Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is a game about setting little lights on the water. Let me take that back. It’s a deceptively devious game about setting little lights on the water.
The first player places a tile on the board so that it touches any other side of the starting tile. Colors don’t need to match. Once the tile is placed, all players get rewarded lantern cards from their seating position. Draw a new tile and pass your turn. Matching the color means that you get an extra card of that color and match the color of a special platform tile means that you get an honor token. Two tokens let you exchange one lantern card for another.
With all the beautiful art and laissez faire gameplay, Lanterns is a ticking time bomb from the very beginning. Points dwindle with every card you pull. Lantern cards become scarce once you start moving late into the game. It’s a game where you can push your opponent into a dark corner with only a couple lanterns to play with or let the light fall where it pleases as you scramble for the most points.
The game is very beautiful and easy to get into, but has a depth that can challenge even the most experienced players and that’s why it’s one of our favorite games of the year.