Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky
The harvest is in, and now it's time to celebrate! The emperor has declared that this shall be the best harvest festival yet.
In Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky, players act as artisans, decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns and launching fireworks to light up the sky. The player who earns the most honor has made the best impression on the emperor and wins.
In more detail, roll dice and choose which colored lanterns players can fill on their scoresheets. Earn gifts to perform special actions, fill in additional colored lanterns, and create powerful combinations. Cover completed shapes with fireworks tiles to score points and put on a spectacular show!
Designer: Chris Bryan
Artist: Beth Sobel, Jason D. Kingsley, John Shulters
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Price: $22.00 Amazon.com
Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky is a roll-and-write adaptation of the popular Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. Using a similar system of doling out resources based on the orientation of colors, it keeps the general spirit of the original game but puts a new spin on it.
Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky follows the current trend of roll-and-write games, but it was of particular interest to me because it builds on an existing title, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. The original game is still quite popular, but despite its unique spin on tile-laying, it was never among my favorite games. I like the idea of it, however, and I was hopeful that a new take on its core system would prove more engaging to me.
The game comes with a concave dice tray, molded with a central area that fits the 4 included dice. When a player rolls them, the dice tend to gravitate toward the middle, arranging themselves in a randomly-generated square formation.
Each player receives a sheet from the paper pad, and the game begins.
On a player’s turn, she rolls the dice and positions the tray so that each player has one die facing them.
Everyone may then color in a half-square space on their own sheet corresponding to their die. Continuing my GIF example above, one player would get to color in a red space thanks to the red die.
The active player can also color in a bonus space, as indicated on the chart at the right side of her sheet. (The bonus color will change each turn.)
Whenever a player fills in a space next to a favor icon (the yellow dot symbol), she earns a favor, which is tracked at the bottom of her sheet. Throughout the game, she can spend these favors to gain extra abilities.
The sheets also feature a number of platforms (gray square icons). If a player colors in both spaces next to a platform, she can immediately color in any single space in an adjacent square for free.
The boat icons have no function during the game, but they provide an extra end-game scoring opportunity. If a square containing a boat is left empty, and all four adjacent squares are filled in at the end, the player will earn 4 bonus points. (Players may earn this bonus multiple times, for multiple boats.)
If a player completes a formation of squares in the shape of one of the polyomino tiles, she may immediately take the topmost tile and add it to her board, covering the completed spaces. Like the victory point tiles in the original game, the values of the polyominoes tend to decrease over time, so players earn more points by getting them early.
The game ends after a set number of rounds, scaled according to the number of players. At that time, scores are calculated. In addition to points earned from boats and tiles, players earn 1 point per completed square in their second largest contiguous area. The player with the most points wins!
As I said at the beginning of this review, my opinion of the original Lanterns: The Harvest Festival is fairly middle-of-the-road. I don’t dislike it, but it is not my favorite game in my collection either. I am pleased to report that I like Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky a great deal more.
The gameplay allows for some really neat combos. For example, a player might complete a square with a platform on it, allowing her to color in an adjacent space, which might be next to a favor icon, which can allow her to use a card ability to color in another space, etc. This kind of one-two punch play style keeps players engaged as they try to plan out clever moves, and it offers strategic options I felt the base game was lacking.
The game’s production is nicely done, with chunky dice and big, colorful game sheets. There is something very satisfying about rolling the dice in the tray – it has a cool “toy factor” and a pleasant tactile appeal. The dice tray works pretty well, though sometimes a rogue die might bounce out of it. My only major qualm with this game is that the sheets are not double-sided. I really wish they would have been, since it would have doubled the game’s lifespan.
The length of play is about as long as that of its predecessor – a half hour, maybe less. It feels just right and does not overstay its welcome. As is the case with the original Lanterns game, Lights in the Sky is definitely best at 4 players.
Interestingly, those in my game group who enjoyed the base game were less enthused about this one, and those who, like myself, felt that the base game didn’t offer quite enough “oomph” liked this one more. I suppose that informs my overall recommendation: if you like the original Lanterns, this one is definitely worth a try, but I suspect you will ultimately prefer the base game. Likewise, if the base game fell short for you, this one may be just what you’re looking for.
A review copy was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
+ More strategic choices than original game
+ High-quality dice, with cool tray
+ Simple ruleset
+ Familiar play style, but still unique
- Single-sided sheets
- Pencil can be hard to see, so players may need to use pens