LANTERNS: The Board Game

Welcome to our first posts on my never-ending vice – yes, board games, not comics! Shocker, I know!

I came across Lanterns one recently. I was meeting with a dear friend in London, to go visit Draughts – the first board game cafe in London, it’s really cool, go check it out if you can! So as we geeks do, we have some noms to eat, and proceeded to spend like 4 hours just trying games. Lanterns was our last one. We didn’t have a clue what it was about, but it was pretty, seemed interesting, and we decided to give it ago. Needless to say, I liked the game so much I bought it on the spot and I’ve played it already countless times (…And the purchase only took place in January…). So please let me show you how this works, ’cause it’s well cool, and Pretty.

Game cover
Game cover

Game box and contents
Game cover

Right so, some basic facts: this is a 4 player tops game, but it works really good with 2. The game is versatile, you may not be playing it every day, but it has lots of playability even for 2 players, and the tile formation and scoring system will change. So don’t panic, it works fine. The more, the better though – gets really intrinsic. Time estimate? First play will take you a lil bit longer – say 40 mins? But after that you should be able to play a game in no more than 30 mins. Quick and light-hearted, not one of those games that ruin friendships – we will talk about those Munchkins later! There is healthy competition, as the aim of the game is to acquire as much honour as possible. Therefore, by making the prettiest and most elegant set of lantern display for the harvest festival you shall be victorious insertnamehere-Chan/Senpai/Sensei, you get it.

How you go about winning? You have tiles and lantern cards that you put and acquire each turn. The way you play the tiles is important, as this is the way you acquire lantern cards, and with the cards you trade for honour points. First turn goes like this: as nobody has lantern cards, you just need to place a tile adjacent to the starting piece.

If you connect a tile that has a matching colour sides to this piece, you get a lantern card of that colour. Then, the player facing each side of the tile, gets a card of the colour that is facing them.

That happens every turn. So you will get lantern cards regardless, but it requires smarts to get the ones you want or need – or to stop your rivals from getting theirs quicker.

Then at the end of your turn, you gain a new tile. As the game goes on, you may be able to connect one tile to more than one adjacent tile with matching colour sides – this way you get more lanterns quicker. After one or two turns, when you have now acquire lantern cards you can perform your other two optional moves – earn honour or trade favour for lantern cards. Let’s do each step at the time.

There are 4 piles of honour tokens – red, blue, green and grey. Each pile has tokens of different numeric value, rating highest honour to lowest. So getting the top tokens first can give you a massive advantage in the long-term – but it’s not all, don’t panic. You earn this honour by doing an offering of lanterns.

To earn honour from the red pile you need to collect and then trade 4 lantern cards of the same colour. Blue pile tokens require 3 couples of lantern card, each couple of any one colour. Finally, the green tokens require one card of each colour (7 lantern cards in total). If you run out of these normal tokens, then you can get the grey ones – they are always 4 regardless of the type of trade you are doing. This is why playing your tiles correctly is important, you have a limited amount of time and lantern cards to get your honour built up.

About Favour – this is an interesting element of the game, and although it is partially down to luck, strategy counts too. You get favour tokens when you connect tiles that have banners in the middle (flowers, panda, dragons, etc).

You get one token per tile with banner you connect with. So if you just put one down connecting with a normal tile, you get one. But if you manage to connect it to a row or a group of them, you get token according to the number of banner tiles you connect with. Then, right at the beginning of your turn, you can trade 2 favour tokens in, so you can swap one lantern card you own for any other in the lantern pile.

It is easy to run out of favour tokens quickly, and it is likely you may not always be able to connect tiles with banners, so be careful and think.

The game ends when there are no more tiles to place. As it is compulsory to place a tile per turn, you should be able to work out how many turns you have remaining to earn more honour and get the cards you need. In the several times I have played, the tiles have made all sorts of shapes, the honour strategy has varied, and the victories have been sometimes close, sometimes miles away. And they were not easy to predict. Please, don’t get to wrapped up in the strategy element of the game – it is very easy to play, and your strategy will be slightly determined by your luck. But do remember that wits and management will play a key factor towards your honour score. But seriously, it’s incredibly easy to play. The box recommends that it is for ages 8+, so you can even play this with your kids – honest.

I think one of the reasons why I really enjoy playing Lanterns, is the kind of soothing feeling it transmits. There is competition, but it’s not cut-throat. The aesthetic value of the game is great – simple, elegant, very happy. I almost felt like that scene from Hero (Jet Li movie. 2005) where he is playing GO against one of the assassins and their fight mixed with their game, in the rain, with the music…Ah! Lovely! Ultimate Zen.

So if you can, give the game a go, and come back to tell us about it 🙂

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