Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky
Roll and write games have been around for a long time; Yahtzee came out 64 years ago. But this genre has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Mix with this the recent trend of releasing spiritual sequels using different mechanics (i.e. Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game) and you have Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky. Lanterns Dice is developed by Foxtrot Games and published by Renegade Games Studios (as a sequel to Lanterns: The Harvest Festival).
Give each player a player sheet which represents the lake to light little triangle regions of the sky. Make sure each player has a different lettered sheet (A-D). These sheets represent different color-pool pattern layouts and different color bonus triangle color sequences. The game doesn’t include writing implements, but you will need them.
First, the active player rolls the four Lantern dice into the funneled tray and points the tray’s corner towards themselves with the die (of the 4) which they want. The other corners of the tray (and dice they represent) will point towards other player(s) seated at the table. All players simultaneously shade one triangle on their sheet matching the assigned die color. The active player also shades a bonus triangle in the color their sheet assigns for the current round.
Players may then opt to also trade in gifts/coins gained to get an extra ability based on one of the three emperor cards (costing 1, 2, and 3 gifts/coins) available for the current game. Then, the active player may take a fireworks polyomino tile to cover a series of fully covered squares (pools of two triangles) on their sheet which matches the tile shape.
Rounds continue until the number of rounds is over, represented by the bonus triangle sequence on the right of the player sheet. In turn order each player can lay one additional fireworks tile and tally final scores (fireworks tile points + 2nd largest contiguous pool size + open pools with boats surrounded on all 4 sides).
Strategic decision making in Lanterns Dice is almost entirely in deciding how, where, and when to shade different color triangles in the “water” of the player sheet. This is a blend of placing chosen colors (die on your turn), assigned colors (die on other player’s turns), upcoming planned colors (bonus triangles sequence, on your turn only), and wisely and efficiently cashing in gifts/coins for emperor’s favors.
The challenge is merging the triangle coloring choices into accomplishing a mixture of completely (orthogonally) surrounded boats, two large contiguous pools (only the 2nd largest scores), and several fireworks tiles (preferably the higher numbers). As the dice go for the first few rounds, you may need to change your strategy.
I appreciate that Lanterns Dice can be fast (~30 minutes with 2 players). I really like the simultaneous aspect, which keeps the game fast, and everyone is involved on other player’s turns. The tension of being forced to pick an emphasis (can’t do everything well) appeals to me. The simplicity of play makes it a perfect gateway game for engaging non-gamers while the challenge of specialization and efficiency keeps experienced gamers’ interest to some degree. I like the choice in spending gifts but it seems best to always take an option which gives you maximum triangles per gift/coin.
Although the emperor cards are double-sided and there are a variety of polyomino pieces to change up each game, there is a good possibility of replays feeling stale. The shape of the tiles and emperor card variety doesn’t change the feel of the game enough.
The dice tray is a novel component that allows neatly clustering and positioning dice to more clearly assign to people based on the tray corner’s pointing. Unfortunately the rolling tray has a design weakness as dice frequently bounce out of the tray or don’t settle all the way, which gets a little bit annoying and wastes time.
The components, sheets, and dice are all colorful, but everything is so small that nothing jumps out at you. Finally, the theme seems pasted on. Scribbling over various small subtly colored/patterned triangles doesn’t feel like you’re launching candle-bag lanterns or fireworks.
Lanterns Dice is a decent game. One person I played with had reactions of “It’s nothing special” and “I’m just not feeling any excitement”. I enjoyed the game more than they did, but I can’t entirely disagree with them. There was no accompanying ‘knife edge’ or noticeably high/low feelings with any decisions or moments of the game. The difference between good decisions and bad ones feels very subtle.
Part of this is that the array of lake triangles is forgiving. As long as you color in triangles clustered near your other triangles and try to make use of pavilions and gifts, it seems you can always eventually use your tools to piece together at least a few polyomino fireworks tiles.
The difference between a mediocre score and a good score seems to be a summation of very subtle nuances, maybe even winning against a strong opponent just because you got the 5 point fireworks tile instead of the 4 point one of a certain shape.
Perhaps these nuanced results is a good thing or the sign of a good game? It’s hard to tell, but Lanterns Dice gives a benign feeling while playing.
I have played the original Lanterns tile game. I would say Lanterns Dice and the original Lanterns both suffer from being a bit on the simple side, but this could easily just be my personal preference in games. Some people like simpler games without too large a breadth of options cluttering their decision-making. I believe players might have a little more control over their destiny in Lanterns Dice compared to the original Lanterns.
If that sounds good to you, pick up Lanterns Dice on Amazon or ask for it at your friendly local game store.
- As a portable gateway game
- If you adore the ‘roll-n-write’ genre
- As a simple fast game with some (but not too much) luck, that scales well from two to four players
- To those wanting games with a more positive/solo vibe – where one’s plans are only mildly disturbed by other players and where all decisions seem relatively good
The Family Gamers received a copy of Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky from Renegade Game Studios for this review.
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Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 30-45 minutes