Lata – Canning if you Can

Lata game
Double mackerel card from Lata

Can fish and sell it in Lata.

Sardines and mackerel fish canning is Lata‘s unusual theme. Rôla & Costa designed this unique title, released in 2023 by Pythagoras and distributed in the United States by Mayfair Games. Although I did have a fraternity brother nicknamed Mackerel (only because he wanted to be called Flounder), I can’t say I’ve played a board game with mackerel in it before this.

Is Lata a unique uncanny experience or was it a little fishy? Did I need to can it from my game collection? Find out with me – if you can.

Game Play

Lata player area for Matosinkos
Each player starts with a player sheet, four coins, a basic flag-based Scoring card, and a starting single sardine Production card.
Lata common cards, from left to right: Production, Market, Scoring.

Below, cubes in red, yellow, and silver; coins; and cardboard "can" tokens for turn order.
Set up central card areas: Production cards, Market cards, and Scoring cards. In a three-player game, there will be four “offerings” in each area.

Lata takes six rounds to play. Each round has four phases:

Turn Order

Players bid action points for turn order by secret auction. (There is an open auction variant, too).

Retain this turn order for each of the three remaining phases.

Lata player screen and action point tracker
In the secret auction, use a player screen to hide your action points. Subtract 0-9 points secretly. Reveal when everyone is ready. The largest bid becomes first player for the rest of the round.


Players choose a set of Production cards (either one or two cards) from the offering to add to their canning factory. Putting cards in some spots in the factory require the player to pay for those slots.

Placing an olive oil card in the third production slot for a player in Lata
You must pay one coin to place a card in the third slot on your production line.

Additionally, players may put production cards over other cards. When they do, the old cards are no longer available for production (but might help with victory points later).

You are forced to add card(s) to your factory somewhere, even if you don’t want to.


Now, players spend action points to produce and then sell cubes to international customers.

Each player produces and sells before the next player does anything. 

Production is the core of Lata. Players run their fish canning factory engine in order from leftmost card to rightmost card. Later, they’ll sell the three different types of fish they produce: sardines, sardines packed in tomatoes, and mackerel packed in olive oil.

Regardless of the number of symbols on each Production card, activating them takes one action point. Cards’ symbols are activated top to bottom. Producing silver cubes is simple; it only requires the sardine symbol on the card. Producing red and yellow cubes can be a little tricky because you need two different symbols to make them work.

If a player wants to make sardines in tomato sauce, when they encounter either a sardine or tomato icon (remember, working left-to-right, top-to-bottom) they need to look to the right of that icon. If the other icon they need is on the same card (below) or on a card to the right, they can put a red cube on their current icon and continue.

Lata sardine card with red cube
Pay an action point on this first slot to make EITHER a tin of sardines OR sardines in tomato sauce, since there are tomatoes available to the right.

Players make yellow cubes the same exact way but by pairing olive oil and mackerel symbols. Mackerel can only be paired with olive oil, never packed on its own.

This means strategically ordering cards is very beneficial, as players can keep using cards further to the right.

Production line in Lata
Pay one action point for the first card, to pack sardines.
Pay one action point for the second card, to pack mackerel in olive oil, and a tin of sardines.
The olive oil by itself can’t be packed – but if there was another mackerel even further right, it could be.


Players also use action points to sell their cubes. Each market card has four icons: a flag, items to sell, action point cost, and the reward per cube. Players pay the action point cost to sell any number of cubes to the market card. When they do, they gain the per-cube reward on the right. If a player fills the last cube icon, they “win” the market card for potential end game scoring.

Market cards with cubes in Lata
A player paid one action point to place cubes on this bottom-right card, and finished filling it.
They get one coin for each cube they placed, and since they finished the card, they take it for end-game scoring.

Any leftover red and yellow cubes will “spoil” at the end of this phase.

A small pile of silver cubes.
But plain sardines can be “packed in salt” and saved on your player board for later turns.

Scoring Cards

During this phase, players may buy one (and only one) Scoring card by paying the cost on the top right. All of a player’s victory points come from their initial scoring card and any additional scoring cards from this phase. These cards give points in many different ways: factory card colors/symbols (including covered factory cards), straight victory points, leftover cubes, sets of specific flags, and more.

Buying a Scoring card for three coins
Scoring cards: 2 points for every French or Portugese flag (top left); 1 point for every card in the Production discard pile (top right); 1 point for every sardine on player’s Production cards (bottom left); 5 points (bottom right).


After this phase, players discard the unchosen Production cards from the central area and refill with new sets, then refill the Market and Scoring cards without removing any old cards.

After six rounds, the game ends, and players tally their scores (via scoring cards) to determine the winner.


Let’s dive into the pros and cons of Lata.

