My Wife Always Wins - Lanterns

Brian Shabbott
May 15, 2017

This Weeks Game: Lanterns

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but outside my writing I’m a man of few words. I rarely share my feelings and pretty much keep it bottled up inside. Perhaps it’s a bit too much of my father in me. But writing does provide that outlet for me to say what I need to say. So let me just put this out there: my wife, Lyndsey, is the worst.

    There’s nothing wrong with a competitive spirit. I played and coached sports a good percentage of my life, and I can understand the healthy need to excel against others. It’s also one of the reasons I like games: you sit down at the table as equals, then one prevails through a showing of skill. But what Lyndsey is doing can hardly qualify as healthy competition. It’s one thing to strive to be your best. Taking pleasure in one’s destruction and kicking them while they are down is a completely different story.

    There’s no virtue in those kinds of victories. And so I presented Lyndsey with Lanterns this week, where players compete to collect the one thing she’s devoid of – honor.

The Basics

    In Lanterns: The Harvest Festival players assume the roles of artisans who are tasked with decorating for – you guessed it – the Harvest Festival. It is a tile laying and set collection game where players collect sets of lanterns to cash in on honor points.

    Each square tile is a section of the palace lake, equipped with floating lanterns. Each side of each tile is dedicated to lanterns of a certain color. Every time a tile is placed, all players get to draw a lantern card from the game supply. The color of the cards they draw will correspond to what color lanterns are on the side of the tile that points toward them. So if Lyndsey and I were sitting across from each other, and I placed a tile with orange lanterns facing left toward Lyndsey, and green facing right toward me, I would get a green card and she would get an orange.

    When placing tiles, if the color along any touching sides match the adjacent tile’s color, the placing player will also get a lantern of that color, in addition to whatever color is facing them. Some lake tiles also have decorative platforms on them, and if any adjacent tiles’ colors match with a platform tile side, the player will also collect a Favor Token.

    Once per turn, players may exchange a lantern card for another, by trading in two favor tokens. Then, players may make a dedication. Dedications are sets of lantern cards that match:  four of a kind, three pairs of three different colors, and seven unique cards (one of each color). Each dedication will net players a dedication token. Tokens are worth more at the beginning, and become worth progressively less as more of each type are collected. As such, players who achieve their sets first are awarded more than those who come upon the same sets later in the game.

    When there are no more lake tiles to play, each player gets one more turn to make a last minute exchange and dedication. Then the honor points are scored and the player with the most wins.

Check out the rules here.

Time to Play

    We each laid a few tiles, and I struck first. I gathered the first four of a kind worth eight honor points. Lyndsey struck back with a four of a kind of her own, and a three pair set, worth a total of 16 points. I didn’t answer for a while, because I was working specifically toward the unique collection, as the first dedication of that was worth 10 points. I got it, and again pulled into the lead.

    That was my downfall though. I had strategically placed my tiles, and drew my lanterns to get one of each kind. It took a significant amount of turns, and I missed out on a lot along the way. Lyndsey, in the meantime gathered another four of a kind. Her slow and steady efforts worked far better in the long run. Rather than dedicating all of her resources to the big unique set, she gathered the smaller stuff and organically happened upon a unique set later in the game.

    I was still ahead until Lyndsey played her last tile, after she made another unique dedication for eight points. We each now had one turn to make any last dedications, and I was down by six points. I made the best dedication I could, and cashed in on my second unique set for seven points. It was enough to put me in the lead, at least, until Lyndsey took her turn and dedicated three pair. Final score 45-40. I came so close this week.


Final Thoughts

    I write the introduction to these articles before we play each game, then we play, then I write the rest. I realize I was really hard on Lyndsey in this introduction. I was so guilt-stricken over calling her honor-less that I let her win this week. I clearly had victory in my grasp, and let it go to make up for my earlier rant.

    Not buying it? You shouldn’t. I’m terrible at games, and my shame is well-deserved.

    So… about the game. We both enjoyed this experience. The mechanic was simple, it was fun to collect our sets, block each other when we could, and collect the honor points. And of course, the East Asian themes are something I can always appreciate, given my interests in history.

    I enjoy tile laying games – Carcassonne was the first ever article in this series, and still remains one of my favorite games. But Lanterns is no Carcassonne. Carcassonne is a light game, but it still has some depth to it. There are various paths to points and victory. Lanterns simplifies an already simple tile laying game mechanic and makes it one dimensional.

    This game is just too light for us to offer any sort of replayability – as you can probably see from the brevity of this article. This was the first time we played, and I don’t see us coming back to it very often. Lyndsey said it best: “I’d rather beat you at something that’s more difficult. That way I know you really put effort into losing.”