Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
2-4 players. Best with 2 (BGG community says 4 but I disagree)
Renegade Game Studios (Clank, Lotus, Snow Tails)
Set Collection, Tile Placement
I don't have a good story for how I found this game. Sometimes I just buy things.
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is a quick tile game where players earn points by collecting sets of lanterns (four of a kind, three two-pair or seven unique) and trading them in. Lanterns are earned every turn when a tile is placed, with the corresponding color in each direction going to the player seated in that position; additionally, the current player earns bonus points for any tile matching another adjacent color on the board. Favor tokens may be earned in order to exchange one color for another. The game ends when all tiles are placed and all players have made one final dedication.
The game length is variable based on the number of players, either 22, 27 or 32 turns for two, three or four players respectively. Turns are quick because there are limit options as to where the current player can place a tile. The game can be taught, played twice and cleaned up in a lunch hour
Tiles have the same basic anatomy, although each tile is unique and tiles are kept hidden in each individual’s hands. Knowledge of which patterns exist is not necessary to play the game skillfully. The score is visible at all times and easily determined. The Lanterns possessed by a player are also known at all times, as well as the supply count, so players can anticipate which rewards their opponents will be targeting.
Lanterns will have very competitive scoring because each player has the chance to receive a lantern on every turn and eventually trading in will be both inevitable and mandatory (unless you discard). The ability to deny your opponents a lantern by starving the supply is paramount and this is an easy enough strategy to discover. Since the value of each dedication decreases as the stack is depleted, comparing the current value to your current hand is straightforward and easy. Many games will be decided by the player who makes the first mistake or places a tile netting three or more lanterns in a single turn. However, it is very possible, with multiple players, for a player to give the leading player a highly desirable tile by not paying attention, making it harder for the other players to compete. Two player games do not have this problem.
Lanterns tends to be more casual than exciting. Which tile is drawn doesn’t necessarily matter and each tile has up to four colors, which generally leads to a good move. There may be excitement in making an excellent move, but the feeling is muted in general.
This game can be found in multiple mass market stores as well as gaming stores and online retailers. The price point for retail can be pretty high – currently $38.49 on Target, which is overpriced. The game provides value closer to the $25 range as a family friendly entry in the spirit of Ticket to Ride.
The most important rules for teaching this game are explaining the distribution of lanterns and setting the supply piles accordingly; the former must be explained carefully as it may be difficult to perceive initially, particularly with less than four players. Once these initial rules are mastered, the game plays cleanly and can be conveyed easily, as the three steps (exchange, dedicate, play) make logical sense. The rulebook is twelve pages but each page is small and half of the rulebook are examples, making it an easy reference.