Decision Strategy

For me, the best aspect of Lata is the thought-provoking decision making and planning you must do. It’s quite a feat to budget together three tightly interwoven resources: action points, expected cube production of three different colors, and money (both current and expected). Then you need to deal with not knowing what cards you’ll be able to acquire or sell to.

The mixture of strategic and tactical decision making in a tightly sequenced game flow is impressive no matter what. It’s even more impressive for such a small game package. You’ll need to calculate your action points carefully. It’s important to optimize activating both Production cards and Market cards to make and sell cubes. Of course, you need to do this to afford scoring cards, and to win Market cards for set bonuses. How can you maximize the points for whatever Scoring cards you already have and the ones you are vying to get?

Lata scoring final game
This player manages to score 40 points.
Default scoring card: 9 points (1 per flag and 1 per pair of matching flags)
7 points, no conditions.
Then 8 points for Portuguese and French flags.
8 points for having at least 4 coins left.
8 points for Production cards placed in the “2 coin” slots of the board.


There is great replay value with the situations generated from different production engines you might build. Mix this with the various Market cards available and the huge variety in Scoring cards. The scoring card options are intriguing, but cumbersome to learn and keep track of some of the iconography.

The flexibility you have and the prioritization you must do with your action points can give situations a similar-but-different vibe.

The solo game provides an extensive variety as each factory player sheet also has a solo game backside. This brings differences in the rules and built-in customized strategies:

  • Setubal wants flags like the normal game
  • Portimao wants coins – sell as many cubes as possible
  • Aveiro wants cubes – but only 1 point per 3 cubes isn’t great
  • Matosinhos wants flags even more – 2X normal value – but compartmentalizes production card selection.

Natural Crescendo

Lata has a nice build up to it. You start off barely able to produce or sell anything and feel almost indifferent towards the scoring cards. By the end you’re making and selling a lot of canned fish and vying to secure particularly juicy Scoring cards.


Despite its small package, the game does a lot of different things in a short amount of time. It does well in the “fun per minute” category.

Forced to Ruin

Here’s where the cons come into play. You’re required to put new production cards into your factory even if you don’t want to. It’s very possible (almost inevitable) that you may be forced to ruin or diminish the effectiveness of your canning engine.

I can’t think of a worse mechanic in engine builders than forcing players to ruin the engine they’ve built. The Production cards are so drastically different in capability that in some cases they’re useless.

In solo mode it can be even worse. Solo players must add two cards in this phase!

Placing production card 40 - sheet tin
I have to put this green “roll tin” card somewhere, even though it produces nothing.
Placing it further right is less disruptive, but I have to pay coins for that privilege!

Turn Order Imbalance

Since players can see all of their options during the turn order auction phase, players can pay more action points if they really want the best choice of cards. Going first will always be very good for getting best choice of Production and Scoring cards and best selection of empty cube slots to sell to.

But there is such a huge disparity in the value of cards! Production and Scoring cards range widely in victory point value. Combining this with the secret auction uncertainty can make for a very painful disappointment and feelings of unfairness.

The open auction variant seems better but still feels mismatched. The player getting significantly better cards may have only bid one more action point than someone who had to pass. This huge card value imbalances put players in a Catch-22. They may want to bid nearly all their action points for the ability to go first, but they need to hold back some action points to be able to Produce and Sell anything.

Therefore, turn order seems way too significant in this game. This pivotal thing is determined based on a somewhat blind guess made behind your screen. Even with the open auction variant it comes down to whoever is willing to hurt the rest of their round by just one more action point than everyone else. With the huge card disparity it seems at times to make strategic sense to bid all your action points to go first. But if you do this, you can’t actually do anything for the rest of the round…and that’s not very fun.

Final Thoughts

I do really like the sequential planning, budgeting calculations, and depth of decisions all packed into such a nice short amount of time. But the learning curve for production sequencing and icon pairing is steep for a family game.

Overall, I do like and enjoy Lata but I don’t know if I will ever love it. I’m really tempted to create a house rule to avoid the ‘Forced to Ruin’ problem described above. This may be solved by simply allowing players to not place any Production cards if they don’t want to (freely or with a low cost).

The hyper-importance of turn order mixed with the luck factor and imbalance in the Production/Scoring card valuations sometimes feels swingy and random. I definitely enjoy this fish canning game – for now – but it might eventually get canned.

However, I know some people love some of the same things that irk me here, so it’s definitely possible Lata is the fish with a golden scale for some of you. If so, you can pick up a copy directly from Mayfair, or look for it coming soon to a game store near you.

Lata game

Mayfair Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Lata for this review.

Lata – Canning if you Can
  • 6/10
    Art - 6/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
  • 6/10
    Family Fun - 6/10


Age Range: 8+
Number Of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 20-45 minutes