This is a review of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival designed by Christopher Chung. It plays 2 – 4 players. Realistcally, I’d estimate the playtime at 30 minutes.
Tile placement games inevitably get compared to Carcassonne and I rarely think that’s apt or fair – even more so in Lanterns. Each player has a hand of three tiles and on a turn, you can trade in favor tokens for lantern cards, meld sets of lantern cards for honor (victory points), and place a tile on the lake (main playing area). The first two actions are optional, the third one is a must. The placement of this tile will also yield lantern cards for all players, extra for you if you placed it against a matching tile, and favor tokens if you utilize platforms on the map.
All information is public, so you can see your opponents building sets and can get a feel for their goals. Points are scored by melding sets, but the earlier in the game you make these sets, the more points you’ll receive. As such, you may find yourself switching sets up if another player hits a goal before you.
This is a wonderful, little theme. Players are arranging floating lanterns on the lake for the upcoming lantern festival. At the end of the game, the festival begins and one player is dubbed the most honored…lanternist…?
The game is fairly simple so the ties to the theme are decent, as in, there aren’t many opportunities for the theme to really attach itself or detach itself from the gameplay. But the whimsy of the lantern festival is very enjoyable, for sure.
The theme is complemented by the delightful art – colorful, soft on the eyes, they really could not go wrong with the beauty of floating lanterns, right?
There’s very little use of iconography on the pieces, save for the honor tokens, but they’re clear and get the job done.
This game scales interestingly with different player counts. You setup the game with more lake tiles if you have more players at the table (once the lake tiles are gone, the game is over), but lanterns (which convert to points) come in much faster at higher player counts so the game moves right along.
There aren’t many choke points or tedious moments to speak of – everyone gets a benefit on every player’s turn so there is always something to think about and stay involved with.
I’ve seen this game for around $25 – $30 which makes sense. The game comes with 30-ish heavy-weight lake tiles, lantern cards in 7 different colors, wooden favor tokens (discs), and an adorable first-player boat marker. It’s small, but not obnoxiously so – in fact, I’d say it’s just right. I could definitely see this being the type of game you’d grab on the way out to a friend’s house for a casual game.
This game is dead easy to learn but provides a satisfying level of depth. I don’t teach many games by simply reading the rulebook out loud (in fact, I actively avoid doing that), but this was a simple enough game that that was no problem whatsoever.
The most complicated part of the game is the tile placement because you place a tile, potentially gain a lantern card, potentially gain a number of favor tokens, then each player gets a lantern card based on their seating at the table and the orientation of the lake tiles. It’s not complicated, per se, but there are several things that trigger at once with the placement of one tile and I had to take special care to watch other player’s turns – making sure they took all the tokens and cards they were owed.
This game is simple and accessible enough that I could see playing this for awhile. It’s casual, it’s pleasant, it’s satisfying, etc. A friend gifted this to me after he had “played it to death” but in terms of cost, I could absolutely see this game getting enough plays to justify it.
A welcome addition to any collection – casual, accessible, satisfying.