actions (exchange a Lantern Card and Make a Dedication) as normal.
After that, the festival begins! Players add up the Honour they earned from their dedications. The player with the most Honour wins the game.
I won’t lie, when I was told Good Games was sending me a copy of this I was over the moon. I had seen this game so much on my twitter feed during Gen Con and I promised myself I would get a copy as soon as it came to Australia. After playing this game, I wasn’t disappointed.
The art is beautiful, the vibrant colours on a dark backdrop, just makes the art pop. I love that on the box art and Lantern Cards, each lantern is a slightly different shape. It almost gives the feeling that each lantern has its own character. You could of easily just draw all the lanterns the same and made them different colours, but this touch makes me smile. As most people that have read my articles know, art to me is as important as the game play itself. I love the little touches, things that didn’t necessarily need to be there but are put there by the artist just to give it that little extra.
I played this game with two of my friends and their eight year old daughter. I had it in the car to play the following day at a gaming night, as I had originally gone over to play Magic The Gathering. So we played a few games, and I loved it as much as I thought I would. You know how some games just click with you? Lanterns is one of those games for me. Tsuro is another, but Lanterns is a little less aggressive. As for my friends, they really enjoyed it too and Charlotte (their daughter) wants it for Christmas.
There are some really nice mechanics I like in this game. For example, you don’t have to match the colours if you don’t want to or can’t. Though simple, it allows the game to flow more freely and adds a little more of a strategy element. It allows you to choose between “should I get that bonus card?” or “should I stop them from getting that card they really want?”
I also like the addition of the platforms. This game could be played without them but having them in the game adds an extra element to the gameplay. Not to mention even of you don’t play the card yourself you can still get benefit from it.
We played about eight or nine times in a row, and though I enjoyed it, I do find after several games you need a break. As the games kind of blurred together and it was just too much of the same. There isn’t enough variety or different style of play for that kind of repetitive play. We did however play several games the following night at the games night, and it was back to being fun and me loving it. But this isn’t the sort of game you play over and over again for a whole night. However if you add in the addition of an eight year old losing her mind every time a Panda platform was played, you can’t help but want play it once more just to see it again.
Other than that small complaint, there is something truly beautiful about the gameplay of Lanterns and I truly love it. It has a simple beauty, a timelessness and elegances that I really enjoyed.
I do have a soft spot for tile laying games and I know they aren’t everyone cup of tea, but this one for me is something that will proudly sit in my collection.
You can find more information about Lanterns on the official website, or pickup a copy for yourself from the Good Games website.
Dez from ATGN.com.au