Review: Lanterns The Harvest Festival

Lanterns The Harvest Festival review

The harvest is in and all of China is getting ready to celebrate with the Harvest Festival. It’s up to you and your fellow players to decorate the palace lake with beautiful patterns made up of floating lanterns. It sounds easy, but lantern setting is a cutthroat business.

Designed by Christopher Chung and published in 2015 Lanterns The Harvest Festival is a tile laying, set building game. Players need to race to make patterns on the lake so that they can earn points. The points available are limited so you need to grab the high scoring patterns while you have the chance.

For the Tl;Dr version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the Box:

  • 2-4 players
  • Ages 8+
  • 30min

There isn’t much in the box. 7 different coloured decks of cards, each representing a type of Lantern, round wooden Favour tokens, a stack of Lake tiles with pretty patterns on them and a little boat to mark the starting player.

Lanterns The Harvest Festival review
I’m not fond of how the lake tiles sit, but the insert does the job.

There isn’t much in the rules either. It’s a very easy read and the little summary cards mean that you will only have to refer to it once.

Sleeves

The 68 x45 mm mini euro from Maday should do the trick. I don’t have them to test with but that’s the size of the cards.

mdg-Mini-Euro-45x68mm

Theme

It’s Imperial China. The crops have been successfully harvested and to celebrate the locals hold the annual Harvest Festival. No festival is complete without copious and extravagant décor and the lake in front of the palace is in need of some.

The players are in charge of decorating the lake with clusters of floating lanterns. Dedicating your various sets of lanterns will score you points but as the same sets are dedicated over and over again they are worth fewer and fewer points.

The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Gameplay

Onto setup. Take all the cards and arrange them in piles sorted by colour in easy reach of every one. Place all the Favour tokens next to them and then give the first player the little boat. The Victory point tokens are sorted by the colour of their border and then stacked from lowest to highest. If you have fewer than 4 players you will need to remove some of the tokens, they are clearly marked with little red dots.

Find the starting Lake tile, it’s the one with the boat on it, and place it in the centre of the play area with the red side facing the starting player. Each player then receives 1 lantern card of the colour of the side of the tile that they are facing, so the starting player will get a red card.

Lanterns The Harvest Festival review
A 3 player game in progress.

Then shuffle the remaining tiles into a stack, the size of which will depend on the number of players. Then deal each player 3 of them and you are good to go.

In a turn you have 3 actions. The first 2 are optional and the last action is mandatory.

  1. Turn in 2 favour tokens to exchange 1 lantern card you have for another one of a different colour.
  2. Dedicate a set of lantern cards to gain points. You can turn in 1 of 3 different sets. 4 of the same colour lanterns. 3 different pairs of lanterns e.g. 2 red, 2 green and 2 yellow. Then you take the top most token from the VP pile for that set.
  3. Play a Lake tile from your hand. To play a tile you add it to the existing tiles on the board. If you match any of the colours on the board to colours of tiles on the board then you get a card of that colour for free. If your tile has a platform on it then you will receive a favour token, if your tile touches another tile with a platform then that will also get you a favour token. Next each player will get a lantern card of the colour that is facing them on the tile that you just played. Then you draw another lake tile.

After the last player has placed his last lake tile each player gets 1 more turn and then the game ends. The player with the most victory points wins!

Lanterns The Harvest Festival review
Victory Points, he who has the most wins!

Conclusion

In a word it’s elegant. Simple mechanics + good looking components + a decent amount of depth = a very good game. You actually need to play a game or 2 to get that ‘click’ where you realise that you don’t only control your own game but your opponents too! Then the game opens up and you want to play again and again. Well I did anyway.

Lanterns The Harvest Festival review
Matching up the tiles to get extra cards is easy. Making sure your opponents don’t get what they need is not.

With the available victory points constantly decreasing, knowing when to make a dedication to claim them is crucial but since everyone gains cards in every turn the game keeps changing. Anything can happen in any players turn changing your options so you will find yourself trying to plan 2 – 3 turns ahead.

Do I use my favours to setup a dedication every turn? But what if there’s a draw? I’ll need them to break the tie? Maybe I should claim the last red lantern so no-one else can get any more of them?

With the only hidden information being the tiles in your hand you can almost predict when your opponents will be claiming the victory points that you have been building towards. Plan and plan well.

Lanterns The Harvest Festival review
Favour tokens, be sure to grab them when you can, they are very handy.

I highly recommend Lanterns, it’s very accessible and I’m going to get a copy for my collection.

Can I play this at a braai?

You don’t really have much down time in the game, the pattern of the tiles changes every after each players turn and you might be getting new cards every turn so you might not want to leave the table if you don’t have to. Although a 5 min break every now and again won’t be a problem and the games are fairly quick too.

Thanks to Boardgames.co.za for the review copy of Lanterns The Harvest Festival

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