Review: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

My wife loves the movie Tangled. We didn’t see it until a few years after it came out, but she immediately identified with Disney’s twist on Rapunzel.

A girl that longs for adventure but instead spends her days doing artwork, cleaning, and learning frying pan martial arts. Okay, that part was a little different. She loved the music and the comedy, but her favorite part is definitely the lanterns. As the princess and her dashing rescuer go out on a lake in a small boat (in a situation that only has two outcomes: a kiss or a murder), the lanterns begin to glow and float throughout the kingdom, and the two are surrounded by the beauty and elegance of the lights. At least that’s what Sarah tells me I should be seeing. Sarah loved this part so much that we went on to research the lanterns ourselves, and we were able to grab a few that we launched off of our dock a few years ago when we lived on a lake.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival came out about 5 years after Tangled hit the big screen, but I would guess that the game owes a lot to the movie for its existence. The game revolves around setting up for a lights festival, but it really comes down to some color matching and some very light strategy. Will it soar like the lanterns of its namesake, or will it instead crash and burn? Keep reading to find out!

Lanterns tiles

At Last I See the Light

In the game, you are not star-crossed lovers on a boat, but instead artisans working to create a beautiful lantern display for an upcoming festival. Instead of a bunch of lanterns that look the same, there will be seven different colors of lanterns available and each player will take turns placing square tiles featuring these lanterns on a shared board.

The tiles can be placed in any orientation, but you need to pay attention to the colors, as you will be drawing a lantern card of the color that is facing you once the tile is placed. In addition, you receive bonus lantern cards if you’re able to color match the sides of the tiles adjacent to yours. Once you’ve taken your cards, all the other players will grab lantern cards based on which color on the tile is facing them. There are also tokens you can earn when you match colors with tiles that also feature launching platforms. These tokens can be used to exchange two lantern cards of the same color for one of a different color, which can be super helpful when you try to start scoring.

Lanterns cards

Now, you’re not just going to sit around collecting lanterns like some odd paper decoration hoarder. Instead, you have the option at the beginning of your turn to discard sets of cards that follow certain patterns: three pairs, four of a kind, or one of each of the seven cards. The points you earn decrease in value as the game progresses, so the quicker you cash out, the more points you’ll get. Play continues until all tiles have been placed, then whoever has the most points wins!

We’ll All Float On

I’m finding it a bit hard to say more about Lanterns, because the game is what it is. There are simple rules for your turn that remain constant throughout the game.

Lanterns tiles on the tableYou don’t really get special bonus powers or anything like that, other than the tokens I previously mentioned. There is some light strategy, but it mostly relies on being able to match colors when laying tiles so you can get the most cards and tokens – quite a simple task. You could also play to block other players from getting cards when certain lantern colors run out. While this “take that” mechanic works some of the time, you need to be careful that you don’t ruin your own plans.

Many people talk about games in terms of a meal, with many small games serving as an appetizer and then larger games serving as the main course. I see Lanterns as more of a dessert. I usually enjoy playing this at the end of the night when we have about 30-40 minutes left. It’s a pretty game that doesn’t require a ton of thinking. Lanterns will serve you well as you wind down from what could have been an intense, multi-hour gaming session in your previous game. You’ll still feel like you’re having some impact on the course of the game, but really you’re just matching colors, which might be all your brain’s capable of doing at this point.

Lanterns works well for any age group and could easily bring non-gamers to the table. While four players is definitely best, I think it can also manage at two and three. Overall, I wouldn’t suggest you make a special trip to go out and buy Lanterns, but if you happen to see it on sale, scoop up this filler game to cap off your next game night.

You can find Lanterns: The Harvest Festival at your local game shop or order it today through Amazon.

Playing Lanterns

Highs

  • Good artwork
  • Laid back gameplay with simple mechanics
  • Great choice to introduce to non-gamers

Lows

  • Every turn seems pretty much the same
  • Matching colors is the only real challenge of the game