Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Strategic Depth - Beginner
Setup Time - 5 minutes
Play Time - 25 to 40 minutes
Players - 2 to 4
Mechanics - Hand Management, Pattern Building, Set Collection, Tile Placement
Production Info - 2015 | FoxTrot Games | Christopher Chung
In the game Lanterns, the harvest is in, the workers are fed, and now it’s time to celebrate! Players act as artisans decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns in preparation for the annual harvest festival. The placement game is set in Imperial China and the goal is to earn the most honor before the festival arrives with the winner being awarded.
- The Good -
Lanterns is very easy to teach and learn. I taught my parents this game even though they mostly only play cards because I knew it was easy to start playing. My 10-year-old Nephew loved this game as well and it's a great game for any age. I like to tell people it's an "easy game to learn but a lifetime to master". That's a quote from the game Othello, but I find it fitting because of the abstract/puzzle component that will have families wanting to play again. More importantly, Lanterns won best Family Game by Dog & Thimble 2015.
Lanterns is an excellent and beautiful abstract tile laying family game. Lanterns won the Menza Select 2015 award, meaning this is a perfect game to challenge young minds with because of the abstract component. It can actually hurt your brain thinking of all the different ways you can place your tile because of the endless possibilities! This unique balance of placing tiles for your own benefit and possibly helping your opponents to victory makes this game so appealing.
The game Lanterns has a very high replay value because of the tile laying component of the game along with the decisions that have to be made every turn. Every time you place a tile you have a potential of helping an opponent thus changing their future move as well. The board changes every time based off of the 4 sided tiles and this can make the game enjoyable every time.
- The Bad -
One Path to Victory
My biggest complaint with Lanterns is the only way to score points or honor is through the dedication tiles. I absolutely love the game but every game I have played the winner has only won by 1-4 points. This means that there is a narrow margin for mistakes and also only one way to score points. The tokens make the game better and give you options for changing one card in for another. However, there is no other way to score points besides the dedication tiles. Some people like this aspect but I like when I can have numerous ways of scoring victory points and winning the game.
Hard to Focus
In Lanterns, it can actually be a little difficult to focus on your strategy. One of the best components of the game is that you get cards on each turn from other player's, but that also means it distracts you from your next move. Also, sometimes players take awhile to make their choice for laying a tile and the other players get frustrated because they want it to be their turn. I find that players can intimidate the current player if they are taking too long and that has been one of the few negative aspects of the game. However, you will find that in other games too when it involves so many choices on your turn.
- Overall -
Lanterns is currently my favorite tile placement game because of its interactive components, abstract thinking, and easy to learn. Many games have a hard time catching the attention of non-gamers but this one intrigues everyone that has played it with me. I have played the game a dozen times with 3 and 4 players and I look forward to playing this with just 2 players, as I could just focus on blocking one opponent. Abstract thinking is not typically my forte but this game is just so intriguing and fun to play with anyone. There is not much downtime with this game because every player gets cards on each turn when a tile is placed based off their seating arrangement. Lanterns is a light to medium weight strategy game that is challenging, easy to teach, and fun for all ages.
The following summaries are meant to be a high-level reminder of how to play this game. If this is your first time playing, we highly recommend that you read your board game's included rule book which will go into much more depth. You can download a digital PDF copy of the official rules by clicking the button below. There are also a few video tutorials near the bottom of this section to help all you visual learners out as well.
- Setup Overview -
- To begin, players set the starting Lake tile (the one with the image of a boat in the center) in the center of the table so that each edge is oriented toward one of the players
- All of the lantern cards are set to the side in their individual stacks by color.
- The Dedication (scoring) tiles are also placed to the side and stacked by color in descending order with the highest value tile on top. Depending on the number of players, some of the Dedication tiles will be removed from play.
- Each player draws 3 Lake tiles to their hand and the rest of the Lake tiles are placed in a faced-down stack to the side. The number of Lake tiles used in a game also depends on the number of players.
- A supply stack of Lake Tiles is also created, with 20 tiles for a 4-player game, 18 tiles for a 3-player game, and 16 tiles for a 2-player game.
- Each player also collects a Lantern tile corresponding to the color on the starting Lake tile facing their direction to begin the game.
- The player who receives the red card from the starting Lake tile will start first.
- Game Play/Player Turns -
A player may perform each of these actions once per turn in this order:
- Exchange a Lantern card (optional). Players will earn “favor tokens” throughout the game as discussed below. At the start of their turn, they may spend two favor tokens to exchange one lantern card for a different one from the supply.
- Make a Dedication (optional). A player may make one (and only one) dedication by trading in a set of lantern cards. The dedication tokens show victory points, with players earning fewer victory points the later in the game since the tokens with the most points sit on top of a stack. This action is mandatory if a player has more than 12 lantern cards.
- Place a Lake tile and take Lantern cards (mandatory). The player places the tile next to another lake tile, and then lantern cards are awarded. Although the colors on each side of the touching Lake tiles do not need to match, the active player will benefit by doing so. If the color on any side of the newly placed Lake tile does match the color on an adjacent tile, the active player will collect that color Lantern card from the supply.Then, if the matching lake tile has a platform (i.e. symbol in the middle), a favor token is awarded. It is possible that there might be multiple matches, so a player can earn multiple matching bonuses and favor tokens. Lastly, each player, starting with the active player, receives a lantern card corresponding to the color on the side of the newly placed lake tile.
- End Of Game -
Once everyone has placed their last Lake tile then everyone gets one last turn to earn more honor. The only actions they can do is turn in Exchange Lantern Cards and Make a Dedication, which are the two optional actions for each turn.
- Winning -
The winner is the person who has the most "honor" or victory points at the end of the game from their Dedication tiles. This is the only way that a player can score points and the games are usually very close!
- Tie Breakers -
Ties are broken in the following order:
- The win goes to the tied player with the most favor tokens.
- The win goes to the tied player with the most remaining lantern cards.
- Great Instructional Videos -
Here's a few helpful instructional videos you or your group can watch to learn how to play this game visually.
Do you start with any Lantern cards at the beginning of the game?
Yes, you get one Lantern card based off the initial Lake tile placed starting with the player that has red pointed at them.
In what order do you receive the Lantern cards?
The player who is placing the tile gets any "matching bonus" colors and then starting with that player it goes in clockwise order. This is important because color stacks can run out.
Do colors need to match when placing an adjacent tile?
No, matching the color just means you get a bonus card of that color but is not required to place the tile.
Can I make more than one Dedication on my turn?
No, you can only make one dedication per turn. I get this question a lot and is frustrating to many players but it makes the mechanics better.
Can you get more than one favor token on your turn?
Yes, if you match multiple platforms together than you can get a favor token for each platform and matching color connected. The color's must match in order to get a favor token.
What happens when a supply pile runs out of a particular color?
This happens in every game and that means that some players might not receive a color. You follow in clockwise rotation starting with the player who placed the tile and some players not be able to get a color until someone turns in their Lantern cards.
Does the game end when everyone runs out of tiles?
No, everyone gets one more turn after they have placed their last tile. This allows players to turn in a Dedication to improve their honor points.
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Highest Price: $34.65 (June 13th, 2015)
Lowest Price: $19.55 (April 24th, 2017)
Average Price: $26.82
*According to CamelCamelCamel.com (1/8/2018)
Expanding The Game
There is currently one expansion available for Lanterns: The Harvest Festival called The Emperor's Gifts.
If you like how this board game plays, you'll definitely want to check out these great games which play similar.