Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is a tile placement game with an Asian festival theme. Players place tiles, strategically giving each player lanterns each turn. Players collect lanterns in the seven different colors, trying to match the three goals for points. The three goals are four of a kind, three pairs, and one tile in each of the seven colors. After the last tile is placed, each player gets one more turn to complete actions and score points.
Opening the box was fun for the kids and me. We love punching pieces out, and the tiles all came in sheets. There are tiles for placement and scoring. The lantern cards are thin but sturdy. The board begins with the Boat card placed in the middle. When it is placed, each player gets their first lantern. The first player gets a red lantern and, in clockwise order, the others get white, black, and blue tiles. The first player places a tile, and play progresses.
Every turn, all four players get a lantern card, unless the bank is out of the required color. In such cases, the player is out of luck. When the current player puts down a tile, they automatically get a lantern based on which color of the tile is facing them. If, however, they match colors, each matched color nets the player a corresponding color. If a tile has a symbol on it, such as a dragon or panda, a matched color also nets the player a token. Two tokens can be spent to exchange one lantern for another color.
The current player has to play in a particular order on their turn. There are two optional steps a player can take. The player may exchange two tokens and a lantern for another lantern from the supply. The player then has the option of “Dedicating” their lanterns. The player returns lanterns to the supply, and takes a score tile matching the lanterns they turned in. After the player chooses whether or not to take these actions, they must place a tile, and distribute the four lanterns, if possible. This immediately ends the turn, and the player cannot dedicate again until their next turn.
The point values of the score tiles decrease over time, so players must act quickly to get enough points to win. Since a player may only exchange and/or dedicate once per turn, there is no reason to hold on to tiles when the player might dedicate. The player would only fall behind.
There are no outside materials needed. Scores are clearly labelled on the tiles, and there is no need for outside notes or labels for play. The game includes 56 lanterns, 30 scoring tiles, 36 placement tiles, 20 tokens, and a tiny boat to mark turns. We’ve never really needed the boat, but some groups would benefit, since every turn includes at least some action for all players.
Despite the large number of pieces, the box is easily three times too big. The quality of the pieces is fantastic, though, and deserve the sturdy box, regardless of size.
Lanterns can be played with 2-4 players, but I strongly suggest four players every time. Otherwise, the balance is a little off. Some tiles are marked for removal for games with fewer players, but there are the same number of lanterns on the field. Solo play is not possible in the slightest.
The suggested age range is 8+, but younger players can absolutely play. The skills required involve placement strategy, minor resource management, and simple addition. I’ll happily play with a six year old, regardless of math skills, because Lanterns can be simplified into a matching/scoring game concept, while still using the proper rules.
Lanterns is $35 on Amazon. Appropriate for many ages matched with high re-playability, I would say this is a decent investment, especially if you can get it on sale.
Lanterns also was one of the winners at this year’s Mensa Mind Games and is allowed to carry the Mensa Select seal. GeekMom Jenny wrote up the winners on GeekDad, if you want to check it out.
GeekMom received a copy of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival for review purposes.