Dale Yu: Review of Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky

Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky

  • Designer: Chris Bryan
  • Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30-45 mins
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Renegade Games
  • Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/2Y5tiPY

Lanterns Dice is the newest addition to the Lanterns franchise; this one taking advantage of the current upswing in popularity of the Roll-and-Write (RAW) genre.  However, as you will soon see, this game has a little chance in the mechanisms to help set it apart.

Each player gets a scoresheet – the majority of the sheet is a 9×6 grid of squares; each split into two different colored triangles; additionally, some of the squares have pavilions, platforms or boats in the center of the square.  There are four different layouts for the sheets – the right side has a column which outlines some bonuses (and this is what is different on each sheet) and serves as a turn tracker, and you will find a area to mark your gifts in the lower left.

There are four dice in the game (essentially d6 but with different colors on each face as opposed to numbers), and a blue plastic tray with a depression in the center which is just larger than a 2×2 arrangement of the dice.   The tray is cleverly constructed so that when you roll the dice into the tray, about 90% of the time, they nicely arrange themselves into a 2×2 arrangement, and in almost every other case, a simple nudge of the tray will get any cocked dice to settle down nicely.  There is a bunch of firework tiles; essentially polyominoes of 3, 4, or 5 squares in size (worth 4, 5 and 6 points respectively) and three Emperor cards.

At the start of the game, make sure that each player has a different layout on their sheet, and then the group must pick out four of the eight firework tile shapes to use in the game.  These tiles are organized by shape, and each stack is placed in descending point order. The Emperor cards are double sided, and they are randomly shuffled and placed on the table in a row.

On each round, one player is the active player – he is given the dice and the dice tray.  First, the dice are rolled, and if desired, the active player can spend a gift to re-roll all four dice.  Once the roll is accepted (or the active player has no more gifts), the tray is oriented so that one die is pointed towards each player.  Each player can shade in one triangle on their sheet which matches the color of the die nearest them. Some of the colors are similar (for me, red and pink) – but each die has a different shape also printed on the die/scoresheet to help reduce confusion.

If you shade in a triangle which abuts a yellow circular pavilion in the center, you earn a gift.  Fill in the center circle of the next open gift on your scoresheet. Platforms are gray squares in the center of an area; and if you fill in both triangles that surround a platform, you can then fill in a triangle in any of the four orthogonally adjacent squares to that platform.  There is no benefit to filling in areas that surround a boat; in fact, filling in the areas around the boat will cause you to not be able to score them at the end of the game… Also during the turn, the active player takes a look at the bonus chart on the right of his sheet, and he is able to shade in a triangle that matches the color shown on the sheet for this round.

Then, players may each decide if they want to take a single Emperor action.  They have three to choose from (each seen on an Emperor card), and each action has a cost in gifts associated with it.  If you want to take an action, mark off the requisite number of gifts and do the action. The actions all allow you to shade certain areas on your sheet based on the condition stated on the card.

Finally, the active player can choose to place a fireworks tile.  If he has completely shaded in the triangles on his sheet that matches the shape of an available tile; the tile can be placed on the scoresheet to cover those shaded areas.

The active player now moves around the table and the next player takes the dice and the tray, and the same pattern is followed. This continues until all players have completed their turns as indicated on the scoresheet (6 rounds for 4p, 8 rounds for 3p, 10 rounds for 2p).  There is one final turn where each player, in turn order, is able to place one final fireworks tile if desired.

Scoring is tracked in the three boxes in the bottom right of your sheet.  First, add up all the points seen on your placed Fireworks tiles. Second, figure out your largest contiguous areas of fully shaded squares.  You score 1 point per square in your SECOND largest contiguous area. Finally, you score four points for each boat which is unshaded BUT surrounded by four orthogonally fully shaded squares.  The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player who scored more points from firework tiles.

My thoughts on the game

Well, I thought that Lanterns was a very clever tile laying game, and I’ve been a pretty big fan of the RAW genre, so I thought that this game would be a good fit for me.  A few games in, and I can definitely see this one having a great chance of being a keeper. It is not a traditional RAW – in that each player does not use an identical die roll result to plot their strategy.  In this game, players sheets will wildly diverge from each other as each player likely gets a different colored triangle to fill in each turn AND each player gets a different colored bonus triangle each round when they are the active player.  Also, while the game doesn’t necessarily require variability other than the dice, the different Emperor actions can give a slightly different feel to each game.

I think for some “purists”, this wouldn’t even qualify as a RAW because in the strictest sense, the players are using different dice on each turn.  There is a huge advantage being the active player here as you not only get to choose the orientation of the dice tray, you also get the bonus triangle as dictated by your scoring sheet.  When also combined with the possibility of taking a bonus action, it is quite possible to fill in three, four or maybe even more triangles.

There is a nice race aspect to the game.  You would like to finish your firework areas quickly in order to get the best scoring tiles, but if you do, you’ll likely give up the chance to get early gift squares marked – and this could cause you to not be able to take as many Emperor actions as you’d like.  There is a nice balance here, and I have yet to find an ideal balance. I just play by feel each game and hope that I’ve made the best choice.

In a four player game, you only get six of these turns, so you have to use them wisely – and given the way the game flows, the first turn doesn’t necessarily give you a lot of opportunity for a huge turn as you haven’t yet come up with a decent strategy nor do you have enough gifts to take some of the special actions.

The colors on the scoresheet are fairly distinct, but I do have a minor quibble with the dice icons.  The colors each have a specific icon associated with them which should help out with colorblind issues, but I really wish that the icons on the dice were identical to that seen on the scoresheet!  Also, before you start the game, make sure that all players understand the somewhat confusing round tracker on the right (especially with fewer than 4 players). Once you understand it, it’s easy – but it can be tricky the first time around knowing which slots to follow in the right hand column.

While my enthusiasm for the Roll and Write genre is admittedly waning, there is enough different here to make me continue to want to play it.  And in this now crowded genre, that says something. For now, this one has a home in my game collection – though the additional components (cards, fireworks tiles) will likely prevent this from joining the traveling laminated collection.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. Craig V
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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